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.