03 SES 12 A, Curriculum and the Role of Learning and Teaching Resources
The efficacy of educational reform efforts rest largely with teachers and the voices of teachers need to be heard in the design and implementation of curriculum (Keyes & Bryan, 2001). Interaction between teachers and policymakers requires also identifying the possible obstacles in everyday practices. Tobin and McRobbie (1996) have illustrated this by identifying four myths in context of science learning that may become constraints when making changes in educational policies: transmission of knowledge, being efficient, maintaining the rigor of the curriculum, and preparing students to be successful on examinations.
This research introduces an educational reform that addresses these four challenges. Finland completed the reform of National Core Curriculum for compulsory basic education 2014 and it is gradually implemented between 2016-2019. In the new curriculum there is an emphasis on collaborative classroom practices. A special detail is that all schools must design and provide at least one multi-disciplinary learning module per school year for all students. Implementing the multidisciplinary learning modules oblige all teachers and the idea is that both teachers and students are expected to participate in the planning process of these modules. On what topics and how these integrative study periods are realized, will be decided at local and school level. (Finnish National Board of Education, 2016)
This research describes the characteristics required in both designing and implementing the multi-disciplinary learning modules and tackling the four presented myths.
Myth 1: transmission of knowledge
Characteristics required: including exploratory work; providing opportunities for pupils to study in different groups, with pupils of various ages and several adults.
Myth 2: being efficient
Characteristics required: long enough for time to focus on the contents and work in a goal-orientated and versatile manner; focused on studying phenomena or topics that are of special interest for students.
Myth 3: maintaining the rigor of the curriculum (tradition)
Characteristics required: examining entities; promoting the achievement of basic education goals, especially the development of transversal competences and schools as learning communities.
Myth 4: preparing students to be successful on examinations
Characteristics required: relating school topics to students life, community, society and humankind and expanding and structuring their worldview; avoiding exams, focus on the formative assessment and feed-forward, self-assessment and peer-assessment.
Based on data collected from finnish elementary school teachers, we will also present some examples of teachers being able to secede from these myths when designing and implementing multidisciplinary learning modules.
The research question is: How do teachers understand the implementation of multi-disciplinary learning modules with respect to four constraining myths of education?
The material is collected by focus group interviews based on the specific constraining myths of education that may become constraints when making changes in educational policies: transmission, efficiency, rigor, preparing students for examinations (Tobin & McRobbie, 1996). The material is collected in a Finnish a school that has exceptionally locally chosen to teach all the subjects through multi-disciplinary learning modules. The research material consists of 2 focus group interviews with 8 teacher participants in each. Interviews are used to find deeper collegially constructed understanding (Metsämuuronen, 2008). The direct verbal interaction with participants creates a possibility to steer the material acquisition and uncover the motives behind the answers and interview gives a chance to deepen the answers by asking for rationalization (Hirsjärvi & Hurme, 2001). The material is analysed by recognizing and elaborating the essential characters and interdepencies related to the research questions, using the means of content analysis. The method progresses by searching and defining interesting content, going through the material marking and separating the observations relevant to the study, and categorizing the material in adequate ensembles. The analysis units will rise from the material and they are not predetermined. (e.g. Miles & Huberman, 1994) The analysis process will be as open and neutral as possible. However, the analysis will inevitably include the interpretation of the researcher.
The four specific constraining myths of education identified by Tobin and McRobbie (1996) are over two decades old but still today recognizable also in Finnish schools. The implementation process of multi-disciplinary learning modules offers teachers a possibility to process, discuss and, if needed, to tackle these myths. Supporting the professional learning (Vrasidas and Glass, 2004) in the implementation process is crucial but challenging. The support needs to be offered in long-term; for example teacher identity and developing teaching methods and collaboration required in multi-disciplinary learning demand time. It is said that when given that time, (1) teachers encounter the same cognitively challenging argumentative interaction that also the students are encouraged to, and (2) teachers pedagogical collaboration can progress beyond the superficial level of sharing tasks, maintaining the social relationships and solving the disciplinary issues (e.g. Lund 2016; Aarnio 2015; Hargreaves 2003.) This way, in the process of implementing multi-disciplinary learning modules, also the teacher can become a reflective learner who examines teacher occupation with its practices, opinions, attitudes, and pedagogical argumentation of choices – both individually and as teacher community (Elliott 2004). The results of this research will produce more knowledge about supporting the pedagogically argumentative discussion while implementing multi-disciplinary learning in schools. It will also give both teachers and policy-makers information about the possible obstacles in everyday practice when implementing multi-disciplinary learning.
Aarnio, M. (2015) Collaborative knowledge construction in the context of problem-based learning – Exploring learning from conflicting ideas and knowledge. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Institute of Behavioural Sciences. Elliott, J. (2004) Making evidence-based practice educational. Teoksessa Thomas, Gary. & Pring, Richard. (toim.), Evidence-based practice in education. New York: Open University Press, 164–186 Finnish National Board of Education. (2016). National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2014. Publications 2016:5. Hargreaves, A. (2003) Teaching in the Knowledge Society: Education in the Age of Insecurity. Teachers College Press, Columbia University, New York. Hirsjärvi, S. & Hurme, H. (2001) Research interview. Theory and practice of theme interviews. Helsinki: Gaudeamus. Keys, C.W., & Bryan, L.A. (2001) Co‐constructing inquiry‐based science with teachers: Essential research for lasting reform. Journal of research in science teaching, 38(6), 631–645. Lund, L. (2016) How Teachers Reflect on Their Pedagogy – Learning from Teachers’ Pedagogical Vocabulary. Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education – Teacher reflections and student learning 20 (2), 22–35. Metsämuuronen, J. 2008. Principals of qualitative research. Jyväskylä: Gummerrus. Miles, M.B., & Huberman, A.M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Tobin, K., & McRobbie, C.J. (1996) Cultural myths as constraints to the enacted science curriculum. Science education, 80(2), 223–241. Vrasidas, C., & Glass, G. V. (Eds.). (2004). Online professional development for teachers. Greenwich, CO: Information Age Publishing.
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