Curriculum as Natural History: A Life-History Case Study of an Alternative Science Learning Program
The aim o f this study is to further our understanding of the nexus between individual development and conceptions of science curriculum with particular emphasis upon root metaphors. The initial conceptual springboard is based upon the rather consistent conflation of selectionist (Darwinian) and developmental cosmologies in most scientific thinking about complex systems. A partial goal o f this study then being the development of a visual metaphor that offers a more coherent heuristic of what it means to be a knowing individual within a changing ecosocial reality. This is a paradigmatic examination and it is conjectured that the root assumptions underlying the bulk of curriculum theory are unrealistic, that the appearance of stability in curriculum and practice is largely a byproduct o f misclassification or even category error, and that reconceptualizing curriculum as a description of an adaptive system rather than a system- by-design will assist in unpacking a number of problems including the so-called theory- practice gap.
The basic procedure is a life-history case study of seven participants—three female high school students, three male high school students, and their teacher—tracked between three learning contexts: the classroom, an extracurricular science “institute,” and a virtual astronomy class. The biography of the researcher is incorporated both as a matter of methodology and as a matter of interventionist stance. It is concluded that the ‘science institute’ embodied a number of innovative features, including more equality among all participants, that also allowed masking-off of countervailing forces perceived as antithetical to its own development. Its organization was not stable but constituted a strongly expansive instrument in the individuation o f all participants, allowing the students to more clearly visualize the multiple natures of science and themselves as individuals and scientists.
It also allowed the teacher involved to leverage change in his current circumstances and provided elements that made change at the school more likely. Many of these elements were not present by design but accentuated value, an element rarely included in concept-oriented curriculum approaches including those that purport to incorporate affect as an outcome measure. The possibilities for an alternative and more organic model o f curricular change are discussed.
Type of Publication
University of California Los Angeles
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America