Brief Overview of the Organization
Public Schools of Brookline is a K-12 school district located in the state of Massachusetts. The Office of Teaching and Learning, responsible professional development, research, and educational initiatives, coordinates its actions with the Office of Strategy and Performance to produce curricula for each grade. Curricula are complemented with Learning Expectations and course syllabi. To improve the implementation strategies and provide relevant activities for teachers and child study safety teams, the District Curriculum Accommodation Plan (DCAP) accompanies the curricula programs. On any given time, several areas of the curricular program are thoroughly and rigorously examined to detect discrepancies in its functionality and applicability, which allows for constant improvement of the student performance.
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Vision and Mission Statements of the Organization
The Vision Statement of Public Schools of Brookline evidently centers around individual approach and supporting diversity. It emphasizes dynamic and innovative nature of learning activities and cultural, intellectual, and developmental support for every student. Notably, the vision includes a description of assessment techniques and transparency of results for the community aimed at improved understanding of the educational process and its outcomes. Their mission is “to ensure that every student develops the skills and knowledge to pursue a productive and fulfilling life, to participate thoughtfully in a democracy, and succeed in a diverse and evolving global society” (Public Schools of Brookline, n.d., para. 2).
Development Theory of the Program
Upon reviewing the Grade Five Curriculum of the Public Schools of Brookline, two theories become evident throughout its design: the humanistic theory and the situated learning theory. First, one of four goals stated in the curriculum is student’s investment in studying. This goal is consistent with a facilitation of strong involvement of students in learning process mentioned among the organization’s values. At the same time, the natural desire to obtain new knowledge as well as high learning capability of learning is inherent in epistemology of humanist model (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013).
Similarly, the goal of equity in demonstrated achievement stated in Goal 1 (Public Schools of Brookline, 2016) presumes the boundless studying capabilities of students. Besides, respect for differences and uniqueness of peers is a characteristic trait of the humanistic theory (Gordon & Browne, 2013). Finally, the curriculum program suggests the existence of environment favorable to an independent inquiry, including the access to databases, libraries, and technical means of communication. This essentially points to the fact that the official policy encourages the students to search for additional information and bring the studying process beyond the classroom.
While the humanistic theory underpins the general decisions behind the design of the document, the situated learning theory is visible in suggested approaches and activities. For instance, science section details the holistic approach to information delivery and processing (e.g. the needs, roles, and functional properties of organisms) during the class, which creates a more encompassing view rather than systematic step-by-step inquiry, and allows the students to form their claims based on the obtained information (as opposed to the less provocative and more straightforward content-centered theory). The social studies demonstrate a similar approach, offering a multi-faceted view on the history of the Colonial Period, which is consistent with the emergence into cultural and social aspects of the environment preferred by the situated learning theory.
Contributors to the Theory’s Development
The humanist theory is a relatively traditional model, developed mostly in the middle of the previous century. Its foundations were established by John Dewey, who is responsible for the prioritizing of reflection in an educational process and the role of interaction with the world instead of normative knowledge acquisition. Another notable contributor was Carl Rogers, who is mostly associated with the notion of desire to develop inherent in every individual (Rolfe, 2014).
The situated learning theory, on the other hand, is a fairly recent development. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger are two of the best-known contributors. Their work mostly centers around the role of community in the learning process and, by extension, cultural and social influences on various aspects of knowledge acquisition (Jonassen & Land, 2012). Lave prioritizes learning environment while Wenger mostly researches the role of community as an actor in education.
Curricular Delivery Strategies
The most common method observable throughout the curriculum program is discovery learning. For instance, the models which are demonstrated by the teacher and built by the students during science classes are used to illustrate the mechanisms behind simple mechanics of water wheels, windmills, and solar cells and, by extension, broader phenomena such as sound, light, heat, and electrical current. The study of five mystery birds can also be classified as an instance of a case study, describing the setting, specifying the problem, and encouraging students to apply previous knowledge to solve the current issue (Snowman & McCown, 2011). Cooperative learning is also prominently featured throughout the document, most visible in the physical training (as a natural step preceding competition without the introduction of hostility) but included in English Language Arts and World Language sections to a limited degree. Group activities are also listed in the teaching strategies section, suggesting reliance on cooperation and interaction. Finally, inquiry learning detailed in the previous sections can be isolated in a separate instructional method.
Materials and Resources
As was previously mentioned, the recommended activities and resources are not listed in the curriculum program – instead, they are assembled and structured in the DCAP (Public Schools of Brookline, 2014). In addition to traditional activities (e.g. systematic practices and provide mnemonic devices for mathematics or teaching specific spelling rules) the document lists several activities which are consistent with the identified theory. For instance, graphic organizers are encouraged for use in many disciplines as a way to provide students with relevant tools for self-studying. Allowing students to record the lesson and provide them with additional guidance on materials recommended for home reading is also consistent with the idea of inherent capability and desire for studying. Finally, activities such as role playing allow for increased immersion and capitalize the role of environment and social, as well as cultural, background.
Justification of Connections
Admittedly, most of the mentioned activities and instructional methods are widely accepted throughout educational practices and are representative of the current understanding of education in general. Nevertheless, the reliance on situational and problem-oriented learning, respect for individuality, and, above all, the goal of creating environment friendly to a learner and providing opportunities for reflection and inquiry allows us to conclusively connect the Grade 5 Curriculum Program to humanist theory, while the emphasis on community and the presence of cultural context in most of the disciplines implies the connection with situated learning theory.
Gordon, A. M., & Browne, K. W. (2013). Beginnings & beyond: Foundations in early childhood education. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (2012). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. New York, NY: Routledge.
Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues. Harlow, England: Pearson Education, Limited.
Public Schools of Brookline. (2014). District curriculum accommodation plan. Web.
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Public Schools of Brookline. (2016). Grade 5 curriculum overview. Web.
Public Schools of Brookline. (n.d.). Vision, mission, core values & goals. Web.
Rolfe, G. (2014). Rethinking reflective education: what would Dewey have done?. Nurse education today, 34(8), 1179-1183.
Snowman, J., & McCown, R. (2011). Psychology applied to teaching. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.