Curriculum and Treaty Ed.

  • Part 1) According to the Levin article, 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? 
  • Part 2) After reading pages 1-4 of the Treaty Education document, what connections can you make between the article and the implementation of Treaty Education in Saskatchewan? What tension might you imagine were part of the development of the Treaty Education curriculum?

Part 1:

The Leven article reveals that the creation and implementation of curricula is a “well-developed formal process” (p. 17). With that being said, it is also problematic considering that the group of people represented in reshaping the curriculum are mainly teachers who are experts in their field. This means that not only are they not necessarily trained in creating curriculum, but the common teacher (who of course, is the one who is going to actually be teaching the majority of students) is completely unrepresented. This leads to teachers who may be unprepared or unable to teach the new curriculum, who in many cases will not have the appropriate qualifications or resources to keep up with a curriculum that expects so much more out of them.

After reading this, it seems to me that the main issue with the changing and reforming of the curriculum is that they don’t consider the actual needs of the teacher or students. Of course, every country wants to say that they excel when it comes to education and giving students the best and highest education possible. What they don’t look at is what the average teacher actually needs in today’s classrooms. The article points out that average teachers, and experts in the field, are going to view curriculum issues in very different ways. It suggests that “the latter may focus on the need for high-level skills in their own area, whereas teachers may be more concerned with a curriculum that will work for students with widely varying skills and interests” (p. 18). This is especially true when you consider the rising class sizes and a greater number of students with disabilities. In the end, it seems as though HOW curriculum is designed needs to be changed, rather than the curriculum itself.

Part 2:

When it comes to the Treaty Education Document, I think that the main issue lies with the fact that curriculum as it is right now in Saskatchewan, is mainly focused on delivering the information, so that you meet the outcomes. There is little focus on the connection made to the student’s lives. The problem with this is that treaties, as layed out in the curriculum, is living and breathing, but many teachers will be too focused on meeting outcomes that they forget about the main point of Treaty Education. The other issue comes with teachers themselves, and the fact that every teacher has their own views of “what is important to teach in school”. So if you have teachers who are intolerant or don’t see the value of Treaty Ed (like the teacher in the UR Confessions post) then their students are not going to see the value either. Those views could have also existed with the creating of the document itself, with members not seeing the value in Treaty Ed, and because of that, could have created some tension. There is no apparent issue with the document itself, but instead with the way curriculum has been delivered for so long.

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We Are All What!?!?

When it comes to teaching about Treaty Education or introducing First Nations perspectives, there can come a lot of resistance and stubbornness, and we see this happen in the email sent to Mike. I would be lying if I said that my class was not too dissimilar to the one described by this Education student, and we asked ourselves the question of “why is this useful?” and “why do we need to know this stuff?”. I think that the articles and videos we were asked to watch, really gave a great response to those questions, and gave me a new perspective on the importance of First Nations perspectives and what it means to be a treaty person.

To start I think Cynthia Chambers in her work “We Are All Treaty People” helps us to understand where the issues stem from when she describes her early relatives who immigrated and their ignorant ways of thinking. One quote that really stuck out to me is as follows: “for immigrants of my grandmother’s generation it was as if their adopted country had no story, or at least not one worth learning about or remembering. They acted as if the story of their new home only began with their arrival on its shores.” (p. 25) The reason this stuck out to me, was that the ignorance described in Cynthia’s text is that same one that we still hold today in our schools.

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When asked the question of “what is the purpose of Treaty Ed?” and “what does it mean that ‘we are all treaty people’?” The answer can be found in Dwayne Donald’s presentation when he talks about the relationship that so often, teachers brush over in place of meeting the specific curricular outcome. This also relates to Claire’s Introduction video when she talk about how “we teachers impress upon students, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, who [and what] matters”. In other words, we as teachers have a say in how we look at First Nations perspectives in the curriculum. As Dwayne puts it, the way teachers have seen Treaty Ed as an “informational problem”, where if students just learn about treaties or residential schools, then they will understand the importance, when in fact, it is a relational problem between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people. Regardless of political gain or agendas, Treaties symbolize a way of building a relationship with those around us. So the more we can show our students how Treaty Education is less about calling people out on all the awful things their people have done, and more about how we can begin to repair that relationship, the more engaged I believe students will become.

References:

Chambers, C. (2012). “We are all treaty people”: The contemporary countenance of Canadian curriculum studies. In Reconsidering Canadian curriculum studies (chapter 1). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

[ULethbridge Faculty of Education]. (2010). Dwayne Donald – On What Terms Can We Speak? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/15264558

[Michael Cappello]. (2017, September 6). ECS 210 8.2 – Claire Intro [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWY_X-ikmaw&feature=youtu.be

Learning From Place

The article [Learning From Place] 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). List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative. How might you adapt these ideas / consider place in your own subject areas and teaching?

Reinhabitation: There are many examples of how we see this being played out throughout the article. The main one being that the youth are learning about the land and the important connections to the river through the elders. Passing down knowledge orally is a huge aspect of First Nations culture, so connecting with the elders, creating mentorship programs and creating the audio documentary are great ways of educating the youths on how to live well on the land, and making sure that knowledge isn’t lost for future generations.

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Decolonization:  One of the main lines that stuck out to me in the article was that “reinhabitation and decolonization depend on each other” (p. 74). We see this also through the sharing of knowledge with one another along the river. This allowed for each student to find their own unique meaning and personal connection to the land, that they may have never had before. Another example of this is when the article talked about the advances to change the English names around the river to Cree. These are both examples of the attempts to break down some of the walls that colonization has built up for so many years, and helping educate youths on the history of the land they walk on.

Being a Physical Education minor, there are many ways that I could incorporate and adapt these ideas of place into my lessons. First Nations History and Culture is very connected to the earth and nature, so getting students outdoors and finding their own connection to the land could be a great start.

What It Means to Be a Good Student

In Chapter 2, Kumashiro describes her experience teaching over several years, where she describes, how her ideas of what a “good student” looked like began to change. She describes two main students that she taught, who she calls “M” and “N”. These students were frustrating to Kumashiro at the beginning. They were disruptive, they didn’t do the work they were supposed to do, and overall they just didn’t put in the effort that she expected from them. Kumashiro describes that what she expected from her students, and what she felt should be common sense was for every student to be quiet, cooperative, and passive. When she had students like M and N who were not able or willing to fit within those boxes, she felt like she had failed at being an effective teacher.

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The more she began to teach those students though, the more she realized that they were not “bad kids”. The fact is that they just thought differently than the other students. M and N didn’t learn through standardized tests or notes on a board, and it wasn’t until reflecting on it, that she realized that that wasn’t a bad thing; they just learned differently. The problem comes with the way schools teach. Either students are able to accept and adapt to the way schools teach, and therefore, they do well, or they are not able or willing to give in to the commonsense, thus they become frustrated and unhappy.

This commonsense in teaching and learning brings up another issue, that being that its difficult to do anything about it. Kumashiro describes how teaching in new or “uncomfortable” ways, makes those who are used to the standardized and current system upset and frustrated. This is why so many stray away from doing anything to accommodate those students like M and N, because the commonsense makes it so hard. Kumashiro brings up a lot of these great points that really make you think about how commonsense affects every aspect of schooling and our lives.

 

 

 

Critical Summary Intro – Place-Based Curriculum

When I began looking through the list of possible topics and concepts, the one that really caught my eye was Place-based curriculum. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but just seeing the name of made me interested and curious to see what it was all about. When I began looking into it, I knew that this was a topic that I would really enjoy exploring because it reminded me of another class that I am taking this semester, which is Outdoor Ed. In that class, we are able to explore all the benefits, skills, knowledge and opportunities students can gain from just experiencing things outdoors. Outdoor Ed I feel directly relates to the concept and theory of place-based curriculum, and I am excited to keep exploring what it could actually look like within schools.

Place-based education as I understand it from a quick search is allowing students to explore and collaborate with their community. This allows them to ask questions and find answers to things that they are familiar with, whether it be a topic within their community or a major event that is happening around the world, and because of that, it will mean so much more to the students. This way of looking into curriculum was something that for the most part, I was completely unfamiliar with. The more I look into it though, the more I realize just how many people are believers in this model, and have committed their time to help other people see the benefits of it.

Going forward, the main things I need to do are to research more about the curriculum scholars in this area and find what each of them is saying about place-based curriculum. Next, I need to find the big ideas and determine the pros and cons of this approach, while also finding the answers to the questions laid out for us in the outline, which include:

  • What does this concept/topic mean?
  • How does this curriculum scholar define this topic?
  • Where do these texts converge/diverge?
  • Considering what we have read/discussed in class, what is this text missing? What do the others offer?

Through this critical summary, I hope to get a better understanding of place-based education, and whether or not it could become a practical and great new way to view curriculum.

“Curriculum Theory and Practice” Response

In ECS 210 so far, we talked a lot about what curriculum is, and we were asked to come up with our own definition. A few of the things that people said were things that I had always known deep down about curriculum, but had never thought about in that way before. This section we were asked to read on “Curriculum theory and practice” gave a few more of those definitions – or models of what curriculum should be that I feel all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

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The first model sees “Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted”. In other words, this means that when it comes to this model, the curriculum is based on a syllabus. This was primarily the model that was used within my school and I feel like this is what most people would say they could relate with as well. The main positive that I see come from this model of curriculum is that, because it is just a list of outcomes and indicators, it allows for freedom and creativity on how you are going to teach them. On the other hand, I feel as though this relates back to this idea of commonsense that we talked about before, where until recently, this model of curriculum was used for the most part without any question, and nobody really challenged whether or not it was the best way to look at the curriculum. After all, a syllabus does make sure that teachers are preparing their students with everything they need for the next grade level, or at least to be able to pass the final exam, and that all we really need right? The fact is, I don’t think a syllabus is the best way to look at curriculum because it has many flaws. Like the article suggests an approach that sees curriculum only as a syllabus, or a list of outcomes and indicators, and is really only concerned with content. It follows a very “textbook approach” and can disregard the things that really make a difference such as a student’s individual needs, learning level or ability, and so much more. That is why I feel like it is such a great thing to see this model, that for so long was seen as “commonsense”, now being challenged, and with that, people are looking to alternative models of teaching.

The second model sees curriculum as something that is used to achieve a certain product in a student. This is achieved through set markers and objectives that will prepare students to deal with work and even just everyday life. Like stated in the article, objectives are set, a plan is drawn up and then applied, with the product of those objectives being measured. On the surface, this seems like a perfect approach to curriculum. One of the main complaints in my school about curriculum was that we would never use anything we learned in the real world and that when we finally graduate, we would be completely lost when it came to basic things like doing taxes and preparing for an interview. This model seems to address that issue, but at the same time, it doesn’t go without its flaws. The article lists many of them, such as that it assumes that behavior can be measured, and assumes that each experience will have an immediate impact on students when that is rarely the case. Another one of the criticisms is that caught my eye was that this model can turn education into a checklist, or as the article calls it, a shopping list of things to do, and once those boxes are checked off, your job is done and you assume all students have learned everything they need to know. In theory, I believe that this model can be effective, but there is still a lot more that can be done to make sure that it is the most effective model of curriculum.

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The next model sees curriculum as a process, in which teachers, students, and knowledge all interact with one another. With this model, the teacher comes with a worked-out idea of what is going to happen with a certain outcome, but through critical thinking, collaboration, and action, you begin to see the process in which the outcomes change. I like the way in which Lawrence Stenhouse describes this model, where he says that curriculum is like a recipe for a dish, where you come with an idea of what is possible, but through experiment and variation, it can be changed (within limit) according to taste. It is saying that the curriculum should not be a syllabus that is handed out to every school around the province with a setlist of outcomes, but instead should specific to each teacher and classroom. It also looks to give students a voice and shifts from teaching to learning through interaction. This way of looking at the curriculum is very different from the previous two because it doesn’t have set objectives and is very open to interpretation, which is why there can be obvious flaws that can arise. One of the main ones is that it relies on the quality of teachers, who must be able to structure a curriculum without the help of a setlist of outcomes or indicators, and if they are not up for the task, then the curriculum may be lacking. Along with this, this model of curriculum lacks consistency and for those who place a strong emphasis on exams and success within a subject, they may be lacking with this approach as, like the article suggests, this model may not pay enough attention to the context in which learning takes place.

The fourth and final model sees curriculum as praxis, which in general, is an evolution of the process model. As the article describes, this type of curriculum develops itself through action and reflection. It focuses on the understanding and experience of both the teacher and the students as a whole and through conversation and structured questions can lead to various outcomes.  This model is great for opening up conversation and does not see curriculum as a checklist of things. The issues that may arise with this, come when your students are not really known for being critical thinkers or are very expressive. It can be hard as the teacher to get students to open up sometimes, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult subjects. It also requires that both the teacher and students are willing to cooperate, as it takes everyone to make this model work.

As we see with these four models of curriculum, there is no perfect solution. For me, I didn’t even know the curriculum was being seen as anything more than a syllabus because that is all I ever experienced in school. It makes me wonder is schools are aware of these models, and if they are, then are they not changing because they feel a syllabus is the best solution or is it because they don’t want to challenge the commonsense. It is good to know that there are people who are looking to find a better solution to a list of outcomes and indicators, and hopefully, it leads to a future that sees school looking to challenge how we go about learning.

“The Problem of Common Sense” Response

Introduction; Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI

Question: How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense?’ Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?

Common sense described by Kumashiro is “what everyone should know”. The problem that we discover, as it relates to education, is that common sense varies from place to place. The example we see in the reading is when Kumashiro explains his time teaching in Nepal. Life, in general, was very different than that of America. His common sense flew out the window, and he had to change how he thought about everything, from meals to water, to ever privacy. The classroom was no different, where he explains that he wanted to bring what he learned in America into his classroom in Nepal. He wanted to see students engaged and willing to interact, but as he explains in the article, they were instead quiet and only spoke as a group because that was commonsense to them.

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The question of why it’s so important to pay attention to commonsense is because, as Kumashiro explains, has led to oppression within schools. Whether we realize it or not, commonsense has led to the normalization of discrimination, inequality, biases, and much more. What Kumashiro suggests is that if we are not willing to see these things or do something about it, then this oppression will continue to go on unchallenged. There are many ways to approach anti-oppressive education, and there is no “best solution” to the problem. The main goal is to challenge oppression. The things we teach, and how we teach them, have a huge impact on whether or not that happens.