Dowden on Student Centered Learning

Essay by richardvanraay June 2008

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A brief comment on Tony Dowden's (2007) journal article calledRelevant, challenging, integrative and exploratory curriculum design: perspectives from theory and practice for middle schooling in Australia.

Dowden's (2007) journal article is specifically orientated towards education in the middle years, that is, students between ten and fourteen years of age. In order to make recommendations for the curriculum design of this age group he examines the effectiveness of the integrative and the multidisciplinary models of teaching. Dowden (2007) writes of the confusion teachers encounter with terminology in respect to curriculum integration and states that quite often teachers confuse multidisciplinary approaches with student-centred approaches. Student-centred approaches incorporate democratic input from students whereas multidisciplinary approaches, due to the reliance on long range planning, cannot. The majority of middle year students in Australia experience teacher-centred and teacher designed single subject based curricula (Dowden, 2007; Dowden & Nolan, 2006).

Dowden (2007) uses the term curriculum integration in a generic way, stating that the term has a broad definition.

He states that the term may be applied to both student-centred and subject-centred approaches to teaching and focuses his paper on the student centred model of curriculum integration that he refers to specifically as "integrative curriculum"(p.53). This model of teaching, an integrative curriculum, allows for a more democratic style, allowing students more freedom to pursue topics of interest to themselves. It is designed to prepare students for adult responsibilities, allowing them to understand that they have the opportunity and the power, to democratically change society.

Dowden (2007) refers to "An abundance of research evidence [that] supports the efficacy of student-centred curriculum integration designs … in middle grades…"Dowden (2007) points to research by Beane (1990, 1993, 1997, 2004) and Bergstrom (1998) showing that the integrative model is a more appropriate model of curriculum design for students in the...