Curriculum Theory

Doll’s four R’s—An alternative to the Tyler rationale

Doll, W. (2013) The Four R’s – An Alternative to the Tyler Rationale. In: D. J. Flinders & S. J. Thornton (Eds.), Curriculum Studies Reader (4th ed.), pp. 215–222. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

When I first began reading this paper, I had little sympathy for Mr. Bartlett’s methods of addition, whether he was more “industrially oriented” than William Doll’s teachers or not. Good pedagogue or not, I seemed to have an automatic mistrust of any system that allows “intuition and estimation” to be equal to calculation. Then I looked at Doll’s example of the sum 101-49 as 102-50 and realised that I did the sum in my head as 100-49 with one added on. Suddenly becoming conscious of the fact that I didn’t do columnar addition in my head. Oops. Perhaps, I thought, I should continue with more patience and without my customary lack of respect for the Tyler rationale (Tyler, 2013).

William Doll

William Doll

Doll’s Four R’s of:
Richness—curriculum depth in terms of a difficult to define range of interpretations, on-going challenges and adaptations to life situations and experiences. This seemed to me to be a complex or chaotic system, similar to that described by Donald Gilstrap’s (2011) work on human ecological complexity in aspects of social networking and curriculum theory. Difficult to quantifiably define with permeable boundaries, allowing the input and output of new ideas and experiences.

I really did not agree with Doll’s statement, “[s]cience—involving the biological and physical—can be seen as intuiting, developing, probing, “proving” hypotheses concerning the world in which we live.” (p. 217).

Science and scientific theories do not prove anything, they are based on experience, observation and replication. A scientific theory cannot be proven absolutely, but with every successful repetition, the validity of the theory increases; it has the ability to predict further observations and is falsifiable (i.e., if it is incorrect, just one contradictory observation will show the theory to be false).

I suppose this is why Doll placed the word prove in quotation marks. Nevertheless, it made me feel uncomfortable with the statement.

Recursion—repeating patterns in thought and learning, with only an array of variables changing to form a circular process where “every ending is a new beginning, every beginning emerges from a prior ending.” (p. 218). Doll compares this to the constructivist epistemology of Dewey, Piaget and Whitehead (well described by Schiro, 2013).

This does not mean that that curriculum would be repetitive, by the inclusion of the complex system of richness, the curriculum could not be repetitive. Recursion instead “aims at developing competence” (p. 218), and thus resonates with theories of Understanding by Design (UbD), as proposed by Wiggins & McTighe (2005).

Its stress on the importance of reflection emphasizes its connection to UbD and the Pinarian concept of an internal, on-going, complicated conversation or currere.

RelationsPedagogical relations, which confer richness to the curriculum. Transformative learning experiences which help shape the curriculum. Once again emphasizing the importance of both “doing and reflecting on doing” (p. 218), a major component of UbD and Pinar’s complicated conversation.

What I also found interesting here is the point Doll makes of how the curriculum, by nature of it being dynamic, ever-changing and subject external changes, is transformative by virtue of the fact that “development of one sort or another is always occurring” (p. 218). Reiterating that any curriculum must always be viewed as the product of its time.

Cultural relations—an aspect which we have also discussed previously. Cultural relations which occur outside of the formal, overt or intended curriculum, but “form a large matrix within which the curriculum is embedded” (p. 218), and I would add, can never be entirely separated. Such cultural relations have been seen to have many subtle, and not so subtle, influences on curriculum, which Doll rightly referred to as “complex” (p. 219).

I would go further, I would say that “complex” is exactly right when viewed as part of a scientific definition of curriculum as a complex or chaotic system (Gilstrap, 2011). Doll also discussed the teacher as a facilitator of learning and criticised the too frequent didactic approach, where teachers’ words resound “with the authority of God” (p. 219).

Not an analogy I would have used, especially when discussing multi-culturalism in curriculum. Another passage which interested and amused me was, “one of modernism’s myths… that we should subject Nature to the hand of man. This statement would be abhorrent, even sacrilegious, to pre-modern or tribal cultures…” (p. 220).

Well now, where do we start with how it can be interpreted that global warming began with the first tree felled for firewood, and that man (and woman) have been doing just that since before Homo sapiens ever walked upright? But that’s a different argument for another time. “Only now, in the past decade or so, are we beginning to develop a cosmic and interrelational consciousness.” (p. 220).

Just what is meant by a cosmic consciousnesss? This needs to be defined. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say that Doll probably meant that we are developing un understanding of our place, as a species on a planet in the zone around a star that can support life, somewhere in the cosmos. Because, if I were to imagine that the author meant anything more pseudo-spiritual, I might become somewhat more cynical.

However, the sentiment that to progress (in education or any other endeavour), we need to bring pedagogical (and androgogical) relations into harmony with cultural relations is one I would wholeheartedly support.

Rigor—Keeping a curriculum from “falling into ‘rampant relativism’ or sentimental solipsism” (p. 220). Wonderful. As a sentiment I could fully agree with this as well. The entire rationale for the theme of my intended research could be said to focus on academic rigor and honesty.

I suppose you could even call me a follower of the Jesuit rational of Quod Erat Demonstrandum (QED; thus it is demonstrated), and Doll go’s further by advocating the idea that I previously discussed “one can never be certain one ‘has it right’—not even to the 95th or 99th percentile of probability. One must continually be exploring…” (p. 221).

Statistical analysis of controlled laboratory experiments notwithstanding, I very much liked that statement. Rigor is finally defined (for Doll’s paper) as having elements of “scholastic logic, scientific observation, and mathematical precision”; “purposely looking for different alternatives, relations, connections”; “mixing… complexity and indeterminacy with the hermeneutics of interpretation” (p. 221).

To me this is still a little simplistic and almost dilutes the idea of rigour by including indeterminacy and interpretation—my preference would have been interpretation of evidence (my Jesuit side coming out again possibly).

Academic rigor is also conferred by processes such as peer review, replication (of experiment and/or observations), falsifiability and the ability to predict future observation. I suppose these can all be included within the process of “purposely looking”, but to me they are the principles and mechanisms of validating and verifying “scholastic logic, scientific observation, and mathematical precision.”

Anybody else’s thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Doll’s four R’s—An alternative to the Tyler rationale

  1. Pingback: Pound Foolish: The Policy of Narrowing Educational Choices - Maglomaniac

  2. Pingback: Pound Foolish: The Policy of Narrowing Educational Choices – Brandon Melendez Dot Com

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