A reflection on method and content

In a couple of weeks from now, I’ll be taking my first University tutorial. I’ll be with a group of education students taking a unit called Curriculum Studies. It feels good to be starting something new at this advanced stage in my teaching life!

Over the past couple of days I’ve been trying to imagine myself into the shoes of these students (none of whom I’ve met yet). What would they be expecting? What would be a good starting point for our first tutorial? They will have heard their first lecture from a colleague, in which he’ll attempt to shock any who might have assumed that curriculum is either value-free or benign; he’ll suggest that curricula coerce, manipulate and repress, and I’m expecting there will be some strong reactions. Alternatively we could talk about the first couple of chapters of a textbook on curriculum, in which many ideas, assumptions and beliefs about curriculum are raised; it’s a good textbook with some very useful ideas in it.

Either starting point would do, or any number of other possible ones. But as I’ve been mulling over the past few days, and now as I’m writing, I’m coming to see that the starting point is not really what I need to be thinking about.’

How we teach is just as important as what we teach. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again in my years as a teacher. The best lesson plans go awry unless the students sense that

  • I’m enthusiastic and knowlegeable-enough about my subject;
  • I’m looking forward to the collaborative work together;
  • I acknowledge that their own experiences are relevant and important;
  • I’m interested in their thoughts;
  • I’ll encourage – and if necessary insist – that they respect and listen to each other.

In other words, the curriculum is both product (the what) and process (the how). In a unit on ‘Curriculum Studies, this is a central idea, and one that is best taught through modeling.


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2 Responses to A reflection on method and content

  1. Hi Steve,

    Small world. I worked with John Holt in the early 1970s at the Beacon Hill Free School in Boston. My decade of teaching an evening poetry workshop at the Stone Soup Gallery for the BHFS informs much of my current work as a teacher.

    My goodness.

    Thank you, too, for your many thoughtful reflections about many Ning members.


  2. steveshann says:

    How very exciting for me Dan! John Holt was probably the biggest influence on me as a young teacher in the 70s. He taught me to look at things through the eyes of the child. ‘Why Children Fail’ spoke so eloquently and clearly to what I felt to be true.
    In the late 80s I wrote a book and wanted him to write a foreword for it. I wrote to him, but got a letter back saying he’d just died.
    Have you written about this time anywhere? I would love to read it.

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