Mirrors, windows and a local curriculum
Mirrors, windows and a local curriculum

Mirrors, windows and a local curriculum

At school we continue our curriculum discussions at school. These conversations include discussions on the importance of ‘locality,’ more so in Prep than Secondary. This morning I encountered a metaphorical reference to the curriculum aiming to be both a “window and mirror,” whilst listening to Kieran Mackie @Kieran_M_Ed and guests on the Thinking Deeply about Primary Education podcast. A conversation that also went onto discuss the importance of local. We will come back to that shortly.

Clearly, I am a little late to this window and mirror metaphor. First published in 1988, The National Seed Project’s “Curriculum as Window and Mirror” article explores the importance of multiculturalism and the importance of gender fair curriculum. It more commonly references the importance of an education where all pupils can see themselves (mirrors) as well as others (windows) in the curriculum, and in the world.

In a noisy, cacophonous world, classrooms must, in my view, create listening clearings attentive, first of all, to the actual people in the room before venturing into other material which can further frame, collectively, a balanced curriculum of windows and mirrors for each and every student.

Thinking Deeply about Primary Education

Essentially, the podcast conversation shared that a curriculum should be both a ‘mirror’ and a ‘window.’ That the curriculum should reflect the diversity of our society and the experiences of all pupils. The importance of locality is therefore central to that aim. Second, locality is often the concrete reference point from which younger, primary pupils learn, and less so secondaries pupils.

By connecting with pupils’ prior knowledge and understanding their local and cultural contexts, teachers can create a curriculum that is both a window into new and different cultures and a mirror that reflects the pupils’ own experiences. This allows pupils to build on their prior knowledge and gain a better understanding of the world around them. With a curriculum that is both a window and a mirror, the article and the podcast suggest, pupils can develop a deeper understanding of the world and their place in it. Is there a better motive to invest thinking time in building your curriculum?

The podcasters add to that discussion an exposition of the importance of ‘local’ and ‘locality.’ That ‘local’ and ‘locality’ has a vital role to play in curriculum design. When a curriculum reflects our locality, they assert, it is buoyed as a result of being culturally relevant and locally meaningful – and therefore more accessible to inexperienced learners. In contrast, they reference that 80% of Primary School’s covered the Great Fire of London and then question it’s local relevance for many, if not most pupils.

No doubt pupils should see themselves in their curriculum. No doubt we should offer pupils with a ‘window’ into different cultures, places and experiences, so that they can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the wider world and the people who inhabit it. What I took from this mornings podcasters is that there is much to be gained for looking out of these windows, both far and near.

Thanks also to Gareth Rein, Stuart Tiffany and Neil Almond.

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