Curriculum Policy and Politics

Response to Levin’s article:

According to the Levin article, school curricula shows to be developed and implemented primarily by public policies. These public policies, as highlighted by Levin “govern just about every aspect of education- what schooling is provided, how, to whom, in what form, with what resources, and so on” (Levin, 8, 2007). Thus, schools and educators may or may not have a say in what is included and what is not included in the curriculum depending on the overall government systems and the policies in place. Levin goes on to highlight to readers the process of how curriculum policy decisions are made, which is solely dependent on the government system as highlighted earlier. The process of developing curriculum typically “involves bringing together groups of experts and sector representatives to draft the elements of a new or revised curriculum” where teachers and post-secondary experts help as well (Levin, 17, 2009). In addition, Levin explains that interest groups may be involved in developing curriculum (Levin, 16, 2007). 

Through reading Levin’s article, there was a lot of new information and perspectives presented to me regarding the development and implementation of the school curriculum. One major piece of information that was new to me was how school curricula are developed. Previously, I knew that curriculum is developed and implemented by public policies in place by the government, but did not realize that it involves bringing together groups of experts and sector representatives as well as interest groups. This article also made me realize the difficult job that the government has to please everyone in terms of curriculum, which is ultimately is not possible seeing “the presence of diverse and conflicting goals” making the government be pulled to different sides at the same time (Levin 10, 2007). Additionally, this article presented me with a whole new perspective regarding the government. As a person who has attended school majority of my life, I have certainly developed some critiques regarding the curriculum and have also questioned some of the actions that the government has made in general society, but have never truly taken the government’s perspective into consideration seeing that it is something that is not commonly discussed which Levin presents in this article.

From Levin’s article, one overarching thing that concerned me was the fact that people who are not directly associated with school systems have a major impact on what the curriculum entails. This article highlights how groups of experts, sector representatives as well as interest groups have a major role in the development and implementation of curriculum where those who are directly in contact with curriculum such as principles, teachers, and students, who have a much richer and deeper understanding of curriculum rarely if not ever get a voice in how curriculum decisions are made.

 

Response to Treaty Education document:

After reading pages 1-4 of the Treaty Education document, there are some connections that I made between Levin’s article and the implementation of Treaty Education in Saskatchewan. Within the Treaty Education document, it states that “the Ministry of Education respects the federal government’s legal, constitutional, and fiscal obligations to First Nations peoples and its primary responsibility for Métis people” (Government of Saskatchewan, 3, 2013). This relates to Levin’s article in the sense that the government ultimately is in control of developing and implementing the curriculum. Additionally, the Treaty Education document states that “A Curriculum Sub-committee of the Shared Standards and Capacity Building Council guided the development of the K-12 Continuum for Treaty Education. This was a comprehensive consultative process with the following partners: Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, First Nations University of Canada, Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Curriculum Sub-committee for the Shared Standards and Capacity Building Council, and the Ministry of Education” (Government of Saskatchewan, 3, 2013). This relates to Levin’s article seeing that curriculum throughout Levin’s article is said to be developed and implemented by groups of experts, sector representatives as well as interest groups which is also seen in the Treaty Education curriculum through the sub-committee that was created to develop the K-12 Treaty Education curriculum. 

Some tensions that I could see arising as the Treaty Education curriculum was developed are disagreements in regards to what perspectives and topics should be included in the curriculum and what aspects should not be included. Seeing that the development and implementation of curricula do not always take those peoples voices into consideration who are directly connected to school systems, tensions could also arise in regards to educators not feeling fully educated on the topic of Treaty Education and therefore may feel uncomfortable teaching it in their classroom, and in turn may see it as an optional aspect of curriculum to be taught or may just skip teaching it altogether.

 

Sources:

https://www.edonline.sk.ca/bbcswebdav/library/materials/english/docs/Treaty%20Education%20Outcomes%20%26%20Indicators%20-%20Feb%2021%202013.pdf

https://www.corwin.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/16905_Chapter_1.pdf

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Blog Post #6- Treaty Education

Response Prompt:

“As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada . I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke. The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.”

Considerations:

  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”?

 

Canada is a country full of diversity, where a variety of different cultures and races can be identified. As Canadians, the dark history of our country in terms of the horrible treatment of Indigenous people through events like Residential Schools and The 60’s Scoop is well known about in these times of reconciliation. In efforts to move forward, there are many vehicles in place to begin the long-term, generational journey toward reconciliation, one being Treaty Education. 

With this being said, Treaty Education is something that not everyone sees eye to eye about. This type of education is a concept that some teachers are not interested in teaching, do not feel compelled to teach, or do not feel educated enough to teach and is something that students today are not well educated on or do not take seriously which is clearly seen in the email that Mike received from an intern. Seeing that Canada is a diverse country, classrooms in Canada are also diverse in nature. Through having the possibility of teaching a classroom with only non-Aboriginal children, this does not mean that the teacher does not have to teach Treaty Education. Treaty Education is intended to be taught to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians and does not solely rely on being taught if there is a large Indigenous population or not.

Treaty Education is an important vehicle for educators to use towards reconciliation creating relationships, and a more inclusive classroom and school environment. Claire Kreuger states that because of the small Indigenous student body in today’s schools, there is a need for more effort to be put into the cultural programming, teaching histories, and building relationships. Seeing that Treaty Education is apart of the Saskatchewan curriculum Claire Kreuger highlights that she additionally views it as Settler Education, meaning that it is everyone’s duty to understand and know about Canada’s history. The saying “we are all treaty people” is one major reason for the purpose of teaching Treaty Education to all cultures in Canada. As white settlers and non-Aboriginal people, Treaty Education highlights the importance of acknowledging the ceremonies within treaty that made it possible for us to be here and to recognize the possibility of creating relationships with one another through the land that was shared with us. In addition, this type of education allows students to ponder bigger questions and spark conversations, as seen in the conversation between Mike and Claire, including “Who am I?” “How did I get here?” and “How do I call this home?” Not only does Treaty Education educate students, it also educates parents through the knowledge that their children are acquiring at school and bringing light to at home. This is very important seeing that the students are absorbing the information provided at school, where they are passing it on to educate others who may not be as informed as they are. Ultimately, the purpose of Treaty Education is to be taught to all cultures in Canada, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal to expose students to Indigenous ways of knowing, to acknowledge the land that was shared between us, to create relationships, to move towards reconciliation, and to create an inclusive environment where Indigenous people are treated fairly and do not face barriers to their successes based on the colour of their skin.

 

Blog Post #5- Place-Based Learning

Respond to the following prompts: 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). 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?

While reading Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing by Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner, and Edmund Metatawabin, there were many instances that I saw reinhabitation and decolonization. When the authors mention that “over just two generations, one could observe the erosion of deeper meanings of connection to land and territory that are encoded in the Mushkegowuk language, its declining use among the adult and youth generations” (p. 71), it is evident how much colonization and exploitation has affected the intergenerational knowledge and language of the Mushkegowuk community, which can also be seen in many other Indigenous communities in Canada. Thus, there have been efforts in developing a greater understanding of Indigenous culture and traditions in youth today through reinhabitation and decolonization. As highlighted in the article, students, adults, and elders took part in a 10-day river trip where the students created an audio documentary about the relations of people to their traditional territory. Through the interviews that were conducted as a part of this documentary, youth were able to have conversations with elders and other members of the Kistachowan (Albany) River community. This allowed for youth to gain connections with elders in the community, where the youth were provided with cultural knowledge and traditions as well as a means of creating new intergenerational relationships with the community. Additionally, through this trip, the importance of the land and relationships with the land along with the stories and teachings were presented to the youth. This allowed youth to reconnect with the land and traditional ways of knowing, which in turn can allow for this knowledge to be passed on for generations to come. 

As a future educator, it is essential that I begin to formulate my pedagogical approaches. Thus, from reading this article and seeing the importance of place-based learning, place-based learning is something that I am going to try to incorporate into my subject areas and teaching. While keeping in mind the aspects of reinhabitation and decolonization that were present in the article, there are many ways in which I can adapt and consider place in my own teaching. One way that I foresee is through allowing students to better understand a wide variety of cultures and traditions through going on field trips or bringing in speakers (like an elder) where students will be presented with the traditions, stories, and perspectives of different cultures. Additionally, as a Phys Ed major, I could present my students with a variety of traditional games from different cultures. I could provide the history of these games and the culture they coincide with and after, allow the students to play these games so that they can have a better understanding of different cultures. Overall, place-based education is an approach that I see as very important and can have a lot of cross-curricular potentials where it can be used as a means of making a more inclusive environment in my future classrooms.

 

Blog Post #4- What It Means to Be a “Good” Student

What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the commonsense? 

While reading Kumashiro’s text, there were a number of instances through his stories that stood out to me regarding what it means to be a “good” student according to the commonsense. A key aspect of Kumashiro’s text was when he explained that he was feeling frustrated with students who “were unable or unwilling to be the kind of students that schools and society tell them to be” (Kumashiro, 21). Kumashiro, in turn, thought to himself about how he was feeling frustrated with these students because he “assumed that being a student required behaving and thinking in only certain ways, but also because [he] felt pressure from schools and society to produce this type of student” (Kumashiro, 21). Thus, according to commonsense and from these important parts in Kumashiro’s text, a “good” student appears to be those students who listen and retain information that is taught to them while in class, are able to apply the information that they learn in class to exams, get good grades on exams, behave in a manner that is expected by the teacher or school in general (being quiet when the teacher is talking, raising your hand to ask or answer a question, etc.), and ultimately conform to be the kind of students that society tells them to be.

Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student?

Seeing the definition of what it means to be a “good” student according to commonsense, it can also be seen that those students who meet the criteria of being a “good” student are privileged. Students who thrive in school environments whose pedagogical approaches are traditional and behave in ways that are expected by teachers and society as a student are those who are privileged. On the other hand, students who have difficulty learning in the traditional way where they may learn better through doing and experiencing or behave in ways that are “not normal” are those who are not privileged. These are the students who get labelled by not only teachers, but also their peers as a “bad student” based on what the commonsense describes a “good” student to be and the norms that are present in society surrounding how to act and behave in school and what it means to succeed as a student.

What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these commonsense ideas?

This commonsense idea of a “good” student as presented by Kumashiro is restrictive in a number of ways. To me, I think these commonsense ideas make it hard for teachers to alter and adapt their pedagogical approaches due to the pressures of society to produce a “good” student. Instead of adapting their approaches to accommodate to, for example, students who are hands-on learners and learn by doing, teachers adhere to the traditional approach to teaching so they are able to be in a “comfort zone” where they feel as though they are producing “good” students. Additionally, I think that these commonsense ideas make students get into the habit of only applying what they need to reach what is expected of them at school, where they do not go out of their way to learn more about the concepts at school that they are interested in or are having issues understanding. Instead, students put in the minimum amount of effort that they need to pass or get a good grade in the class and do not go the extra mile. 

Kumashiro, Kevin. “Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What It Means to Be a Student” Against Common Sense, Routledge, 2009, pp. 19–33.
(https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kkJc7k2AyKB-Usl3pujiMAeWpfzmpZRK/view)

 

Blog Post #3- Pre Critical Analysis Thoughts

For my critical summary, I have chosen the topic of inclusive education to focus my paper on. Out of all the topics presented for our critical summary assignment, I felt most connected and passionate about the topic of inclusive education. Throughout high school, inclusive education was a large part of the school that I went to where there was and still is a Functionally Integrated Alternative Education Program (FIAEP) in place. Despite those who have disabilities being a part of programs like this, there is still a lack of inclusivity for students with disabilities in schools around the world. For example, even though the FIAEP program was in place at the high school I went to, the students in the program were still segregated into a special classroom most of the time and were only included into certain classrooms when certain subjects were being taught. Seeing this, as a future educator I believe it is important to see this issue and take action to create a more inclusive environment and curriculum for the diverse populations of schools today.

One of the first articles that caught my eye while exploring inclusive education in curriculum was the works of Stephen Bunbury titled “Disability in Higher Education- Do Reasonable Adjustments Contribute to an Inclusive Curriculum?” In this article, Bunbury emphasizes the importance of making adjustments to create a more inclusive environment. Bunbury states that adjustments should be made to have a more inclusive curriculum and inclusive design within higher education schools to minimize the barriers in place that are affecting both the learning and participation of those students with disabilities. Seeing his strong belief in these adjustments, Bunbury explains that “inclusive education should involve full participation without segregation into special classrooms” and that an inclusive curriculum should consider “students’ cultural and social background taking into account an individual’s physical or sensory impairment and mental well-being” (Bunbury, 2018). 

With these highlighted adjustments in mind, Bunbury also goes on to mention that there are some barriers to inclusive education including “time, knowledge, training, and curriculum design” (Bunbury, 2018). In a study that is explained in the article, Bunbury presents these adjustments and barriers regarding inclusive curriculum to staff members at a university. Findings showed that “most participants expressed their concerns about an inclusive curriculum and wondered whether it would be realistically achievable” (Bunbury, 2018). Despite these findings and barriers, Bunbury goes on to reiterate the overall conclusion that although  adjustments may be complex, they must be made to create a more inclusive curriculum where students with disabilities can be accommodated to and achieve their fullest potential.

Moving forward with this assignment, some of the next steps and possible directions that I will be taking is to find two more articles that have strong arguments which I can incorporate into my paper while also finding the similarities and differences between them so that I am able to draw connections between them. After finding the articles, I will also be sure to include a “coffee shop summary” to readers to ensure that they are briefly informed about what will be going on in my paper.

Bunbury, Stephen. “Disability in Higher Education- Do Reasonable Adjustments Contribute to an Inclusive Curriculum?” International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1 Aug. 2018. Taylor & Francis Online, https://www-tandfonline-com.libproxy.uregina.ca/doi/full/10.1080/13603116.2018.1503347.

 

Blog Post #2- Curriculum Theory and Practice

Within the article Curriculum Theory and Practice by Mark Smith, there are four models of curriculum presented which are curriculum as a syllabus to be transmitted, curriculum as product, curriculum as process, and curriculum as praxis. Each of the models of curriculum described in the article show to have benefits and drawbacks in some way, shape, or form.

A syllabus, as explained by Mark Smith, is a document with many headings from a given lecture which highlights to students the areas that may be examined in the future. In seeing this definition, curriculum as a syllabus to be transmitted can be understood as a method that is ultimately concerned with the content that is being taught. A benefit of this method as stated by Smith is that this process focuses on how the curriculum is delivered to students, hoping to use the most effective methods for students to comprehend what is being taught. Through having this method in place one drawback may be that the importance of the topics and subjects that are covered in the syllabus may not be thoroughly explained as it has been formed solely around content. Another drawback of this method is that those who have created and are preaching this syllabus may in some instances follow the traditional approach to schooling where everything must be performed in order leading to examinations. Additionally, this method may also place educators in the position where they become hung up on the content that they are teaching rather than how they will teach the content to their students where they will understand it. 

In terms of curriculum as product, the main benefit that this method poses is that learning is presented and taught through having a plan towards an end outcome. In other words, the teacher has a plan of what they will teach and how they will teach it so that each student will reach the end goal which may be based on an evaluation like a test or report card. Ultimately though, there are a number of issues with this method seeing that it is systematic and relies on measurability of content and behavioural objectives. Students who are presented with this model of curriculum are “told what they must learn and how they will learn.” This is a major drawback seeing that each student has different learning preferences and move at different paces. Thus, students have little voice in the way they are taught and those who do not behave or measure up to the given objectives and outcomes will not be successful, where they may have been more successful if a different curriculum method was implemented. Additionally, Smith goes on to explain that this model of curriculum focuses on the outcomes so that content can be organized to meet the outcome based on evaluation. Another drawback is seen here given the notion that evaluations are commonly in the form of an examination which is something that not every student is strong at; other methods of showing students knowledge may be more beneficial like a presentation.

Different from curriculum as a product, curriculum as process involves teachers entering the classroom with a more thorough idea of what is about to happen. The benefits of this method are that teachers are able to think critically within the classroom and are prepared for whatever may be thrown at them and can adjust their teaching methods and strategies based on students needs. Additionally, Smith goes on to explain that this method focuses on interaction between teachers, students, and knowledge which is beneficial seeing that this method encourages conversation when a situation arises and also allows teachers and students to work together on objectives and methods of learning and teaching so both sides have a voice. As Smith explains, there is a drawback of this method seeing that it relies on the quality of the teacher; if the teacher is not open to what this method encompasses, then this method may limit what happens in the classroom.

Curriculum as praxis as stated by Smith does not place a strong emphasis on context and instead develops curriculum through action and reflection rather than having certain plans to implement. This is beneficial seeing that the curriculum does not follow a strict plan but rather is based on planning, acting, and evaluating in the classroom. Another benefit of this method is that teachers are able to step back and reflect on what is happening in the classroom and take action to better engage students to make them active participants. 

Within my own schooling experience, through both elementary and high school, I mostly experienced the curriculum as product method. In the classroom this model made days at school more structured as well as what was being taught more structured seeing that the teacher has a plan on how and what they will teach. Additionally, it made it possible for students to see what they should be striving for as this method has set out behavioural and content outcomes. On the other hand, this method made it hard for students to have a voice in the classroom regarding how and what they were being taught seeing that this method tells students “what they must learn and how they will learn.” Thus, students who feel as though they are not benefitting from the teaching methods that are in place may not be able to have a say in how they are being taught.

 

Blog Post #1- The Problem of Common Sense

In Kumashiro’s The Problem of Common Sense, there are many instances that define what common sense is. When beginning his teaching career, Kumashiro found himself taking the opportunity to teach in Nepal. When he arrived in Nepal, he quickly saw that there were many differences in everyday life between America and Nepal. Simple routine practices like how many meals are served per day to when and how to use water at certain times of the day made Kumashiro take a step back to take the time to learn what Nepali people saw as ‘commonsense’; what everyone should know and the way people live their lives without knowing. When beginning to teach at the school, Kumashiro had to, again, take the time to learn what people saw as common sense, but this time in regards to teaching and learning. The students and teachers at the school had their fixed routines in which they followed. Routines like boys always sit with boys and girls always sit with girls, school opening in mid-February, lessons taught in class were centred directly around government-issued textbooks, and students sitting quietly in class and copying what was on the board. Kumashiro wanted to seat his students in mixed-gender groups and encouraged them to have discussions among themselves and talk to one another to actively participate in their learning, but this did not work because of their ‘commonsense.’ Ultimately, seeing these examples of common sense presented by Kumashiro, ‘commonsense’ is defined as ways of thinking, identifying, and relating to others which have become so routine that they go unquestioned as well as showing how something is supposed to be or look like.

As a human being, it is important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’ because as seen in this article, ‘commonsense’ varies from place to place based on routines and traditions. Whether a person is travelling from country to country or is simply going to school, commonsense can be seen everywhere. Seeing the commonsense that is evident, it is important for us to question the ‘commonsense’ in terms of its perspectives, practices, and methods that are in place so that we are not conforming to any kind of oppression. Thus, ‘commonsense’ is not something that is restricted, it is something that can be reshaped and redefined through questioning and bringing to light what it is currently in place through taking into consideration new experiences and perspectives. As a becoming teacher, it is also important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’ because as Kumashiro states ‘commonsense’ does not tell us that this is what schools could be doing; it tells us that this and only this is what schools should be doing. Ultimately, this affects the way teachers are teaching and how students are learning seeing that the ‘commonsense’ may be very narrow-minded and only be appropriate for certain people. Seeing that each student learns in different ways, it is important for teachers to question what is deemed as ‘commonsense’ so that they are able to supply multiple methods and perspectives in their classroom so that each child has the capacity to learn to their fullest potential.