The Stories We Tell

How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?

I grew up in a Christian home, something that has shaped my entire worldview. It is in my beliefs that I find my purpose. This is somewhat problematic due to the controversial, and often bloody, history of Christianity. It has historically been used to oppress certain groups of people, and continues to do so today in certain areas of the world. It also makes it difficult for me to address certain topics, such as the LGBTQ community. While I believe in equal rights for all people, my faith, the lens through which I make sense of what I experience, makes it difficult to address certain issues such as this one. I struggle daily to reconcile my beliefs with the world around me; to find a place where both can exist in harmony.

However, this bloody, oppressive thing people have come to know as Christianity is not what Christianity actually is, or at least, not what it’s supposed to be. It is a faith based in love, something that is often forgotten when people twist it to achieve their own purposes, something that happens with every religion. Remembering that its purpose is to spread love will shape how I interact with my students – I’ll love all of them, no matter what happens. When things occur that discomfort me because of my beliefs, it is not my place to make my students feel and believe the same thing I do. Instead, I can respond with love and a willingness to learn from my students, which will in turn teach them by example to be accepting of all people, regardless of differences.

Furthermore, my view has been shaped by being a white, middle-class, Canadian citizen. I was taught to see everyone as equal, and grew up in a relatively multicultural neighborhood, yet failed to see the social structures that made it so people weren’t equal. My own privilege made it impossible for me to address these issues, and my experiences made me blind to them. I saw only one side of the coin – the one that proved everyone could make it if they tried hard enough. I would get annoyed when people would try to discuss racism, poverty, and the links between the two, because I believed that these discussions were trying to make an issue out of something that wasn’t there. However, as I’ve read, seen, and experienced more, I am now able to see the structures that were invisible to me before. As a teacher, providing my students with opportunities not only to talk about inequality, but to actually see how it plays out in their own communities, would help them to form these understandings earlier, hopefully providing them with a more accurate lens with which to see their world.

Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

My schooling was primarily influenced by Indigenous ways of knowing, an experience few of my friends share. Most of what we learned was through an Indigenous view, allowing us to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of their culture.

However, even this approach had its flaws. We only learned about the past: how Indigenous peoples lived hundreds of years ago, how they were impacted post-contact, the oppression they faced, and the horrors of residential schools. We never specifically looked at contemporary Indigenous issues, and as such, we formed the conclusion that they were no longer oppressed, were no longer having to fight for their rights, and were no longer suffering from these past interactions. We were only given a partial view, which greatly influenced our ability to address such issues later in our lives when we were faced with them.

Math and Curriculum

  1. At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

My experiences were more inclusive than most, as we had teachers that would try to incorporate multiple ways of knowing. One way they did this was through including aspects from other cultures. For example, we learned about patterning through examining Indigenous beading, then recreating patterns we saw or making our own. This not only included other cultures, it also helped us to apply what we learned to our everyday lives.

My mathematics experiences became more biased as I got older, however, when teachers had more content to cover and would rush through the lessons. There was little to no application to real life, no inclusion of other cultures’ ways of knowing, and we were only taught one way to do a task. If we didn’t use this way, or couldn’t understand it, we would lose marks. There were very few attempts to accommodate students’ unique learning abilities, and even their language. Students who were just learning English were still expected to understand and complete the math problems just as quickly and easily as other students – they did not receive the same support and understanding that they did in English or Social Studies classes where it was assumed they would be behind. Mathematics is something we have come to believe as universal due to its necessity to function in everyday life. However, the way one learns, the order you learn it in, and even which content is considered important is highly context dependent. These students may have not yet learned the basic math concepts necessary to complete the problems we were learning about, or may have learned it from a different point of view, which would greatly impact their ability to function within the class. We were only taught one system, one culture’s values, when it came to Mathematics – the Eurocentric worldview.

  1. After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

In Poirier’s article, I noticed several ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about math:

  1. They use their body parts as measuring tools. For example, using a hands-breadth to measure clothing. This is really practical, as it doesn’t limit when or where they can measure (for lack of a measuring tape, for example), and makes measurements more easily relatable and understandable to children as they are learning.
  2. They use a base-20 numeral system instead of the Eurocentric base-10 one.
  3. The way they interpret spatial relations is very different – based off of senses rather than system of measurement (something not in the formal curriculum), making it more culturally specific.
  4. Traditional Inuit teaching is based off of observing an elder or listening to enigmas rather than the Eurocentric pencil-and-paper method. Further, traditionally, teachers do not ask students questions to which they think they do not have the answers.

This demonstrates that what students learned is context dependent. What is considered indispensable in one culture may not even exist in another. What and how students learn is shaped by the culture in which they live. As students from different backgrounds join our classes, we must be sensitive to the traditions and learning experiences of their culture in order to teach them in a way that is consistent with these practices.

References:

Further Reading:

What does Citizenship Mean?

Image result for personally responsible citizen

What examples of citizenship education do you remember from your K-12 schooling? What types of citizenship (e.g. which of the three types mentioned in the article) were the focus? Explore what this approach to the curriculum made (im)possible in regards to citizenship.

My schooling was mainly focused on the “Personally Responsible Citizen.” We would be encouraged to participate in food drives, clean up litter in our park and community, and donate money and toys for “Adopt a Family” and other Christmas charities. In addition, we were required to do ten hours of volunteer work at a place of our choosing in grades ten through twelve. We were always provided with opportunities to better our community, but were never required to come up with any of our own. Even when it came to the student government, the teachers would have already picked a charity and contacted them to see how they needed help. The only thing the students had to do was figure out how they wanted to raise the money or collect the items, and how to spread the word. We were never taught to independently seek out or organize these events, and never addressed reasons as to why they were necessary. The focus was on doing a good thing and learning to look out for others before ourselves.

This didn’t allow us to address deeper social issues, such as why poverty is still such a huge problem, or explore how the government is or isn’t helping to deal with the issue. We explored topics at the micro-level, and never looked at larger social structures that allowed these issues to persist. This also didn’t allow us to develop a better understanding of how the government worked, or how our participation in simple acts, such as voting, could help fix some of these problems. It also didn’t teach us to see how smaller things we are doing to help could be aided by larger institutions, such as the government, if we brought it to their attention.

However, this approach did allow us to develop social responsibility, and learn to actively look for ways in which we can make the world a better place (if we were willing to take it beyond school and the grade we received for doing it). It helped us to see how we contributed to certain issues, and how we could change our actions to fix this. This allowed us to not become apathetic about issues we were passionate about, as we had opportunities to actively engage in them. It also taught us that we are all responsible for our own actions, and that we cannot always “pass the baton” or wait for someone else to do something. We developed a mentality of “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” which held us accountable then, and continues to do so.

Resources:

UOttawaEducation. (2015, June 16). Retrieved March 04, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9WF4uVcrlU

Westheimer, J., & J. (2004). What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy. American Educational Research Journal,41(2), summer. Retrieved from http://www.civicsurvey.org/sites/default/files/publications/what_kind_of_citizen.pdf

Teaching Treaty Ed

1. What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?

2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?

Teaching Treaty Education is necessary even in the absence of Indigenous students, perhaps even more so. They do not share the understandings Indigenous students have, nor do they fully comprehend the severity of our shared history. Teaching them of the atrocities that were committed may help to create understandings between students, and build empathy for Indigenous peoples as a whole. This empathy will prevent them from falling into apathy later in life, when they are confronted with the ongoing effects of colonialism, making them more likely to be a force for positive change. Furthermore, many students who have settler ancestry feel as if they have no culture, making Indigenous peoples, who are seen as very cultural, seem like an “other.” Including Treaty Ed would help to prevent this othering, as it would normalize what is seen now as extreme culture, and would perhaps even instill some of their ideals in our students, such as stewardship of the Earth.

Additionally, teaching Treaty Ed would help students see how the treaties impact their lives and how they also benefit from them. Not only are they living on Treaty land, every interaction they have is also shaped by the treaties. Who is considered important, who has access to clean water, who has rights to certain land, and who has the ability to do whatever they want without judgement are just a few examples. Providing our students with this knowledge will teach them the benefits and responsibilities that come with sharing the land they live on, and honor this land’s long history, one that begins long before settlers arrived.

Teaching Treaty Ed also allows us to move beyond only addressing the negative parts of our shared history. It opens the discussion include relationships, promises, and how these continue to affect us today. It provides an opportunity to explore what reconciliation is, how we are working towards it, and what still needs to be done, giving students both a sense of hope, and a sense of purpose.

We are all impacted by the treaties in one way or another, and thus they are part of our “Canadian” culture and history: We are all treaty people. Just as learning about how Canada came to be a country is important, so to is learning how the land as acquired to create a new country. Curriculum is a colonial institution that defines when and where it is appropriate to talk about issues like treaties and rights, when the reality is that we should always be talking about them. If we don’t open these conversations, both in and out of the classroom, we are choosing to ignore a large part of our history. While curriculum may be shaped by colonial ideals, we can use it to open the door to these discussions, and provide our students with the knowledge they need in to participate in these debates.

Reinhabitation and Decolonization

The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to:

(a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74)

  1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

I can see reinhabitation and decolonization happening at many points throughout the article. One of the ways it was most apparent is in the involvement of the youth in the project. Through this experience, they built relationships with the elders and reclaimed some of their lost heritage. “In the development of the radio documentary, the significance of the river and knowledge of the social, cultural, economic, and spiritual meanings of the river among community members became heightened.” Not only did they develop relationships with each other, they also learned to see the land as their ancestors did, forming a relationship with the land they live on and developing a more in-depth sense of place. Decolonization was also present in the resurgence of their native language. The word “paquataskamik” (referring to the entirety of the band’s territory, beyond what they now have as a reserve) was not usually used by the younger generations, who instead opted to use “noscheemik” (refers more to a specific location, such as a camp), which “pointed to a loss of important linguistic distinctions related to concepts of territoriality.” By regaining this language, they are working towards undoing colonial ideas of place, moving back towards more traditional understandings.

Throughout the narrative, it becomes apparent that reinhabitation and decolonization are two parts of the same process. As we move towards decolonization, reinhabitation is made possible.

  1. How might you adapt these ideas towards considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

I could adapt these ideas into my own classroom by taking children outside to learn. Interacting with their physical environment deepens their understanding and appreciation both for the world they live in and for the knowledge they are gaining. It makes the knowledge real and useful, rather than just facts that must be memorized. Providing them with this “traditional knowledge” will make them more likely to become stewards of the Earth, so to speak, by allowing them to find their identity in and learn from the world around them. Furthermore, having elders come in to speak to my students would allow them to form relationships and have the same guidance that the students in the narrative had, which allowed them learn things in a different way that may not be possible in a teacher-student interaction.  Additionally, allowing them to interact with their environment would allow students to develop a sense of place in their own community, something that is important in child development. If they are not able to form a sense of place, they may feel like outsiders in their own community, as is what happened with residential schools.

References:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dI7wj8JcsOuMVHjWx1aKJy3XzCSoyYuc/view

Additional Readings:

https://e360.yale.edu/features/native-knowledge-what-ecologists-are-learning-from-indigenous-people

Creating a Curriculum

Before you do the reading ask yourself the following question: How do you think that school curricula are developed? This is an entry point to this topic and whatever you write will be fine.

After doing the reading, please write your blog entry. Reflect upon: How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

 Before Reading:

From what I have heard, curriculum is developed by a few individuals, likely ones who have had some sort of experience in the field. They decide what students should know by the end of the school year (in part determined by public and government influence), determine what would be feasible to accomplish within one year, then organize these goals into outcomes and indicators. They revise this, before sending it to others to review. It then is revised again, and sent to another party, who does this process again. They consult past curriculum outlines to determine what students already should know at this point, what parts currently work or are not important, then determine how this new curriculum can be implemented in as seamless a fashion as possible. However, I don’t believe there is any consultation with those who are currently teaching in the field, which poses a problem when it comes to practicality, as well as determining both students and teachers’ needs.

After Reading:

Currently, curriculum development is a political tool. In our system, final authority over curriculum rests with the provincial government. Groups of experts are brought together to draft a new or revised curriculum. Existing curriculum is examined and evaluated, suggestions for changes are made and debated, and eventually a consensus is reached. Sometimes an entirely new curriculum will be developed and implemented (sometimes with a trial period before the final version is created), other times it may simply be a revision of the old one. These processes are often organized and directed by government officials.

Because of this, it is heavily subject to political influences, including individual preferences. This is problematic, as it can shift the focus away from providing a good education towards more biased goals. This also allows it to be influenced more directly by other policies, such as assessment policies that are not connected to curriculum. This again shifts the focus away from learning and providing a good education, towards putting more emphasis on grades and standardized testing, something education has been trying to move away from. Furthermore, governments are moving away from reliance on experts in policy development, instead focusing on involvement of its citizens.

While this allows a greater diversity of voices to be heard, and prevents it from being in the hands of only a few, this also prevents those who know more about teaching practices and education from having the necessary control. Instead, this almost seeks to make education even more political in nature, as everyone has their own goals, some of which are not for the greater good. Ideologies and personal beliefs shape decision making, and thus make curriculum development an inherently biased process. Having too much emphasis on expert input makes it difficult for “non-experts” to implement, and may lead to a curriculum that is biased in its pedagogic approach. However, too much public and government input may shift the focus away from education to more personal agendas, a risk in both scenarios. Finding a balance will be necessary in order to achieve a curriculum that strives to be unbiased and achieve best practice.

Resources:

Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Available on-line from: http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf.

It’s Just Common Sense

“Sit still.”

“Stop fidgeting.”

“Eyes on me when I’m talking.”

“When we listen with our ears, our mouths stay shut.”

“Cross your legs like a pretzel and sit on your hands.”

“We look with our eyes, not with our hands.”

“Glue your butt to your chair. No, not literally!

“Stop doing that.”

“Because I said so.”

“Just fill out this worksheet, then it will be recess.”

“Because it will be on the test.”

“All right, everyone heads down. No talking. We’re having a quiet time.”

This is a common dialogue heard in classrooms throughout the world. We can all picture the person the teacher most often said these to in our own experiences. Perhaps it was ourselves, and we were the “trouble makers” of the classroom.

While it may be obvious that these sorts of one-sided dialogues are problematic, I never realized just how deeply rooted these problems are, or that they are representative of larger issues in our society. Just as we have standardized testing, outcomes, and indicators, we’ve also standardized what makes a good student by making it impossible for those who do not conform to succeed.

A good student does their work, doesn’t interrupt or question the information or the teacher. They don’t struggle with new topics, or shut down and refuse to learn. They don’t struggle with exams, directions or assignments. They do their work early or on time, with an obvious attention to detail.

This ideal works, at least for those students who learn best in the traditional method, who share the same cultural background and beliefs as the dominant culture in charge of curriculum, and whose rights are not challenged by common sense beliefs and ideals. However, there is an ever-growing number of students who this system does not work for. Constructing learning as a set of objectives to be reached, as something that can be measured and objectively understood, is oppressive. It doesn’t value other sorts of learning, other stories, other values, or anything seen as deviant from the goal of producing “good” students. It systematically devalues individuals for not fitting into a pre-determined mold.

This is the narrative we are perpetuating by not addressing systems of power and inequality in education. Our common sense of what makes a good student not only doesn’t allow for other ways of learning and knowing, it also preserves a system of oppression. Students enter the classroom with their own knowledge, beliefs, and experiences, all of which will shape how and what they are able to learn. By expecting them to leave all of these at the door and conform to our narrow view of what a student should be and do, we are telling them that they, and everything they believe in, doesn’t matter and is invalid.

I know I have subscribed to this view of the student, even while I was still a student in elementary and high school. I couldn’t understand why people just wouldn’t do their work. I was annoyed when someone would interrupt the lecture – how could they know more than the teacher? More recently, I’ve been scared of eventually having one of those “problem” students in my own classroom. How would I deal with them, when I don’t even know why they are like that? I had subscribed to the idea that they were the problem, the ones that needed to change, not me. Kumashiro describes his own experiences:

“Over the next several years, many more students like M would enter my classrooms, students who were unable or unwilling to be the kind of student that schools and society often tells them to be. I remember consistently feeling quite frustrated by such students, not only because I assumed being a student required behaving and thinking in only certain ways, but also because I felt pressure from schools and society to produce this type of student” (21).

This pressure from society to produce only one type of student shapes teachers’ views and decisions in both subtle and more blatant ways. However, changing our ideas of what learning is and looks like removes some of this pressure by looking at what is problematic in our system, rather than in our students. Instead of looking at how our students are falling short of our expectations, we can see how our expectations are falling short of our students. We have silenced the stories of many, and  enabled the systematic oppression of our students by allowing this model of the “good” student to endure.

A Curriculum of Play

Image result for learning through play

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”

  • Fred Donaldson

Adopting a pedagogy of play vastly changes the learning environment, both for the teacher and the student. Imagine: a classroom with no desks. Rather, there are tables at various spots around the room to provide work surfaces. In one corner of the room, the teacher reads a story to a group of children, who act it out as she reads. In the center of the room, another group of children are building towers, seeing who can make the tallest one without it falling over. At one of the tables, children are gluing various odds and ends to a plate, creating patterns or pictures out of the unrelated items. In another corner, children are playing dress up and role-playing they are in “Thalonia,” an imaginary world they created and continually revisit in their play. They have created an entire society within it, including jobs, currency, and laws. Now imagine that this is not simply play time: this is how all day, everyday, is spent in this classroom.

What on earth could the children be learning? They’re just playing, aren’t they?

What looks like play to adults is often children’s way of making sense of the world and applying their new knowledge. The children acting out the book as the teacher reads are deepening their understanding of the book by making it a part of their reality. This encourages them to make connections, and allows words or phrases they may not understand to be explained by their peers through actions, making it so no child is singled out for lack of knowledge. It also allows them to construct their knowledge, rather than being asked to passively absorb it. The children constructing towers are learning about structures, and what does and does not work to create a stable base. There is also some math involved, as they must calculate which blocks are bigger and heavier than others in order to decide the order in which to place them. The students who are crafting are learning about and making patterns, while also using their imaginations and being creative. The children who are role-playing are applying their knowledge of their own world to their play through the creation of jobs, money, and laws, which will help them to make sense of these concepts in the real world. Furthermore, this role-play encourages children to be creative, while also giving them opportunities to try out different roles they may not otherwise get to experience, such as being a firefighter or the president.

This pedagogy allows for a large amount of child-directed learning, which ensures that the children remain engaged. It also facilitates development of social skills and problem-solving strategies, both of which are necessary for learning and later life. In this approach, nothing is impossible, as everything is seen as an opportunity to learn, and no learnings are valued less than others. It assumes that children are active and motivated learners, putting the child in a position of power rather than submission. It doesn’t assume the child is incapable of learning on their own. Rather, it encourages children to independently pursue projects and topics that are of interest to them. Moreover, it accepts that lecturing is not necessary for learning to occur, and that all that is necessary is for the child to be engaged with the task at hand. If they are engaged, they will learn, be it what construction works best for a strong tower, or what role laws play in society.

I had always seen curriculum as a thick document, packed full of things I had to know by the end of the year. I never liked it, because it made schooling feel cold and impersonal, lacking grounding in everyday life. I believe in a curriculum that is responsive to individual children’s needs, and that is able to be changed to reflect those needs or individual interests. Because of this, I do not see curriculum as a product: Learning occurs over time, and needs to be observed throughout the experience in order to truly know what a child has learned. Learning through play cannot be objectively measured, and any learnings achieved would be discounted in our traditional view, teaching children that interpersonal understandings and their own desires and interests are unimportant. I also do not see it as a syllabus. Knowledge grows from experiences (such as play), and it cannot be planned what a child will learn. What they take away from a lesson is very different from what another child or you would take away. Furthermore, we cannot expect children to learn if we are not willing to teach them in a way that they are able to learn. In this sense, I see curriculum as a process – something that must be continually evaluated. Learning never ends, and thus teaching and evaluating never end. In order to truly understand what a child is capable of, we must approach them at their level and continually engage with them, something that is not possible if teaching is reduced to lecturing, and learning reduced to listening.

Traditionally Suffocating Education

(http://www.quotemaster.org/traditional+teaching#&gid=1&pid=1)

I experienced the Tyler rationale, or traditional teaching from curriculum, throughout most of my schooling. This often involved racing through topics, with the teacher telling us key points to remember for the test. We would then take our notes home, study them, and return to write the test. We would then move onto the next topic, instantly forgetting everything about the previous one. It was the same in every subject: our teacher would have a list of things we had to cover that day, as well as a few assignments we would have to do. We would check things off the list, then move on so that we could “finish the curriculum before the end of the year.” While we were able to cover a lot of content in relatively little time, it also limited how much knowledge we were able to receive, as we were unable to “go off track” and explore for ourselves. This style of teaching I experienced follows Smith’s (1996, 2000) explanation of the Tyler rationale perfectly: “[There is] a focus in this approach to curriculum theory and practice on the parts rather than the whole; on the trivial, rather than the significant. It can lead to an approach to education and assessment which resembles a shopping list.” Our class had become a list of tasks to accomplish, much like a shopping list, where we only focused on some details of a topic, while ignoring the bigger picture, and refusing to explore other, possibly relevant areas. This was especially evident in elementary school, where our teachers often had too many students, too few materials, and too much curriculum to cover in too little time. Following this rationale, despite how these circumstances and the overall environment affected how our teachers had to teach, parents and academics can easily blame teachers for lack of learning, by stating they did not have clear objectives. It allows them to sideline other variables affecting student’s ability to learn as non-issues, while placing too much focus on the “shopping list.”

My own experiences have made it clear to me that the traditional method, or the “Tyler rationale,” makes certain types of learning impossible. Often, we were provided with a surface understanding of a topic, enough to satisfy the curriculum and allow us to pass our tests, but never deeper. In areas like math, this knowledge sufficed and allowed us to be successful in later years. However, in subjects like Social Studies and English, this base knowledge was not nearly enough. We didn’t understand the deeper social issues of historical events and how they can still be seen today, and thus struggled to write essays about these issues later on, as we didn’t know they existed. Furthermore, it caused many misunderstandings later in life by oversimplifying topics. For example, we were taught that racism was any act or speech based on a person’s race, directed towards a person with the intention to harm. This definition allowed us to dissociate ourselves with the issue, because “We don’t say those things or think them; therefor we are not part of the problem and don’t have to do anything.” This didn’t allow us to see how racism is a structure that functions throughout our society, or how we are privileged or disadvantaged in certain ways, regardless of whether or not we engage in prejudiced remarks. Additionally, it does not allow for student-directed learning to occur, as there is a pre-determined list of topics that must be covered. This does not allow for students to choose topics that are of interest to them, as they may not directly tie into curriculum, despite the fact that the students would likely retain more of what they learned if they are interested in it and can apply it to their everyday lives.

This method also does not allow for strong teacher-student relationships to form, as it distinguishes the different roles as opposites. Teachers are there to teach, complete their list of tasks for the day, then go home. Students are there to learn, do their work and listen, then go home. This does not allow for mutual teaching and learning to be occurring, as it is assumed from the moment one walks into the classroom that the teacher knows all, while the students are blank slates. This also puts all the focus on academic learning, and does not value learning that can occur through interactions. Smith (1996, 2002) describes these as “unanticipated results,” which are often overlooked as they do not fit with any of the listed objectives. This can be harmful to students, especially if their primary learning strategy is based on interactions with those around them. Moreover, this rationale marginalizes students by assuming learning can only occur if they change their behaviour to mirror new learnings. This does not allow a place for student’s prior knowledge and experiences to be considered, and silences those who have a different cultural background (and as such may have different practices when it comes to education and what is considered “learning” and “valuable knowledge”), as the curriculum represents the goals and values of the dominant culture.

However, there are also some benefits to this rationale. The organization of topics and stages allows for easy lesson planning, while also allowing student’s knowledge to build on itself as they are introduced to more and more complex topics. It also makes marking a student much easier, as the teacher does not need to observe each child as closely everyday to assess for learning, or figure out a way to mark individual projects on different topics for what the student may have learned. Rather, they are able to concretely assess whether or not a student has learned the key points that have been laid out, either through tests, projects, or homework. This makes it so the teacher must only develop one marking system, rather than one for each student.

Another benefit is that it universalizes knowledge. This allows students to all (hopefully) finish with the same knowledge, giving them more equal access to opportunities in their future, while also ensuring that they all have the knowledge necessary for attending university, trade school, or whatever else they may choose to do. This attempts to “level the playing field” when it comes to class, race, socioeconomic status, and gender, as all will have access to the same knowledge.

It is clear that there is no single answer to the question of how one should teach. There will always be pros and cons to every method, and it will primarily depend on the group of students and their individual needs. However, weighing the possible pros and cons of an approach prior to using it can help teachers assess them for any possible risks of harm, then modify it to fit their particular needs. For example, the Tyler Rationale has its benefits, but it also may harm some students if employed exactly how it is. To fix this, a teacher may adjust learning objectives to be more open-ended or to reflect more of their students. They may choose to allow students to direct their own learning, while still having a clear list of objectives that students must achieve, then work with students as a guide to ensure they reach them. There are endless ways to modify one’s approaches to suit the needs of their students, if only we are willing to let go of our ideas surrounding what qualifies as teaching and learning, and go beyond the traditional approach to bring education into the twenty-first century.

References:

Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) ‘Curriculum theory and practice’ the encyclopaedia of informal education, www.infed.org/biblio/b-curric.htm.