Learning from Place- The Critical Pedagogy of Place

Ed core studies 210

In the article “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushekegowuk Ways of Knowing” by Jean-Paul Restoule and his colleagues, the concept of critical pedagogy is discussed. They detail a research project dedicated to honouring the Mushekegowuk Cree concepts of land, environment, and life. The article suggests that the critical pedagogy of place aims to do two main things:
identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation)
identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization)

These concepts can be seen throughout the article in many places. Restoule et al details a 10-day river trip that was designed to share and use deeper knowledge in order to bring awareness to the importance of intergenerational cooperation. The elders were able to partake in the sharing of elders knowledge and understand their point of view. This project also allows students and adults alike to change their ways of thinking to recognize our wrong-doings. Some other instances of reinhabitation and decolonization include naming places in one’s native tongue, the understanding of the importance of water and the land, and deepening intergenerational relationships between community members, and others.

I think that all of these ideas can be adapted into something that can be used in my future classroom. Overall, they simply aim to include everyone and use the concept of our place in the world to teach us how to live in unison. I already believe that it is important to utilize the resources (including people) that are readily available to you. For example, in high school, instead of just reading about Health Science from a textbook, our teacher had a nurse come in to talk to us about blood pressure, how to read it, and what the readings meant. I remember this distinctly because it was an experience that got us out of our desks and moving. As a future teacher, I think I would like to use community resources, such as firefighters, police, etc to allow my students to gain a better understanding of what these people do.

Having grown up on a farm, I think it is also very important to get out of the classroom and see what the world has to offer. While budgets limit field trips, I think that it would be interesting too instead of simply telling students about soil and our land, to actually take them outside and walk through the territory that we study. Finally, the idea of forming connections and relationships is something I find very interesting. I find that lots of students often lack relationships and true friends in their class. It’s one thing in elementary school, but once students get older, they seem so focused on themselves and achieving “success” that they forget about those around them. I think it would be interesting to see how students react to learning about each other and having more individuality in studies. Overall, I think place-based education is very applicable in a classroom and there is tons of potential to what could be done with such a concept.

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“Good” & “Bad” Students: Kumashiro’s “What It Means to Be a Student”

Ed core studies 210

In Kevin Kumashiro’s chapter “Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What It Means to Be a Student” the idea of being a “good” student is brought up. He claims that teachers want students to act in a particular way and do certain things or else they might be considered “bad” students. Some of these things that a student must do in order to be considered “good” include listening, be willing to learn, coming prepared to class, sitting quietly, taking notes, completes assignments on time, excels at test taking, and gets good grades as a result of behaving appropriately.

    As we are not programmable robots, indefinitely there will be students who cannot abide by this definition, and as a result might have alternative behaviours. For example, the commonsense definition of a student only really caters to students who don’t mind sitting still, learn in a very specific way, can take initiative, and are able to memorize information. Quite typically the students that are privileged by the definition of a “good” student are able bodied, do not have any physical or mental disabilities, come from supportive “perfect” families and learn by doing assignments and memorizing facts. Unfortunately, this leaves out a massive part of our population and forgets to include the rest of the world, allowing them to think and be labelled as “bad” students before they even get into a classroom. 

    Because of these typical “good” student “bad” students ideologies, teachers tend to ignore the needs of the rest of the students in their classrooms. It is a proven fact that students learn in a variety of different ways and the “good” student method often ignores these diverse needs. Teachers typically have an idea of what a “good” student looks like in their eyes, and when someone falls outside of those standards, they are ignored, or worse, punished for not being the same as everyone else. In a society that encourages diversity and individuality in multiple aspects, I find it appalling that we are so open to criticizing someone for challenging the status quo. Because we are not all robots, it should be obvious that we are not all going to “do” school the same. I feel that as a future educator, it is my responsibility to not judge a student as “good” or “bad” and rather come up with ways to ensure that all students can see success, regardless of their individual needs and behaviours. 

Standardization in Education: We are Not One.

Ed core studies 210

I have always felt very passionately that the generality and uniformity in schools needs to be addressed. I chose to research Standardization and curriculum, largely because I wanted to see if I was totally out to lunch in believing that schools need to have more uniqueness in order to foster growth and development in our students. I realized very quickly that there are hundreds of varying opinions on standardized testing and curriculum in our schools. A title that stood out to me was “Standardized Tests- not standardized education. (Outside the Box)” by Donald. B Dobbins. I thought this title was remarkable and clicked to read more. He goes on to explain that testing is obviously very helpful and arguably a necessary part of schools, but it becomes an issue when schools start “teaching to test”. I completely agree with this and reflecting back on my high school experience, I feel that much of what I learned only served the purpose to be regurgitated onto a piece of paper and handed in for a grade, of which determined how smart I was. Dobbins goes on to explain that he does see value in tests, and that often standardized tests are advertised as ways for schools to develop programs and measure how their students compare to those of another school, which is all true, if implemented in the right way. 

Later on in the article, Dobbins challenges us to pay attention to the “common sense”. He explains that if the status quo, or what we have been doing, is not working, then we need to reevaluate what we are doing, instead of resisting the change. He claims that everything we do needs to be for the betterment of our students, regardless of what it does to our school divisions, buildings, budget, etc. I think that these points he makes are so crucial for the future of education. If we are not doing something to better our students, then what is the point? 

Moving forward with this assignment, I will find a few more articles about the standardization of education and curriculum, and would really like to learn about some other ways that curriculum is standardized, beyond testing and program development. Ideally, I would like to find a contradicting article, one that is all for standardized testing and be able to compare it to one that does not support standardization and see the reasonings for both. Overall, I would like to gain a better understanding of how standardized our education system is and delve into what people think of it- if they are calling for change, or if they are open to keeping everything the way it is. 

Curriculum Theory & Practice- Smith

Ed core studies 210

What are the 4 models of curriculum, as outlined in the article? What are the main benefits and drawbacks of each model? What modes of curriculum were prominent in your school and what did these models make possible/impossible in the classroom? 

In “Curriculum Theory and Practice” it is explained that curriculum is the things that schools do to plan and guide learning. According to Smith, the four models of curriculum approach curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted, a product, a process, or as praxis. 

The curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted in model, curriculum is assumed to be a syllabus that indicates what is to be studied at what moment. The approach is only concerned with content and the acquisition of that content.

In the second model, education is viewed as a technical exercise, with curriculum being the core component on how to achieve this. Through a series of questions, a plan is drawn up, followed, and then outcomes are measured to assess learning. There are a few drawbacks with this approach, most notably that learners are told how to learn something and it is implied that behaviour than be measured and graded (when the boxes are ticked, the person has learnt something; ignoring the big picture). 

The curriculum as a process model encourages students, teachers, and knowledge to interact and communicate. It doesn’t view curriculum as the process in which learning is taught, but as the means in which the experience of learning is presented. 

Finally, the curriculum as praxis model is a development of the process model that integrates planning, following plans, and then assessing learning; it is more than just a set of plans to simply be followed. 

In my school, I remember that the curriculum as a product method was very prominent. We had a large focus on the outcome and it seemed we were always “preparing for tests” or “learning what we needed to know to survive”. This method seemed appropriate during my schooling because I didn’t know any better, or that it could be different. My teachers came up with plans, I did what they asked, had a test, and then forget everything that I had “learned”. Knowing what I know now about curriculum and how children learn, I think school would have been so much more effective if we would have been given more options than simply doing what the plans said. I value allowing children to explore learning for themselves and I think it allows them a deeper understanding, because they are actually interested in what they are learning. In my future as an educator I would like to integrate a few methods and allow my students to explore learning, while still being able to keep on track with the curriculum outcomes. 

The Problem of Common Sense- Kumashiro

Ed core studies 210

How does Kumashiro define “commonsense”? Why is it so important to pay attention to the “commonsense”?

Kumashiro defines common sense as the things that the particular society sees as normal, the “status quo”. For example, in Canada, we know that a work week is (typically) Monday-Friday, somewhere around 9am-5pm. This is common sense here, whereas in another country this might seem completely outrageous. Kumashiro explains that what is common sense to some is completely foreign to others. He also delves into how societies get so stuck on what is normal to them, that it can be extremely difficult to even suggest something different. Kumashiro explains that often change is resisted and we get stuck in a cycle of what we are used too.

It is extremely important to pay attention to common sense because while it may be the “norm”, that does not mean that it is the best way. In fact, in some cases, we get so used to teaching, learning, and doing something a certain way, that unfortunately we forget that ideas are always evolving. We ignore that new, and potentially better methods are evolving and emerging. However, if we continue to chose to ignore these methods, we could be doing ourselves a great injustice. Like Kumashiro mentioned in the article, it is essential to pay attention to the common sense because the status quo is often full of oppression and discrimination that we have gotten so used to, we hardly recognize it as such anymore. It is absolutely vital that we start addressing this and making the world a place where educators are challenged to build their own path and advocate for change, rather than just follow the easy route.