Pursuing strong curricular connection to students' lives: Addressing conceptual and methodological challenges

Year: 2007

Author: Zipin, Lew, Reid, Alan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Redesigning Pedagogies in the North (RPiN) project assumes that cultural life in 'less advantaged' regions carries rich funds of knowledge - i.e. vital assets for building curricula that enables engaging, rigorous and successful learning. As such, RPiN stakes its pursuit of social-educational justice on designing curriculum units that tap strongly into such learning assets in students' lived milieus beyond school. However, in curriculum units that teachers and students have negotiated within the project, we find that the warrant to make strong connection to students' lives is often attenuated not only by institutional obstacles but by justifying rationales. We have indeed construed subtle tendencies among the university research team to place stronger life connection in a 'too hard basket'. In this paper we draw on our RPiN experience, and RPiN data, to puzzle how/why such weakening of intent toward stronger connectivity occurs. In reaffirming commitment to strong connectivity, we take it as a conceptual and methodological challenge. We discuss a 'connectivity matrix' we have developed for (a) articulating differences between 'stronger' and 'weaker' connectivity, and (b) pursuing pragmatically useful balances between 'weaker' and 'stronger' moves to connect students' local community lives to school curriculum.