A few years ago, my school started mapping our curriculum. I remember being somewhat frustrated because I wanted us to have the hard conversations first: what does it mean to be a good teacher? Why do we teach certain courses in a prescribed order?
I wondered what purpose would be served by putting our existing curriculum online before those moments of discussion as to why we taught geometry when we did or how we were going to prepare students to be independent thinkers.
But time constraints and shifting priorities gave way to finishing the project. I understood. Sometimes going somewhere is better than going nowhere.
However, readings and conversations have made it abundantly clear to me that our ideas about curriculum need to change. As I read Future Lab’s curriculum report, authored by Ben Williamson and others from DML Central, I found myself nodding constantly as he described “the death of the center.”
The ideal is that school is to be decentred as the sole site of learning, and learning is to be understood as more fluid across diverse contexts: from the home and the family, across informal sites of learning such as communities and youth group settings, to the potentially global, interconnected online space of networks. Young people’s own knowledge from home and community, and especially from the electronic networks to which they belong, are to be welcomed into the classroom as a source, subject and resource for learning.
The report puts forth a concept called “centrifugal schooling,” a term that embodies vision and possibilities. Listen to their description.
Rather than the curriculum being a self-enclosed and firmly boundaried body of knowledge, internally comprised of strictly defined and individually insulated subject disciplines, within the emerging decentred logic of centrifugal schooling, the curriculum is to be penetrated both from outside and within. Subjects are to penetrate one another, while the school curriculum itself it to be penetrated by outside forces and hitherto non-school, ‘illegitimate’ knowledge. As such, the curriculum is being viewed as a site for multiple kinds of border crossings or boundary penetrations, where the organization and selection of school knowledge is challenged, even transgressed or redefined.
Curriculum development today, then, should not simply an issue of mapping existing content and/or even skills. Our focus needs to include discussions of what is possible? What might be?
But this won’t be easy. Even the writers call this idea “ambiguous and contradictory…” and ” an ongoing curriculum debate, not as a utopian solution.”
Still I love this last paragraph with the hubs and rails analogy:
“….view schools as hubs and rails in learning networks, linked via information processing and network technologies to other institutions, both formal and informal; to ‘authentic’ learning spaces within industry, vocational and community sites; to vast ‘clouds’ of information available online rather than merely to authoritative printed texts and knowledge sources contained in libraries; and it would focus on learners constantly updating and upgrading their ‘personal portfolios.’ The idea of ‘school’ or ‘education’ as institutions would be questioned, if not jettisoned, in favour of fluid learning experiences involving wider skills and a more diverse conception of intelligence than the implicit model of intelligence in much curriculum design
Both the report and Ben’s post are well worth your time. And I’d love to hear your thoughts….
photo © 2008 Horia Varlan | more info (via: Wylio)
It’s often the wrong question:
G.K. Chesterton, one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century, distilled the phenomenon down to 13 words. “It’s not that they can’t see the solution,” he said. “They can’t see the problem.”
From Mitch Ditkoff’s blog…