Pragmatism, Progressivism, Reconstructuralism, & Humanism

My personal philosophy of curriculum lies mainly within pragmatism, with branches into progressivism and reconceptualism. I am pragmatic to the extent that I always saw knowledge as leading to personal growth and development. I am progressive to this extent, because I believe that knowledge for personal growth is more important than learning just to master the subject matter. I also believe that the focus in my Education Commons should be on active learning opportunities, and learning that is relevant to the students.

I am progressive in that I truly believed that curriculum needed to focus on student interests, human problems, to educate students with interdisciplinary subject areas, and to use activities and projects. The curriculum is humanistic. I also see myself as a guide for problem solving and inquiry – which is a very big part of our curriculum in Ontario right now.

This is where I have learned that my approach becomes more reconstructuralist. I realise that education and learning should go much deeper than personal growth and development. According to recostructuralism it is important for individuals to use education to contribute to the improvement of society. Therefore, the more we learn in the Education Commons, the more I need, as an educator to help my students use that learning to contribute to the improvement of society. For instance, in our current learning about the Regions of Canada, we are learning about the unique environments and industries. We also see which animals have become endangered. As a class, we can decide on what we can do with this new found knowledge to promote change to protect our endangered animals and preserve the natural environments within our regions of Canada. Students need to be able to learn the skills and knowledge that they can apply and transfer toward future situations and future societies. To this end, the role of the Educator goes beyond ensuring equity and access, and helping to facilitiate inquiry based learning. My role is also that of an agent of change. A project director who helps students become aware of the problems confronting us all in the 21st century.

However, I see that I am also moving toward a Reconstructionist philosophy in that I see the importance of emphasizing the social sciences and helping students to see presentand future trends of issues impacting our world. I now see that my role is to provide educational opportunity

The whole child is important, including the social, moral and cognitive. To honour these areas, we need to look at various strategies and objectives for making them a reality.

When developing and designing my curriculum, I always start with the questions:

How will students see themselves reflected in their learning?

How will I help craft inquiries to promote student innovation and reflection?

According to Egan (2003), children are initiated into the modes that they will use to make sense of the world around them. For the most part, we do not question this. I see this in our education practices today where we largely omit First Nation, Metis & Inuit perspectives from the curriculum. There are real implications for society when put the absolute authority in our curriculum and do not question the norms, skills and knowledge therein. When we look at the curriculum as the blueprint for achievement that is restricted to the objectives of the school, and we do not question the blueprints, then we are at risk of omitting valuable cultures and experiences, norms, knowledge and skills.To this end, curriculum is not just what we teach, but also what we do not teach.

I view curriculum largely from a Humanistic Approach, where the personal and social aspects of the curriculum are considered paramount (Orenstein, 2013, p 7). We need to in order to be able to help students become self-reflective and self-actualized learners. We do this by incorporating the arts, centers, collaborative small group work, field trips, project based and inquiry based learning opportunities – all of these activities provide valuable information and help inform educators as to the culturally relevant methods and knowledge that are relevant to the specific learning environment. I think it is important for students to apply the curriculum expectations within the contexts of their own realities, and engage in creative problem solving. This however is at odds with the pressures and messages for academic excellence on our standardized tests. Therefore, I find myself balancing and amalgamating different definitions and foundations of curriculum to be successful not just for my students, but also for other education stakeholders.

How we plan our curriculum, and the questions we ask will determine ultimately how we achieve our goals. Regardless of how innovative we want to get, we still need to have a basic sequence of steps including purpose, design, implementation, and assessment (Orenstein, 2013, p 8). From these steps flows the important questions that we need to ask, that will ultimately affect the discussions, answers and output that we receive from our learners. Therefore, we need to think about the language that we use, and the questions that we need to ask. We are faced with questions that extend from the ‘what’ that we teach, toward questions about the ‘how’ we should teach. When we mix this within a very fast paced globalized society with rapidly evolving technologies, we have to admit that the questions we ask become even more important. We now need questions that motivate students to move beyond regurgitating knowledge toward applying the knowledge in creative ways and engage in creative problem solving. Depending on our own personal definitions of curriculum, the questions we ask can position us as experts, or as facilitators for the students.

Ultimately, I think that my views of curriculum are about a blend of theory and practice, they are based in flexibility and openness to new trends and thoughts to consider the demands of the local community and globalization, but also focused on the goals of the school and school board.

Part III: Strategies & Objectives

Deborah McCallum

Copyright 2015


Egan, K. (2003). What is Curriculum? Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 1 (1), 9-16.

Ornstein, A., & Hunkins, F. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, Principles, and Issues, 6th Edition. London: Pearson







One response to “Pragmatism, Progressivism, Reconstructuralism, & Humanism”

  1. […] Part II: Pragmatism, Progressivism, Reconstructuralism & Humanism […]


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