Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Meriam's principles for curriculum design.

I realize the title of this post would make a reader choose to ignore it.

Junius L. Meriam in his book Child Life and the Curriculum, 1920 attempted to redirect the design of schools to meet student needs and student interests. Meriam was an advocate of manual arts training, but I do not know whether he was influenced by Educational Sloyd, or formulated his ideas by simply observing the way children learn, and what drives them to learn and to love learning.

Direct observation was the way Comenius learned about kids, how Pestalozzi learned about kids, and how Froebel, Cygnaeus, Salomon, and Dewey learned about kids. Children have not changed much in all this time, and you can learn a great deal about learning by watching kids at play. In this book, Meriam laid out five principles to assist schools in establishing a curriculum that takes into account the student's motivation.
Principle One: The curriculum should contribute primarily to enabling boys an girls to be efficient in what they are now doing, only secondarily to preparing them to be efficient later.

Principle Two: The curriculum should be selected directly from real life and should be expressed in terms of the activities and the environments of people.

Principle Three: The curriculum should provide for great scope and flexibility to meet individual differences in interests and abilities.

Principle Four the curriculum should be organized that it will admit of easy rearrangement of the schedule for any day, of the work for any grade, and even of the transfer of work from grade to grade.

Principle Five: The curriculum should lead the pupil to appreciate both work and leisure, and to develop a habit of engaging in both.
It is cheaper and easier from an administrative perspective to fill a classroom with as many bodies as possible, and have a teacher trained to maintain order, control the class and deliver lessons, whether the students are interested or not. The idea then becomes one of designing the curriculum to flow from one uninteresting thing to another. Is it any wonder then that students would be under motivated, inattentive and in some cases drop out?

I have been working on two fronts. One is to prepare the new ESSA wood shop for classes. The other is to prepare for my own classes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I'll drive to Indiana for that class on Saturday.

Make, fix, create and design schooling in which children (and adults) are given the power to do real things.

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