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Character Education

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Article-A Tale of Two Curriculums

Educational theories are constantly compared. One of the long-running debates in educational circles is between traditional educational theories and progressive educational theories. Traditional education is teacher directed, subject-based and textbook driven. Progressive education is self-directed education and is based on an individual's experiences. Ideally, education should be a composite of the two approaches: a student's experiences with the real world integrated with structured subject learning. The two approaches can complement each other and often do. The difference between learner-centered (progressive) and curriculum-centered (traditional) classrooms is philosophical. Philosophy drives behavior, so when it comes to your teaching style, it is important to have a deep understanding of your own belief system. Your view of learning, student’s roles, and teacher’s roles determine the method by which you teach.

Teachers who adhere to learner-centered classrooms are influenced strongly by constructivism. Constructivism holds that prior knowledge forms the foundation by which new learning occurs (Piaget and Inhelder, 1969). Because people and their experiences are different, they arrive at school with varying levels of proficiency. A student is challenged according to his or her individual zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1986). The difference between a student's actual developmental level and his or her potential is the zone of proximal development (ZPD). Good instruction matches each child's ZPD.

Teachers who adhere to curriculum-centered classrooms are influenced greatly by the standards-based movement. All students are taught the same body of knowledge. Regardless of variations in developmental levels, all children are exposed to the same content in the same time period. The objective is to ensure that there will be no academic gaps in what is taught.

Teacher education faculty are often hired to specialize in one particular area (e.g., science); programs are built and maintained by these teachers who demonstrate their expertise and focused commitment by designing, revising, and teaching courses that concentrate, quite understandably, on one area rather than many. These two trends of state standardization and academic professionalism reinforce one another to maintain programs that boast depth and rigor in specialty areas and that demonstrate accountability through conformity to rules. The unfortunate result for the student, despite significant efforts among faculty to the contrary, is that their teacher education is experienced as a poorly blended mix of specialty courses that gain their legitimacy not by virtue of being especially coherent as a whole, but by virtue of measuring up to scripted standards.

Mira Reisberg advocates learning being connected to many productive educational traditions. Reisberg “proposes a curriculum that centers on feeling good-about one’s self, one’s work, and one’s place in the world.” Reisberg locates her work at the intersection of critical pedagogy, place based education, social reconstructionist arts education, and multicultural children's literature.

Critical pedagogy is committed to the exploration and development of a culture of schooling that supports the call for an ongoing struggle for social change, social inquiry and democratic practices. Using a critical pedagogical lens that shows how schools and teachers are able to promote student empowerment and self-transformation by inviting students to construct and deconstruct knowledge critically, and thus be able to better understand the existing relationships between society, power, democracy,



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