This week’s blog prompt asks us to think about what we know in regards to curriculum development. The prompt asks us to write about how we think school curricula are developed.
Prior to reading this article what I know about how school curricula are developed is a somewhat basic understanding. Curricula is developed in a process. A group of educators from the province who are involved in varying levels of the curricula that is about to be changed are gathered and begin the process of deciding “what our children need to know”. This group is often made up of school teachers from many of the school divisions in the province, faculty members from the U of R and the U of S who are involved in the teacher education faculty of the corresponding subject area, and in some cases an Elder or current students. Changes to be made to the curricula are first discussed and debated within the initial advisory group or renewal group depending on the state of the curriculum. After a draft of the curriculum is created it is sent to the ministry of education to be reviewed and sent back with possible edits or omissions. This process continues until both sides reach an agreement as to a curriculum that will satisfy all parties. A variation of this can take place in the case of locally developed or locally modified course.
After doing this weeks readings I found that I was not far off about who it is that can be brought together as an advisory or renewal group for curriculum construction. I was aware that there was some political impact on the creation of curriculum from provincial Education Ministry. However the biggest take away for me in relation to this weeks reading was the influences that affect public policy in general. Thinking about the way that Politics operates in relation to the influences of voters, special interest groups, in relation to a constant opposition and in the shadow of re-election shows just how much external influence there is on the creation of public policy such as curriculum. It seemed to me that those most fit to shape curriculum would be those who are experts (professors) combined with those who experience it (teachers and students) and some form of public/general opinion (politicians and elders). This combination of members seems to balance the lofty goals of academia against the realities of real world experience and sociocultural conditions. It seems like an ideal combination of experts and non-experts. The problem is that curriculum renewal or creation doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Although the formal curriculum may be a written document there is no denying that curriculum is more than that. We need to think of not only the formal curriculum but the lived curriculum, the hidden curriculum, the null curriculum. The curriculum that is lived/experienced and taught/learned is not always what is written in the formal curriculum that is shaped by boards, based on research and results, etc.
I think that after really analyzing what curriculum is and how it can be shaped it is concerning to me to think of the views on all sides of curriculum and how it can affect its creation as well as its goals. The point has been brought up in the reading and in classes through out my Education degree that, in terms of public policy, most people have an opinion on Education because they believe themselves to have some expertise on the subject based on experience. Many people have been through at least twelve years in the Education system and this leads them to believe they understand how it should be shaped based on that experience (this includes potential pre-service teachers). The problem is that experience does not make you an expert on policy– I have spent a fair bit of time in the emergency room but I don’t think I should be shaping policy on health care. So why do we create curriculum in a political climate that is in constant flux and a society that is constantly evolving? The issues come from experience with Education that follows a traditionalist model– transmission approaches to Education have dominated the Western worldview of what education looks like and transmission fits easily into curriculum that can be written down, followed systematically (Tyler Rationale) and ignores context. For a long time it was believed that knowledge was finite and could be taught and learned but as we come to understand that is no longer the case we need to look at how we shape curriculum that is flexible in content and context in order to adjust for political climate and evolution in societal views of what is valuable and what is dominant culture.
Creating a curriculum that is fluid, that seeks equality while honouring distinction, that empowers all learners, that meets the needs of society, that is student centric, that educates, etc. is not a task to be taken lightly or one that I think will ever be fully finished.