Thursday, 5 March 2009

Smith on Conversation

Smith (1996, 2000) highlights the role of conversation in a curriculum which adopts a process rather than product approach. Curriculum in this context is seen as an interaction of teachers, students and knowledge; an active process; a constant interaction; a practical form of reasoning. Smith notes that teachers adopting this sort of approach enter the schooling system with an understanding of their role, expectations others have of them and a proposal for action which sets out essential principles and features of an educational encounter. They couple this with an ability to think critically-in-action and use these parameters to guide them in their design of teaching interventions. Conversation within this context becomes a valid teaching intervention or learning encounter. Drawing upon the parameters identified above, teachers encourage conversations between and with people in the situation, with the aim of cultivating thinking, facilitating mean-making and encouraging action thereafter.

Smith also highlights the role of conversation in a curriculum which adopts a praxis approach, where resulting actions, probed for in the learning intervention, are not simply informed but committed to some form of collective emancipation or social change. Smith notes that teaching interventions following this approach are for the most part extensions of the process model. However whilst this model places emphasis on judgement and mean-making, a praxis approach goes beyond situating the learning intervention within the experience of the learner, a context which whilst a resourceful aid to learning could be considered (from this perspective) confining, possibly restrictive or worse, limiting, innately oppressive and hence ultimately self determining.

Conversations which take place within this type of learning intervention therefore also go beyond the immediate experience of the individual learner. They focus beyond the confines of an individual's context or limiting experiences which can blinker the individual, hold them back from questioning the status quo or from confronting their relationships and very existence. Such conversations draw from the experiences of both the teacher and student with the aim of building shared understandings through dialogue and negotiation rather than individualistic learning stemming from connections made within a learners own context or situatedness.

A praxis approach places collective human well-being or emancipation of the human spirit at the centre of the process.

Smith (1996, 2000) Curriculum Theory and Practice:

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