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The Progressive Legacy of Holism Joan M. Cady 13 The relationship of subject matter to teaching methods has been a perennial concern throughout the history of education. Educators seeking the "key" to improving education have oscillated between interest in courses of study and atttention to pedagogical procedures. The folly of this fluctuation was noted by William T. Harris in 1880 when he reminded the educational community that "the what to study [was] as important as the how to study."1 One hundred and three years later, this same issue was raised by Lawrence C. Stedman and Marshall S. Smith regarding the early 1980s foray into curriculum reform in which they found a lack of consideration for the "how is it taught?" question in many reports.2 The history of curriculum conceptions has reflected these concerns. When curriculum was viewed as a course of study and teaching was considered a separate entity, the vacillation between subject matter concerns and methodological issues was reinforced. However, when curriculum was conceived in the broader terms of the learner's educative experiences, subject matter and teaching methods became a unified consideration for educational improvement. The conflict between the dualistic and unified conceptions of the curriculum and instruction relationship has formed an ongoing debate in the evolution of curriculum studies. Although Schubert described this debate as one between those who separate the two "for analytic clarity" and those who regard the separation as "superficial since curriculum and instruction are thoroughly intertwined in practice,"3 other theorists regard this separation as more than just a conceptual distinction. For example, Tanner and Tanner asserted that "the curriculum-instruction dualism has emerged as a veritable doctrine for the curriculum field."4 Prior to the 1920s and 1930s, the curriculum was usually defined as the textbook, the course of study, or the guide for instruction.5 The process of curriculum construction or curriculum building meant writing a course of study to be implemented by teachers and mastered by students. According to this view, curriculum development and instruction were two distinct, albeit related, functions. Dewey argued that since method is the "arrangement of subject matter which makes it most effective in use," the isolation of method from subject matter is irrational.6 This illogical separation stems from regarding the distinction between subject matter and method "as a separation in experience and not as a distinction in thought [reflected experience]."7 When subject matter and method are treated as separate in experience, Dewey contended "we make a division between a self and the environment or world. This separation is the root of the dualism of method and subject matter."8 Dewey delineated the "evils in education" resulting from such subject matter-method dualism: 1. The neglect... of concrete situations of experience . . . [so that] "methods" have then to be authoritatively recommended to teachers, instead of being an expression of their own intelligent observations. 2. False conceptions of discipline and interest. . . [are developed through the use of] excitement . . . , the menace of harm to motivate concern with the alien subject matter. Or a direct appeal may be made to the person to put forth effort without any reason. 3. The act of learning is made a direct and conscious end in itself. 4. Method tends to be reduced to a cut and dried routine, to following mechanically prescribed steps.9 In addition, this dualism leads to divisions in research and to further separation between theory and practice. Dewey predicted the following consequences: When we make a sharp distinction between what is learned and how we learn it, and assign the determination of the process of learning to psychology and of subject-matter to social sciences, the inevitable outcome is that the reaction of what is studied and learned upon the development of the person learning, upon the tastes, interests, and habits that control his future mental attitudes and responses, is overlooked. To that degree the psychological account of the process of personal learning and growth is deficient and distorted. It then deals with a short segment of the learning process instead of with its continuities.10 When means and ends are viewed as if they were separate, and to be dealt with by different persons...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-1786
Print ISSN
1085-4908
Pages
pp. 13-23
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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