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Amber Gilbert

C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction


Final Paper

Part I
For our first paper, I chose to focus on two articles that I felt had similar qualities and

approaches: A Critical Consideration of the New Pedagogy in its Relation to Modern Science

by Maria Montessori, and Man: A Course of Study by Jerome S. Bruner. Both advocate the

child as the center of where curriculum should be focused. The teacher is positioned as a guide

in the childs learning experience, allowing the child to essentially, learn how to learn.

Bruner focuses on three basic questions to base a curriculum upon: 1) Children will

learn more effectively if they discover ideas for themselves rather than being told those ideas.

2) Children are capable of engaging in authentic learning from a very young age, and 3) Children

should focus on the structure of the disciplines and how things are related, rather than on the

mere acquisition of information (lecture notes). Essentially, making learning an experience of

discoveries for the child and not just a matter of facts that need to be memorized without being

able to relate those facts to the childs life experiences.

Montessori also focuses on the learner and states, we wish to awaken in the mind and

heart of the educator an interest in natural phenomena to such an extent that, loving nature,

he shall understand the anxious and expectant attitude of one who has prepared an

experiment and who awaits a revelation from it (p23). When I read this statement it

automatically brought to mind the awakening and excitement about learning and teaching.

From the students perspective, they are allowed to be fully engaged in the learning process.

Students are able to explore subjects and subject matter that they find of interest. This

generates a curiosity that motivates the learner to become active participants in their own
Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

education. Montessori describes a student who is able to read, but does not know how to

interpret what they have read, The child who has mastered the spelling-book gives the

impression of knowing how to readBut attempting to do this, he would soon feel that to

know how to read mechanically is nothing (p. 22).

While I felt that both of these theorist had the learner as their main focus, I also saw that when

motivating students to learn, educators can also be motivated by the excitement generated

from the students. Seeing the curriculum through the students eyes opens up new questions

and approaches to learning and the material being presented. After every lesson plan that I

have seen taught in the classroom, I have been awakened to equal advantages and

disadvantages with the exact same material, depending upon the class it is being presented to.

The particular way a class responds and the questions that each student raises, shows

different facets to the material, that either I, or the previous classes failed to notice. This is

what makes involving the learner in the learning process so critical. Bruner stated, -what is

involved in going beyond the information given and what makes it possible to take such leaps

(p. 90).

My overall understanding of both Montessori and Bruner has not diminished in the

weeks since my original paper. If anything, I have come to a better understanding of where

current theories of curriculum reform originated from. Not only did Montessori and Bruner call

to action the involvement of the learner in the learning process, they also awakened the

questions in more recent generations of curriculum reformists.


Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

Part II

With my second paper, I spoke of what I saw as one of the issues that I am most bothered by

with current curriculum; that of standardized testing. As I stated before, we expect our students to

learn a set amount of information that is constantly fed to them throughout the year. Then we

spend three weeks trying to assess whether or not they were able to memorize these facts that

the state has deemed to be necessary. My biggest problem with this mentality is that I do not

believe the students are really benefiting from this approach. We set standard objectives for

our students to follow, and then use rubrics to see if they have met these standards, (usually

set by the state, and or federal government).

Standardized tests are not true measures of a students ability. As I previously

stated, they remind me of a cartoon that I saw that depicted a fish in a bowl being told that in

order to be successful, it would need to learn to climb a tree. Even though that fish would excel

at swimming, it is being told that it will never be successful because it will never be able to

climb a tree. We do the same thing to students when administering standardized testing. We

are not testing areas that each student may excel in, we are testing everyone on the same

things.

Elliot Eisner stated, curriculum theory which views educational objectives as

standards by which to measure educational achievement overlooks those modes of

achievement incapable of measurement (p. 113). Although he is speaking of setting objectives,

he is stating that it is hard to justify objective outcomes. Eisner refers to a quote by MacDonald
Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

that argues this point when he writes: Objectives by this rationale are heuristic devices which

provide initiating consequences which become altered in the flow of instruction (p. 113).

This thought actually tied into later reading of Michael Apple who speaks of what he

feels happens to the teaching profession when we rely on these standardized tests and

curriculums. While this leads to a broader range of skills having to be learned or relearned, it

can lead to something mentioned earlier- the loss of time keep up with ones field. That is, what

might be called skill-diversification has a contradiction built into it. It is also part of a dynamic

of intellectual de-skilling (p. 173). If we spent our resources on building the confidence of

these students, and preparing them for standardized tests, their scores on these tests would

undoubtedly improve. With this in mind, it makes me believe that if a system built on test

scores can be so faulty, why arent there more alternatives to educating and assessing

students? Why are we still relying on the same kinds of assessments that we have relied on for

generations, knowing they are not accurately reflecting the students ability?

If anything has changed on my original opinion of this flaw in our current curriculum, it

is this: With the amount of ideas presented by so many theorists that have rational merit, why

do we continue to standardize learning?

Part III

Anytime I have heard the term, curriculum, it has always brought to mind school and

learning. I picture rubrics and objectives, required learning as seen in a classroom setting. When

you look at the curriculum for a class, you are usually seeing a syllabus of the things one would

expect to learn if they are studying that class or subject. Seeing the Latin term, race course, or
Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

race itself, was surprising to me. a place of deeds, or a series of deeds. As applied to education,

it is that series of things which children and youth (must) do and experience (Bobbitt, Chap 1

p.13). Although this term makes sense, the things which children and youth do It is not the

first thing that comes to mind when I think of the word itself.

My philosophy of this term brings to mind the expansion of the word and what it really

entails. It can be more than just a subject, but rather a mindset of what a learner can aspire to

be. It can encapsulate so much more than a subject, it can mean goals and aspirations. Knowing

when and how to motivate and inspire learners to become their very best, but most

importantly, showing them how to see life as a learning experience. A curriculum on life, I

suppose. This is how I would like to see curriculum used inside and outside of the classroom

setting. Nell Noddings perspectives on learning point to a similar view.

Noddings argues that it is our job to educate, to encourage careful thinking, critical

examination of information, a commitment to examine all sides, and to allow time for genuine

interestperhaps even enthusiasmto develop. We must have time to push back the

boundaries of the disciplines (Noddings, 2006, p. 404). When I read the above quotation, I see

all of Noddings points as relevant and important. This is exactly the goal we should have for our

students. I believe that part of being an active learner, includes being able to look at a problem

from multiple angles and viewpoints. It is helpful when trying to understand the world around

you, to be able to see why and how some people do the things and processes that they do.

Being able to notice and appreciate multiple sides to any given situation, is the first step to

finding a solution to solving problems that may arise. Teaching students to become active in
Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

their learning process and question what is being taught is one way to open this door with

them.

When I read the chapter, Teacher Experiences of Culture in the Curriculum, by Elain

Chan, I was transported back to my days of teaching English as a second language in

Bangladesh. Right away I could relate to the issues described by the teachers that Chan was

observing. In my class, comprised of mostly male students, I had two women that were

required to wear burkas. My initial thoughts when I met them was that of oppression. I could

not believe that I was now living in a country where women were not even allowed to be seen.

My own clothing was culturally appropriate, meaning I had to wear an Orna over my chest to be

considered decent in public.

As I got to know my students, I came to realized that it was my thinking that was flawed

and not necessarily their culture. Those women that would come to class everyday completely

covered up, were actually very privileged to be able to come to my class to learn English in the

first place. Their families were proud of the fact that they were being allowed to learn with the

American Teacher in the village. It is often hard to separate ones own thinking and upbringing

to that of a completely foreign culture. Even though, like the teachers in Chans study, I thought

myself culturally sensitive, it was always a struggle to see beyond my own rose tinted glasses,

so to speak.

I know that even the teacher with the best of intentions, will always have this hurtle to

overcome. Chan states, This broad base of potentially-influential interactions highlights the

power of schooling experiences, and further reinforces the importance of recognizing and
Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

celebrating the diversity that students bring to a school context (p. 303). This is another point

that we, as educators, need to keep in mind when trying to open new doors for our students.

William Doll, however, is by far someone that influenced my current thought

process the most; not surprising that he refers to and mentions John Dewey, arguably one of

the best theorist of curriculum in history thus far, throughout his article. In Dolls suggestions

for a new direction for understanding curriculum he mentions his four Rs as follows; Richness,

describing a curriculum that has depth and layers of meaning. It has multiple possibilities or

interpretations. Another way to state this is to say that the problematics, perturbations,

possibilities inherent in a curriculum are what give the curriculum not only its richness but also

its sense of being, its dasein Doll (p216). Lessons with this idea in mind will open up

conversations in the classroom that will allow for further insight into the material being

presented, as well as multiple ways to evaluate the learner on the materials presented.

Recursion, the complex structures that support critical reflection. This is also the way

one produces a sense of self, through reflective interaction with the environment, with others,

with a culture. Doll then states, such recursive reflection lies at the heart of a

transformative curriculum. (p 217) Being able to relate material to a learners personal

experience or culture, is a key to helping them to not only understand the material being

presented, but to remember it. If the learner can make these important connections, they will

be able to fit the material being presented into their day to day experiences. This allows

educators to help the learner understand their environment better and contribute new ideas

within their communities.


Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

Relations, refers to the intersecting of curriculum and cultures. Doll states that relations

is important in a pedagogical way as well as a cultural way. The textbook, throughout all this, is

seen as something to revise, not as something to follow. It is the base from which

transformation occurs. Curriculum in a post-modern frame needs to be created (self-organized)

by the classroom community, not by textbook authors Doll (p 219). Doll mentions that as

educators it is our job to help the learner navigate their way between what is being taught, and

how the learner perceives what is being taught. If we are unaware of the student perspective of

the information being presented, the student cannot be fairly evaluated on this knowledge.

This brings us to Dolls last goal of Rigor, which invites a continual exploration of what is

being taught. Doll calls this goal the most important of the four goals. rigor keeps a

transformative curriculum from falling into either rampant relativism or sentimental

solipsism (p 220). When I think of rigor, I automatically think of the scientific method. Asking

students to continually evaluate themselves and what they are learning. To create new

experiments and understandings not only of how the world works around them, but how they

fit into that world. This teaches the learner to be inquisitive and not just take what is being

presented to them as fact. Rigor should open up the learners curiosity.

When thinking of Dolls four Rs, I thought of a science lesson that I recently went over

with some students that had to do with forming a hypothesis. I wanted the students to relate

the scientific method to something that they were interested in, so that it would open up

discussions to further exploration. I wanted them to experience the rigors of science. Doll

states, One must continually be exploring, looking for new combinations, interpretations,

patterns.
Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper

I asked them to start off with big ideas, such as the chemical reactions of baking soda

and vinegar, (well, big to a ten year old). As we walked thru how to form a hypothesis and how

to set up an experiment, their ideas became more specific. They started thinking about

variations to add to the vinegar and to the baking soda. This opened up discussions that

eventually lead to an experiment on how to re-hydrate an old marker with vinegar.

I was proud and excited about the twists and turns that our discussions and explorations

brought to the class lesson. In my mind, this is what Doll means when he mentions, rigor. The

continuing conversation that opens more doors to new and exciting questions.

Keeping in mind that standard objectives and curriculum will always be just that; a

standard. I believe its time to try new methods and ways to inspire and teach our students how

to strive to become their best within society and their cultural communities. Doll states, The

textbook, throughout all this, is seen as something to revise, not as something to follow. It is

the base from which transformation occurs. Curriculum in a post-modern frame needs to be

created (self-organized) by the classroom community, not by textbook authors (p.219).

According to our lecture notes, The goal of critical pedagogy is to challenge traditional and

sometimes conservative and oppressive, functions of society and institutions. Among the

many breakthroughs that curriculum theorist have made, with tolerance and changes in

curriculum, I believe that more focus should be placed upon new and better ways to strengthen

curriculum so that it reflects our current student populations and not as much on the

assessments that are dominant in our school districts today. Lets get our students excited

about opening new doors and exploring new ways to learn. This should be our main focus as

educators.
Amber Gilbert
C&T 709: Foundations of Curriculum & Instruction
Final Paper