The Curriculum
Chapter 4: Key Elements
      • Goal Statement
      • Features
Chapter 5: Learning Outcomes
      • Summary of Learning Outcomes
      • Vision
           • Reflective Questions
      • Emotion
           • Reflective Questions
      • Thought
           • Reflective Questions
      • Action
           • Reflective Questions


Chapter 2: Curriculum Orientations


Moving Toward Transactional & Transformational Orientations

Current views of learning emphasize understanding by constructing meaning rather than the traditional view of passively receiving transmitted factual knowledge.  Meaning construction goes beyond the memorization of facts and procedures.  Learners become active in making meaning as they interact with knowledge.  Key concepts in active, constructivist views of learning include:

  1. the importance of prior knowledge;

  2. the importance of metacognitive awareness (understanding and controlling one’s own thinking processes); and,

  3. the critical reflection on new knowledge.

Two curriculum orientations reflect these views: transactional and transformative orientations.

The transactional curriculum orientation is a constructivist9 approach where:

  • Instructors are facilitators, mentors, and tour guides.  They encourage learners to use their knowledge to make meaning.  They integrate literacy with critical thinking.

  • Learners construct meaning by linking new information to prior knowledge and by making inferences and interpretations.  Learning has to be contextual.

  • Qualitative methods are used to help learners to understand, gain meaning, use prior knowledge, interact with others, be active learners, be active meaning makers, be social, self-directed, independent learners, and be aware of metacognition.

  • Knowledge acquisition is viewed as a process that involves life-long learning.

  • Instructors and learners collaboratively learn together to establish a community of learners where each person takes responsibility for his/her own learning.

The transformational curriculum orientation focuses on personal and social change where:

  • Learning takes on a more critical, multidimensional view of society.

  • Children are “forming” while adults can “transform.”  Each adult has an established value system, a set of beliefs, basic assumptions, and certain biases.  Instructors and learners engage in a collective process to become aware of basic assumptions.  They critically reflect by looking at things from unfamiliar perspectives, and, then, challenge those initial assumptions.

  • Expectations exist about how the world operates.  Together, instructors and learners use critical reflection to look at unfamiliar perspectives by challenging and questioning assumptions, values, beliefs, and expectations.  Mezirow (1990) calls this a “disorienting dilemma.”

  • People, events, or crises can stimulate transformative learning.  Dramatic events in our life often trigger transformation: change of job, loss of a loved one, birth of a child, divorce, bankruptcy, or education.  When people learn to look at firmly held ideas from a different view, they can raise their consciousness.  The learner can transform when given the opportunity (the power) to see with new eyes.

  • A holistic perspective emphasizes the interrelations of our world.

  • The desired outcome is to change, to transfer learning into action outside of the classroom setting.

  • Change can occur at varying degrees.  Freire (1970) identifies four levels of consciousness that can provide the catalyst for change: from the lowest level where people are merely concerned with personal survival to the highest level where learners engage in action for social change.  Instructors will guide adult learners to see “how we are caught in our own history and are reliving it” (Cranton, 1994, p. 23).  We will begin to change when we begin to express our feelings, perceptions, and personal reactions and discover that we are socially constructed.

  • Those who hold dominant positions come to understand the complexity of inequality and are able to examine their own position in relation to social justice issues.  Dominant people (instructors), who support transformation, must provide opportunities for dominated group members (their learners) to take power, to speak out.  The first phase of change for any dominated person/group will be (re)discovering their history, developing a sense of self-pride and breaking the silences that have been imposed upon them.  Achieving this and moving past the shame of being inferior helps people to gain the skills to control their own destiny, and to make change based on the principles of equality.

  • From an Aboriginal perspective, transformation can come in the form of decolonisation.


Considering Aboriginal Education Initiatives

To better meet the needs oft he increasing Aboriginal population in Saskatchewan, Adult Basic Education can benefit from understanding that Aboriginal Education has been progressive and is established in our province.  For 30 years, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples have worked together to create a unique intellectual discourse founded on expertise from a variety of disciplines, organizations, and partnerships.  Their work has been difficult and frustrating, yet clear evidence of its positive rewards is shown by the province’s response.

The provincial articulation of Aboriginal Education is connected to work done at a national level.  The progression of Aboriginal Education has involved certain focus points that have brought about Canadian awareness.  It has raised a Canadian consciousness about the layers of oppression that can be traced back to the devastating mistakes that residential schooling inflicted on generations of Aboriginal peoples.  In addition, the researched proof of the sad realities and multiple problems that continue to face Aboriginal peoples has further grounded this work.  Documented in an overwhelming five volumes, with 3,500 pages of personal testimony, 440 recommendations were made by The Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP).  Land claims issues, economic, social, educational and political disparity portrays the devastating conditions that are all too common for many Aboriginal communities in our country.

Saskatchewan’s provincial response to Aboriginal Education issues resulted in an orientation for change.  Saskatchewan Learning (formerly Saskatchewan Education) has taken action to be inclusive and to incorporate the different groups that can contribute to the development of Aboriginal Education in the province.  Work that has been conducted in the area of Aboriginal Education “is aimed at ensuring that all students are educated in a manner consistent with their needs.”  (Saskatchewan Education, n.d., p. 4).  The Aboriginal Education Unit for the K-12 system was formed.  Their website provides insightful information that offers a vision for change and principles that will guide their work.  Several documents referred to at this site are available on the Internet and can provide direction and answer questions (see Annotated Bibliography).  The Aboriginal Education Unit was designed specifically to support K-12 education; however, Adult Basic Education administrators and instructors can benefit from knowing that this work exists and can adapt and/or use information that is relevant for adult learners.

Aboriginal Education can also be viewed from the unique perspectives that the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) and the Dumont Technical Institute (DTI) have implemented.  With a bicultural focus, SIIT provides programs for First Nations peoples and from a First Nations perspective.  DTI develops and delivers programs for Métis peoples and from a Métis perspective.  Programs designed to focus on First Nations and Métis histories, peoples, cultures, languages, and worldviews, contribute to the movement toward self-determination.

Aboriginal Education in our province can be seen through different lenses, yet commonalities exist.  Well documented are the interwoven themes of responsibility, community, authenticity, equity, and competency.  As presented throughout this document, Adult Basic Education is responding to these themes.  As we meet a growing number of Aboriginal learners, we must take responsible and informed steps to consider the initiatives that are in place in the different sectors of our province.  Some instructors and administrators may be unsure of and/or nervous about the implications for them.  This uncertainty is not uncommon, for change can be challenging at times and demanding at best.  Our ability to work together as community members in equitable partnerships will improve relationships for the benefit of all.


Reflective Questions

What will a constructivist approach look like in the classroom? What does this mean for me?

  • Constructivism is the idea that we all create knowledge. It recognizes individual differences in interpretation. A constructivist instructor may ask, "How did you come to understand this?"

  • Constructivist instructors pose open-ended questions and present problems. They then guide learners to find their own answers.

  • Constructivist instructors prompt learners to form their own questions (inquiry); allow for many interpretations and expressions of learning (multiple intelligences); encourage group work and the use of peer tutors (collaborative learning); and provide opportunities for active learning (experiential learning).

  • Constructivist instructors provide opportunities for learners to reflect and self-analyse.

What will a transformative approach look like in the classroom? What change will that mean for me?

  • You will plan activities that involve learners in reflecting and narrating their stories. You want them to be able to see themselves within the larger structures of our society. They may use words like racism, discrimination and prejudice.

  • You will encourage learners to deepen their understandings about their own positions and circumstances by providing opportunities for them to know and articulate the structures of their identities.

  • Transformative instructors provide opportunities for diverse voices to be heard and for events and issues to be examined from a variety of perspectives.

  • You will engage in an examination of your own biases, assumptions and prejudices.

If I acknowledge Aboriginal perspectives as suggested here, what guarantee will there be for a higher success rate for Aboriginal learners?

  • "It would be a mistake, to assume that as some individual faculty members change attitudes and behavior, the success rate of [Aboriginal] students will automatically increase. Changes need to be systemically and societally implemented to make big differences. In addition, change must be organizational in nature rather than in isolated subsystems of an educational institution" (Roy & Hampton, 2000, p. 68).

  • Aboriginal perspectives in this document are guidelines and examples only. It is important to remember that we are all on a learning journey.