As the title suggests, this post is about a personal inquiry. I ask you, the reader, to be critical of what I’m saying and challenge my thoughts in the comments below. It will help me learn.
I’ve been reading, talking and listening, and thinking a lot about the idea of building new curriculum from scratch; I am beginning to clearly see how knowledge fits into the picture. There is no learning with out content. If we take knowledge as a given in a curriculum, meaning we know that students will acquire knowledge (however not articulating exactly what that knowledge will be), then we can attend to other factors of a new curriculum. Where should the focus be instead of knowledge?
Focus on conceptual understand. Such as learning about “time and place”, “change”, “cycles”, “life”, “theme”, “systems”, “form”, and “family”, for example. Focus on providing opportunities and prompts for meaningful action as a result of learning about the concepts. The action is the application (a.k.a. transfer) that allows the learner an authentic audience (a.k.a. real-world context). Focus on skills; skills used to acquire the ‘given’ in order to access the concepts which will lead to meaningful action.
How do you measure this new curriculum? Primarily through anecdotal evidence of the various action opportunities; this would be a primary job of the teacher. The teacher would facilitate action attempts with students and document the process. These notes would form the bases of conferences with the learners and the families; as well as with reporting procedures (my thoughts about reporting and conferencing processes require a whole new blog post).
How do you do this when many actions will, if the curriculum is successful, happen outside the school environment and beyond the teachers’ eyes and ears? Use the concept of mutual respect, treat people as you want them to be; apply the concept of trust. Assess through developmentally appropriate self-reporting in addition to the anecdotal evidence from the teachers. For example, younger learners may tell their families and families report through journal format (analog or digital). Older learners may maintain a blog or web-site and meet with an action adviser regularly.
For those who are still skeptical, the learners from the new curriculum could set ANY external assessment process during their schooling to provide objective evidence to their ‘given’ acquisition. It (the ‘given’) will be acquired through the engaging curriculum package of concepts, skills, and action. A caveat on this point, I think there should be some limitations to the amount of time those external assessments are allotted. For example, in any one academic year, a student should not set more than two series of external assessments from G1-G9. There should be no standardized external assessments for students not in G1 or above (if even that young).
The things we attend to become the realities of our worlds, it is time to stop attending to knowledge standards and expectations. Although many people have known this for a long time, it is not common practice in curriculum and instruction documentation and, most importantly, not common practice in classroom learning experiences.
There is no learning with out content. The ‘given’ is given, and not worth attending to any more. A new curriculum will focus on Concepts, Skills, and Actions.
Readers, I ask you to please be critical/challenging of my thoughts in the comments below.