03 SES 09 A, Comparative Curriculum Studies
European and Anglo-Saxon contexts are often said to differ fundamentally when it comes to the understanding of curriculum and standards, but in a recent reform of the Danish curriculum framework, inspiration has been sought in Anglo-Saxon contexts (Mastergruppe for forenkling af Fælles Mål, 2013). A parallel but opposite development has been going on in the American context moving the focus from a basic skills-oriented education towards a more standards-based (Hamilton, Stecher, & Yuan, 2008) general education, recently formulated as a “College and Career Readiness” perspective, benchmarking standards against international developments (Jerald, 2008).
This paper sets out to investigate more thoroughly in the specific context of language arts education, how deep the similarities are. The goal is to investigate which communicative competences students should develop according to standards in a Didactics and a Curriculum context, and why. Two recent versions of standards for Language Arts (L1) in K-9 in Denmark (Undervisningsministeriet, 2014) and California (California Department of Education, 2013), and their co- and contexts, are compared, and their scope, strengths and limitations are discussed.
1. What are the characteristics, similarities and differences between Danish and Californian Language Arts Education with a special focus on communicative competences?
2. How do these characteristics, similarities and differences match a traditional understanding of differences between a European Didaktik-tradition and an Anglo-Saxon curriculum-tradition?
The analyses takes point of departure in an ecological theory of language and communication. In the perspective of this paper, ecological linguistics (or ecolinguistics) has as it’s main thesis that
[…] our language and our communicative interactions influence and are influenced by the way our societies are organized, which in turn influences and is influenced by our environmental surroundings, which in turn influence and are influenced by our language and our communicative interactions (Steffensen, 2007, p. 3).
Given this dialectical understanding of language, society and environment, the goal of language education can not just be focused on developing skilled language users, but needs to be oriented towards contributing to creating and developing language practices that seeks to promote the common good.
Educational objectives of this kind have been an integrated part of some European countries and today they are shared in many international educational frameworks, e.g. UN’s Global Citizenship Education, and OECD’s Education 2030, with the slogan: “The future we want”.
The ecological approach can be considered an ideal description of what should be included in language education, providing the analysis with a tool to identify both what is in the curricula, and what is not. The analysis therefore rests on an explicitly normative foundation. The paper will argue that curriculum analysis frameworks will always be normative, albeit not necessarily explicitly so.
Thus the two curricula are analyzed in relation to this ecological approach. The model of Triple contexts of participation & language learning developed by Bundsgaard, Lindø & Bang (2012) is used as an analytical tool together with the overview of some prototypical characteristics of the triple contexts of participation and language learning.
The three contexts are “Intra-cultural contexts”, “Inter-cultural contexts”, and “Trans-cultural contexts”, i.e. contexts where members of two distinct cultures (families, religions, ethnic groups, etc.) meet without well-known common ways-of-interaction.
The challenge of language education is to help students in being able to participate in the discourse of the 'neutral' language of core institutional contexts, e.g. to be able to argue, reason, and criticizing, and to participate with sense and sensitivity in discourse and dialogue, that is to strive to acquire sensitive sympathetic insight into the meaning and sense of other people’s utterances in all three types of contexts (Bundsgaard et al., 2012, p. 56).
Two educational systems are compared. Denmark is selected as one of many North-European countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland (Mølstad & Karseth, 2016)) where the curricula have been revised in order to promote students’ competences, as opposed to describe the content of teaching. California is one of 41 states having adopted (and slightly revised) the Common Core standards developed in collaboration between 48 states in USA. Common Core is “a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics” (Council of Chief State School Officers, n.d.). Data for the analysis is the curricula of two educational systems, i.e. the documents which describe the educational purpose, the purpose/description of subjects, and the skills and knowledge to be acquired in Denmark and California. The analysis is carried out through coding the curricula according to the three contexts of participation, and by using this coding to characterize and compare the two curricula.
The analyses show that despite differences, both standards have a mono-cultural perspective of the nation/state as if it was one culture (intra-cultural), and there is no attention to how the nation/state encompass many cultures, or on how students participate in many cultures. The contexts are mostly inter-cultural, the focus is more on individual expressions, and less on collaborative communication. The sensibility goes mostly towards literature and other kinds of one-way texts – less towards other people, and there is a predominant focus on language use as a skill, not on communication as a form of life. In California there is a general focus on college and career readiness in the co-texts, but in the standards themselves, a focus on civic education is also visible. There is a clear focus on discourse and life in inter-cultural contexts, but not much on intra- and transcultural contexts. In Denmark the focus in the co-texts is on development of a many-sided personality. The standards focus on inter-cultural contexts, but also to a wide extent on intra- and trans-cultural contexts. The analyses show both similarities and marked differences between the two educational systems, but this is no guarantee that teaching in the two educational systems share the same similarities and differences.
Bundsgaard, J., Lindø, A. V., & Bang, J. C. (2012). Communicative Competences and Language Learning in an Ecological Perspective. Critical Literacy, 6(1), 46–57. California Department of Education. (2013). California Common Core State Standards. English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Sacramento, Calif.: California Department of Education. Council of Chief State School Officers. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved May 28, 2018, from http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/frequently-asked-questions/ Hamilton, L., Stecher, B., & Yuan, K. (2008). Standards-based reform in the United States: History, research, and future directions. RAND EDUCATION SANTA MONICA CA. Jerald, C. D. (2008). Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring US Students Receive a World-Class Education. National Governors Association. Mastergruppe for forenkling af Fælles Mål. (2013). Master for forenkling af Fælles Mål. København: Ministeriet for Børn og Undervisning. Retrieved from http://www.folkeskolen.dk/~/8/4/faelles-maal-anbefaling-fra-mastergruppe.pdf Mølstad, C. E., & Karseth, B. (2016). National curricula in Norway and Finland: The role of learning outcomes. European Educational Research Journal, 15(3), 329–344. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474904116639311 Steffensen, S. V. (2007). Language, ecology and society: An introduction to Dialectical Linguistics. In J. C. Bang, J. Døør, S. V. Steffensen, & J. Nash (Eds.), Language, Ecology and Society : A Dialectical Approach (pp. 3–31). London ; New York: Continuum. Undervisningsministeriet. (2014). Forenklede Fælles Mål Dansk. Retrieved October 30, 2015, from http://www.emu.dk/omraade/gsk-lærer/ffm/dansk
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But at the moment chairpersons are only pencilled in, as we will still need to check for time conflicts between presentation and chairing duties. EERA office will work on this in due course and then officially let chairpersons know about their chairing duties.
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