The Depth of Curriculum: My ECS 210 Summary of Learning

This is my summary of learning for ECS 210, in the fall semester of 2017. I utilized the chrome extension “Screencastify” to record and upload my presentation, Prezi Next for the presentation portion, and Youtube to host and publish the video. You can view the Prezi here, but do know that all aspects of the prezi were covered in the video. Finally, you can view the video, either through the embedded player below, or by clicking this link. Enjoy!

Mathematics as a Natural Human Process

We have all heard the story: “I don’t get math, I am just an English person”, or similar statements. It happens with all subjects really, but I have noticed it is fairly consistent with the Math vs English subjects.

As someone who is studying math, trying to break these patterns and improve overall knowledge of math, it was quite interesting to find out about the research Gale referenced. We are all mathematical beings. According to the research experiment, toddlers already have a basic concept of subtraction as such a young age, and on top of that they are constantly problem solving, trying to understand the world. It makes sense, as problem solving is the basis of learning, weaving its way into every class subject in some form. Continue reading “Mathematics as a Natural Human Process”

Treaty Education Response

Dear Student,

I would first like to remind you of the purpose of Treaty Education. Consider another portion of history first: Germany. Would it seem appropriate to skip teaching any holocaust-related content simply because there were no students with German or Jewish backgrounds? While this might not be an identical comparison, it is similar in the content significance. The treaties, and the history of indigenous groups, are part of Canada. Continue reading “Treaty Education Response”

The Pedagogy of Place

In the article, Restoule talks about the interaction between researchers and the Mushkegowuk people, a First Nation community in Northern Ontario. The main story portrayed in this paper is about how the researchers, with large involvement of the Mushkegowuk people, worked to learn more about the geography. There was a focus on the youth learning from elders, and a focus on the idea of reclaiming the significance of the land within the opinions of the youth. Continue reading “The Pedagogy of Place”

Autonomous vs Ideological

After reading about the autonomous and ideological frames, I was interested to see what the Mathematic curriculum would look like in all of this. If you take a light glance, maybe you would think there is a spec of the ideological model showing, a small sliver of hope. Sadly that is not really the case, as math is rooted almost entirely in the autonomous framework. Just the idea of linear ideas, the ways we count, the examples we use, and even the format of lessons and units in math, generally, it is very much rooted in first world culture. This is not just looking at the way we teach it, and how the literacy of the subject is judged. Going back to our first post, there are fundamental things rooted in commonsensical ideas that might not be common sense outside of the average Canadian/American classroom. I saw a tweet from Mike earlier this year, and he did an excellent visual breakdown of it:

Continue reading “Autonomous vs Ideological”

Curriculum as a Public Policy (Before and After)

Before: “How do you think school curricula is developed?”

I would assume other places are similar to Saskatchewan, but that might not be true. In Saskatchewan, the Ministry will hire teachers for a contract to develop curriculum. Essentially you end up with panels of teachers, and probably policy makers, or a politician or professional from the workforce. It then becomes a small think tank, where this committee works on building the curriculum together, possibly basing it off of new developments and curriculum from other provinces/states. This is of course what I expect from my prior knowledge and understanding of small parts of the process.


Comparing what I read in the article to my prior knowledge, I was not incredibly far off. According to the article, curriculum is developed mostly by politicians/policy makers. These would be the cabinet minister along with his/her army of public servants. What surprised me was the extent of how political this process is. I knew there was some politics and controversy involved, but even normal curricula development is a huge process, with lobbyists on both sides, along with businesses and other large organizations (unions, associations, professional groups). On top of this pressure, it is an ongoing process. When curricula is in active review, and also when the curricula is implemented and not in a review process, there are always lobbyists and other groups creating political pressure.

It also concerns me that some regions seem to place more emphasis on the opinions of the power figures, rather than taking input from teachers, students, parents, etc. In some of these places, the rich do almost get the full vote on what occurs for educational policy, and it is primarily for political gain/reassurance.

Another concern for me is how, in the example of Ontario, one of our fellow provinces almost went through with curricula implementation based on what was essentially a one sided argument and opinion. How they essentially took the opinion of the closest, loudest voice, wasted time and resources on that development, and later ended up scratching most of their work. This story was also reassuring and cool in my opinion, because in the end everything was corrected. They made a committee that was balanced, with one person from every group. And the instructions were simple, to collect information and derive what the public and professional opinion of their proposed change was. To top this off, once that balanced committee filtered out the results and composed a recommendation, all groups lobbying for different sides just went quiet. That balanced committee ended the tension through a represented decision. Whether or not you agree with the argument or the outcome is one thing, but we all should be able to see how amazing that result was. By making a proper, evenly represented committee, the majority opinion will formulate itself, making an easy way to avoid another 2-3 years of waste.

Personally, I like this idea of a think tank. You get the academic and professional sides of the story, the parents and students opinions, and then the policy makers and educators can translate this into something that will work in the classroom. It also ensures that the results aren’t skewed by the politician’s pressured direction, and it protects the curriculum from becoming mistakenly outdated because of uniformed educators/policy makers. It gives you the public and professional opinions, but allows the influences to be evenly distributed, and makes the policy maker’s job fairly easy afterwards. To summarize, whether for good or bad intentions, efficiency will always have its benefits.

Another Quote, Another Philosophy

One of my favorite parts of studying Education so far, has been the exploration of various views and philosophies for Education. I believe there is a lot of merit in most educational philosophies, and that all of the movements have their positives and negatives. Maria Montessori’s quote is one that I find myself supporting more and more, and I have trouble finding any real negatives around it.

The greatest sign of a success for a teacher…is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” – Maria Montessori

I am someone who sees benefits in traditional education processes, and I think that there are ways to improve those processes using more modern techniques, essentially finding a happy medium between the two ideas. However I like Maria’s quote in particular due to my specialization in the education of mathematics.

Traditionally in Math classes, many would expect a lecture where the teacher spews that chapter and the information for the majority of class. After the lecture, you might see a couple of examples quickly shown on the board. Then the students would have to work on practice problems and/or homework problems, most of the time due for next class.

In a science course, the class might go over concepts and practice for a few days. However this would eventually (hopefully) lead to some sort of lab or activity based on the lesson. Similarly with social studies, the class might spend time studying an idea, and then the students could potentially move onto a cooperative or independent study, maybe resulting in a presentation. However in a math class, one would expect the days of lecture and practice to eventually lead to a quiz or exam.

I would argue that in math, you as the teacher could model it similar to a science class. It could be through a format similar to other subjects, where you have a few days of more traditional learning leading to an activity/lab. Another approach for math is Problem-Based Learning, where instead of leading to the activity, you begin with the activity. I believe that Maria’s end goal of student independence should applicable to all subjects, especially math. This means that you provide them with the minimum required information, and they continue on their own using their curiosity and prior knowledge. To conduct their own research and problem solving, create their own ideas, and maybe even summarize and present the results, should be a perfect indicator that they have a solid understanding.

For the impossibilities/possibilities that this causes, I find it to be fairly even. It makes it possible to teach across a variety of learning types. It allows for independent growth and learning through curiosity. Yet, you still end up with a way to satisfy traditional indicators and goals that curriculum is based on. What would be less possible, is the idea of a teacher settling down into an easy routine. With different students and learning styles, and possible improvements and changes in the activity, this will ensure the teacher’s job remains active. You can’t just settle down when you constantly have to adapt to differences to meet your personal goal: student independence.

This moves education closer to the imagery of the growth and eventual flight of a young bird. Our purpose as educators is to not only give the students the knowledge required by curriculum, but also the tools to succeed and gain independence. The purpose of the student in this case is to, through curiosity and perseverance, construct their own thoughts and solutions for problems. The teacher moves into this role of facilitating the student’s natural curiosity, amplifying and yet focusing that energy for educational purpose and growth.

An Exploration of the Tyler Rationale

Considering the many approaches to Education and Curriculum, the traditionalist approach has had great influence in the past and present. The idea that education should be based around a set of goals, and a way to determine if those goals have been met. Ralph Tyler’s rationale around curriculum is very much in this efficient idea, and it is the prominent foundation for many educational institutions around the world.

The Tyler Rationale is a process and cycle for the development of curriculum. The idea is that you start with set objectives/goals, then an educator will identify the content and experiences that will attain these goals, determine an organised way to transfer that knowledge, and finally assess/evaluate the progress towards the attainment of these goals.

Personally, I have experienced this from grade 1 through to grade 12. All of my classroom teachers followed some format of provincial curriculum, translated that into lessons, and taught the lessons to the students. After the transfer of knowledge, they would always evaluate us in some format. Most of my time in school, this involved some sort of paper examination, and the grade would determine the bulk of your progress in that portion of the subject. However, in my later years, and also in my home schooled years (grades 3 and 4), I had some teachers, and my mother, attempt to use different approaches to evaluation. My mother would use a conversation at a museum as a way to test on some recent history material we were covering. All throughout elementary, and the beginning of high school, we had Science Fairs, and that was a way to evaluate some portion of our learning. Finally, in grade 12, my social teacher still used a midterm and final (as a form of preparation for university). However, for the ends of units, instead of a paper examination she required some cooperative project as proof of our progress and understanding.

I think some people will see the Tyler rationale, and immediately determine that it must end with an exam. This is what I like about Tyler’s wording: he does not say a type of assessment, and instead just says to determine a way to know the goals have been attained. Considering this point, all of my grade school experience was almost exclusively based on this rationale, and simply used different interpretations of the steps.

One limitation of the Tyler rationale is in its very purpose. It dictates what should be taught, and while being somewhat broad, can still be an extreme limiter. I am not suggesting that I think we should have a free for all curriculum. Structure is important, and curriculum satisfies that need. However, when curriculum is implemented, sometimes it can be hard to explore different subject areas that might not be represented in the provincial curriculum, and many teachers decide to take the easy route, sticking to the curriculum, rather than trying to add in some extras along with the required content and goals.

Another way this process is limiting is for student-guided learning approaches. The idea that the student should have some say in what they learn, and should be able to explore and guide their own education. Sure, using Tyler Rationale they can choose elective courses, many of which are explicitly structured with required goals. This works until you reach a creative subject, at which point this rationale can be more of a inhibitor to the student learning progress if it is too strictly implemented.

So one might ask, with these limitations, why are we still seeing Tyler’s Rationale dominate education across nearly all subjects, both creative and logical? The main reason is the idea of uniformity and simplicity. With an implemented curriculum, the government can know what a teacher teaches, and can also ensure that particular course is similar across all school divisions. It also gives teachers direction, and ideas, making the creation of lessons and plans easier. The article spoke of this when Hewitt explored American schools, and how you could change entire states and have similar, or identical content. For simplicity, consider our provincial system. A Saskatchewan teacher can simply look up the curriculum and they already have the beginning and end of their lesson complete, making the content for the middle portion incredibly easy to put together.

Another potential, yet controversial, benefit is for uniformity in grading. Some areas take the evaluation part to the extreme, and implement standardized testing. This has its benefits, and its downsides, but the one thing for sure is that it assists businesses and post-secondary institutions during the process of selecting potential students or employees. You know that an 80 in this city should mean the same thing as an 80 in another city, and that makes life easier for the people in charge of selections.

Whether good or bad, the one point we can agree on is that Tyler’s Rationale has influenced education, and still has an extreme presence in modern education. I also believe it won’t be going anywhere too fast, as it is too ingrained in society and education. The good news is that it is flexible, and that the newer ideas (my assessment experiences) around education can be implemented alongside Tyler’s process, effectively allowing it to be modernized for future generations.

What is Common Sense?

In article, “The Problem of Common Sense,” Kumashiro speaks about his journey in Nepal, and how it allowed him to experience common sense first hand. Kumashiro was walking into what we often call a culture clash. His activities and routines in which he considered normal, or mandatory, were entirely different to the town in Nepal. Showers were actually just a faucet, and that faucet had multiple purposes throughout the day. The only meals were a brunch and supper. The schools were entirely based on teaching towards a standardised test.

When Kumashiro defines common sense, he describes it as a local practice, something a community might take for granted. Differences in common sense can even happen in two close communities like Regina and Moose Jaw. This includes the expectations that we apply to our day to day activities, some of which might be ingrained to the point of subconsciousness.

Common sense is also cultural, and this is one of the reasons it is so significant for education. In the article, Kunmashiro reflects on the purpose of his mission, and what the expectations were for him in Nepal. This leads him to realise that, in essence, he was suppose to imperialistically change the Nepali way of teaching. The mission was based on the foundation that Nepali teaching was outdated and bad, and American teaching was current, and the right way to do things. The task given to him was to make the people in those classrooms more like an American, primarily in the way they go about pedagogy and learning. However with that, there are some expectations related to culture and idealism that we naturally will attach to those changes, almost in a sense of hidden curriculum. This is why we have to be so careful of what we consider common sense.

As Kunmashiro said in the article, some comminsensical ideas can be traced back to very specific groups of people, and is essentially an extension of privilege. These ideas related to privilege have been ingrained into society as common sense, and because of this they are incredible hard to challenge. We can spot these ideas in our fellow teachers, in our curriculum, in school policies, and in our own classroom and lessons. Since these ideas can be related to privilege and aspects of culture, we have to be careful about the emphasis we place on them in our lessons. We want to be as bipartisan as possible when it comes to cultural, political, and world values in the classroom, because each student comes from different backgrounds, and it is not our place to determine which is right and wrong. Common sense will also play into classroom practices, and as the teacher we need to ensure each student is comfortable with processes that are currently in place, or new ones we implement. What might seem common to you could be entirely foreign to one of your fellow students. Maybe discussions are common in your school, but in a country such as Nepal where everything is based towards a test, classroom discussions might not even occur.

Common Sense is local and cultural, and that is why it is so important to be attentive of it. In day to day society, we might run into issues related to common sense routines, and differences between what you and someone else consider common. However in the educational sector, it almost leads into the idea that we could be teaching our personal beliefs and culture to the students. We as teachers need to ensure we are being as neutral in our teaching as possible, watching for common sense ideas in our lessons and routines. This can lead to us empowering our students with choices in what to believe and support, and it can also lead to a more efficient and innovative classroom, where learning is easy and always improving.