In this book review, I will discuss the four main educational ideologies presented in the book entitled “Curriculum Theory: Conflicting Visions and Enduring Concerns” by Michael Schiro (2013). The ideologies I will discuss include: (1) the scholar academic ideology, (2) the social efficiency ideology, (3) the learner centered ideology, and (4) the social reconstruction ideology. I will also review how my educational ideology has changed over the years and discuss how Schiro’s book has influenced my own teaching practice.
Scholar academic ideologists believe that acquiring an understanding of academic knowledge involves learning the content, conceptual framework, and ways of thinking (Schiro, 2013). Educators who subscribe to the scholar academic ideology use three main teaching methods. The three teaching methods include: didactic discourse, supervised practice, and Socratic discussions. I find myself using almost all of these teaching methodologies in my classroom. As I develop my 5E lesson plans, I normally think of the best teaching method that I can employ efficiently and effectively to convey concepts to students. For example, I may ask myself “is exploratory learning the best way to present this material to my students?” or “will power point presentation (didactic) or Socratic questioning be more helpful?”. Teaching is more than knowing the content; it also involves knowing the pedagogical processes of presenting the information to students who naturally have varied interests, abilities, learning styles, and backgrounds. Thus, to effectively teach students new concepts, you have to constantly think about the best way to present the information.
In the Social Efficiency ideology, the child’s learning is not the main focus. Instead, the focus is on helping students develop the skills necessary to become productive members of society. The Social Efficiency ideology places less emphasis on the individual needs of the child and more emphasis on the capability of the child to fulfill society’s need for skilled workers. I take issue with this approach of educating children. I believe in educating the whole child and treating children as individuals with unique needs and unique ways of learning. It is my strong belief, that the individual needs of each and every student must be addressed in the process of teaching and learning. I simply cannot view my students as a means to society’s end.
The Leaner Centered ideology’s main focus is on the learner. The child’s needs and interests are central to his/her learning and must be incorporated in the learning experience. I agree wholeheartedly with this view. As an educator, I spend a lot of time in the beginning of the semester learning my students’ interests, prior knowledge, learning styles, and abilities. I believe that in order to teach students effectively, we need to know who they are, what they like and how best they learn. Being aware of my students’ interests and ability is useful in the process of creating the experiences from which students will create their own meaning of the curriculum content and become engaged learners.
Central to the Social Reconstruction ideology is the idea that existing society is imperfect. In other words, the society in which we reside is broken. Social reconstructionists believe that education should not be used merely as a vehicle for fixing the flaws within our society, but should instead be used to transform the existing society into a new society that is just, moral, satisfying, and empowering for everyone. Social reconstructionists argue that the function of schools is not to continue reproducing the existing society. Instead schools should go beyond reflecting the wishes of the existing society by teaching students to become critical, and analytical thinkers, and to be aware of the injustices existing in our current society.
The four main educational ideologies are fluid in nature and educators may change their ideologies over time. According to Schiro (2013), educators alter their educational ideologies due to changes in their personal and/or professional lives. Most educators change their ideologies at least once every four years. During my own educational career, I have changed my educational philosophy as I have gained more experience. When I first started teaching, the Scholar Academic ideology dominated my teaching philosophy. At the time, I believed that students had to know and master the content and demonstrate their mastery through a strong performance on a standardized test. I did not realize that there was more to education and true knowledge than just test scores.
My Scholar Academic views of education were quickly put to test during my first teaching assignment in an urban school in Baltimore. Many of my students came to school hungry and the school environment was the only place where they received two meals a day. School also allowed them to avoid violent situations that were prevalent in their neighborhoods. Most of my students did not have a nuclear family living in the home with them. I would say approximately 85% of my students lived with their grandparents because their biological parents were either in jail or had substance abuse issues. As an educator, I was fondly looked at by my students as a role model. As such, I had to teach my students, through example, that education was a doorway to possibilities and opportunities for a better life. Therefore, I was not just teaching content to my students. Instead, I had to assume many roles: I was a father, a counselor, and an advisor.
I soon encountered the Student Centered and Social Reconstruction ideologies of education. The needs of my student necessitated that I adapt my educational philosophy to incorporate these ideologies. There was need to meet the students where they were and to educate them on how they might be able to reconstruct what they viewed as a broken society. There was a constant friction between my views of education and the views of education held by most educators and administrators at this urban school. I had to learn and adjust my educational philosophy to fit within the context that I was experiencing. My work as educator was to help students cope with their home situations and also to provide them with the skills necessary to escape poverty and build a better life for themselves. This included teaching them how to work cooperatively with others and how to resolve their differences through communication and not through violence. I was expected to show students that there was a whole world beyond the confines of their current neighborhoods and to empower them to change their circumstances.
When I relocated to a suburban school in Atlanta, the societal expectations changed. My new school was in an upper middle income neighborhood. School was viewed as a place where students learn the skills they need to be productive and successful members of society. I was expected to help my students earn good grades and prepare them to attend prestigious universities across the country. This was more in line with the Social Efficiency ideology of education, and I again found myself needing to adjust my educational philosophy. No longer was I trying to change my students’ view of society. In this context, there was no need to change society for the better. Society was better already. Instead, I just needed to prepare my students to become productive members of society.
To conclude, as I was reading Schiro’s book, I found myself in agreement with many of the reasons why educational ideologies may change. Sometimes educators may change their ideologies to fit the trends in society. For example, I had to change my views of education to fit the needs of the student populations with which I was working. It is also true that changes in your own life, such as having children or starting a new degree program, can change your views on the purpose of education. In my experience, changes in one’s personal and professional life often translate into changes in one’s educational ideology. Overall, I enjoyed Schiro’s book as much of what he had to say resonated with my own experience as an educator.
Schiro, S. M. (2013). Curriculum Theory: Conflicting Visions and Enduring Concerns (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc