In American psychologist Jerome Bruner’s spiral curriculum, the student is introduced to a concept multiple times throughout their school career, with increasing complexity in each revisit. For example, the teacher presents a new topic, like fact and opinion, in a way that’s grounded in their students’ experiences, i.e., how it manifests social media. Together, they learn more about the topic and apply it into action, such as an online collaborative fact-checking project. The students later re-encounter the same topic (with possibly a different teacher), but approach it more deeply; in this case, perhaps, logical fallacies. Students also are encouraged to relate what they’re learning with other topics they know. The figure below illustrates the main process:
Figure 1. Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum
Bruner’s spiral curriculum reflects Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire’s praxis. Praxis emphasizes the indivisibility of reflection and action. For Freire (1970), reflection without action is mere verbalism, while action without reflection is shallow activism (p. 87). Critical education can only occur through the interaction between theory (learning a concept), action (embodying the concept), and reflection (examining what happened when the theory was applied and formulating a new theory).
Figure 2. Paulo Freire’s Praxis
My own learning journey, to a certain extent, is best represented by these two educational models. I learn best through the combination of reflection (though I usually don’t completely understand the theory the first, or even the second or the third time) and action (though the application isn’t always successful). I also learn more deeply through repetition (though it isn’t ever repeated in exactly the same way). It is a messy journey composed of intersecting spirals of varying sizes and depth, of varying rhythms and meters, of varying clarity and vagueness. If I were to draw this, it would look something like this:
Figure 3. Laura’s Learning Journey
In spite of the word “journey” carrying with it an image of linearity, I have “organized” my candidacy statement into the following categories: academic adolescence, civic engagement; youth, education, and theatre-making; creative placemaking; returning home; and gaps. These are the primary themes which I feel have arisen from my studies thus far. Please feel free to engage with them in any order.