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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

“Because of the complexity of the problems it must deal with, curriculum theory should not be thought of as a statement but as a search”. (Cherryholmes, 1992) The above quotation has affected me most in my emergent theory of curriculum and pedagogy. The idea that a theory of curriculum is ever changing and never stagnant is a beautiful thing. Perhaps it is my belief that there are no stupid questions or poor ideas, but just bad timing. To me, curriculum and pedagogy is terminology for what is being taught, how it is taught, and the way in which it is made meaningful to the child. This may be an oversimplification; however, I must find a way to put this complex idea into words in order to convey my emergent theory as it stands today. Cherryholmes reminds us that curriculum isn’t something to decide upon and remain bound to for an entire career, but something that changes and adapts as children, teachers, culture, and expectations change. For without change, we are but stagnant creatures without the ability to advance. Because I have never been a classroom teacher, I believe I have an overarching idea of how curriculum and pedagogy should manifest; however, I have only my own experiences to draw from as a student and not as a teacher. As I read the articles for this course, I find that I agree with parts or most of many theories and practices. As I have recently begun teaching in an extracurricular setting, these ideas have made me reevaluate and change my particular style and approach to teaching, if only for the reason that they are in the forefront of my mind.

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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

At our first meeting in EDL 639, we discussed different curriculum perspectives in education; each of us took a personal curriculum Q-sort to determine our opinions on the aims of education, the nature of knowledge, the role of the teacher, and curriculum purposes. Not surprisingly, I found myself virtually tied in three methodological ideals. I was surprised; however, to find the highest score given to Essentialism, of which the instructional objective is listed as – “to promote the intellectual growth of the individual, to educate the competent person”. The associated “role of teacher” also struck a chord – “Teacher is authority in his or her field; explicit teaching of traditional values”. (Curriculum Perspectives) The second curriculum perspective I most identified with was Perennialism, of which the instructional objective is “to educate the rational person; to cultivate the intellect”. The “teacher helps students think rationally; based on the Socratic Method and oral exposition; explicit teaching of traditional values.” The third perspective that resonated with me was Progressivism, of which the instructional objective is “to promote democratic, social living”. The role of the teacher is very different from the other perspectives – “teacher is a guide for problem solving and scientific inquiry”. At first glance, I was amazed that I could be tied at such a range of perspectives in curriculum. After reading our text and many of our other readings coupled with our discussion in class, I began to really analyze why my ideas about education could be so across-the-board. Essentialism was ever-present in the school that I attended in my youth. After reading Cherryholmes and our text, The Educational Imagination, I realized that I
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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

chose the choices correlating to Essentialism because I had been educated in that manner. Not only was Essentialism present in my education, but also Perennialism. In the description of Perennialism, the “knowledge” is listed as – “focus on past & permanent studies; mastery of facts and timeless knowledge”. How closely this resembles much of my educational curriculum as a child! From looking inward at my own experiences, I discovered that Perennialism and Essentialism are perspectives I identify with because these ideals were present in my education. Progressivism seems then, to come out of nowhere. I realized after much thought that Progressivism is what I believe curriculum should be. Having a parent who is an educator and having education regarded as nearly religion in my home life lead me to have ideas about how education should be at its best. I believe that Progressivism, where the teacher is “a guide to problem solving”, learning is “based on students’ interests”, and “knowledge lends to growth and development” has an almost romantic notion about it. It seems like the best ideal to cultivate intelligence as opposed to forced learning and memorization. Drawing from my own experiences, Progressivism seems the ideal forward thinking method of child-centered learning. (Curriculum Perspectives) “No single educational program is appropriate for all children, everywhere, forever”. (Eisner, 2002) In the same way that Cherryholmes reminds us that curriculum theory is always evolving, Eisner rightly points out that no single method of educating can be applied in more than one place with the same result. How can we assume that curriculum can be applied to different children in the same manner, much less different classrooms and
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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

different districts, when every human being learns in a different way and has differing experiences to draw from and add to? The level of complexity is astounding within a single classroom; one cannot even begin to imagine the disparity between classrooms, states, and countries. If the teacher is “a guide to problem solving” (Curriculum Perspectives), then how can one single curriculum or plan allow for problem solving at all? To have true “lasting learning”, Eisner tells us we must have disequilibrium and inquiry; what better facilitator that a progressive educator? (Eisner, Schooling In America: Where Are We Heading?, 2002) In Gail McCutcheon’s article, “What in the World is Curriculum Theory?” she makes a remarkable statement. “Graduate students do not learn of processes of theory making and what constitutes a theory, but rather they learn curriculum-related definitions, concepts, or categories that could be viewed as an early phase of theoretical work”.(McCutcheon) This seems like a novel concept; many of my colleagues in this field of study have mentioned that a graduate degree in education will teach me exactly what I should do in a classroom as if there is no room to formulate my own opinions on the subject. What a ridiculous notion! McCutcheon reminds us that you must take the ideas, critiques, and research and shape curriculum and pedagogy as they relate to you, not to someone else. Robbing educators of the chance to develop and adapt over time takes away the capability of being creative and; therefore, to effectively teach. If we are given curriculum on a platter and expected to dot our I’s and cross our T’s at the same time in the same manner as every
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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

other classroom, how can we be effective educators? Every child learns differently; to teach in a ‘vanilla’ fashion across the board would create an environment not conducive to love of learning, but one of careless disregard for our students. How could we then mould teaching to the individual child, the individual classroom? Without the focus on individual beings in our care – how do we teachers gain the capability to invest in a child’s growth? The answer – it becomes impossible. Without flexibility, creativity, and the freedom to adapt, change, and mould teaching methods, teachers cannot expect the amazing result that is learning and emotional growth. (McCutcheon) (Eisner, The Educational Imagination, 2002) In much the same way as Cherryholmes and McCutcheon, William Schubert relays the idea of “the theory I was becoming” in his article on curriculum theory. (Schubert, 1992) This phrase, Schubert states, comes from the idea “that every individual is guided by a configuration of ideas, emotions, and values that governs the action of that individual… [and that] the individual… is not isolated from social, cultural, and historical context”. Without contextual information, no personal theory of curriculum and pedagogy can be formed. My emergent theory is a combination of how I have been taught as a student, my ideal thoughts about what education is and how it should be, and the theories in which I put into practice. Schubert also tells us “that the journey of one’s theoretical development is a complex process of theory influencing practice and practice influencing theory”. (Schubert, 1992) I completely agree with this statement as I have changed the ways I teach based on the changes in my theory of curriculum. Previously, I taught using the methods with which
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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

I was taught. Recently, I have adapted and changed my teaching styles to more of a progressive approach. Changing my style to adapt to the needs of the children in my class has made improvements in only weeks. It comes down to the realization that I was teaching how I learn, not how my students best learn. And what a disservice I was giving my students! Without thinking critically about how I used to teach and applying the ideas I have now read about, I don’t think I would have changed my perspective on curriculum and teaching or changed my in-class teaching methods. I also appreciate Schubert’s discussion of curriculum and theory as not one linear set of rules, but as a combination of multiple theories. Why rely on one answer of what curriculum is when there are multitudes of perspectives that can be woven into a synergistic curriculum theory that is forever learning and adapting? (Schubert, 1992) By studying terminology, ideas, innovations, and research about curriculum and pedagogy, one can develop a guideline that fits within the values, ideals, and experiences of that single educator and could then promote more effective teaching. Not to be confused with a set curriculum theory, my emergent theory of curriculum and pedagogy as it stands today is very different than it will be in the future. Perhaps even by the end of this course my ideas about curriculum as it relates to my life and how I teach will be vastly different than they are today. If my current curriculum theory remains the same, I would not be doing myself or my students any justice. The most concrete thing I have taken so far in my graduate studies is that curriculum theory is anything but concrete. My curriculum and pedagogy ideas are always to be in the midst of “a search”
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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

(Cherryholmes, 1992) and the theory of which I will always “be becoming” (Schubert, 1992), never to end and never to cease. Although I have referenced many scholarly readings and authors here as reasons for my own curriculum ideology, I feel it is important to note that class discussions play a large role in not only my understanding of the articles, but also the practices I employ in my class. Without hearing about the experiences of other educators, I cannot begin to grasp how different classes are from child to child, room to room, and subject matter to subject matter. Not only is it helpful to hear the solutions others have found for issues in the classroom, but it is critical to the development of my own teaching style that I understand why others teach the way they teach. Collaboration among colleagues and across disciplines is critical for my understanding and, I believe, the understanding of all professionals who wish to grow in knowledge and understanding of this profession.

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Erikamarie Burk EDL 639 Catherine Haerr Emergent Theory of Curriculum and Pedagogy

September 22, 2011

Bibliography
Cherryholmes, C. H. (1992). What is Curriculum Theory? A Special Problem in Social Theory. Theory Into Practice , XXI (1), 28-32. Curriculum Perspectives. (n.d.). Teacher Leader , pp. 127-129. Eisner, E. W. (2002). Schooling In America: Where Are We Heading? In The Educational Imagination (pp. 1-24). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education. Eisner, E. W. (2002). The Educational Imagination. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. McCutcheon, G. What in the World is Curriculum Theory? Theory Into Practice , XXI (1). Schubert, W. H. (1992). Practitioners Influence Curriculum Theory: Autobiographical Reflections. Theory Into Practice , XXXI (3), 236-244.

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