Reflection Paper on Contemporary Issues in Curriculum (Allan Orstein, Edward Pajak & Stacey Ornstein) and Ideology and Curriculum (Michael Apple)
A Reflection Paper on Contemporary Issues in Curriculum (Allan Orstein, Edward Pajak & Stacey Ornstein) and Ideology and Curriculum (Michael Apple) written by Sharo Dickerson
In Chapter One of Contemporary Issues in Curriculum (5th Edition), philosophy is defined as a manifestation of “individuals’ life experiences, common sense, social and economic backgrounds, education, and general beliefs that cultivates personal growth, development, and learning from experiences” (Ornstein, Pajak & Ornstein, 2011, p. 3). Philosophy plays a key role in the education profession and it influences the factors that continue to define today’s education (Ornstein et al, 2011). The different philosophical views of stakeholders in the school community are meant to provide diversity in the development and implementation of curriculum. However, traditional views continue to be present in school communities (Ornstein et al, 2011). In doing so, traditionalists perceive education as a means in providing direction, control, and restraint in social issues and society (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 5).
According to Ronald Brandt and Ralph Tyler (1983), goals and objectives are important in supporting student learning (Ornstein et al, 2011, p.10). When clear and well-defined goals are established, schools are able to “spend valuable instructional time on high-priority learning” (Ornstein et al, 2001, p. 10). The public schools in the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) strive to identify, develop, and implement the goals and objectives to fulfill the district’s vision. The YISD stakeholders believe in the importance of providing meaningful instructional time to students. This is made possible through effective and productive professional learning communities (PLC) where collaboration and communication exist in teachers’ professional development, lesson planning, and classroom instruction.
Furthermore, Brandt and Tyler (1983) explained that curriculum goals and objectives should include (a) understanding of contemporary society, (b) background of students, and (c) consideration of potential subject fields (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 15). In doing so, students become cognizant and learn from their experiences, based on their interests, societal demands and issues, relevance of real world situations, and the like (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 15). Likewise, goals and objectives can facilitate curriculum evaluation, provided that the former are created with clarity and importance (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 18). It is common knowledge that the state of Texas mandates state assessments to shape teaching and learning in the public schools. Although Texas may say otherwise, many of its public schools’ overall performance are evaluated according to students’ performance in the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) (Darling-Hammond, 2010). When public schools fail to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP), specific measures are put into action to ensure that these schools are accountable for students’ academic performance. John Bruner (1956) stated that schools need curriculum structure that will determine and support students’ learning experience. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) is an example of a structure that serves as the foundation of the curriculum in Texas public schools (Bruner, 1956).
Peter McLaren (1999) discussed about the contributions of Paul Freire (1997) in the field of preferential option for the poor (Ornstein et al, 2011). Freire (1997) shared that “educational change must be accompanied by significant changes in the social and political structure in which education takes place” (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 22). Contemporary issues in education evidently demonstrate how the social and political structure influences decisions in funding, curriculum standards, curriculum formation, school district goals, and many more (Apple, 2004). Should change be desired, it is apparent that stakeholders recognize the importance of understanding societal demands and political influences to supporting a non-oppressive educational system (Ornstein et al, 2011). Likewise, Neil Noddings (1995) stated that there is an absence and lack of care among students, which includes the absence and lack of teaching students how to care (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 55). When students are taught how to care, they will be more (a) aware of their humanistic nature, (b) accepting of others regardless of race, color, economic status, (c) insightful towards real world situations, and (d) active participants in sharing responsibility and accountability, to name a few (Ornstein et al, 2011, pp. 54-59).
The absence or lack of self-value often results in misconception of individuals’ self-worth and non-belief in the existence of choice and evaluation (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 34). According to Maxine Greene (1995), the young and old have become fearful of moral uncertainty (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 33). This include the fear of war, recession, economic uncertainty that results to harmful reactions, abuse and neglect, etc. Many young people believe that their existence is to serve as human resources of society, instead of beings, who have a choice to make decisions and become active participants of change (Ornstein et al, 2011, pp 34-35). Unfortunately, American public schools are controlled by society and politics to producing future citizens as a workforce that will support businesses and for-profit organizations (Apple, 2004). Even in legislation, decisions are made based on the need to sustain and adhere to the American capitalistic economy and consumerism (Apple, 2004).
Despite the grim reality of situations in current educational issues, stakeholders need to continue striving for effective and meaningful student learning (Ornstein et al, 2011, pp. 44-45). This includes (a) participation in determining school direction and service, (b) focusing on supporting students and parents, (c) ensuring the education of all children, (d) engage students in vital intellectual pursuits and relevant learning experiences, and (e) appreciation of individual cultures and diversity (Ornstein et al, 2011, p. 45). These goals may post as challenges to public schools, unless stakeholders collaborate together and establish open communication in sharing ideas, developing plans, and implementing decisions that are relevant to valuable student learning.
In Linda Darling-Hammond’s (2010) book, The Flat World and Education, applicable learning experiences are needed to support the more specialized knowledge and skills being demanded in today’s jobs (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 2). Many of the students in the public schools are not certain as to what type of jobs they will have to prepare for the future (Darling-Hammond, 2010). In the past, it was easier to determine future jobs of society based on the influx of industrial, technical, and for-profit businesses (Apple, 2004). With globalization changing today’s economy, politics, and society, different opportunities and challenges have developed (Darling-Hammond, 2010). What does this mean in education? This means that the effects of globalization, also affects education, particularly in determining students’ learning experiences, education budgets, curriculum structure, etc. (Apple, 2004).
Apple, M. (2004). Ideology and Curriculum. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.
Bruner, J. (1956). The Process of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Ornstein, A., Pajak, E., & Ornstein, S. (2011). Contemporary Issues in Curriculum. (5th ed.). Upple Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandra, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005. Print.
A collaborative paper written by Sharo Dickerson, Ulises Neira-Galaviz, and Maria Cruz Quinones
The importance of structure in learning and education is fundamental for several reasons as pointed out by Jerome Bruner (1960) in this Chapter. Bruner makes an important statement that learning “should serve us in the future” (p. 17) through specific transfer to similar tasks and the “nonspecific transfer or the transfer of principles and attitudes” (ibid). Specific transfer and transfer of principles make fundamentals of content more understandable and comprehensible. This enables students to make broad and deep connections of basic ideas in and across disciplines. In doing so, the structure provided in learning and education brought the importance of (a) relevance and appropriateness in the subject matter, (b) purpose and meaning in the acquisition of skills and general understanding, and (c) usefulness in relationships of learning.
Making a subject more comprehensible leads to a deep understanding of the subject matter. When one compares this to an iceberg, it means seeing the whole iceberg, not just the tip that is visible above the water. Bruner’s structure in learning requires taking students to unseen depths in the content areas, not just skimming across the surface through concentration on facts and topics. In doing this, students develop schema or frameworks through which connections of facts and topics can be made to the principles of the discipline. This enables students to make connections of ideas that on the surface appear different, but in essence have the same structure with which they are familiar. The point is made that the teacher who does not grasp those underlying principles that are foundational to the discipline will not be able to provide instruction to students that will impact their future studies in the subject. Bruner states, “Teaching specific topics or skills without making clear their context in the broader fundamental structure of a field of knowledge is uneconomical” (p. 31). H. Lynn Erickson developed a model for the structure of knowledge that encourages “synergistic thinking” (Erickson, 2007, p. 9) for students. They use the lower level facts and topics to understand the more complex concepts, principles, generalizations and theories “to discern patterns, connection, and deeper, transferable understandings” (ibid). Understanding is defined by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005) as “a mental construct, an abstraction made by the human mind to make sense of many pieces of knowledge” (p. 37).
Bruner’s contribution to learning through his understanding of underlying principles is foundational in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The TEKS address what students must know (facts and topics), understand (concepts, generalizations and principles) and be able to do (processes, procedures, strategies, skills). Erickson’s structure of knowledge is based on Bruner’s understanding of the importance of moving beyond the surface knowledge to foundational understanding of a discipline and its connection to other disciplines. In Realms of Meaning, Philip H. Phenix wrote that “general education is the process of engendering essential meanings” (p. 5). The TEKS are designed so that students can move from basic understandings based on prior knowledge and personal experience to understanding the essential meanings of the discipline.
School districts provide opportunities for students to develop this deep understanding in different ways. Many districts across Texas are using CSCOPE, a curriculum that aligns the TEKS across grade levels to ensure spiraling of knowledge from Kindergarten through high school. One district in Region 19 is using a Virtual School to provide online courses and instruction aligned to state standards, a scope and sequence and learning activities across grade K-12 levels. Bruner’s emphasis on structure in learning and education contributed greatly to today’s development and implementation of consistency and standardization not only in fact-to-face classroom instruction, but also in online and blended learning environments. Teacher’s knowledge and skills, student learning styles, administration’s leadership and school management, and parent involvement are important components of these learning environments.
Students can often manipulate numbers in mathematics, but have no understanding of what those numbers actually mean. This reinforces Bruner’s statement that understanding the fundamentals of a subject makes what students are learning more comprehensible. Based on learning the details (facts and topics) well so that they are “conserved in memory” (Bruner, p. 24) attached to fundamental principles and ideas, students will always be able to pull these out of memory. “A good theory is the vehicle not only for understanding a phenomenon now but also for remembering it tomorrow” (Bruner, p. 25).
Bruner, J. (1960, 1977). The Process of Education: A Landmark in Educational Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Erickson, H. L. (2007). Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
Phenix, P. H. (1964). Realms of Meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
What does Bruner write about the importance of structure in learning and education? Jerome Bruner (1960) identified two ways that learning can serve the future. This includes, the “specific applicability to tasks that are highly similar to those we originally learned to perform” and the “nonspecific transfer or the transfer of principles and attitudes” (Bruner, 1960, p.17). This contributed to the continuous “broadening and deepening of knowledge in terms of basic and general ideas” (Bruner, 1960, p.17). In doing so, the structure provided in learning and education brought about the importance of (a) relevance and appropriateness in the subject matter, (b) purpose and meaning in the acquisition of skills and general understanding, and (c) usefulness in relationships of learning.
How does this relate to the current climate of educational curriculum in Texas?
Jerome Bruner’s (1960) contribution on the structure in learning and education led to the establishment of organization and structure in the educational curriculum of Texas, specifically in the form of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). This relationship of the past to the present is quite significant because of its contribution towards the identification of current (a) subject matters, units, and modules; (b) teaching strategies and methodologies, (c) learning activities, and (d) standardized assessments. Furthermore, Bruner’s (1960) contribution to the structure in learning and education provided opportunities of social, cultural, and political changes in the teaching and learning climate.
Cite examples from the readings and from your own experiences.
As a Virtual School Coordinator, it is important to align online course development and online instruction with the state standards, scope and sequence, and vertical alignment of learning activities across grade levels, particularly in a K-12 educational setting. Bruner’s (1960) emphasis on structure in learning and education contributed greatly to today’s development and implementation of consistency and standardization not only in a face-to-face classroom, but as well as in an online and a blended learning environment, based on teacher’s knowledge and skills, student learning styles, administration’s leadership and school management, and parent involvement in the school community.
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