Posted in ECS 210

Week 4: We are all Treaty People

In response to an email from an intern directed to Dr. Mike Cappello:

“Treaty education can certainly be a hard a difficult topic to cover, especially when you are faced with opposition and resistance. Nonetheless, it is very important and needs to be taught. In my eyes, there are two foundational aspects to living and teaching Treaties from which all other parts branch off: relationship and story.

The signing of the Treaties were the forging of new and enduring relationships between sovereign nations. They were a relationship that looked to share and to live on the land together. Since we live on this land, we are a part of this relationship whether or not we desire to be. As Dwayne Donald discussed in this address, to neglect the Treaty is to neglect our relationship. We benefit from the Treaty be living on the land, the least we can do is learn to develop our relationship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Contrary to the common teaching in the textbook, the story of this land and this place did not start with the arrival of European settlers. There is so much we can learn from those who have lived here for centuries, and it is such a valuable perspective. It is full of wisdom and knowledge that my settler ancestors never knew. Cynthia Chambers talks about how these perspectives of Indigenous peoples are so connected to the land on which we live, it is important to learn them since it gives us a more complete view of our natural history. Once settlers did arrive, there became two sides of a story. Specifically relating to the signing of Treaties, the story from the point of view of the First Nations who signed them is too often neglected. As we learn, we should always be searching for truth, and we cannot come to the truth by completely ignoring one of the parties involved. We all hear stories growing up and some of them need to be disrupted. It is difficult, but it is worth it.

As teachers, we need to learn to grow in our relationship with students so we can demonstrate the importance of the relationship of the Treaties, and we need to teach them to strive for the truth in all stories by listening to all sides. Currently, there is a cycle of ignorance because too many people just do not know the story. Parents often pass down their misinformed mentalities to their children, and through Treaty education, we aim to shed some light on this history and to attempt to start mending the relationship that has been broken time and time again. We are all Treaty people on this land, and we have a duty to make sure our students understand what this means. We have a duty to truly share the land as brothers, to make good relationships, and to learn the truth.”


Posted in ECS 210

Week 3: Curriculum Policy

According to the Levin article, there are multiple groups, interests and practices at play when it comes to developing and implementing curricula. Because curricula are a matter of public policy, to a certain extent, they are intertwined with politics in both a broad sense – who gets what – and a narrow sense – specifically dealing with government bodies.

When it comes to curriculum review or renewal, there are multiple groups of people with varying levels of authority who are involved in the process. Educators by and large are central to curriculum development as ultimately they will be the ones required to use the curriculum on a day to day basis. Researchers in their respective fields and university professors also contribute to the conversation by providing input as to what students would require for further education. Curriculum writers have an important role as well to ensure that the new curricula are accessible in the way their are written and presented. Sometimes the public, including parents and students, is involved directly and asked to contribute their thoughts, but often their impact comes more from pressure on the government as voters. The government has a lot of power in the process because they need to please the public that elected them. The government decides what programs  are to be focused on and tries to make sure the new curriculum still lines up enough with the thoughts of society.

When new curricula are developed, it can be time consuming and take years to complete from start to finish. There are often trials and pilot programs before a new curriculum completely takes over, giving it an opportunity to make adjustments and improvements.

I found it very surprising how often research has to take the back seat in arguments compared to the existing beliefs of the people. Levin was clear about how changes can cause conflict and how that conflict is often not good for the government or for those that wrote the curriculum if it is not accepted by the people. It does explain a lot about why curriculum and practice always seem to be so far behind theory and research.

It was also interesting to see just how much the government is limited in what they can do for curriculum and development based on other factors like time, money, and opposition. It must be so hard to try to find a way that pleases the majority in the time that they have.

In reading the beginning of the Treaty Education document, I see that it was developed as a response to a need in the community, even though like all things it faced opposition. There was an issue that we were not meeting the rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and there was need for development and the creation of new relationships. Thus, the government collaborated with the Indigenous communities, elders, and education communities to use schools as a means to better this relationship. I imagine their were a lot of tensions caused by this development because it was a change and a shift from what people understood education to be about and from what people understood about Indigenous Peoples.

Posted in ECS 210

Week 2: The Commonsense “Good” Student

Often times when we talk about what makes a good student, the commonsense answer provides us with a narrow list of qualities. A good student is punctual; they complete their assignments to the best of their ability and submits them on time. A good student is well behaved; they sit quietly in their desk and wait to be called upon before speaking; they do not start conflicts with other students; they do not back talk the teacher or question their instruction; they listen to the authorities in the school. A good student is intelligent and inquisitive; they soak up new knowledge like a sponge; they excel in assessments; they ask questions to learn more. This is the kind of image that is presented by Painter as he talks about the ideal Christian male who attains his best potential, and by Kumashiro by his anti-examples of students M and N. I think that most of us can agree that most of these qualities are inherently good to possess; however, this “commonsense” description of a good student is incredibly limited and does not account for a myriad of outside factors that influence a student’s behaviour at school. 

With its definition of a “good” student, the commonsense privileges a handful of students. These students usually come from white middle-class homes whose parents hold the same notion of what makes a good student. They are neurotypical with a stable family life and a good support system. In contrast, the definition puts many other students at a disadvantage, especially those who have difficulty conforming to the system. For example, children of immigrant families whose parents espouse a different idea of what makes a good student have trouble adjusting to the north american thought. Students with learning disabilities are also compromised as they do not learn in the same ways as their neurotypical counterparts and often struggle. There are also children who suffer from the trauma of adverse childhood experiences who can have difficulty not lashing out.

Historically, the idea of the good student is rooted in the British mindset of creating dutiful and law-abiding citizens who will do well when they enter the work force or continue into academic life. Being a good student is strongly linked to espousing British values and continuing a “tradition of excellence.” We all know how much the British though their values, methods, and practices were superior to all others, and Painter’s perspective very clearly follows this colonial attitude. Despite the recent changes in education, our commonsense definition of what makes a good student continues to perpetuate these colonialist ideals from when the British began establishing schools in North America. We see many of the same white, eurocentric values and practices in our schools today.

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Week 1 Blog: What is Commonsense?

According to Kumashiro, “commonsense” refers to the mentalities, practices and approaches that everyone should know. Through the historical repetition of these aspects, they have become unquestioned, common place and generally accepted in a particular society. It is important to pay attention to the “commonsense” because people form their judgements about others based on their relation to what is “commonsense,” and a person’s inclusion or exclusion in a society can be incredibly dependent on how they follow the social norms. For example, Kumashiro gives the example about how the Nepali people thought he did not know how to cook because his meals did not align with their “commonsense” diet.

The “commonsense” curriculum model in Nepal, as described by Kumashiro, is heavily rooted is the lecture-practice-exam approach. Teachers are expected to give their lessons following the textbook as a lecture; students listen and respond to questions as a chorus; they practice using more questions from the textbook; and they are evaluated solely by exams. In Nepal, group work and enquiry learning are rare and face resistance. Kumashiro even makes a remark about how some American approaches he tried were considered “fun” but not real teaching by his students.

In Canada, we have a wide array of “commonsense” curriculum models. Among many older people, the concept that school should be “lecture-practice-exam” is still preminent, especially in regards to math and science classes. This is why we see all the parents and grandparents online complaining about how “they changed math” and how “math should still be taught how I learned it”. In this model, the teacher is the focus. The teacher holds all the knowledge and transmits it to the students. The major downfall to this model is that it generally leads to a lack of conceptual understanding. While students can do the computations or recite the facts, they often don’t actually know what they are doing, why they are doing it, or why it is important.

The newer commonsense models that are being established in Canada are rooted in inquiry learning. These models go beyong the product and into the process and praxis of curriculum. They use a student-centered approach, and the teacher is there as a guide to help lead them in their learning. These models capitalize on alternative forms of continuous assessment, and students constantly receive feedback to inform their learning. The benefits to this model are that students tend to gain a deeper understanding of what they have learned because they have engaged with the content and process on another level. It allows students to be creative and engage with topics that pique their interests. It pushes students outside of their comfort zones, and it teaches them how to become lifelong learners. The challenges to this commonsense model are that sometimes older members of society have a hard time understanding it because this is not what education looked like when they were in school, and they can provide some pushback. Also, not every teacher has been eager to adopt this curriculum model and still prefer to teach as they did 25 years ago.