Levin’s Curriculum Policy and Saskatchewan’s Treaty Education

The reading “Curriculum Policy And The Politics Of What Should Be Learned In Schools” by Ben Levin discusses the political elements involved in creating curriculum. It brings to light the complexities and key underlying information the public is often oblivious to when it comes to the development and implementation of curriculum. The chapter discusses who is involved in curriculum creation; largely being government. Other participants include “education stakeholder groups – teachers, principals, senior administration, and elected local authorities where they exist – are . . .involved in curriculum review and decisions” (16). Subject matter experts play a vital role “in the curriculum formation and  review processes” (16). Students also play a minor role, specifically in terms of assessment policies. In terms of implementation this is done mainly by educational stakeholders, specifically teachers, despite what one could argue to be, their minor involvement in curriculum creation. 

Teachers involvement, or insufficient involvement, in curriculum development surprised me. From Levin’s article I understood that teachers had the smallest part of curriculum making when compared to government and topic experts, but are essentially the only ones implementing it. Previous to this reading I believed teachers to have more of an active role in curriculum development. I believed topic experts to follow teachers leads and work closely in line with them to develop a teachable and educational curriculum, it seems to be very reversed though.

In connection with Levin’s reading I also read through Saskatchewan’s Treaty education curriculum, Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators, largely made by Saskatchewan’s provincial government. From this document I made the connection of the struggle Levin notes regarding the teach-ability of a curriculum made by experts. Levin noted in his article “One danger in curriculum development . . . is the production of curricula that are not readily usable by ordinary teachers” (17). I can see, and have experienced,  how the average teacher, who comes from a white settler family and has little experience with First Nations culture or history, would have trouble teaching expert made curricula on treaty education. Even though this curriculum was made in 2013, while I was only in grade eight, I experienced only a small of the goals the document sets out to implement, the goals being: 

  • Treaty Relationships
  • Spirit and Intent of Treaties
  •  Historical Context of Treaties
  •  Treat Promises and Provisions.

When it comes to development I assume similar tensions were in play, with many of the stakeholders, government officials, and experts to some extent being of white settler decent working on a document aimed at First Nation culture and history. One can assume the Saskatchewan government was also facing a lot of public pressure to both push the document through as fast as possible, but also from people who questioned the necessity of the document at all. Its content would have been another extreme source of tension. The document is aimed at bringing about reconciliation due to a traumatic relationship caused by Canada’s government toward the First Nations people, thus its content holds no room for mistake as its a risk to furthering the trauma in the relationship. 

I believe teaching treaty education in my own future classroom to be of huge importance. I think education on the subject is the key to changing false and racist narratives. When tension on the subject inevitably arises I hope to use it as a learning opportunity as an entryway for greater understanding. Treaty education is something I feel very passionate about and hopefully one day have the opportunity to work alongside experts in developing a curriculum.

References

  • Levin, Ben. “Curriculum Policy And The Politics Of What Should Be Learned In Schools.” The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction. Edited by Conelly, Micheal., He, Fang., Phillion JoAnn. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2008. 7-24. Online.
  • Government of Saskatchewan Ministry of Education (2013). Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators.

Learning From the Mushkegowuk People and the Kitachowan River

The article, “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” by Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Grunner, and Edmund Metawabin, highlights the importance of a critical pedagogy of place and its role in identity. The aim of a critical pedagogy of place is reinhabitation, done through “identify[ing], recover[ing], and creat[ing] material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments,” and decolonization through “identify[ing] and change[ing] ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places” (Grunner, Metawabin & Restoule 74). The article shows these processes through bringing the community of Fort Albany First Nation together for a ten day river trip and the production of an audio documentary. 

An important term in relation to the the article is paquataskamik, a Cree word meaning  “traditional territory, all of the environment, nature, and everything it contains” (Grunner 74). Paquatskamik is important to the Cree people of Fort Albany First Nations as it is entwined within their cultural identity. In other words their sense of place is directly linked to their sense of self. Understanding this is an integral aspect of both reinhabitation and decolonization.

The connected concepts of Reinhabitation and decolonization were largely done through cause and effect of introducing the Mushkegowuk Cree communities ways of knowing to the rest of the community. The framework for these ways of knowing included:

  • Language, history, and territoriality;
  •  Deeply rooted relationships among people and between people and nature
  • Ways of seeing and being in the world (including social and economic relationality) that lay outside of a western perspective;
  •  Efforts of local people who struggle for self-determination in a specific place  rather than the western world.

The introduction of Mushkegowuk Cree ways of knowing against that of only the western approach helps to destruct false biases of the western world towards the Mushkegowuk First Nations and allows people to value these differences, helping to revitalize Mushkegowuk culture. This in effect brings both Reinhabitation by teaching about “our total environments,” and decolonization through “change[ing] ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places”.

Some specific examples of reinhabitation and decolonization in the article can be seen in the communities shift in view from seeing the land as a resource to that of having greater personnel connection with the land. The ten day Kitachowan River trip helped to foster this deepened connection to the land by “help[ing] members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge” of the river, which in effect “re-established respect for the meaning of paquataskamik” (Grunner 81). In a sense the community discovered “identify[ing], recover[ing] . . . material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments” (reinhabitation). This also, identif[ied] and chang[ed] ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places” (decolonization). The audio documentary about “relations to the river” and it’s broadcast to northern Ontario  “. . .creat[ed] material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments” (reinhabitation). 

In my future career as a teacher, with an english major and social studies minor, I definitely plan on incorporating a critical pedagogy of place into my classroom. This could be through writing assignments such as, researching your historical roots and how they connect to you today or  Identifying what makes you, you and connecting this to your environment. I could also incorporate outside learning to connect students to place, as mentioned in the article  “connection to nature is important to children’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual development” (quoted in Keller 2005). Another possible idea is a research essay on the history of the treaty negotiations, on whichever treaty land we are present on. Whatever the assignment i believe including “place” into the curriculum to be vitally important to students success in reaching their full potential.

Grunner, S., Metawabin, E., & Restoule, J. “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing.” CANADIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION , 36.2 (2013): 68-86. Web. 2 February, 2020.

The Problem of the “Good” Student

The reading “Preparing Teachers For Crisis: A Sample Lesson” by Kumashiro explores ideas of anti-oppressive education by calling on educators to examine commonsensical ideas of learning. Kumashiro notes early in the article that “[t]heir is something oppressive about what we often say it means to be a student and, simultaneously, what it means to learn” (23). He introduces the revolutionary idea of teaching about oppression through the end goal of student crisis, where students confront troubling knowledge and learn by “work[ing] through their crisis” (30). The reading invokes many questions we have about common sense ideas in our education system surrounding oppression and how to avoid it. It seems like common sense to question and advocate for anti-oppressive ideas and practice but it often isn’t. I believe the first step in doing so is identifying common sense norms, such as what our education system expects from “good” students. 

What does it mean to be a good student? This question is more heavily weighted than what one might think. My own common sense answer to this is centered around hard work, positive attitude, good attendance, and good listening skills. To get a more broad understanding of what one expects from good students I took to my twitter account.

twiiter 1

I got a broad range of  great answers from educators and aspiring educators. Though these ideas can be considered common sense they still are important qualities in classrooms. Most of the answers portrayed similar common sense ideas about a “good” student as my own. A few examples are shown below.

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Our education system is built around rewarding students with qualities such as the ones above. These students often produce work at the levels expected or even beyond what the teacher intends. They absorb information presented to them in a timely manner and are able to relay the same information without challenging it. These types of students often come from supportive families, who are willing to help aid and foster the students educational needs. These students typically don’t have disabilities that make it challenging for them to sit still, process information, spell, read, etc. Students that have conflicting qualities and circumstances as the ones above, unfortunately, are often oppressed by our education system and don’t benefit from the same rewards as a “good” student. 

These common sense ideas of a “good” student can be dangerous. It leaves students who aren’t considered to be “good” behind and their full potential untapped. Teaching  for and rewarding only one type of student allows for only one type of student to perform at their greatest potential. It’s important to question common sense because if we didn’t there would be dire consequences. Residential Schools and slavery would still exist, women wouldn’t have the vote or even be considered a person, Tobacco would be considered a medicine, ect. Questioning common sense ideas of what a “good” student is, is important for student success as a whole, thus future success of our society. Educators need to broaden their view of what a “good” student looks like so they can adjust their teaching methods to help all students succeed and avoid oppression. 

Below are some examples of what questioning  commonsensical ideas of what a “good” student can look like.

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Kumashiro, Kevin. “Preparing Teachers For Crisis: A Sample Lesson.” Against Common Sense. Routledge: London, 2009. 19-33. online

Critical Summary – Reconciliation and Curriculum

For my critical summary I have chosen the topic of reconciliation and curriculum, focusing on Linda Radford’s theories. The main article I will be using is “Learning to teach for reconciliation in Canada: Potential, resistance and stumbling forward”. The article details a study of the findings from pre-service teachers experiences learning about reconciliation and responsibility. I believe this topic and article to be of great importance as teacher education can contribute so much towards reconciliation.

The article is part of a “growing body of research [that] looks at the ways education policy and curriculum initiatives are being used to address reconciliation agendas in societies divided by conflict or injustice” (Radford & Aitken, 2018). The article focuses on the heightened emotions caused from the topics of truth and reconciliation. The authors note that the resistance caused from this is “inevitable” but not “immobilizing”. Throughout the study three themes became evident among the pre-service teachers: new recognition, changes in self-awareness, and concerns over provoking learners’ emotional responses when teaching for reconciliation. The study acknowledges teachers resistance to teach reconciliation in the past and its consequential effects on the movement. The article seeks to uncover the social dynamics at play to reverse this effect.

My next steps for the assignment will be to find two more articles relating to the topic and one more scholar. My second scholar will be Nicholas Ng-A-Fook. He has several interesting articles about the topic including, “Spinning Curriculum Designs at a Crossroads: Big Ideas, Conversations, and Reconciliation,” which appears to be promising. That leaves me with one more scholar to find work on surrounding the subject. I will be comparing and contrasting these last two articles to “Learning to teach for reconciliation in Canada: Potential, resistance and stumbling forward”.

Aitken, A., and Radford, L. “Learning to teach for reconciliation in Canada: Potential, resistance and stumbling forward.” Science Direct 75 2018: 40-48. Web. 21 January 019.

Curriculum and the Tyler Rationale

In our first ECS 210 lecture the question was asked “what is curriculum?” Even though all of us have experienced curriculum in our educational journeys many had trouble putting it into words. The class eventually settled on a definition along the lines of “a set of guidelines set out by the government that students should learn.” In the reading Curriculum theory and practice by Mark Smith curriculum is defined in several ways. It is defined by Stenhouse as, “the attempt to describe what happens in classrooms rather than what actually occurs” (Smith 2000) and by John Kerr as, ‘All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school’ (quoted in kelly 1983). The reading Curriculum theory and practice goes over four ways of approaching curriculum theory and practice, one of which is the Tyler rationale. This approach is “[t]he dominant mode of describing and managing education” and is heavily linked to the success of the product” (Smith 2000). It’s a technical exercise where “[o]bjectives are set, a plan drawn up, then applied, and the outcomes (products) measured (Smith 2000).

In my own schooling I have had a lot of experience with the Tyler rationale, both good and bad. Many of the most memorable experiences occurred in elementary school where learning was fast paced and the efficiency of the teacher or curriculums success depended on the students performance. One area where the Tyler rationale’s set objectives and structured plans worked for me was learning to read. The skill came naturally to me. I hit all the objectives set out either early or just where I was expected to be and received the praise I was rewarded with confidently. I couldn’t understand why some of my other peers kept stumbling over their pronunciations and syntax. It never occurred to me that they could have a legitimate reading disability or just simply take a bit longer to learn. As I progressed into higher grade levels I began to encounter math skills that challenged me. I was simply not catching on to these skills as fast as my other peers. This had never happened to me before and I was confused and frustrated. The class was moving too fast for me and I was being left behind. In this way the conveyor belt system of the Tyler rationale failed me and I began to realize that learning is not  one size fits all as the Tyler rationale approach suggests.

It is obvious that the Tyler rationale has it limitations; the first being “the plan or program assumes great importance” (Smith 2000). This leaves students with no voice in their education and it can deskill educators. Educators are to apply the curriculum and are judged by the outcomes, effectively turning them into technicians. Secondly, “there are questions around the nature of objectives” (Smith 2000). The model is very dependent on measurability of the product but, there is always room for error when measuring. This is dangerous as it is often difficult to judge the impact of an experience. Thirdly, “there is a real problem when we come to examine what educators actually do in the classroom” (Smith 2000). Educators often have difficulties with meeting objectives, which points to something being inherently wrong with the approach. Lastly, “there is the problem of unanticipated results”(Smith 2000). All the focus on pre-specified goals causes both teachers and students to overlook learning that is not an objective but a product none-the-less.

Despite the Tyler rationales limitations it does have some benefits. The approach “is systematic and has considerable organizing power” (Smith 2000). This allows teachers the ability to methodically organize a fixed one size fits all plan and reuse these plans. Teachers also have the ability to easily pinpoint success and evaluate it as the desired outcomes are clearly noted. This approach also works well for students who are deemed to be “on the right track”. They are able to systematically learn the material presented and reap the rewards for their success.

Curriculum can be defined and approached in many different ways. The Tyler rationales systematic approach has both limitations and benefits. It is a convenient approach in terms of organization and for students who are performing within the levels of the objectives set out, but not so much for others. My own personal experience with it, as I’m sure is similar to others, has been both positive and negative. It is great for students who are able to meet the objectives the curriculum sets out but, leaves many students behind in doing so. Upon deeper analysis of my experience with the Tyler rationale I realized that it potentially has had lasting effects on my behavior. I would consider myself to be a box ticker and a “worrier”. I go through life wanting to meet all the targets I feel one should hit in order to be considered successful. For example, going to university, getting good grades, one day balancing a successful career with a husband and 2.5 children, etc. All these objectives are great but, when the success of these objectives is threatened (i.e. bad marks, tough deadlines, ect.) I feel anxious about failing or not meeting the same status quo of my peers. Not to mention it leaves me with little regard for things I would rather be doing (i.e. travelling!). Though this is hypothetical it’s undeniable that theirs links to this behavior and the conveyor belt like system of the Tyler rationale I experienced so often during my youth. Due to this, combined with the approaches other limitations I would say this approach to curriculum needs to be seriously revised or left in the past.

References
Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) ‘Curriculum theory and practice’ the encyclopaedia of informal
education, http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-curric.htm.

Common Sense: A Common Problem In Anti-oppressive Education

The definition of common sense is, “[t]hat which is reasonable or sensible; that which appeals to or is in accord with instinctive understanding or sound judgement” (“Common Sense, n2.a”). In the reading “The Problem of Common Sense” by Kevin Kumashiro common sense is defined in relatively the same way. Unlike most people however, Kumashiro does not see common sense as an advantage when it comes to the education system. He wrote, “[c]ommon sense limits what is considered to be consistent with the purpose of schooling” (xxxv). He suggests that common sense creates a false sense of security within school systems that has led to an oppressive education system that is marginalizing many of its members. Paying attention to what is considered to be common sense in the education system is vitally important because of this.

Common-Sense.jpg

When it comes to fighting oppression within our school systems we need to largely leave what we consider to be common sense at the door. This is easier said than done however. As Kumashiro points out challenging commonsensical ideas is difficult for two reasons. The first being that “it is difficult to recognize those ideas that are prescriptive,” largely due to social pressure to conform, and secondly, “commonsensical ideas often give us some sense of comfort” (xxxv). Due to this difficulty it’s imperative that we consciously search out commonsensical ideas, or norms of schooling that contribute to oppression and marginalization of “others on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, language, age, and other social markers”(Kumashiro, xxxvii). Doing this can help eliminate a direct symptom of common sense within the education system being, “it has become normal for us to experience oppression without realizing we are doing so” (Kumashiro, xxxvii).
A particular example I can think of in my own personal education experience were oppression occurred was in my high school biology class. We were discussing the formation of life on earth billions of years ago. My teacher started the lecture with a dismissive comment about creationism, saying something along the lines of “I don’t care if you believe in creationism, we are going to be learning about life on earth via science” and added a dismissive wave of her hand. I didn’t think much of this comment, mostly because at the time I wasn’t even aware of what creationism was, until a close friend mentioned that she felt offended. The comment had oppressed her based on her religious beliefs. Me and many other students in the class never thought to question this teacher because we believed the creation of life on earth via scientific processes to be common sense. We had all fallen guilty to not questioning commonsensical ideas for the two reasons mentioned above, “it is difficult to recognize those ideas that are prescriptive”, largely due to social pressure to conform, and secondly, “commonsensical ideas often give us some sense of comfort” (Kumashiro, xxxv). I realize now that this is a perfect example of an area that contributes to oppression that a teacher needs to consciously search out and question to avoid.

Kevin Kumashiro opened my eyes to the dangers of common sense in the education system. His approach of questioning commonsensical ideas to avoid an oppressive educational experience is a strategy I never thought about as being effective, but now it’s definitely something I plan put into effect in my future career. We need to challenge common sense in order to challenge the oppression impermeated in schools and identifying these areas of common sense is the first step.

References

  • “Common Sense, n2.a” OED Online. Oxford University Press, 2019. Web. 7 January 2020.
  • Kumashiro, Kevin. “The Problem of Common Sense.” Teaching and learning toward social justice. Routledge: London, 2009. XXIX- XLI. online.

The Last Howrah

Welcome to my last blog post of EDTC 300, where ill be wrapping up my learning project. As you may remember from a previous post my goal was to learn a few songs from a designated playlist I made. I managed to learn one of my favourites; Sweet Home Alabama. Check out the video of me playing below.

Learning guitar was something I’ve always wanted to do but, something I never found the time for previous to this taking EDTC 300. As someone who had previously never thought of themselves as very musical I was nervous to start. With the help of some great online resources and the motivation form my class mates it turned out to be a lot of fun. Playing guitar is now a regular part of my life and something I plan on continuing to improve on.

Though my goal was to learn 3-4 of the songs from this playlist I’m still happy with learning only one. I was brand new to guitar at the beginning of the semester and underestimated the time it took to master a musical instrument. I was unaware of the basic skills I would have to learn first before catapulting myself into learning songs. With that said, with those skills now under my belt I will be able to progress a lot faster.

From this project I also learned the value of becoming a life long learner. Here is a great article on the importance of teachers committing to life long learning. I had gotten my self in a rut from my previous 3 years of post secondary education of only learning for my classes and not for my enjoyment. This lead to me being well versed in my science classes but, left me missing out on some important life lessons. I’ve decided to carry on taking on a new project every year to keep me out of this rut.

Favourite Resources

I used a lot of great online resources to in learning to play guitar. The magic of the  internet really does make it possible to learn almost anything. The following list shows the resources I used listed in order of my most to least favourite.

  1. Yousician: This app takes 1st place for it’s in time feedback and simple instructions
  2. Marty Music on YouTube: Marty deserves second place for his to the point, easy to follow instructional videos. He has tons of videos available for any skill or song you want to learn on guitar.
  3. Thomas Michaud on YouTube: Thomas Michaud is second to Marty music only because he doesn’t have as many videos available or as wide a variety of song genres to learn from.
  4. Guitar Chords Scales and More: This site has some great diagrams of chords. I always found it helpful to look at chord diagrams to see the exact placement my fingers needed to be in.
  5. Fender Play: This resource gets last place due to the fact that even though its a paid for app its missing a key feature; in time feedback. Though it does have some good instructional videos you can find most of the same information on the internet for free.

Greatest Inspirations

I had a lot of great inspiration in learning guitar. Some I had had previous to learning and were what made me want to pursue learning in the first place and others motivated me well I was learning.

  1. The school of Rock is my all time favourite movie and the my biggest inspiration to learn guitar. Who can resist Ned schneebly’s guitar solo in Rock Got No Reason.

2. Ian Munsick, an up and coming country singer has some mad guitar skills. he has an great ear for music and can make any song sound great on an acoustic guitar.

3. Ben Crosby or @confetticoordinates on Instagram is an awesome guitarist who posts a cover on his Instagram daily.

That’s a wrap folks! I hope you enjoyed following my learning journey this semester. if your looking to read up on some of my other classmates learning projects ill link a few down below. You never know what might inspire you to learn something new!