Module 2

Making Sense of and Analyzing Professional Problems and Issues

June 4—13

This module focuses on developing critical and analytical lenses. A variety of readings describe different conceptual tools that can help us critically analyze the problems we face as educators. In the first module, we brainstormed some issues. Identifying such issues and problems are the first step in any kind of problem solving effort. However, the more we dig into problems, the more likely we are to come up with new problems. So, as we continue with this course, please add "new" problems to this wiki (on the Issues page or on the wiki forum).

As you read through and think about each reading, keep track of how the ideas in these readings relate to your own personal experiences.

  • How do they help you understand specific issues and problems?
  • How do they change the way you think?
  • How do they challenge our own assumptions and beliefs about teaching, learning, and schooling?

Epistemological Shock

DUE: June 4th 

"Epistemology" is commonly defined as the formal, philosophical study of the way we create and structure knowledge. However, a great thinker of the 20th Century, Gregory Bateson, defined epistemology in a way that I think is much more useful. He thought of epistemology as the way each of us makes sense of our worlds. As we progress through this course it is important that you keep track of how you make sense of "things" (in particular, the whole context of education, schooling, teaching, learning, etc.). Then, as you read, ponder, analyze, and discuss particular ideas continue to "watch" your own reactions and re-forming ideas. In some cases, you may feel like you've encountered some big obstacle or you've come to a cliff and are about to jump/fall off or you've just been put your fingers into an electrical outlet. Such an experience may be threatening, exhilarating, frightening, or exciting. Catherine Bateson (Gregory's older daughter with Margaret Mead) has referred to such experiences as "epistemological shock." Experiencing or confronting an idea that changes or challenges the way we think about something can be very shocking. However, I feel like providing opportunities for epistemological shocks are fundamental to teaching and learning.

  • Think about your own life… Have you experienced any epistemological shocks? How did they come about? What happened? How did you feel?
  • Have you had any of your own students experience a noticeable epistemological shock? What was the situation? What happened?

DISCUSS the answers to these questions on the Wiki Forum.
NOTE: If you feel uncomfortable talking about specific personal details of your own epistemological shocks, try talking about them in more general terms.

How do we make sense of problems and issues?


DUE: June 4th

  • READ: Paradigm - definition and description.
  • READ: My Banned Word List Commentary — In my methods classes, I introduce a “banned world” list (for dramatic effect) to push my students to rethink many of the practices in which we engage as teachers. This blog entry is a commentary on some of these “words.”
  • READ: Curriculum Analysis
    • Where would you place your approach in this Individual-Society-Knowledge triangle?
  • READ: Contexts of Curriculum
    • Which contexts seem to be having the biggest impact on your school and classroom?
  • READ: Background of curriculum
    • Which definition of curriculum most closely matches what is happening in your school?
    • Which definition of curriculum is most closely aligned with your view?
    • With which definition of curriculum would you like to align your approach?
  • READ: Emergent curriculum
    • How do you see the idea of emergent curriculum impacting (or not) on your own teaching?
  • READ: Levels of Cognition
    • Which levels of cognition are emphasized in current approaches to schooling?
  • READ: Some Major Learning Theories
    • Which learning theories are or are not associated to current emphases in schooling?
    • Which learning theories are or are not associated with your own practices?
  • READ: Some Fundamental Questions for Exploring the Professional Problems of Teachers
    • From your immediate reactions, how do you answer these three questions in terms of current curricular initiatives?
    • To answer these questions thoroughly and accurately requires research. As you move through this course and work on your various projects, try to answer these questions with data to back up your claims.

Discussion Questions:

  • What assumptions (about learning, thinking, teaching, curriculum, and schooling) underlie my own teaching practices?
  • Are these assumptions consistent with my professional goals and teaching philosophy?
  • What assumptions are involved in some of the problems facing teachers today?
  • How am I affected by these problems?
  • How are my students (if you are not teaching, consider students in general or in a specific context) affected by these assumptions?

Discuss on the Wiki Forum


DUE: June 5th

  • READ: Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D.J. (1995). Teachers’ professional knowledge landscapes: Secret, sacred, and cover stories (Chapter 1 – pp. 3—15). New York: Teachers College Press. (Password Protected)

Discussion Questions:

  • List metaphors that you think describe learning, teaching, and schooling.
  • How can these metaphors be used to describe your landscape of teaching?
  • Can you identify what assumptions underlie these metaphors?

Discuss on the Wiki Forum


DUE: June 9th

  • READ: Posner, G. J. (2004). Chapter 8: Frame factors (pp. 191—215). In: Analyzing the curriculum (3rd ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill. (Password Protected)

Discussion Questions:

  • How can you use George Posner’s “frames” to make sense of the problems you and your colleagues are facing?

Discuss on the Wiki Forum


DUE: June 10th

Discussion Questions:

  • Which philosophical and curricular orientations describe your own teaching?
  • Which ones describe the dominant approaches in your school?
  • Which orientations apply to the problems you’re facing?

Discuss on the Wiki Forum

Pattern Thinking & Systems Thinking

DUE: June 11th

  • READ: Bloom, J. W., & Volk, T. (2007). The Use of Metapatterns for Research into Complex Systems of Teaching, Learning, and Schooling— Part II: Applications. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 4(1), 45—68.
  • READ: Excerpts from: Bloom, J. W. (2010). Systems thinking, pattern thinking, and abductive thinking as the key elements of complex learning. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, May.

Discussion Questions:

  • Pattern thinking, although a “built-in” process of human brains, is not particularly familiar. Try analyzing the dynamics of your classroom or the dynamics of a particular problem using patterns. How does a patterns perspective change the way you view a particular situation or problem?

Discuss on the Wiki Forum


June 12th

Discussion Questions:

  • Analyze some relationships in your school in terms of complementary (dominant—submissive), symmetrical (vying for control, competitive), and reciprocal (collaborative, negotiative) relationships.
  • What are the long-term implications for each of these relationships?
  • How can these relationships lead to further degrees of connectedness? How might they lead to further disconnections?

Discuss on the Wiki Forum

Double Binds

DUE: June 12th

  • READ: Bateson, M. C. (2005). The double bind: Pathology and creativity. Cybernetics and Human Knowing, 12(1—2): 11—21. (Password Protected)

Discussion Questions:

  • List some of the double binds you, your students, and your colleagues encounter.
  • What effects do these double binds seem to have on people? What are the implications?
  • How can double binds stimulate creativity?

Discuss on the Wiki Forum


  • Critical Analysis #1
    • focuses on readings through June 12th
    • DUE: June 13th
  • Submit to jeff.bloom(at) (attach a .doc or .docx file - Save your file as "Your Last Name - CA1" and be sure to put your name at the top of the page)
  • Post on the Wiki Forum (be sure to leave a space between paragraphs) & LABEL your post with "Your Title - Critical Analysis #1"
  • Class discussion of people’s analyses on the Wiki forum.


Module #1 6/2 to 6/3 Introduction and Initial Explorations
Module #2 6/4 to 6/13 Making Sense of and Analyzing Problems and Issues Critical Analysis 1 – 6/13
Module #3 6/14 to 6/24 Exploring Other Problems and Issues Critical Analysis 2 – 6/25
Module #4 6/25 to 7/1 Making a Difference Project Update – 6/26
Final Project – 7/1

June—July, 2014
S M T W Th F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 1

© 2011 Jeffrey W. Bloom


Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License