Curriculum and relationship

A group at our campus is starting a professional learning community.

I’m cross posting the post below from the blog we have started, which we aren’t quite ready to share “prime time” but are using for our organizing thoughts, because I thought it would have interest outside of our campus.


In our meeting this week, Jeff brought up the idea of curriculum AS relationship, and the importance of relationship as the foundation for reaching students.

In his book, The Passionate Learner, Robert L. Fried talks about the importance of that relationship and redefining curriculum.

He makes an interesting comment that he observed when struggling with the idea of “curriculum” and observing his students:

“The content of the lessons seems to pass through them, much of the time, like an indigestible substance.”

Throughout the chapter he talks about the collaboration that has to occur between teachers and students. 

“Curriculum for the passionate learner has everything to do with whether or not the relationships are right, whether teachers and learners feel that together they are shaping the learning that goes on.  This cooperation is necessary even when teachers feel pressure from external forces. . . .”

This is something we talked about in our meeting this week–how to make this happen even when feeling pressured by the demands of content driven testing systems and structures in our schools.  

Fried has an inspiring way of looking at it:

“When we view curriculum as a function of relationships, we bring it to our classrooms and lay it out, like a comfortable and useful garment.  We allow ourselves and our students to make it belong to us, to adjust it, to restyle it, to enliven it, to infuse it with meaning.  Such ownership increases the likelihood that young people will approach the knowledge and skills to be learned as active, critical, thoughtful investigators, rather than as passive recepters (or rejecters).”

He goes on to say,

“We are so accustomed to thinking of curriculum as “a body of knowledge” or a “grouping of concepts and theories” or as “the scope and sequence of instructional material,” that it is easy to forget that such definitions, absent an active partnership between teacher and students, are little more than words on a page.”

I like what he has to say because I think it goes even beyond just establishing a good relationship with students–but more something like collaborating with them on how the curriculum unfolds itself–something which makes them more involved and less of passive participants.  I’d be really interested in discussing what that would look like in practice.

This leads me to another question.   I was talking to one of my friends yesterday–a former teacher–and she asked if students were going to be part of our professional learning community itself.  It was a good question and something I hadn’t really considered.   Would that be a possibility?   Is there a way to invite some student participation in?  Would it be helpful to our group’s goals?

How can we enter into a different relationship with students regarding curriculum?  By the way, Fried’s chapter is well worth the read.

3 thoughts on “Curriculum and relationship

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have been trying to get my head around the idea of “passion” and what that means. How do you instill a passion or love for learning–love for learning anything? The idea that it ties into the relationship with the teacher and other learners is intriguing.

  2. I love the thought of including students. Communication between all people who may have something invested in the outcome really seems important. I also think this is a great way for students to see that teachers do have a passion for learning and maybe some of it will rub off.

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