Student Vs Subject

December 12th, 2011

When dividing up theories on what material should be presented to students it seems to fall into two categories; subject and student based.
Subject based follows the belief that core subjects, ones that have been used through time (reading, writing, math, logic…etc), are the primary goals of education. These are the skills that supporters believe seen are most beneficial for the student in the real world. However, according to our text, these subjects are often taught as autonomous subjects without much connection to each other or the lives or needs of the student. There are benefits and disadvantages to this model.
Subject based curriculums offer basic skills, standardized requirements for learning, and a greater ability to be ‘universally applied’ because it does not deal as much with an individual learner. It is orderly and understandable.

The National Education Summit (1996) came to the following benefits for a standardized, subject based curriculum,

1. Help all students learn more by demanding higher student proficiency and providing effective methods to help students achieve high standards;

2. Provide parents, schools, and communities with an unprecedented opportunity to debate and reach agreement on what students should know and be able to do;

3. Focus the education system on understandable, objective, measurable, and well-defined goals to enable schools to work smarter and more productively;

4. Reinforce the best teaching and educational practices already found in classrooms and make them the norm;

5. Provide real accountability by focusing squarely on results and helping the public and local and state educators evaluate which programs work best.

However, there are also drawbacks to the subject-based model. Without a tie between the subjects, students may have a harder time finding relevancy and making personal connections; making it harder for them to retain the information. Also, it may be simply repetition of teacher decided material without the student gaining true knowledge of the subject matter.

Student-based curriculum is centered on the student’s experiences, interests, and needs when planning the material to teach. These models include activity-based experiences, humanist approaches, value-based, and alternative schools. All of these models focus more on what the individual can, and wants to, learn rather than pushing forward a set of skills and information. They allow students to use skills and ideas to research what interests, and is relevant to, them. Benefits listed include an increased interest in what is being learned, a sense of ownership of their own education by students, and a fuller sense of ‘comprehension’ of a subject—rather than a memorization of information. However, it is also problematic at times when considering how to assess if the students are receiving an education that will prepare them for the adult world.

There is no denying that there are standardized requirements in the public school system. The subjects are also divided into their own departments and a vast majority of secondary, and most primary, schools teach in subject matter blocks. However, despite the tipping of the scale towards subject-based learning, teachers must decide how far on either side of this split they lie when planning their lessons. While working towards those requirements there is ample ability to offer different modes of instruction. A teacher might decide to go the route of direct instruction, and teach in clear, concise lessons with ample guided practice. They may choose to offer more activity, project based learning and let students create assignments based on their interests and skills. They may allow collaborative learning, where students are grouped and help to teach each other the material.

My ideal teaching position would be in the dramatic arts. One ‘goal’ of my class would be for students to be able to understand the components of a “well-directed scene”. The objectives would be to understand the part of a character; voice, physicality, and personality. Another would be to have the ability to understand the technical aspects of blocking and projection. Finally, students would understand the role of the director and the role of the actors in a scene. Each of these objectives would be practiced in class. Students would receive vocabulary, lectures, real-life and film examples, and chances to practice in class. Finally, after each objective is taught, student would be paired in small groups, one student being the director and the other two the ‘actors’. Their grade would be judged on their use of the pieces of character and the appropriateness of their selections for the part, their use of blocking and projection, and a student-decided grade of how well the director and actors performed their duties (including providing blocking, etc for the director and memorizing lines/taking blocking for the actor). This project allows for guided teaching but allows students to create on their own in an active, self-determined way.

Ornstein, A., Levine, D., Gutek, G. (2011). Foundation of Education (11th Ed.). Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth.


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