Re-inhabitation and Decolonization

This week we were asked to read this article which 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 (re-inhabitation)
(b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74)

We were given the following questions in response:

1. List some of the ways that you see re-inhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

There are a couple different ways that I see re-inhabitation and decolonization happening throughout this article. The first is in regard to autonomy for Indigenous people, and how this research was largely community-based and driven. In a lot of situations that deal with issues facing minority and marginalized groups, the majority and dominant groups see those issues as something they can easily solve for that marginalized group, without ever consulting them to see is that issue specific issue is something that even needs solving. There is a lot of imposition from one group onto another. However I don’t think that is what is going on in this research project. Throughout the article it is mentioned that the communities priorities guided where the research went as a whole. It was the community who identified the issue of intergenerational knowledge and language loss and it was the community that guided and decided on potential solutions to that issue. I think that people often carry the assumption that Indigenous people need help in the form of hand-outs from non-Indigenous people to be successful when that is certainly not the case. They have the ideas, the drive, and they know what their communities need, unfortunately it’s the resources that are often not there to carry out those things.

The second way that I see re-inhabitation and decolonization happening in this article is through the reintroduction of traditional ways of knowing through language. In everyday living I don’t think people realize how closely our language and how we see the world around us are connected. I think recognizing that relationship calls for deep inward reflection which is difficult to do. I only started to realize this connection when I began learning a second language and could separate myself from that process to look at a language and a culture that I did not personally identify with. The article provides a quick definition of ‘paquataskamik’, but there is an acknowledgement that it means so much more than that definition. The Mushkegowuk way of knowing is deeply rooted in language, so once certain words stopped being used, the way of knowing and viewing the world also fades away. The article describes the process of transferring of that important traditional language and knowledge from Elders to the younger generations.

2. How might you adapt these ideas towards considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

In taking these ideas into my own teaching I want to remember that all of my students come with different knowledge and ways of understanding, whether it is culturally based or not. Everyone comes with something different and that should be welcomed and celebrated.

When teaching Indigenous topics in my class I don’t want to fall into the trap of only teaching surface level elements of Indigenous culture, such as traditional food, clothing, or dance. While that is an important aspect to any culture and can be enjoyed by all, I don’t want to create the assumption in my students that that’s all there is to it. I hope I can foster the understanding that Canada’s relationship with First Nations people is troubling and Indigenous identity goes far beyond the superficial.

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Who Decides What We Learn?

For this week’s post we are asked to write a before and after reading post about Ben Levin’s Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools

http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf

Before reading: How do you think that school curricula are developed?

I think that school curricula are developed by influential people both in education and outside of education. People like teachers and people who are experts in their respective fields are consulted when making curriculum. People in governmental positions definitely have a say in what gets put into the curriculumBecause in Canada, Education is a provincial matter, I think that a part of developing curriculum has to do with looking at specific provincial differences. For example what makes Saskatchewan different from British Columbia and what about those differences needs to be taught in schools in Saskatchewan.

After reading: How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

After doing this reading I now have a clearer understanding of where curriculum comes from. The reading states the process of deciding what makes it into the curriculum differs between certain systems of governing. A number of various groups come together to write a new curriculum or to revise old curriculum. Typically this includes, government officials, experts in specific field, and teachers. This process is heavily influenced by certain industries and public opinion.

The previous curriculum will be looked at to see what needs to be changed, added, or removed. Eventually (sometimes after many years) a general consensus will be reached among the group and the new curriculum will either be tested out in a few chosen schools, or it will be fully implemented.

Something that stood out to me in this reading and almost comforted me in a way is the point the article made about people who are experts in their field not always being the best people to help write curriculum, as they can write the curriculum in a way that serves them and not non-experts. I liked the comment how teachers, specifically elementary teachers, aren’t supposed to be experts in the topics they are teaching. I think that this shows what the curriculum is supposed to be for teachers. It should be a document that we can turn to for guidance, and it should be ready and easy for us to use.

A concern that I see in regards to the creation of curriculum is how much certain industries, like a textbook publishing company, could have influenced what I learned I schools and will influence what I teach in schools. It is a little unsettling to me that people with a money driven, self interested interest in my education.

A “Good” Student

Image result for education system good student

This week we were asked to unpack Kumashiro’s commonsense view of a “good” student in our society. The typical “good” student would come to class on time everyday, with all the necessary materials. They would sit calmly and quietly, and only speak when the teacher calls on them (after raising their hand of course). They would pay attention to what the teacher is saying and not ask questions about things that were already explained. They would be polite to both the teacher and to other students. They would focus on assignments quietly, and would usually complete the assignments and tests faster and with fewer mistakes than others. They have a positive attitude and they rarely complain. They would give the teacher exactly what they asked for, never questioning why they had to do it. They would be used as an example to other students – “see what you could all accomplish if you would just paid attention?” It is expected that good students are also “well-rounded”, they participate in both extracurricular activities and in community events.

The students who benefit from this “good” student definition are those who have no financial problems in their family and can afford all the necessary supplies, and can pay for any and all extracurricular activities. Those students who have parents who are there in the mornings to make sure they are up, fed, and make it to school on time, or they have paid someone (nanny, daycare) to ensure that this happens. It privileges students who have time after school  and a parent there to help them complete their homework. A “good” students would not have any attention, behaviour, or learning disorders such as ADHD. Their way of learning would have to be close to or the same as the teachers way of learning so that they can understand instructions. This definition benefits those who have English as their first language, can easily understand their teacher, and do not need that extra language support. It privileges those students who do not have anxiety about test taking, and excel at that form of assessment, those students who are interested in the topic they are learning.

I think for a lot of the things in the definition of good student are looked at by teachers as relatively easy. When the student fails to achieve any of those “requirements” it is often looked at as an isolated issue with a simple solution. It is seen as the students fault and therefore their responsibility to fix it. But as time goes on and the student realizes that they don’t and can’t fit into that mold of a “good” student, they might give up altogether.

Education is…

This week we were given the task to choose quote from an educational theorist and think about the following things: What it makes possible and impossible in education? What does it say about the teacher, about the student? How does it related to your own understandings of curriculum and of school?

I decided to go with the following quote from B. F. Skinner, “education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.” I first learnt about B.F. Skinner in my Psychology class a few semesters ago. He was a behaviour psychologist and educational theorist who is know as the father of operant conditioning, or using positive and negative reinforcements to shape behaviour in a child. He branched further into educational theory with his book Walden Two in 1948 which challenged the traditional approach to education.

There are a few things that I take away from this quotation. At first glance I think that this quote is saying that education is about so much more than the content that is taught. It is about learning work ethic, personal interests, social skills, and various other life lessons that come from teachers. However, this quote is not only saying that there is more to school than the content but that the content is often completely forgotten. In the Saskatchewan curriculum there is a push for students to become lifelong learners. For me, personally, I view being a lifelong learner as a few different things. I think that at its core it means a student who wants to learn and is continually curious outside of the school day and their formal schooling altogether. But I think it also means that what students are taught in school should stick with them throughout the rest of their lives, and that has to do with how they are taught that content.

I can also see how this quote could foster a negative view of education as well. I commonly hear people complain about never using any of the content that they were taught after they are tested on it. What is school for if not for learning the content? People think that school is supposed to provide all of the information that kids need to ‘survive in the real world’ through the specific content and curriculum. This quote is going against that view point and saying that there is more to it.

Reading Response: Curriculum theory and practice

This week we read this article and had to respond to the following prompts on Ralph W. Tyler’s rationale.

Think about:

(a) The ways in which you may have experience the Tyler rationale in your own schooling;

(b) What are the major limitations of the Tyler rationale/what does it make impossible;

(c) What are some potential benefits/what is made possible.

When looking back at my own time in school I see the ways that the Tyler rationale has made a lasting impact on curriculum, and how teachers teach the curriculum. Where I see this in my own schooling is a lot of teachers telling me what I was supposed to be learning. I think a lot of time it was clear when a teacher had a certain point that they wanted to get to and certain content that they were supposed to cover in that class time, as to not fall behind in their schedule of what they needed to cover. Focus was on making sure that they said everything that they were supposed to but not necessarily that we understood everything that they had said. I was given the information that I needed in class but I learnt it all later for the test, very little of it was meaningful learning.

I think that the article touches on one of the major limitations of Tyler’s rationale and that is how the emphasis on planning and on a specific way that a lesson should play out can limit what students get out of the lesson. When there is already a specifically determined outcome that you the teacher have come up with based on your own set of knowledge and way of thinking, it doesn’t account for the many sets of knowledge and ways of thinking that your students bring to the table. This rationale is more focused on teaching the subject and not teaching the students. In Tyler’s rationale what a student is supposed to take away from a teaching is already laid out for them and that can give the idea that if they take anything else away, they are not thinking or focusing correctly. Any other learning that takes place that is not specifically laid out before hand has the possibility of being overlooked. It also seems like in this way of teaching a student would not often come to understanding something on their own. In teaching, there are things that a student wouldn’t be able to figure out by themselves and would need to simply be told what something is, but there are also things that they can figure out on their own and if they can it becomes more meaningful to them. To me, Tyler’s rationale is more focused on the transfer of knowledge from the teacher directly to the student, rather than the teacher supporting the student to get there on their own.

As the article states this rationale does have a certain organizational benefit. I think in terms of laying out curriculum in this way, it has the power to keep everyone on the same page content wise (which could be a limitation as well). Curriculum and evaluation in general provide a certain order to the greater society, and a way to ensure that all people are generally learning the things that have been decided as important. I also think what Tyler said about the effective organization of educational experiences is something that is beneficial. The way that content is organized is super interesting and can greatly impact the way that a student absorbs the information, whether that be the grade level that a topic is introduced, the order of lessons in a unit, or the order of units in a lesson. I think that there are different was to organize those type of things depending on what kind of experience you want to create.

Reading Response: The Problem of Common Sense

How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense’?

Kuashiro defines ‘commonsense’ as the stuff that everyone should know. It is the things in society that everyone already understands and have taken as fact, and thinks strange to have to explain to ‘outsiders’. Commonsense pertains to the certain structures that people assume are the same all around the world and are uncomfortable with the idea that others may do it differently. I think that commonsense is comfort for a lot of people, its linked to tradition and culturally embedded. It is the way things have always been done so therefor it is somehow seen as the best way to do things. Commonsense are the things that people find normal or expected, and people use as a fallback.

Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?

It is important to pay attention to the things that we deem ‘commonsense’ because they can be problematic without us even realizing it. When people look at a system that’s already in place it often gets taken for truth or fact. It’s assumed that systems have been put in place for an important reason and that they are serving their purpose well, or else they would have been changed by now, but usually that is not the case. Many systems or structures haven’t been changed because people just don’t looked closely enough at them to realize that they are a problem, people assume that they are ‘best practice’. Or when people have tries to enact change, they have received negative push-back. Commonsense reinforces systems of oppression, both blatant and subtle, that date back many years and no longer fit the purpose that they were made for.

Resources:

Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI.