In his article Social Efficiency Ideology, Michael Shiro (2013), talks about Ralph Tyler’s four basic questions that must be addressed when creating curriculum or education programs. Those questions are: What educational purpose should the school seek to attain, what educational experiences can be provided to attain those purposes, how can they be effectively organized and how can it be determined that the purpose are being met. (Shiro,2013) A purpose and guiding questions are never a bad thing when creating programs.
Tyler’s questions are a good way to start program planning, every good program or curriculum must have a defined purpose and an idea of how to attain that purpose. We also need to know that we achieved our purpose of the program in some way. I believe that when working with large organizations or systems it is essential to have a defined purpose or goal so that gaps and overlaps are kept to a minimum. We see that in the current curriculum when certain topics are taught in certain grades. I feel that to make sure the students are moving forward in their knowledge, in such a large organization as in an school or education system, it is a necessary evil so to speak. We need to know that students are covering a variety of topics throughout their education and not studying the same thing every year because they happen to get teachers for several years in a row who like to teach, for example, the water cycle. Those students then never discover the wide range of other science topics.
This system though, is problematic because it is very narrow focused on everyone having the same experience, to produce the same result. Not all students respond to the same experiences in the same way. What is exciting and interesting for some is dreadfully boring and frustrating for another. When those who don’t fit the mould, and produce the expected results with the expected experience, that is when labelling happens. Such as, the student has learning difficulties, or has been acting up because of disinterest, so is now labelled as ADHD or has behaviour issues. When the reality is the material and/or experience didn’t engage the student.
I come from the generation where this model was practiced very strictly. We were taught the subjects as individual experiences, and there was no mixing of them. Even as a middle years student I wondered why we didn’t practice our writing skills by writing about what we were learning in social studies or science or read books in English class that pertained to topics we were studying in other subjects. Our classroom was rows, and desks, the teacher lectured and then we did questions and tests with one correct answer. There was a very narrow band for creativity and individuality in this strict model.
I slowly see a shift away from the strictness in today’s classrooms. When I am in a classroom, I see how much more freedom there is for the students. The seating arrangements are often collaborative, talking and conferring is allowed. I also see that student aren’t always required to produce one answer but if they can show their learning it is acceptable. This new way of doing things is something I much prefer, over the way I was taught, but it still is not my ideal. My ideal would be to have the students work at whatever interested them and produce a sample of their learning in whatever way they choose and works best for them.
I am not sure how or if we would ever be able to reach my ideal of strictly student led classrooms and evaluations but from where I come from we are moving in the right direction. To get to this point of student led education we first need to redefine our purpose and then our definition of evaluation of this purpose. Learning can happen and be proven in so many ways.
Schiro, M.(2013). Curriculum theory: Conflicting visions and enduring concerns. (2nd ed.). Sage.