03 SES 03 A, Curriculum Change and Culture
The context of this study is the latest Finnish national core curriculum (FNCC) renewal process which took place in 2012-2014, especially from the perspective of worldview education. Empirically, the study explores teachers’ conceptions of using narratives in worldview education, e.g. Religious Education and (secular) Ethics. We investigate the use of narratives from teachers’ perspective. The research question is: For what purposes and aims teachers use narratives in worldview education?
Shortly, we are suggesting that worldview education is narrative in nature, at least to a large extent. Therefore, the study offers also philosophical arguments for understanding narrativity as a fundamental element of worldview education. Our epistemological premise is that narrative form of knowing is characteristic to religions, and therefore, it is evident that teaching about worldviews has a lot to do with stories. Generally speaking, the narrative approach to knowledge and learning is based on an assumption that stories are fundamental means through which people experience their lives, or through which they actually live their lives (Heikkinen 2002, 15). Jerome Bruner (1986) has claimed that we live storied lives; ‘human beings think, perceive, imagine, and make moral choices according to narrative structures’.He pointed out that the narrative understanding of life had actually been one of the fundamental forms of knowing throughout the human history and it needed to be revalued within the modern science.
Narrativity has a very special role in worldview education for several reasons. Firstly, the link between narrativity and worldview systems is essential at the ontological level. Religions are ontologically constituted through narratives to a great extent; much of the knowledge about religions is based on sacred narratives. Given that knowledge about religions and their implications to human life is constituted narratively, there is a clear epistemological link between religions and narrativity. If we assume that religions are ontologically narrative (at least to a big extent), and the knowledge about religions is constituted narratively, it is justified to expect that narrativity has also a lot to do with teaching (‘pedagogical perspective’). Hence, we are suggesting that there is a clear and sound narrative link between ontology, epistemology and pedagogy in worldview education. Even though we introduce the ontological, epistemological and pedagogical perspectives separately, we acknowledge that representing them as distinct categories is problematic. We can always question what is the difference between religions as narrative entities (‘ontology’) and constituting knowledge about them (‘epistemology’). Also the difference between knowledge generation per se (‘epistemology’) and knowledge generation in education (‘pedagogy’) is always a blurred line.
The narrative form of knowledge, however, has not been explicitly recognized in curriculum design. The form of knowing that has dominated curriculum design is largely rooted in the Western tradition of thinking, based on expressing knowledge through logical propositions and truth claims. Jerome Bruner calls this form of knowing ‘logico-scientific cognition’ (also ‘paradigmatic cognition’). As an offspring of Enlightenment, the paradigmatic cognition had obscured the other form of knowledge, based on stories; i.e., the ‘narrative congnition ‘(Bruner 1987, 691). Given the narrative epistemological basis of worldview education, we are suggesting that the perspective of narrative cognition must be better taken into account in the curriculum design.
The data of this qualitative study was gathered in Finland, in the metropolitan area of Helsinki during spring 2016 when new curriculum lauched and it is a part of wider research about teacher pedagogical thinking and narrative pedagogy used in classroom. Six classroom teachers (teachers 1-6), which teach children from 7-12 years old were interviewed individually using semi-structured interviews. The theme of the interviews were teachers pedagogical thinking and decision making. Interviews could be described as in-depth interviews since teachers reflect their whole teaching career and development of their pedagogy. All the teachers interviewed have been working more than 7 years and can be considered as experienced expert teachers. Because of that they are more aware of their teaching aims and teaching strategies than novice teachers and comprise a good focus group to this research (see Kansanen et al., 2000). All of them are also teaching worldview education so religious education or secular Ethics.The aim was not to seek out representativeness, rather, interviewing of the teachers provided an opportunity to learn from them. Analysis were made in inductive manner, which according to Hatch, 2002 means that “analysis is a search for patterns of meaning in data so that general statements about phenomena under investigation can be made.” (Hatch, 2002, 161). The analysis method was content analysis (see for example Elo & Kyngäs 2008) and sub-categories where listed finally under the four main categories (see figure 1). According to Hatch, 2002, this kind of analysis suit well for interview data where findings will be the presentation of participant perspectives as captured in interview or focus group data. (Hatch, 2002, 229-230)
All the narratives present in the classroom context seems to have a pedagogical purpose. It’s seems natural since teachers are pedagogically oriented and see their profession through that lens. Hence, we understand pedagogical category as main category to answer our research question so that the use of narratives in worldview education has always a pedagogical purpose. In order to give more informative answer, we need sub-categories that specify, what kind of sections does pedagogical purposes consist in this context. The categories found were: (1.) to know about religions and worldviews; (2.) to reflect on existential and transcendental issues; (3.) to develop ethical abilities; and (4.) to promote a sense of community. The first category comprises information about religions and worldviews, e.g. narratives that the belief systems are based on. Those narratives serve both as a learning content but also a tool to teach other things, such as doctrines and religious practices. Cultural impacts of religions was also stressed. On the second category, narratives give a chance to reflect existential and transcendental issues. This kind of reflection can be seen as the core of worldview education enabling pupils to develop their personal worldview and their relationship to perennial questions. Ethical competence was the center of third category. Narratives seems to offer a way to deal with ethical dimension of life from the distance, identifying with characters of the story. Formulated stories also function as a starting point for ethical discussions. In the fourth category narratives and traditional storytelling was offering a space to increase the students’ sense of community. It also gives chance to critically reflect pupil’s own tradition if the atmosphere was safe enough. Narrative pedagogy also revealed if there was some mistrust or even bullying the classroom.
Bruner, Jerome 1986. Actual minds, possible worlds. Harvard University Press. Elo, S., and H. Kyngäs. 2008. “The Qualitative Content Analysis Process.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 62 (1): 107–115. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04569.x. Hatch, J. Amos. 2002. Doing Qualitative Research in Education Settings. State University of New York Press Heikkinen, H. 2002. Whatever is Narrative Research? In: Huttunen, R., Heikkinen, H. & Syrjälä, L. (Eds.) Narrative research. Voices of Teachers and Philosophers. Jyväskylä: SoPhi, 13 - 28. Kansanen, P., K. Tirri, M. Meri, L. Krokfors, and J. Husu. 2000. Teachers’ Pedagogical Thinking: Theoretical Landscapes, Practical Challenges. New York: Peter Lang.
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