Curriculum Studies

Q. Curriculum is above all a human undertaking. You, as a teacher, do not just ‘deliver’ the curriculum. In a very real sense you are the curriculum (or at least a very important part of it) for the students in your class. Malone, R. (2011, pp. 74)

In light of the statement above, how has the Foundations of Education module helped support your professional identity as a curriculum developer?

The above statement identifies one role of the teacher is Curriculum Developer. I interpret this statement to mean, that yes, the formal curriculum exists, however it is an outline of what to cover. The role of the teacher is to take that curriculum and implement it as they see fit. A teacher has to consider the context and needs of their learners and the teaching methodologies they will utilise in order to implement the curriculum effectively (Malone, 2011). Throughout the study of Foundations of Education, we explored various concepts such as, education disadvantage and inclusion and how children learn and develop. By examining these concepts, I have been able to reflect on my role as an educator and how this impacts my teacher identity.

Differentiating the curriculum

My future role as curriculum developer will entail taking what is set out in the curriculum and adapting it to meet the needs of my students, through differentiating content and careful selection of methodologies. Part of being a professional educator is being able to connect theory with practice and bring some of the theories we have explored into the classroom to improve our quality of teaching. As the Primary Curriculum states, “it is the quality of teaching more than anything that determines success of the child’s learning,” (NCCA, 1999, p.20). Through studying psychology, we looked into the various perspectives on how children learn and develop. We explored constructivism as an approach to teaching and learning, which emphasises active learning and collaborative learning in order to enhance learning experiences, increase student engagement and promote intrinsic motivation amongst the learners (Watson, 2001). It will be my responsibility to ensure that wherever possible, I include these methodologies in my lessons as it can only enhance the delivery of curriculum and student interaction with the curriculum. Constructivist methods can be included with the use of project based and problem-solving activities, group work, pair work and class discussions.

As well as choosing the appropriate methodologies to use to enhance the student’s experience of the curriculum, a teacher must be aware of the different learning styles the students in their classroom possess. If a teacher wants their students to become immersed in lessons, then it is important to make sure lessons cater to their needs and preferences. Howard Gardner developed a theory of multiple intelligence, originally identifying eight types of intelligence that people possess; linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic (Armstrong, 2017). Gardner highlighted the fact that not every child is going to be able to access linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligences (which are most emphasised in the curriculum) but may thrive when presented with varied teaching and learning experiences (Armstrong, 2017). Before studying psychology, I did know that a one size fits all approach would not lend itself to effective teaching of the curriculum, however I did not realise how important it is as the teacher to try and recognise the various strengths and weaknesses within the classroom in order to enhance the learning and development of the students in front of me.

This picture is my own interpretation of a visual included in Armstrong’s ‘Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (2017). It includes some questions one I could ask myself in future when planning lessons to ensure I am considering all learning styles.

A safe environment

The importance of creating a safe, supportive, inclusive learning environment is fundamental to effective teaching and learning and curriculum implementation. Throughout the course of the Foundations of Education module, we explored the effect education disadvantage can have on the curriculum. I believe that my teacher identity developed significantly after exploring the impact education disadvantage can have on a child’s ability to access teaching and learning. In sociology, we learned about social stratification and how education can often enhance the disadvantage rather than reduce it (Bartlett and Burton, 2010) . While education is a way out of poverty, it is not always possible for those living in disadvantage to engage fully (Children’s Rights Alliance, 2018) . I believe it is important that in my role as a curriculum developer, I recognise the disparities between the students in my class and alter curriculum accordingly. Before starting a lesson on holidays, for example, I need to access whether this discussion will exclude anyone from engaging in the lesson due to not having an experience of a holiday etc. and think of other ways this lesson may be taught.  The Primary Curriculum states that the role of a teacher is a, “complex role… a guide who interprets the child’s learning needs and responds to them,” (NCCA, 1999, p.20) with the issue of education disadvantage, the learning needs here, may be secondary to more basic needs of safety and support mentioned in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (McLeod, 2007). In order to support student engagement in curriculum we need to recognise and address societal barriers that children may be facing outside of the classroom.

This image shows the five tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Oftentimes students living in poverty struggle to have their basic needs met. This needs to be considered when implementing and developing curriculum. Source: https://www.pure360.com/how-marketers-can-learn-from-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-when-in-a-crisis/

There are many benefits to promoting a safe learning environment in the classroom. When children feel safe and supported in their learning, they are more likely to engage with said learning and develop. While the environment itself is not directly related to curriculum implementation, it can have an impact on the student’s participation and motivation in lessons. A lot of collaborative learning and active learning approaches rely on the interactions between students, and if students don’t feel safe in the class to speak out, the value of the learning decreases. Carl Rogers theory on relationships is often applied to the student teacher relationship. He highlights the need for teachers to display congruence /authenticity, empathy and utmost positive regard for their students in order to facilitate a positive student teacher relationship (Cogbill, 2018). This relationship can have huge influence on teaching and learning, when that relationship is positive, student engagement and learning increases (Cogbill, 2018).

I hope that by creating a safe environment in my classroom and by trying to build and maintain positive relations with my students that I can then implement curriculum and develop lesson plans to best suit my students needs and therefore provide them with the best learning opportunity I can.

Conclusion

The Foundations of Education module has significantly impacted on my professional teacher identity and my understanding of my role as an educator. The concepts covered above showcase a small portion of the amount of learning I have experienced on this module. Bringing theory to practice can be a complex task, however I believe that the content we explored in Foundations has a direct applicability to the classroom. Before studying the foundation modules, I had little knowledge on the reality of being a teacher, only the idealistic version in my head. Going forward I hope to take the knowledge and understanding I have received and reflect back on it throughout my teaching days.

WORD COUNT: 1095

References

Armstrong, T. (2017) Multiple intelligences in the classroom. 4th edn. VA, USA: ASCD.

Bartlett, S. and Burton, D. (2010) Introduction to education studies. 3rd edn. London: SAGE.

Children’s Rights Alliance (2018) Home works: A study on the educational needs of Children experiencing homelessness and living in Emergency Accommodation. [Online] Available at: https://www.childrensrights.ie/sites/default/files/submissions_reports/files/Home%20Works%20Study%20on%20the%20Educational%20Needs%20of%20Children%20Experiencing%20Homelessness%20-%20Full%20Report.pdf (Accessed: 18 November 2020)

Cogbill, A.P. (2018) Working alliances: The implications of person-centred theory for student-teacher relationships and learning. PhD thesis. University of New Hampshire. [Online] Available at: https://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3387&context=dissertation

Malone, R. (2011) ‘Curriculum studies’, in Walsh, B. (ed.) Education studies in Ireland: The key disciplines. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, pp. 72-106.

McLeod, S. (2007) ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’, Simply psychology, 1, pp.1-8.

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (1999) Introduction to primary curriculum. [Online] Available at: https://www.curriculumonline.ie/getmedia/c4a88a62-7818-4bb2-bb18-4c4ad37bc255/PSEC_Introduction-to-Primary-Curriculum_Eng.pdf (Accessed: 24 November 2020)

Watson, J. (2001) ‘Social constructivism in the classroom’, Support for learning, 16(3), pp. 140-147.

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