Midterm assignment: Canvas discussions – My academic arguments

EDUC 816
Simon Fraser University – Faculty of Education
MEd Post-Secondary, VCC Cohort
Developing Educational Programs and Practices for Diverse Educational Settings
Instructor: Dr. Natalia Gajdamaschko
Student: Kathryn Truant
February 24, 2021

Introduction:

The following excerpts are from the EDUC 816 midterm (Canvas discussion forum assignment), which I actively participated in from January 24 until February 24, 2021. The forum is an opportunity for the cohort to display and hone our academic writing skills, and to reflect evidence of learning or inquiry. I like this assignment because it gives me the opportunity to use my voice, and to learn from my classmates’ academic sentiments and writing styles. I have organized this assignment into two main sections.

NOTE: My references/resources follow every individual posting. 

  • Section One – My posts (and accompanying counter-arguments)

Post #1 Foundations of Basket Weaving: This post is slightly ‘tongue in cheek.’ It displays my own style of writing, and facilitates a polarizing rhetoric. 

Post #2 Ageism’s Last Stand: This post is personal, and I also intend it to be informed. I would like to further this discussion in the future with my empirical data research. 

Post # 3 Trust (or lack thereof) in Empirical Data Research: I looked at a lot of data on ageism (specifically), and I started to get suspicious of numbers, and graphs and percentages that appear meaningless. Then I started to look at criteria and conditions of the research: were researchers soliciting financial grant support? Was the research independent (e.g. supported by a NFP organization)? Were all stakeholders solicited to participate in the research?

  • Section Two – My responses to my cohort’s posts

Section One – My posts (and accompanying counter arguments)

Post #1 Foundations of Basketweaving January 24, 2021:

In class on Saturday, when considering the proposals of potential curriculum designers, ‘Governor’ Natalia questioned (at least twice) the education services that the ‘experts’ would provide to the indigenous inhabitants of Azure. During my group’s discussion, we responded: ‘well, obviously, we’re not going to teach them to code,’ and Natalia’s response was ‘why not?’ Please note that many consider ‘coding’ an art (Flynn, 2014). In another group’s presentation, the same question was raised by Natalia when one of our classmates stated that ‘elective’ curriculum (i.e. the arts) could not be offered at the onset of Azure’s flagship curriculum. 

Why not indeed? 

Is there room for seemingly ‘frivolous’ studies in foundational education? Remember that the citizens of Azure are illiterate, and their society is rife with social issues, and the Governor is seeking immediate solutions. I make two assumptions about this established indigenous community:

  • The citizens of Azure are illiterate by first world standards only
  • The arts are alive and well within their society

So, I argue: shouldn’t The Governor’s New Curriculum – not to be confused with The Emperor’s New Clothes (Anderson, 1837) – be focused on standardized literacy and mathematics first and foremost? Aren’t these foundational subjects enough to be considered “transformative for individuals or society?” (Bolotin Joseph, 2011, p. 19).

I’ve included an article in favour of arts in education which advocates how crucial the arts are in human development. The article resonates with me because I do not wholeheartedly possess the notion that the arts should share the same space that literacy and basic mathematics occupy in government mandated curriculums (even though I highly value the arts). The article argues that, “children who had no music and art classes in the 1970s and 1980s may not appreciate the value now. ‘We have a whole generation of teachers and parents who have not had the advantage of arts in their own education’” (Smith, 2009, para 4). This statement may explain my sentiment. I mentioned that I hold the arts in high esteem, and I was fortunate to be able to expose my children to the arts on my own (visual, audio, written, and otherwise); I did not rely on, or expect the government to provide this educational service.

What do you believe? Should the ‘arts’ occupy space in foundational curriculums?

References:

Anderson, H. C. (1837). The Emperor’s New Clothes. SDU The Hans Christian Anderson Centre. Retrieved from https://andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheEmperorsNewClothes_e.html

Bolotin Joseph, P. (2011). Cultures of curriculum (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Flynn, J. (2014, March 17). Exploring computer coding as an art form. The Varsity, 134(21). Retrieved from https://thevarsity.ca/2014/03/17/exploring-computer-coding-as-an-art-form/

Smith, F. (2009, January 28). Why arts education is crucial and who’s doing it best – Art and music are key to student development. eduTopia. Retrieved from
https://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

NOTE: The opinion expressed in this post is intended to polarize

My replies to Post #1:

My reply to Joanne and Adrian January 31: 
Adrian and Joanne, thank you for your informed and well-researched responses!

Adrian, your reply highlights another assumption: The people of Azure have democratically elected a governor to bring in a national curriculum. I can’t recall if Natalia provided this information. Nonetheless, I am firm in my belief that there isn’t room for an arts component in the creation of the emergent curriculum.              

Joanne, you and Adrian both bring aesthetics (meaning) into this conversation. Beyer and Apple ask us to consider: “How do we link the curriculum knowledge to give personal meaning to students? How do we practice curriculum design and teaching in artful ways?” (as cited in Bolotin Joseph, 2011, p. 10). The Azurians can scaffold the strict foundational components of the new curriculum (mathematics and literacy) into their own art, and within the context of their own existing culture. Basket Weaving is a complicated, technical and practical art form that requires strong measures of numeracy and literacy (knowledge passed down through generations). 
            
If the arts and existing culture are ‘alive and well’ on Azure, I support a curriculum that emerges from an aesthetic perspective, and orientates towards forming “connections between academic subjects and real world endeavours so to explore the meaning of work through rigorous knowledge of academic disciplines integrated with the study of occupations” (Bolotin Joseph, 2011, p. 19).
Best Regards,
Kathryn.


My reply to Margot February 5:
Margot, 
I think we agree that “standardized literacy and mathematics should be involved in the curriculum” on Azure, as “they are necessary for the future development of agriculture and essential industries,” like Basket Weaving. I believe that your notion supports Bolotin Joseph’s Educating through Occupations approach to curriculum design. 

            
You also shed a transformative light with your Bowen reference; it seems that Bolotin Joseph would agree (now that I’ve read chapter 7). She argues that because Education through Occupations “links education to the real world, curriculum developers respond to a variety of societal changes, the local economy, and technological advances” (2011, p. 141). I still have a lingering feeling that we are putting the ‘cart before the horse,’ and possibly setting ourselves up (as curriculum specialists) for disengagement of our learners if we try to engage them too much. Whose ‘society’ are we comparing them to? Do they have a ‘local economy’ that would be acceptable by the curriculum designer’s standards? What ‘technological advances’ is Bolotin Joseph referring to? What if (God forbid) the Governor wants to outsource Basket Weaving because it is more cost effective and she simply wants the Azurians to pass some pre-conceived litmus test? I digress. The Governor’s plan still feels like Missionary work to me.  
            
Thank you for responding to my post Margot. As always, I deeply respect your informed perspectives.
Kathryn.

Post #2 Agesism’s Last Stand February 14, 2021:

“Ageism is the most tolerated form of social prejudice in Canada” (Nicholls Jones, 2018, para. 6).            

This post represents my elocution to remove age from conversation during selection criteria in post-secondary programs. By convincing you to remove age as criteria for selection (implicit or explicit), I will refrain from vocalizing the irrelevant notion of ageism again. After all, an academic argument’s aim is to “change the perspectives of a community of readers” (C. Campbell, Zoom communication, Feb 10, 2021), and once the argument has become generally accepted, we move on to avoid unnecessary redundancy. 
            
Something that one cannot control is irrelevant in any selection process (I would have added ‘in my opinion,’ but that is a moot point). There are enough controllable variables to indicate a candidates’ suitability: academic merit, letter of intent, and references from volunteer organizations or employers, to name a few (which were also criteria used for our admission into this program). Obviously, my age was divulged by transcripts indicating that I completed my first round of undergrad studies in 1984! Conversely, there are likely members of our cohort that were not inhabitants on the planet in 1984: ageism does not discriminate between old or young. We must remove age from the equation altogether. 
            
I raise this issue because our cohort has a history of ageist statements in discussion going back to Dr. Larry Johnson’s class. As an example, in response to a class discussion last summer, Larry shared a post on the Canny Outlaw: “wisdom does not come simply with advancing age; there are many people who act foolishly (even among scholars I am afraid)” (2020, para. 4). He shares Aristotle’s views on phronesis/wisdom (Massingham, 2019) and furthers this argument with this closing statement:

It is through practising and dialoguing with others who are also practising that one acquires the educative experience that leads to the phronetic wisdom of the canny outlaw(s) ‘to craft organizations that encourage others to learn to act wisely’ (2020, para. 4).

In closing, I am certain that age must be removed from selection criteria when we are trying to determine the culture of curricula. Finally, and because this topic has come up more than once through the past year in class, and I have (over)reacted to it on more than one occasion (trust me when I say that I can see your eyes roll and glances avert during these discussions all the way from my screen in the Okanagan), a change in attitudes is prescribed. Fortunately, the morés of our society are dynamic. I hope this post signifies my sentiment (I want like to say ‘mic drop,’ to sound relevant, but that is an idiom that is not considered an accepted academic closing statement).
Kathryn.

References:

Johnson, L. (2020, June 22). On the term Canny Outlaw. EDU822 Canvas Discussion Forum, Simon Fraser University. Retrieved from https://canvas.sfu.ca/courses/52910/discussion_topics/1082399

Massingham, P. (2019). An Aristotelian interpretation of practical wisdom: the case of retirees. Palgrave Commun 5, 123 (2019). doi:10.1057/s41599-019-0331-9

Nicholls Jones, S. (2018, August 9). Ageism is alive and thriving in our workforce, limiting older employees, say experts. CPA. Retrieved from https://www.cpacanada.ca/en/news/canada/2018-08-09-ageism-is-alive-and-thriving-in-our-workforce-limiting-older-employees-say-experts

My replies to Post #2:

My reply to Len and Joanne February 17:
Len and Joanne, thank you both for your responses to my post on ageism. As always, I appreciate your research, your perspectives, and the time you spent countering my argument.
            
I agree with you Len, that equity and equality must coexist as we consider demographic information on prospective students, when considering a culture of curriculum. You illuminate an interesting point in your argument about data collection, and how information leads to equity (I hope I am paraphrasing you accurately). However, I do not see how a person’s age is a signifier for discrete resources. 
            

Further, only race and gender are mentioned in the article you share from Columbia Law School (Sturn, 2006). Age is only discussed in terms of educating the “next generation” (p. 272). Sturn argues that educational institutions are “gateways to citizenship and economic opportunity” (p. 248). It is my conviction that a person’s age could be used against them considering this article’s argument, especially if an institution views advancing age from an economic standpoint.
            
Joanne, you are correct in your perception of my argument: that one’s age should NOT standardize them when viewed from a societal lens. I am glad that you mention Azure: would it make a difference if my cohort consists solely of octogenarians? Perhaps. But, I also believe that the cohort would be diverse when each student is regarded individually. Finally, I am going to use Len’s words for my own standpoint, “we are not robots,” nor are our students. 
Most respectfully,
Kathryn.


My reply to Gabriel February 22, 2021:
Gabriel,
Your thoughtful response is much appreciated, especially your notion of reciprocal learning. I love to learn from my students, and you are correct in surmising that age is irrelevant in this process. It concerns me that ageism affects our younger students as well: In Chapter 6 of Cultures of Curriculum, Luster Bravmann refers to adolescents as, “so often self-absorbed and blasé” (as cited in Bolotin Joseph, 2011, p. 103); I believe this ties into my opening quote, in that regardless of how much we value all our students, ageist comments are socially ingrained within our pedagogies; I am guilty of this. There is continued work to be done.
Kathryn. 


Reference:

Luster Bravmann, S. (2011). Developing Self and Spirit. In P. Bolotin Joseph (Ed.), Cultures of Curriculum (2nd ed.) (pp. 103-123). New York: Routledge.

My reply to Stephen February 23, 2021:
Stephen, thank you for your response to my post. I appreciate your questions; they are important.
            
I was hoping that I would not have to continue to explain my position on the social ingratiation of ageism in academia, but, I am the one responsible for initiating and cultivating this issue (as I see it). My post reflects a lived experience. I perceive that you have witnessed certain traits of students (younger and older) in your own classroom. However, assuming (for example) that older students have technological barriers, is an ageist statement and it is demeaning: this is exactly the type of socially ingrained assumption that has the potential to become an issue when considering entrance criteria in academia. 
Kathryn.

Post #3 Trust (or lack thereof) of Empirical Data Research February 20, 2021:

I became a master’s student to be a good educator. Specifically, to learn from my[1] professors, my peers, and to exact authentic responses from people that I canvas/interview for data collection. 
            
However, I question every research article that I read. What was the criteria? What were the instrumental questions? Were participants given the opportunity to divulge or expand on the nuances of the instruments presented? Were the participants given a voice? A Likert scale is meaningless to me. For example, I find it funny/peculiar how much European studies are weighted. I am not discounting data collecting: I am saying that unless you’ve done the research yourself, or have invested enough time holding out-sourced research accountable, I do not think that you can use this research in support of your argument(s).         

Outsourced supporting research, to me[2], is jaded. I believe that one can sway research objectives in favour of argument (and grant potential – yeah, I went there). This is me calling BS (for lack of a better term) on a lot of supportive research in this program, or in any program for that matter.
            
Oh, but wait a smart second, there are research articles that I use in defense of my own half-bent theories and perspectives. How does one qualify research? Especially if they have not been a participatory member of said research, and especially if said research has/had ulterior motives? 
            
My notion is controversial, because I value research and learning and collaboration. Do you know how difficult it is to get all stakeholders involved, or those ‘worth’ questioning to participate in a survey? Response rates tend to reflect topical studies (and the statistics on response rates typically do not reflect an entire demographic – Google response rates: please don’t take my word for it). I question every single research document that I read. 
Kathryn.

My reply to Sarah February 23, 2020:
Sarah, thank you for your kind and informed response to my post on empirical research. A checklist for research methodologies has become somewhat of a ‘rabbit hole’ for me, and I appreciate the resources you provide. I am glad that you mention the Wallace article; that was a defining read for me as well when considering stakeholders.
            
The following article, has become my ‘guide,’ and I like that the author provides the advantages and some alarming disadvantages of empirical studies: What is Empirical Research? Definitions, Types & Samples (Bouchrika, 2020). Your advice to ‘temper my own assertion(s)’, is well-received, in that the most important aspect of my research in this program, is to consistently question my own data collection practices.
Kathryn.


Reference:

Bouchrika, I. (2020, September 4). What is empirical research Definitions, Types & Samples. Guide2Research. Retrieved from
https://www.guide2research.com/research/what-is-empirical-research


Footnotes:

[1] ‘my’ educational journey

[2] meaningful to ‘me’


Section Two – My Responses to my Cohort’s Posts:

My response to Trina’s Post January 27: The “C” of Curriculum:
Trina, you make a good argument as a proponent for hands-on learning vs the use of case studies in Health Sciences. Your post certainly brings the value of case studies into question as an educational tool. I agree that our collective programs were fortunate to have this delivery method at the onset of the pandemic to ensure that students met outcomes for graduation. I also agree that the ‘aha moments’ in face-to-face learning environments are awesome for both the student and the instructor. However, case studies and hands-on learning (in our institution’s clinical labs) are both simulated activities. Simulations (after all) are how astronauts are trained.
            
I see how institutions could monetize (and thereby exploit) the use of case studies (I am doing research on this and the rabbit hole is deep!), but I believe that refuting the worth of case studies (sans pandemic), and being concerned that one simulated experience might replace another simulated experience (especially during a pandemic, and even when the pandemic is finally over) is futile. Institutions evolve.
            
Our students will not become licensed or certified or accredited without actual practical experience (thankfully) in coops, practicums, preceptorships, and apprenticeships. 
            
This said, I recall Simona’s comment last January (when we were all still face-to-face in Michael’s class) about ‘the magic’ that occurs when like-minded people collaborate, share, agree and disagree (is the ‘magic’ over now that we are solely online?). I understand that your perspective is from a social point of view (you mention Vygotsky). I am applying Egan’s notion of socialization to your dilemma regarding case studies replacing hands-on learning: “we live in a world that requires flexibility in adaptation to changing norms, beliefs, and values, and evolution has equipped us to be socialized in a manner that creates rigidity and unquestioning commitment to unchanging norms, beliefs, and values” (2001, para. 12).
            
Change is inevitable. It can be difficult to embrace change when the pedagogy we rely on becomes less accessible for educators, and more desirable for institutions to facilitate the modification of our ingrained practices. If outcomes are being met virtually (applications, critical thinking, etc.), then I think it is good that educational institutions explore all approaches to delivery. The world is always changing. As educators, we need to adapt as well.
Kathryn.

Reference:

Egan, K. (2001). Why education is so difficult and contentious. Teachers College Record, 103, 6, 923-41.

Disclaimer: I apologize for my (over)use of parentheses.

My response to Joanne’s post February 3: Recapitulating Curriculum:
Wow. Joanne, where do I start? Your post challenges my rusty mind. First, I had to look up the word ‘recapitulate,’ and I agree that the time we ‘experts’ spend on creating appropriate and meaningful curriculum is key. Thanks, in large part to our cohort’s advisor, Dr. Cary Campbell for introducing us to semiotics, I am beginning to see this challenge from an appreciative standpoint with the use of Peirce’s semiotic principles (I believe you are right Nigel with your suggestion from last week’s class of employing AI when constructing curriculum – and not just for then inhabitants of Azure!).
            
I am a visual learner and often words on a page have no meaning for me, so I found this diagram which will assist in the recapitulation. By the way (now that I know what the word means), I strongly believe that it is crucial to “summarize and state the main points of” (Oxford, 2021) any inquiry so as not to lose sight of our focus of applying “specific course content and pedagogy” that reflects the context of “local and historical conditions,” as you state Joanne.

Halliday, 2015

Most respectfully,
Kathryn.

Reference:

Halliday, H. (2015, October 1). Charles Sanders Peirce. Slideshare. Retrieved from 
https://www.slideshare.net/hallidayhannah/charles-sanders-peirce-53418698

My Response to Gabe’s Post February 3 – The value of storytelling and metaphors in academic writing (aka. Cool Story Bro):
Hello Gabe,
Academic writing standards should inchoately manifest from empirical research that is interwoven with domestic and ordinary (or extraordinary) examples. This combination makes the material relatable and engaging, and it also makes the author credible in my opinion. 

            
I love the resource from the University of Waterloo that you share; I especially like the suggestion that we balance action (research) with commentary to allow time for our readers to reflect. I found this article by James Burford that supports that this model:

It is my argument that existing work could be extended by a consideration of ‘affective practice’ . . . I believe that [this] work could better resource higher education researchers for the task of attending to the patterning and social circulation of affect. It might also prompt a shift from previous work, which has tended to construe the emotional as either absent or improper, in the classical Cartesian view of educating an ‘autonomous rational person’, or more latterly, a somewhat sparse palette of feelings located in the individual. In sum, I believe that taking up affective practice could invigorate the study of doctoral education, and contribute to the de-pathologisation, and de-individualisation of emotions within it (2014, p. 70).

And, as always, I love YOUR storytelling!
Kathryn.

Reference:

Burford, James. (2014). Doctoral Writing as an Affective Practice. Pushing Boundaries in Postgraduate Supervision, 69-84. doi:10.18820/9781920689162/06. 

My response to Joanne’s Post February 14, 2021 – ACTIVITY LAB – REFLECTION AND THOUGHT PROVOKING QUESTIONS:
We are a year into this program and the focus of my research remains broad. I know what interests me, but I flounder while trying to matriculate my curiosity into anything worthwhile, because I continue to approach my research from a personal perspective. And, I ask myself: is this wrong? Biesta’s three domains of educational purpose (qualification, socialisation, and subjectification), permit me to adopt the notion that “subjectification has an orientation towards emancipation” (as cited in Illeris, 2018, p. 246) and autonomy, which is difficult in our boxed into vocational curriculum culture (as you articulately describe Joanne). While I have enjoyed (most) of the readings, projects, and discussions (synchronous and asynchronous), the question is: what do I do with new insights and information from a curricular point of view? I agree with Stephen that it has seemed overly US K-12 focused, nonetheless, like you, I have garnered artifacts along the way from educators like Engeström and Biesta!  

Engeström’s theory is applicable at this stage in the program for me, especially the historical and cultural aspect of it. My “This I Believe” on Impostor Syndrome from last year has currently evolved into research on selection criteria, and specifically ageism (post forthcoming). Culturally, I admit that I have gleaned more from the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) with the cohort, and in answer to your question: Would you agree that you are in a ZPD in this program mediating throughout the various stages? My answer is yes, but I will need some time to reflect on what it all means to me as an educator. I love your post Joanne: Engeström’s Activity Lab is the challenge I need to map my own development through curriculum development and the accompanying culture. 

Kathryn.

Reference:

Biesta, G. (2013). Interrupting the politics of learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.) Contemporary theories of learning – Learning Theorists . . . In their own words (2nd ed.) (pp. 241-259). New York: Routledge.

Final thoughts:

I closed my posts to commentary on February 24 so that I could finish reading my cohort’s posts (before this midterm assignment is due). I am learning that academic writing is much easier when I am not required to post my ramblings publicly, as I tend to have a strong personal tone in my prose. However, the candid feedback and counter-arguments from my classmates is truly appreciated as I move through this program. I am learning as much from them in discussion, as I learn from assigned readings and research.