Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

COMMUNITY-ENGAGED CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: Working with Middle School Students, Teachers, Principals, and Stakeholders for Healthier Schools

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

COMMUNITY-ENGAGED CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: Working with Middle School Students, Teachers, Principals, and Stakeholders for Healthier Schools

Article excerpt

Curriculum development has been an issue of contention for more than a century, with scientific (Bobbit, 1918; Charters, 1923; Popham, 1972), artistic (Dewey, 1934; Eisner, 1994), theoretical (Slattery, 1995), and practical (Tyler, 1949; Schwab, 1970/2013) orientations all influencing the form and function of curricula in U.S. education. As many have noted, it is critical to be mindful of students and the community throughout the development of curriculum and best to engage local perspectives in the development and evaluation of curriculum (Isler et al., 2015; Schwab, 1983).

However, because of recent accountability measures (No Child Left Behind, H.R. 1, 2001; Race to the Top, S. 844, 2010), curriculum in the United States has grown increasingly standardized--developed for national audiences without recognition of the unique contexts of students and teachers (Parkison, 2009). Such an approach to curriculum is based predominantly on the perspective of the subject-matter specialist, effectively marginalizing student and community voices in curriculum design (Clandinin & Connelly, 1992). The call for curriculum responsive to the community is lost amidst the unified chant of the Common Core (see Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2016), and the field remains, by and large, where it has been for decades: "moribund" (Schwab, 1970/2013, p. 591).

Scholars in related fields, such as sociology, political science, and public health, have acknowledged the complementary knowledge and skills of communities and universities through community-engaged partnerships (see Israel, Schulz, Parker, & Becker, 2001; Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donahue, 2003). Others have utilized these partnership frameworks to engage communities in educational initiatives, eager to leverage the community perspectives in their work. However, few frameworks exist for facilitating such a partnership in curriculum, and little attention has been devoted to connecting methods of curriculum development to principles of university-community partnerships. The need for research on community-engaged curriculum development, therefore, is two-fold. First, engaging the community is a principle of curriculum development theory that has failed to matriculate into mainstream practice. Second, little is known about how to engage the community in these activities. This study addresses these concerns. Prior to engaging in such a discussion, we first review relevant instances of engaging the community in curriculum development and clarify the context of the study at hand.

Community-Engagement in Curriculum Development

Among the many conceptions of curriculum development, several recognize the importance of engaging the community in the process. Note that our use of the term "community" includes students and local stake-holders both within and beyond the school building. In this section, we review curriculum theorists who have most directly attended to the inclusion of community in curriculum development.

John Dewey (1902, 1938) views curriculum as an experience orchestrated through the subjectivities of the student in interaction with the objective conditions of the environment. It is through the lived experience of the student (whom we may also consider a member of the community) that education manifests. To Dewey (1902), we are to "abandon the notion of subject-matter as something fixed and ready-made in itself, outside the child's experience;... the child and the curriculum are simply two limits which define a single process" (p. 8). (1) Beyond the student, Dewey (1916) offers the notion of society as the context and translator of socialization:

... it is the office of the school environment to balance the various
elements in the social environment, and to see to it that each
individual gets an opportunity to escape from the limitations of the
social group in which he was born, and to come into living contact with
a broader environment. … 
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