At the end of the program, how many students become the fruit you (institutionally) had hoped for?  Furthermore, how do you describe what that outcome looks like and the process that the student undergoes to become that person.  The process broadly may be seen as the curriculum.  Of course, curricula are complex and there are many factors such as resources, sequencing, coursework, content, pedagogy, faculty, etc that go into developing and implementing a curriculum. The end goal/product should be considered in developing and improving curricula.  In reading Curriculum: from theory to practice by Wesley Null, I came across some interesting ways to describe curricular philosophies.  These concepts may serve as important steps in engaging curricular discussions.  Which best describes your curriculum?

Five Types of Curriculum:

1) Systematic

* education is a business approach

* high value on “objectivity”

* focus on instructional methods/techniques

* values assessment, accountability, efficiency

* standards based “what should students know and be able to do”

* science content valued more highly than humanities

* planning, highly structured

2) Existentialist

* the personal journey

* goal focus on uniqueness of a learner and the process of personal meaning making

* individual above community learning

* individuality and personal freedom above institutional responsibility

* more about surrounding learners with interesting possibilities than predetermining what the learner should be and learn.

3) Radical

* political perspective

* bias is embraced rather than navigated around

* knowledge that is aligned with political agenda is taught

* believes that curricular materials have inherent biases that should be countered, eg. suppression of content on ethnic disparities.

4) Pragmatic

* problem solving immediate social needs

5) Deliberative

* choice

* hearing multiple perspectives, choosing the best response, and acting on that response

* avoid extremes

Other key ideas:
goal of liberal arts: “transforms the inner constitution of a person’s character so that he or she can lead a life of reason, reflection, and deliberation.”

Key ideas:

* bridge tradition and foundation knowledge while preparing for a life of decisions that further these traditions.

* Breaking patterns of traditional thinking – “liberating”

* developed personal, defensible, perspectives

* curriculum making involves answering questions of practice, purpose, and integration


Null W. Curriculum: From theory to practice. (C) 2011. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Where ideas meet

I am currently reading a book evaluating the teaching philosophy of constructivism. At its roots in history, constructivism seems to have been born out of a postmodern view of the world. The content is not the center of learning, the learner is. This seems to be very acceptable to most on the surface. A quick look at the educational literature will verify this. (Keyword search: learner centered).

The main question should be how to individualize the approach not the content. For, taken to its extreme, individualizing the content means relativism and where then would we find truth. The answer in the postmodern perspective is that truth is relative and subjective not objective. Unfortunately, that statement is self-contradictory. I cannot say that truth is subjective without that statement somehow being inherently objective – that is repeatable and observable. It is true, however, that subjective perspective is a part of a greater truth.

How does this impact education? In what ways, does your educational approach or system reflect what you believe or how you see the world?

First things first

Much of education today seems to focus on knowledge and content.  However, there continues to be growing demands for abilities outcomes as the end result of an education, ie. ability to use knowledge.  In a discussion with a colleague of mine, Phil Schanely from the Cedarville University Center for Teaching and Learning, he mentioned David Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction.  First principles are the irreducible minimum for teaching.  These are the elements that all educational theories seem to have in common.  He suggests that all of these elements be connected to a real-world problem or task in order for learning to be efficient and effective.

1. Activation: leveraging previous experiences, new experiences, and structure

2. Demonstration: this refers to guided practice; show the learner how to solve the problem

3. Application: let the learner solve more problems with increasing complexity and continued feedback

4. Integration: the learner begins to own the new knowledge and “make it their own” by using it in everyday life.

In looking at many different types of teaching theories and strategies, I think you will see most of these elements.  Which of these elements do you find the most challenging to incorporate?  Do you incorporate all of these in your teaching?  Test it out.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

In previous posts, I mentioned that feedback and practice are essential.  Here are two quotes from Merrill’s article:

“Gardner (1999) and Perkins and Unger (1999) both emphasized the necessity of many opportunities for performance.”

“Feedback has long been recognized as the most important form of learner guidance.”

Merrill MD.  First Principles of Instruction.  ETR&D. 2002; 50(3);: 43-59.   (He also recently published a book that you can find on Amazon.)