Here is the updated visual product Nicole and I created: What kind of teacher are you? (updated)
A few weeks ago I posed the following question:
- Will understanding the conception of the curriculum allow me to improve our curriculum design, and how we engage in planning, teaching and assessment?
I think I am now able to answer that question with a yes. Understanding that the curricular conception of the Primary Years Programme is social re-constructionist has the following implications:
- We must ensure our units of inquiry are focused on exploring important issues. For example, our Year 5 class recently completed a unit on Migration. The central idea of the inquiry was Human migration is a response to challenges, risks and opportunities. We originally developed this unit because Mauritius is a migrant nation – there was no indigenous population, thus all citizens historically migrated here. Mauritian migration did lead to a number of social justice issues – slavery, indentured labouring and a stratified class system which is still evident today. However, we felt it was important that we also explore the bigger current issues associated with migration, such as the refugee crisis.
- This decision has implications for what and how we teach the unit. It means that in addition to planning, teaching and assessing historical content knowledge, we also need to help the students understand the social and moral implications – concepts and ideas which are often not listed in curriculum documents.
- Unit planning must remain fluid and change year on year. Since the perspectives, feelings and past experiences of the learner has a much bigger impact on how the unit is taught and the content can be influenced each year as current events change, the learning outcomes that underlie the unit may also need to change.
- Another ramification is the importance of teacher reflection. To be able to teach re-constructionist curriculum, teachers must frequently and systematically reflect on how their own beliefs, values and perspectives on the topic may be influencing how they present the unit.
- Formative assessment is also key to this type of teaching, as teachers must respond to misconceptions that arise throughout the unit. Since how the students will interact with and make sense of the unit is mediated by their own personal experiences, values, and prior knowledge, the range for responses to the issues can be vast and contradictory. For example, in our recent Year 6 governance unit, one of the students argued that there is reverse apartheid happening now in South Africa. This was a challenging perspective for many of the teachers and it took a lot of discussion for us to determine how best to respond in a way that does not discount the feelings of the student, yet allows us to explore the different perspectives on the issue.
- Implicit in teaching a social re-constructionist curriculum is the idea that students should be able to take action as a result of their learning. The implication for assessment is that tasks must accept a variety of ways of showing because action can be both a choice to act or not to act. For example, following a unit on healthy lifestyles, a student may choose to act by refusing sweets or desserts more than once a week. Likewise, following a unit on images, a student might choose not to see advertising photos as attainment goals for beauty.