Last week an unexpected snow day forced me to rethink the content of a course that invites students to take a deeper look into the practice of curriculum: its history, methodology, and inclusion of pedagogical research. The focus in this course, based on the writings of Maria Harris, is the curriculum of the church—formal and informal, explicit and tacit—through community, prayer, teaching, proclamation, and service.
I had carefully planned five days of instruction, for three hours each day. Given the schedule and a full session already planned for Saturday, I had no choice but to rearrange the content to fit the time we had.
My first instinct was to cut out small group discussions and a trip to Key Hall to look at archival curriculum dating back to the early nineteenth century. But the more I looked at the content, I began to see how the theory and the history were closely interwoven into a unique tapestry.
I also realized that painting this tapestry with broad strokes rather than getting bogged down in specific details might be more interesting and useful in defining the curriculum of the church. Ideas that seem so new to us have surfaced in the past, often with some regularity.
The blending and tightening of the content was possible because of the forgiving nature of the fourteen students in the class. They asked good questions and made observations that carried the conversation forward.
At the end of the second day we had developed a historical and theoretical foundation that helped us better understand the role of formation in creating disciples. Now that the course is over, I have time to reflect on what we missed and what we gained.
In the coming weeks, I will set aside time to identify key elements that are critical to the understanding of the practice of curriculum. I will probably stick with the broad brush approach to theory and history, using a bit more finesse and scholarship.
Dorothy Linthicum (@dslinthicum) is an instructor in Christian formation at Virginia Theological Seminary, program coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, and editor of Episcopal Teacher.