As a result of my experiences as an elementary school teacher, an educational researcher and a professor of education, it has become clear that fostering school communities requires a paradigm shift in our collective thinking about students, parents/guardians and the community context in which schools are located.
All stakeholders involved in education need to understand and position people connected and engaged in schools in ways that are asset rather than deficit-oriented. There are many factors that currently ensure that deficit constructions of communities engaged in and with schools remain intact. These problematic and limiting ways of seeing and responding to people require that we re-think what we understand about and what we do in education. An asset-oriented focused approach to creating and sustaining vibrant school communities requires that we conceptualize what students, parents and the school community context possess in the way of diversity (e.g.: learning, cultural, linguistic, physical, socioeconomic, gender, sexual, religious, etc.) as valued and valuable capitol that needs to be brought into the school and drawn on in ways that help to create co-constructed, negotiated and contextually specific curriculum.
All stakeholders involved in education need to understand and position people connected and engaged in schools in ways that are asset rather than deficit-oriented.
Curriculum therefore needs to be understood as something that is not just simply written, officiated and given to school communities to deliver, but rather what occurs through reciprocal interactions or transactions between teachers, students, parents and the larger community within a particular context. Curriculum is comprised of or shaped by the activities, events, practices, materials and decisions made within a particular space negotiated between everyone who has a stake in and is part of the school community in relation to its contextual specificities. The culture created in classrooms and the school at large by all of these factors constitutes the development of a curriculum that fosters vibrancy, inclusivity, and support through a responsiveness to the diversity of assets located within that school community.
It is therefore essential for asset-oriented ways of creating curriculum to be aligned with an asset-oriented assessment and evaluation paradigm and its practices.
This necessary shift in thinking and doing is in line with basic human rights that have been identified in various documents that are legally binding. It is therefore essential that curriculum, and therefore assessment and evaluation practices begin to be shaped by a vehement belief in – and a focused gaze on – the plethora of resources that a variety of people interacting with schools possess. Curriculum and assessment and evaluation are inextricably linked to how well educators are able to understand, come to know and draw on students, their parents and the larger context. It is therefore essential for asset-oriented ways of creating curriculum to be aligned with an asset-oriented assessment and evaluation paradigm and its practices.
Educational systems that discursively herald community building and diversity cannot simultaneously insist on and require tools and procedures that cast entire school communities as deficient, broken and pathological. The structural continuance and subsequent understanding of curriculum and assessment and evaluation as mandated (standardized and fossilized instruments of normalization) does not allow for the professional and personal autonomy required of school communities to create a culture that allows for multiple ways of knowing and being to be tapped into. This is in order to ensure that personhood and not politics remains at the forefront of collective thoughts and efforts to create vibrant, human rights focused school communities that help foster critical autonomous citizens who see their worth reflected in schools.
Heydon, R. & Iannacci, L. (2008). Early childhood curricula and the de-pathologizing of childhood. University of Toronto Press.