Learning From Place

In the article, “Learning From Place”, there are various examples of reinhabitation and decolonization.  The biggest part of the article that showed this was the connection that the Elders and youth experienced in the project. The youth interviewed the elders to “encourage intergenerational relationships and catalyze knowledge transfer from elder generations to youth” (74). Transferring the knowledge from one generation to another, in a more permanent form than word-by-mouth is a great way to ensure that all people will be able to learn about this culture and history and that it will be etched into history. It also lets the youth, who may not be knowledgeable about the history of their culture, learn about various historical pieces that may have been “lost” over time. Learning about those can bring back these “lost” pieces of culture to be more prominent in their lives.

Another example of reinhabitation and decolonization is how the projects’ goal is to foster development of meaningful space for dialogue and community research. This goal came to be from concerns of when there was a lot of pressure to enter large scale extractive development on the land of the Mushkegowuk people. The project was “[seeking] to identify routes towards decolonization, and shaping adequate responses to problems arising in the face of externally driven development and its implications for life and land in Mushkegowuk territory” (73).

As a secondary math teacher, incorporating these sorts of lessons into my own teaching is something that I struggle with figuring out how to do whenever these sorts of topics come up, especially since even in today’s more progressive education climate, math is still very often taught in the traditional factory setting. A way to approach it would be to use real-life examples from First Nations perspectives, or use First Nations imagery and storytelling to teach math. Incorporating this into my lessons is still something I need to research and work on quite a bit more.

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Hip-Hop and the Curriculum

For my critical summary, I have chosen to focus on the topic of hip-hop in the curriculum.  While hip-hop is not one of my favorite genres, I still appreciate it from time to time and I can see the effect that it has had on music itself and how people view music.  Integrating hip-hop into the curriculum is a great way to connect to something that a lot of people, especially students, enjoy. Through my entry-level research, a lot of the research articles out there that I could find focus on incorporating hip-hop into the curriculum in urban schooling settings. The research suggests that this would be the most effective area to use this type of curriculum in, and while I do agree, I do also think it could also be useful in any school setting. Hip-hop has made a big impact on the entire music scene – so much so that pretty much any student would be able to connect with it.

One of the first articles I found was written by Christopher Emdin in 2010, titled “Affiliation and alienation: hip-hop, rap, and urban science education.” In this article, Emdin argues that to bring about the change in access and exposure to science in urban settings, we should embrace hip-hop, as the close connection that students have to it, “provides the tools necessary for a connection to science” (Emdin, 2010). He suggests that to achieve this, a retooling of urban science education  and a reframing of goals is required. Emdin states that the reason hip-hop connects so well with urban students is that the students often see themselves or their situations behind the lyrics  and messages in hip-hop. A lot of the backbone of hip-hop relies on the alienation of the rapper – how they don’t fit into a certain group, or into society as a whole. Urban students connect with this, and as Edmin puts it, “…spend endless hours studying hip-hop lyrics, the lifestyles of artists, and the intricacies of the lives of rap artists and their media-created personas” (Edmin, 2010).

Edmin explains how he believes how to focus hip-hop in the science curriculum by saying it requires acceptance that hip-hop can be used to connect students to school.  He suggests that the way to do this is to expand on the similarities between science and hip-hop, such as the way they both attempt to generate consensus, develop theories for making sense of the world, and validate or dispute those theories. On a more elementary level, Edmin thinks hip-hop would be best serves as a tool to quickly spark students interest – or as he puts it, a ‘hook’. When looking to further the integration of hip-hop, Edmin states that, “…educators should become immersed in student culture to the point that creating or enacting a curriculum reflects insider perspectives on students’ hip-hop lifeworlds” (Edmin, 2010).

My next steps with the assignment will be to find a couple more articles that are similar enough to make connections but dissimilar enough to provide more arguments or points toward this topic. While I have not yet found any more articles that have caught my eye, there are certainly many articles that cover the topic that I would be able to use to research this topic further, and I am excited to read more into using hip-hop in the curriculum to form a connection with students.

 

Emdin, Christopher. “Affiliation and Alienation: Hip‐Hop, Rap, and Urban Science Education.” Journal of Curriculum Studies, vol. 42, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1–25., https://www-tandfonline-com.libproxy.uregina.ca/doi/full/10.1080/00220270903161118 

 

Curriculum Theory and Practice

In the reading ‘Curriculum Theory and Practice’, Mark K. Smith presents four different ways to approach curriculum theory and practice – curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted, curriculum as  product, curriculum as a process, and curriculum as praxis.  These four different ways of approaching curriculum all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted is essentially approaching the curriculum as if it were a syllabus – that is, the subjects of a series of lectures. A syllabus in terms of a class, as we are assuredly all familiar with, tells us what to expect from a given subject and what ideas will be discussed in that class. When viewing curriculum this way, one is really only concerned with the content of the curriculum. Thus, we search for the most effective methods that the content of the curriculum can be transmitted to the students, which is one of the benefits of this model of curriculum. A drawback, however, is that this model of curriculum is solely focused on the content and not much else, which could leave very little consideration for other aspects of a classroom that do not involve direct transmission of the curriculum.

Curriculum as product views education as a technical exercise rather than just knowledge to be transferred to the students. A benefit of viewing curriculum as a product is that it can be very efficient in theory – objectives are set and a plan is drawn to meet those objectives. Afterwards, this plan is applied and then the outcomes (or products) are measured.  However, there are quite a few problems with this model. Firstly, it takes out a lot of the voice that students have in the classroom. As Smith puts it, “[The students] are told what they must learn and how they will do it”. If the plan that the teacher has made up doesn’t click with a student, there is not much they can do about it as this model does not stray far from the plan. Another problem with this model is the question of how you measure the ‘outcomes’. You can not objectively measure what a student has taken away from a lesson – there are ways to make good indicators to what they learned, sure, but you can never be fully sure that they completely understand what is being taught or if they are only memorizing what was being said temporarily to fake an indicator of learning.

While curriculum as product is very dependent on objectives, curriculum as process is focused on the interaction of teachers, students and knowledge. As such, the curriculum is not a physical thing – it is an active process. With this view, teachers enter a class with an ability to think critically, and they encourage conversations in the classroom. The idea is that this creates thinking and action among the students to show growth in their knowledge. A benefit of this model is that it allows the students to have a voice in the classroom – the discussion, while lead by a teacher, is flourished through the thoughts and actions of the students participating. A drawback to this is that the quality of the teacher matters a lot more than usual. If the teacher is the one who is to lead the discussion to allow the students to voice their own thoughts, the teacher has to be on point with critical thinking and have a great ability to act on their toes to adjust to whatever directions the students may bring the conversation in. If a teacher is unable to do this, the conversation likely will not end up being very informative or beneficial to the students.

Curriculum as praxis is a development of the process model. While the process model does not make explicit statements about the interest it serves, the praxis model makes an explicit commitment to emancipation. In this approach, the curriculum develops through the interaction of action and reflection.  A benefit of this model is that the curriculum does not follow a strict plan, but is instead more ‘off-the-cuff’ and reflective, which may give it less of a stressful feeling to the students.  A drawback to this model is that it puts very little value on context and is mostly about what is happening in the room at any given time.

In my personal experience, I experienced curriculum as product most of the time. While this let us have a very structured outlook of what every lesson was going to look like and what we were expected to learn, it was very restrictive in terms of how we were going to learn these things. If the way that was done by the teacher did not click for you, you either had to rely on self-study (usually through peers or through research, mostly on the Internet). The odd time we experienced a different model of curriculum, it was often curriculum as context – we would discuss on a topic that was brought to us by a teacher, and they would control the direction of where they wanted the conversation to be at, but the bulk of the thought and action was from the students. In a practical setting, this model still has a lot of the same drawbacks as the more common curriculum as a product – if this type of learning did not click with you, you were not going to have a positive takeaway from that class or lesson.

The Problem of Common Sense

In ‘The problem of common sense’ by Kumashiro, the author talks about their time in Nepal with the American Peace Corps, and how it made them realize that everyone’s definition of “what is common sense” is different. That is, what is “common sense” to me may not be “common sense” to someone else. In Kumashiro’s example, the people of Nepal were used to a much different life than what Kumashiro was used to. The Nepali people thought that their way was “common sense”, and that Kumashiro’s more American outlook on things was strange or abnormal. This extended to the Nepali school life, which took on a very strict lecture-practice-exam style, and to the students of Nepal, this was normal – it was “common sense” for school to be that way. In a way, “common sense” is very similar to normal narratives – they are what a society makes of it, whether that society be your household, your town, your school, or your province.

It is important to pay attention to “common sense” because what is the norm can sometimes be problematic. Kumashiro states in the reading, ‘Ironically, although the status quo may be comforting for its familiarity and for providing a sense of normalcy, it is also quite oppressive.” In the reading, for example, the school life that the children of Nepal were used to was the lecture-practice-exam style of teaching, which does not allow for a whole lot of freedom in their learning. This type of teaching, despite it being the norm and “common sense” to the people of Nepal, is quite oppressive to the children by not allowing them to express themselves in the classroom, and instead having to sit while they get talked at, then practice what they were talked at about later on. Even though this is “common sense”, it still needs to be looked at objectively and examined to see what problems may lie with this teaching method. The hardest part is recognizing that “common sense” can be flawed. In this case, the one who noticed that something was ‘off’ was Kumashiro, who came from the United States and was a total outsider and stranger to the “common sense” of Nepal. Being able to objectively look at what is “common sense” in your life is important in being able to see oppression that may or may not be apparent to you or others, and acknowledging that is a great first step.