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2 4 Towards a Flexible Curriculum John Dewey's Theory of Experience and Learning Joop W. A. Berding Introduction In the history of curriculum we see lines of divergence into two separate schools. On the one hand, we can find a view that emphasizes the school-based distribution of selected knowledge. 'Education' is conceptualized as intervention, (i.e. the transmission of a bulk of tradition-given, indisputable knowledge), in which the experiences of the learner (inside or outside the school) only count in relation to externally defined objectives. The success of education is primarily measured in terms of 'qualification,' that is meeting up to predetermined, 'objective' standards. We might call this a technological, product-oriented outlook on education and curriculum. Its keywords are transmission and control. On the other hand there is a tradition in which the pupil/ learner is in the center of the educational process. 'Education ' is conceptualized as Bildung, which includes the articulation of needs and interests as part of the individual's personality or identity. Education is seen as process; the standard of its success cannot be determined a priori, nor outside of the personhood of the learner. We might call this the Bildung or process-oriented outlook on education and curriculum. Its key words are freedom and self-education. If we summarize these positions from different angles we get the next overview shown on the table below: In what I call the technological approach some traits from the teacher or subject-centered tradition can be recognized and in what I have named Bildung some traits from the childcentered tradition can be discerned. Looking at contemporary educational theory, of which curriculum theory is an essential part, one can see that the first school has become the dominant one, as a sort of 'standard-view' of curriculum. Summarized, its main features include: 1. a conglomeration of atomistic, cognitivistic, desocialized , de-personalized and de-contextualized 'fillings', mostly defined as 'subject matter' or studies; 2. a catalogue or canon, that is an autonomous, almost unpersonal entity, isolated from and a priori to the (social) experiences of the learners; 3. the primacy of educational objectives; 4. the idea that curriculum embodies 'transferable' culture; 5. the general idea that learning is produced by formalized didactical input. This type of thinking on curriculum has found its best formulation in the so-called Tyler 'Rationale' (Tyler, 1949). In this type of thinking, curriculum development follows a technological approach Bildung-approach method transmission of knowledge by means of external control self-education and growth status of knowledge autonomous objective traditions (selections) result of social-cultural co-construction status of experience in service of external objectives starting point of activities means and ends separated connected position of teacher representative facilitator institute school internal communication; monopoly on knowledge part of larger educative 'field' curriculum 'Festlegungstext'; instrument of transmission and control flexible and sensitive toward personal experiences of learners Education and Culture Spring, 1997 Vol. XIV No. 1 TOWARDS A FLEXIBLE CURRICULUM 2 5 prescribed path on the basis of what Tyler calls 'four fundamental questions' (1949, 2), the first and most fundamental being that of the educational goals to be achieved. As Kliebard (1975) has shown, this 'model' of curriculum has in the past served in the process of the bureaucratization and methodization of education (for a critique of this perspective see Hlebowitsh, 1996). Along side this we find that the communicative process is conceptualized as an unproblematic sender-receiver affair, in which as Garrison (1995, 727) says ". . . psychic entities (e.g. ideas, schemata, and scripts) are conducted from one talking head to another by means of physical symbols and sounds." In this uni-directional affair, the receiver is conceptualized as passive.^ 'Education' has indeed become equated, in the mind of the general public anyway (if not in that of many educationalists) with a curriculum that support the model smooth transmission of a specified selection of what Michael Apple calls 'official knowledge.' Questions such as 'why?' and 'what for?' become superseded by questions of 'how?' (Berding, forthcoming ). Tanner and Tanner (1988), however, claim the Tyler rationale to be the 'paradigm' for the curriculum field. They state: In essence, Tyler's syllabus proved to be an orchestration...


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