Schools were first developed not as a past-time, but as a way to elevate the rich and then as a way to educate the masses before they entered the workforce. One of the most basic reasons for this was the need for a literate workforce. Literacy and mathematics have been at the core of global educational systems for hundreds of years, and maybe not surprisingly, these subjects are still there.
There have been four major movements in North American education, each of which represented a different way of viewing teaching and learning according to the prevalent cultural beliefs at that time. The first movement is identified as Standard Education, which took place during the Age of Reason, the Industrial Revolution, and the Scientific Revolution. Knowledge and learning were thought of through the acquisition model, behaviorism, and cognitivism. Standardized Education tells us that, “The teacher was understood to be the expert in a domain, one who selected and preserved what was important to know,” (Davis et al., 2015, p. 44). Standardized education is the epitome of what structured and controlled education is like.
The next movement is identified as Authentic Education. Authentic Education uses approaches rooted in human sciences and emphasizes personal engagement, developmental stages, and personalized learning. The classroom became a place where people were encouraged to ask questions and focus on reality (Davis et al., 2015). This movement became strong in the early 1900s with the shift in research to human behaviours and the emergence of a middle class (Davis et al., 2015). Authentic Education also adopted the idea of surface versus deep learning. There is recognition of the autonomy of the learner in this approach and that the integration of their knowledge with additional resources can lead to deeper meaning and understanding of the course material. There is also a recognition that deliberate practice can “enhance awareness and improve performance” (Davis et al., 2015, p. 102).
One of the main things to come out of the Authentic Education movement was more personalized learning and finding ways to incorporate and draw on students’ own experiences to enhance their learning and the classroom environment as a whole.
Democratic Citizenship Education
The third major movement in education is identified as Democratic Citizenship Education (DCE). This movement focused on collective process and cultural inequities and aimed to promote social justice, in part by recognizing hegemonic structures (Davis et al., 2015). This movement became prominent in the mid-1900s and schools were a big target of this movement as they perpetuated social conditions rather than challenging them. Democratic Citizenship Education examines what is explicitly taught and what is implicitly taught and recognizes that there is a ‘hidden curriculum’ at work in every educational organization (Davis et al., 2015). The job of the teacher should be to help students critically analyze data and understand that nothing is right or wrong as the learners themselves are “incomplete and biased,” (Davis et al., 2015, p. 121). DCE is about opening up the classroom to create an “inclusive education approach based on the inevitable presence of diversities” (Davis et al., 2015, p. 161).
Systemic Sustainability Education
The fourth major movement in education is identified as Systemic Sustainability Education (SSE), which became more prevalent in the late 1900s. This movement focused on the evolving technologies and how they can be used in the classroom, environmental concerns, cultural landscapes and the advances in brain research and how to orient education toward the health of the persons, cultures, species, and biosphere (Davis et al., 2015). Systemic Sustainability Education also recognizes the importance that language has and that it, “frees the knower from the limits of the here-and-now,” and that it shapes reality (Davis et al., 2015, p. 205). However, Systemic Sustainability Education believes a core responsibility of the teacher “is to be attuned to variations in interpretation,” (Davis et al., 2015, p. 222), and in this case, the teacher is responsible to expose students to and help them understand the multiple modalities they may encounter as ways to present information.
This final movement in Education brings us to our present educational landscape and to how learning can be tailored to each student and their personal needs, as well as how technologies can be capitalized in the classroom. An important question to reflect on is the movement your classes operate in, and whether you are updating your teaching practices into more sustainable ones.
Davis, B., Sumara, D. &Luce-Kapler, R. (2015). Engaging Minds: Cultures of Education and
Practices of Teaching (3rd Ed.). New York: Routledge.