An approach to curriculum grace.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
E.O.Wilson’s notion of consilience is the interpretation of cultural expression and human behaviour as biological phenomena. In this thesis I have undertaken to use consilience as means to meet the requirements of Principle of Coherence in the Learning Area of Learning Languages in The New Zealand Curriculum. I did this through a problem posing approach and applied it to the classroom in the form of activities that have overlap with task based and integrative learning. I created a unit of work that was designed to incite students to consider and discuss E.O.Wilson’s consilient view of aspects of human behaviour and culture as it pertains to the New Zealand environment in the target language of French. The evidence that the students had learned the subject content in a manner that used consilience to underpin the learning was a 2 minute French language podcast for a specialist website that caters for French travellers to New Zealand. Twelve lessons were observed, recorded, and transcribed, and extracts transcribed and analysed using conversation analysis. I used an interpretive, naturalistic approach to make sense of specific conversations and how they contributed to students’ learning. I focused on two students named Learner 4 (L4) and Learner 5 (L5). I traced the development of two of their ideas as evidenced through audio-recording and supported by observations, questionnaires, and teacher-researcher debrief notes. In the analysis of student responses I used the adaptive change cycle (ACC), a model of forest ecosystem change adapted from Holling (2001) as a novel metaphorical frame to describe students’ thinking. In this way, I used consilience in the sense of congruence. I proposed that this ecological model can be used to frame student learning. This I considered was a step towards the meeting the Principle of Coherence in The New Zealand Curriculum. The connection of the curriculum through an evolutionary world view, engagement with the arts, and the perceptions of unifying natural patterns appear to resonate with Bateson’s notion of “grace”. This establishes coherence in the curriculum that I refer to as curriculum grace. In applying the metaphor to the instances of learning of two students there were no negative analogies. Each extract could be coherently plotted on an ACC template. The ACC metaphor appears to provide a robust framework for the learning process. The ecological model allowed the identification of instances of conceptual change as evidenced in system collapse points that are analogous to ecosystem collapse during disturbance events. These moments usher in periods of reorganisation, renewal, growth, and senescence. This thesis contributes to the ways in which we find those moments that indicate conceptual change and consequently the moments when teachers can evaluate learning progressions and could provide appropriate feedback. Student responses to the unit of work suggest that even though they were not willing to maintain an unprepared discussion in French on the assigned tasks, they successfully generated innovative solutions that demonstrated reflection and these resulted in prosocial actions.