Citizenship and the Philosophy of Education

By Richard McCance
In her wide ranging analysis of citizenship education in Aotearoa New Zealand, Carol Mutch (2013) stresses that school decision-making should rest upon “a strong philosophical base” (pp 59, 62) when considering theories and pedagogies to inform practice. The contentious nature of citizenship in the Western Liberal tradition and Aotearoa NZ’s unique bicultural heritage require we establish a clear and widely accepted definition of citizenship. Dialogue is needed to facilitate better understanding of what citizenship is and how it is practiced. A revised understanding of our collective conception of citizenship would then necessitate further discourse into the meaning and purpose of education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) identifies citizenship as a key “Future Focused” outcome of education, alongside understanding of issues like sustainability, enterprise, and globalization (p 7). A critical discussion exploring our shared conceptualiazation of citizenship is crucial if we are to 1) effectively educate society towards that notion of citizenship and 2) by the nature of that education, create a future as identified through the principles underpinning that “strong philosophical base.”

Critical theory can inform discussions around the purpose of education and the nature of citizenship by providing a philosophical lens that reveals interactions amongst the historical, social, political and ideological forces that influence our structures and systems. It can help to identify the potentialities and pitfalls of implementing a curriculum with the notion of citizenship as an outcome. It can also help us come to terms with issues of post-colonial societies as well as prepare us for the possibilities and challenges of 21st century life.

Ultimately, however, what remains essential to our success in citizenship education is the answer to that fundamental question: What is the purpose of education? Critical theory would call for debate and dialogue. What is the nature of that debate today? How easily can we, as a society, define the purpose of education? What is our collective understanding of citizenship? In which spaces is this dialogue occurring? Unless we remain focused on that discussion and on improving our understanding of those questions, we may fail in any endeavour to create a more equitable or democratic society.

With no clear definition, understanding or acceptance of the purpose of education or a shared concept of citizenship, a dominant narrative may become entrenched within education discourse at the exclusion of other social, cultural or ideological perspectives. With skilful management of dialogue, this narrative can normalize certain theories, pedagogies, and practices and promote a particular outcome of education. Larger national or global political interests use this discourse for their gains while local political machinations both rely on and sustain it.

With a lens of critical theory we can redirect this discourse towards a view of social justice. Citizenship without social justice is tyranny. Education without social justice is ignorance. We have the choice. We can define education for social justice, active citizenship and a specific, desired future or we can acquiesce and perpetuate the dominant narrative. But we must decide. And debate.

Mutch, C. (2013). What does a decade of research reveal about the state of citizenship education in New Zealand? New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 48(2), 51-68.

Ministry of Education (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.

 

This article is reproduced here under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence. Originally published at http://www.ppta.org.nz/resources/pptanews

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Innovative Learning Environments: A critique

By Richard McCance

Media attention in New Zealand has recently focused on the current Ministry of Education policy of redesigning schools along the lines of Innovative Learning Environments (also known as Modern Learning Environments or Open Plan Learning Spaces). This attention is important and more people need to be aware of the factors driving this change and the expectations and assumptions that underlie this policy.

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The World of Advertising: An assessment plan

By Nathan Woods

This is an assessment plan for The World of Advertising, a course that will be taught at Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery (ATUD), a special character secondary school in Christchurch, New Zealand. The course is designed for students working at levels five and six of the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007); it will run for three hours per week over a five week block. The plan is divided into four sections. Section one provides a brief rationale for the plan, highlighting key aims and guiding principles. Section two describes the plan in action, separating it into four core strategies: (1) identifying key learning outcomes; (2) establishing a climate for learning; (3) involving students in assessment; and (4) collaboration. Section three explains and analyses key features of the plan, showing how the core strategies work together to enhance students’ motivation and self-directed learning. Finally, in section four, I respond critically to some potentially contentious issues. Overall, this plan establishes a credible vision of assessment, one that promotes powerful lifelong learning (Carr, 2004).

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Formative assessment and self-regulated learning

By Nathan Woods

Formative assessment is not something that happens to learners after they have completed a learning activity. Rather, it is an ongoing, collaborative activity that supports students’ attempts to regulate their learning. This review brings together findings from academic literature on formative assessment and self-regulated learning, focusing specifically on how formative assessment strategies can support self-regulated learning during the forethought phase of self-regulation. Theories of self-regulated learning and formative assessment typically place learners ant the center of their learning, viewing them as active participants in setting goals, monitoring their progress, and reflecting on their learning. There is a tradition in the academic literature that emphasizes the synergies between formative assessment and self-regulated learning. Writers in this tradition have demonstrated that teachers can draw on a model of self-regulated learning when they make decisions about how to deploy formative assessment strategies. This review builds on that tradition, showing that the specific purposes and processes underlying the forethought phase of self-regulation can guide teachers’ formative assessment practices during the early stages of learning. Continue reading

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Teachers’ Professional Learning Portfolios: Do they really improve teaching?

By Nathan Woods

teacherfile

Teaching portfolios are used widely in pre-service teacher education programs and amongst faculty in higher learning institutions. The focus of this article, however, is on the role that teaching portfolios can play in enhancing the learning of in-service teachers in the compulsory education sector. Much of the literature on teachers’  professional learning portfolios discusses tensions between the formative and summative application of portfolios; this review avoids this discussion and focuses on the formative potential of teaching portfolios. Drawing on relevant literature, five key questions are addressed:

  1. How are teaching portfolios defined?
  2. Do teaching portfolios capture the complexities of teachers’ learning?
  3. Do teaching portfolios enhance teachers’ critical thinking?
  4. Do teaching portfolios promote collaboration within schools?
  5. What impact do teaching portfolios have on practice?
  6. Is the time required by teachers to construct portfolios reasonable and sustainable?

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Team Teaching

By Nathan Woods

Team-teaching can motivate students and teachers, and help to create an open, democratic learning environment. When working in teams, teachers can take advantage of their differences in knowledge, opinions, ideas, and personality to model collaborative dialogue and behaviour, which can improve learning outcomes for students (Cotton, 1982; Murata, 2002; Slater, 1993; Walker, 2008). So why is teaming so difficult to implement, and what can go wrong? Continue reading

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Critical Thinking

By Nathan Woods

Humans are not always good thinkers. We discriminate against ‘others’, conform, blindly obey, exaggerate our own good intentions, and see evil in those who disagree with us. However, we also have the potential to take control of our thinking – to examine it and improve it. By learning to think critically we can use our intelligence to create a better world, and to prevent suffering. .   Continue reading

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