Towards a Lifewide Curriculum

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Towards a Lifewide Curriculum
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  1 Towards a Lifewide Curriculum  Norman ackson isFounderandLeaderofLifewideEducation.ThisarticlewillappearinheMarch2014IssueofLifewideMagazine.   My epiphany   In2006,atthestartofourSCEPTrE 1 projectattheUniversityofSurrey,Icommissionedanartisttodrawapictureonourwalltoprovideuswithavisionoftheeducationalworldweweretryingtocreate.Thepictureistheproductofhistalentandhisimaginationasheinterpretedtheconversationswehadwithhim.Ittookmeanother18monthstorealisethatinordertomeettheaspirationsinthisvisionwehadtoembracetheideaofalifelongandlifewidelearning.Toprepareourselvesforthecomplexitiesanduncertaintiesofourfuturelifeweneededtodrawonthelearning,developmentandachievementswegainfromalltheexperiencesinourlives-theliveswehavelivedandthelivesweareliving.Thisepiphanyledmetotheideaofalifewidecurriculum 2 toembraceaneducationaldesignthatseekstoempowerandenablelearnerstocreateandintegratetheirlearninganddevelopmentfromanyaspectoftheirlifeandgainrecognitionwithintheirhighereducationexperience   What is a lifewide curriculum? Therearetwowaysoflookingatalifewidecurriculum:fromtheperspectiveofaninstitutionorthroughtheeyesofalearner.Fromtheinstitutionalperspectivealifewidecurriculumcontainsthreecurriculardomains(Figure1):1.academiccurriculum,whichmaybydesignintegratereal-worldwork,studyabroadorcommunity-basedexperiences2.co-curriculum:whichincludesexperiencesprovidedbytheuniversitythatmayormaynotbecredit-bearingandforwhichlearnersmayormaynotreceiveformalrecognition.Insomeuniversitiesworkplacements,studyabroad,mentoringandvolunteeringwithinstudentassociationsareincludedintheco-curriculum.3extra-curriculum:whichincludesexperiencesthataredeterminedbythelearnersthemselvesandconstituteallthespacesthattheyinhabitoutsideoftheacademicandco-curriculum.   Thedistinctionbetweenco-andextra-curricularhasbeendeliberatelyblurredinsomeuniversitiesasexperiencesthatwouldbeconsideredtobeextra-curricularinFigure1havebeenincorporatedintotheco-curriculum.Butregardlessofthewayinstitutionsdefinetheir  2 curriculardomainsthisbookisprimarilyconcernedwiththeco-curricularandextra-curriculardomainsofstudentexperienceandachievementandthewaysinwhichstudentlearninganddevelopmentisbeingsupportedandrecognisedinthesedomains.  Figure 1 Lifewide curriculum map adapted from Jackson (2011:116). The red line encloses spaces that some universities define as the co-curriculum.  A flipped approach Lifewideeducationholdsthepotentialtobetransformative 3 thatpotentialisheldinthesecondperspectiveofalifewidecurriculumwhichflipstheprocessofeducationaldesign,learninganddevelopingonitshead 2 .Whendesigningeducationalexperiencescurriculumdesigners[teachers]usuallybeginwith their  purposesandtheoutcomes they  wanttopromote,andthen they  thinkaboutthecontent,andprocess,andcreateandorganiseresourcestosupportlearning. They  decidewhatcountsaslearning,andfinally they  evaluatethestandardsandqualityoflearning,asdemonstratedthroughoneormoreassessmentmethodsandtoolsthat they  havedesigned,guidedbycriteria they createtoassisttheminmakingjudgements.Thisisthewayteachersgenerallydothingsinhighereducation.[But]whatifweweretobeginwiththelearnerandhislife,andseethelearnerasthedesignerofanintegrated,meaningfullifeexperience?Anexperiencethatincorporatesformaleducationasonecomponentofamuchrichersetofexperiencesthatembracealltheformsoflearningandachievementthatarenecessarytosustainameaningfullife..Lifewideeducationembracestheideathatthelearnercreatestheirownuniquepersonalcurriculumblendingandintegratingtheirformaleducationalexperienceswithalltheirother Honours degree Co- and extra-curricular awards and other forms of recognition To encourage, recognise and value informal and formal learning gained through experiences that are additional to the academic Study programme e.g. Training workshops Career management Financial management Mentoring/ Coaching May also include work placements, study abroad and volunteering Life in the wider world Volunteering & social enterprise Creative enterprise  Active roles in clubs and societies Travel & cultural immersion Running a business Caring for others Part time work Mentoring Internships   Structured Service Learning Co-curriculum educator designed Extra-curriculum self-determined experiences  Academic curriculum Study abroad Incidental learning through newspapers, TV, YouTube and other media Work placement  3 privateandsocialexperiences,motivatedbyalltheirpurposes,needs,interestsanddesires.Becauseofthevarietyandunscriptednatureofthiscurriculumtheylearntojuggleandcopewiththeuncertaintyandcomplexityoflifeandthisiswhatpreparesthemfortherestoftheirlife. Ariel Diaz talking at TEDxCambridge 2013tellsthestoryofhow,asa10yearoldboy,hebecamefascinatedbyFormulaOneracingcarsanditinspiredhimtostudyengineering.AsanundergraduatestudyingEngineeringatDartmouthCollegehefoundhimselfleadingateamtobuildaracecarandimmersedinequationsthatenabledhimtounderstandthedynamicsofthevehicle.Hespentnightafternightgettingdeepintotheseformulasbutitwasexcitingandthepurposeofthisdeepinvolvementwasrealisedinthemakingandthecreationoftheracecar.Hearguesthathewouldneverhavewantedtolearnandmastertheequationsifhehadbeenmadetomemorisethemwithoutappreciatingtheirpurposeandsignificanceandthengoesontodrawtheanalogywitheducation.Inhisview'weareforcingstudentstomemorizeseeminglyirrelevantandmundaneandboringdetailsbeforeallowingthemtoseethebeautyandexcitementintrinsicineverysubjectthatthey'reabouttostudy'.Inhisviewteachersneedtobeginwiththebiginspiringideasthatgivethecontextandpurposeforstudyingsomething...thentakestudentsalongapathwaywhichallowsthemtodiscoverthingsforthemselvesbeforeimmersingtheminthedetailthatrevealstheinnerworkingsofthesubject.Thewisdominthisstoryisthatthisisthewaywelearninlifeoutsidetheabstractedworldofformaleducation.Wefindthingsweareinterestedinor   needtoknowaboutandthenworkouthowtogaintheknowledgeandskilltosatisfyourinterests.Inotherwordsourourinterests,passionsandneedsprovideuswiththepurposethatmakesuswanttolearnmoreandcreateapathway(orecology)tolearn,developandachieve.Webeginwiththeproblem,challenge,opportunityorthevision,weworkoutsomewaysoffindingoutmorebeforewegetintothedetailofproblemworking,solutionfindingandachieving. ArielDiaz'ssolutiontomakingtheacademiccurriculummorerelevant,excitingandmeaningfulistodesignandimplementitinthewayweliveourlivesbyflippingit.'Weneedtostartwiththebigideasbecausewhenyoustartwithbigideasyougivestudentsagreatcontextandrelevanceforthesubjectthey'reabouttostudyandalsocreateinspirationandmotivation.Thenwhenyouhavethiscontextandmotivationyou'reabletocreateanaturalandnotforcedlearningpathwaybecausethatexcitementthatmotivationleadstoquestions-howandwhyandthenbyansweringthosequestionsyougettoorganicallybuildadeep[andpersonallysignificant]knowledgeandadeepexpertise.'Imaginethepossibilitiesofaflippedcurriculumthatwasfoundedonpurposes,relevanceandmeaningthatreallyinspiredindividuals.  4 A lifewide curriculum is an ecological curriculum Thethirdperspectiveviewsalifewidecurriculumasaecologicalnarrative.Ifwebeginwiththeproblems,challenges,interestsinourliveswecreateourownprocess(es)thatprovideuswithopportunities,relationshipsandresourcesforlearning,developmentandachievement 4 .Self-createdlearningecologiesarethemeansbywhichexperiencesandlearningareconnectedandintegratedacrossthecontextsandsituationsthatconstituteourlife.Theyarethemeansthroughwhichwetakeconceptsandreasoninglearntinformaleducationsettingsandapplyandmodifythemtorealworldsituations.Knowinghowtocreateandsustainalearningecologyisanessentialpartof'knowinghowtolearn'inallthedifferentcontextsthatcompriseanindividual'slife.Learningecologiesarethereforeofsignificantconceptualandpracticalvaluetothetheoryandpracticeoflifewidelearningandeducation.Issue7of LifewideMagazinefeaturedastorybyMichaelwhograduatedfromtheUniversityofYorkin2013.Thelearningecologymapbelowshowsallthethingshedidwhilehewasstudyingforhisarchaeologydegreethatenabledhimtobecomethearchaeologisthewantedtobe.Whilerecognisingthathisdegreecourseformedthebackboneforhislearningaboutarchaeologyandprovidedmewithcontactswithpeoplewhowerealsointerestedinthesubjectandenabledhimtodevelopamind-setthatencouragedhimtoengagewiththesubject,heacknowledgedthat'someofthebestopportunitiesformetolearnhowtobeanarchaeologistlayoutsidemydegreecourse'.Theseactivitiesincluded:joiningtheeditorialteamofthestudentmagazine'Posthole',participatinginnumerousarchaeologicaldigsorganisedbyresearchstudents,academicstafforotherorganisations,joiningtheHomelessHeritageproject,helpingtoorganiseanexhibition,participatinginseveralconferencesand,attheendofhiscourse,leading/organisinganationalconferenceforstudents,avolunteerattheYoungArchaeologistsClubworkingwithschoolchildren.Theseexperienceswerehighly    5 influentialinhisoveralldevelopmentasanarchaeologistandsomeofthemaffectedhimdeeplyasaperson.Oneoftheseprojectshadaparticularsignificanceforme.HomelessHeritage.....isdedicatedtoworkingwithhomelesscommunitiesinordertounderstandandvaluethespacesusedbysuchcommunitiesusingarchaeologicalmethods....itinvolvesworking with homelesspeopleinordertounderstandtherelevanceofwhatisfound.InthiswayIwasabletoformfriendshipswithpeopleIwouldneverhavecomeintocontactwithinmystudentlife.Ibegantoappreciatetheproblemsofhomelesspeopleandtoseetheworldthroughtheireyes.Theexperienceenabledmetounderstandthevalueofcontemporaryarchaeology,butIalsobegantoseeanewrelevanceofwhatIwasdoing,throughitIbecameinterestedinthewaysarchaeologycanbeusedtoengagecommunities(Michael). AsMichael'sstoryrevealssowell,ourpersonallifewidecurriculumenablesustodiscoverourpurposes,whatandwhowecareaboutinlife,andhowwewanttouseourlifetobecomethesortofpersonwewanttobeandbecome. Why are we moving towards a lifewide curriculum? Overthelastfiveyearswehavewitnessedtheimplicittake-upoftheideaofalifewidecurriculumasmoreandmoreuniversitieshaveintroducedschemestoencourage,supportandrecognisestudentdevelopmentgainedthroughexperiencesthatareintheco-orextra-curriculardomains.Withsucharapidgrowthintheseawardschemesthereislikelytobeamultiplicityofreasonssomeofwhichareoutlinedbelow. ·   ThenatureofthetraditionalsinglehonourscourseinUKhighereducationleaveslittlescopeforbroadereducationalconsiderationsespeciallyinresearch-intensiveuniversities.Studentdevelopmentawardsofferawayofembracingformsofdevelopmentthatarenotcateredforthroughtheacademiccurriculum. ·   Thedriveforefficiencyhasprogressivelyreducedcontacttime:insomecoursesstudentsspendsignificantlymoretimedoingthingsotherthanstudyingandstudentdevelopmentawardsprovidethemeansofrecognisinglearninggainedoutsidetheacademicprogramme. ·   Thespirallingcostsofhighereducationtostudentsmeansthatmanysavetoundertakepaidworkinordertosupportthemselvesthroughuniversityandthereisaready-madecontextfordemonstratingstudents’employabilityskillsbyrecognisingthatworkisahighlyrelevantandvaluedcontextforlearning. ·   Theneedforuniversitiestoshowtheyareprovidingvalueforthetuitionfeemeansthatthoseuniversitiesthatareofferingopportunitiesfordevelopmentandrecognitionoutsideaswellasinsidetheacademiccurriculumcanclaimtheyareprovidingmorevalueforthetuitionfeeandthusgainacompetitiveadvantage. ·   Employabilityhastobeanimportantoutcomeofauniversityeducation,sodemonstratingacommitmenttohelpingstudents’demonstratetheiremployabilityskillsisanimportantindicatorofinstitutionalsuccess.
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