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Rethinking Curriculum and Teaching  

Zongyi Deng

In academic literature there is a multiplicity and proliferation of alternative curriculum definitions, and the matter of defining curriculum is in a state of disarray. Likewise, there are diverse ways of defining teaching in which curriculum is virtually invisible. Invoking Dewey’s idea of “reality as whole,” this article makes a case for rethinking curriculum and teaching as two interrelated concepts embedded in the societal, institutional, and instructional contexts of schooling. Curriculum is construed in terms of societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula that give social meaning, normative and operational frameworks, and educational quality to the practice of teaching. Likewise, teaching is thought of as sociocultural, institutional, deliberative and curricular practice with a bearing on the societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula. The article concludes by questioning the technicist and reductionist treatment of curriculum and teaching associated with the global neo-liberal movement toward standards and accountability and by calling for reenvisioning curriculum and teaching in view of the educational challenges of the 21st century.


Reciprocal Learning as a Comparative Education Model and as an Exemplar of Schwab’s "The Practical" in Curriculum Inquiry  

Michael Connelly and Shijing Xu

The field of curriculum studies has long been tormented by a disputatious literature over theory and practice and the proper way to pursue curriculum inquiry. Roughly in the middle of the last century standard practical pursuits came into question with a dizzying array of postmodern critiques. Countering both the practical pursuits under criticism and the postmodern reconceptualist critical literature, Joseph J. Schwab advanced a theory of The Practical. Schwab’s writing remains relevant, and theoretical debates on curriculum inquiry regularly reference Schwab. These debates are driven by fundamentally different philosophical views on theory and practice and their place in curriculum studies. Although the reconceptualist literature has become theoretical orthodoxy in the field of curriculum studies, the debate is kept alive by writers who draw on Schwab’s theory of The Practical. However, little progress in mutual understanding has resulted because debate is focused on theoretical parameters, assertions, and positions at the expense of the practice of inquiry. We believe that turning attention to what people do in curriculum inquiry rather than pursuing theoretic prescriptions of how people should think in curriculum studies would help move the field forward. Our “Practical” Schwab-based work in personal practical knowledge and in narrative inquiry over the years, culminating in our current large-scale, seven-year-long longitudinal comparative education study, Reciprocal Learning Partnership Research between Canada and China, is illustrative. Using a commonplaces of inquiry framework developed by Schwab, we detail practical research qualities of The Practical and of the Reciprocal Learning Partnership Project. We discuss the situational starting and end points of curriculum inquiry in the Reciprocal Learning Partnership with special reference to the moral quality of practical situations studied. We further describe the nature of qualified knowledge outcomes in inquiry, qualities of the researcher agent, method and its relationship to a flexible, shifting database, and the understanding that inquiry and situations studied are the outcomes of narrative histories. This Schwab-based comparative education work begins with a moral position on a practical international situation and builds cross-cultural reciprocal learning strategies and outcomes using diverse theoretical positions and methodologies. In so doing Schwab’s “The Practical” is demonstrated by a new model of comparative curriculum studies. There is much to criticize in this work but there is also, we believe, much in which to take pride. Canadian and Chinese educators and their practices are enhanced through reciprocal learning. Improving practice has its own theoretical, and personal, rewards apart from the security achieved by theoretical consistency pursued by The Theoretic. Our hope is that something new in the contentious arena of curriculum studies may emerge if deliberation revolved around competing curriculum inquiry practices rather than around competing theoretical ideas on the nature of curriculum inquiry. Should this hope be unrealized, we nevertheless believe that Reciprocal Learning as an exemplar of The Practical provides useful direction for comparative curriculum studies.


Historical and Contemporary Impact of Joseph J. Schwab  

Cheryl J. Craig

The cumulative research of Joseph J. Schwab contributed to undergraduate education, Jewish education, and secondary school science reform in addition to curriculum deliberations approached through his “Practical” papers, which were intended to mend the theory-practice divide. Schwab’s contributions to education have resulted in his continuing recognition as a leading curriculum figure. His career path features successes and challenges he faced, most often through the experiences and in the voices of those surrounding him. Six fine-grained exemplars from contemporary international research programs instantiate how Schwab’s scholarship continues to exert a major influence in the field. There are representative projects, chapters, and articles that represent Schwab’s ideas for (a) their currency (2010–2020), (b) their adequacy as Schwab-informed approaches, and (c) their ability to go beyond the simple exchange of research findings, which Schwab abhorred. The exemplars revolve around “The Practical” (Canada, China, Israel), Eros and education (U.S.), acts of teaching (U.S.), and connections among “The Practical,” Confucianism, and the German Didaktik (Singapore, U.K.) in addition to serial interpretation (U.S.). These robust exemplars originate with the research of students of Schwab, students of students of Schwab, national and international research teams and/or those who came to know his contributions and impact through the literature. Why Schwab’s scholarship has not been disseminated comprehensively has to do with its particularity and the challenge of generalizing approaches that were never intended to be prescriptions for large populations. Other obstacles include the fact that Schwab was ahead of his time. He defended what could be learned from practice and practitioners and vehemently opposed straight-laced forms of accountability and outcomes-based research.