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Understanding the meaning of students’ practical experiences McCaffery, Jill A. 1993

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UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF STUDENTS' PRACTICAL EXPERIENCESbyJILL ARLENE MCCAFFERYB.A., Simon Fraser University, 1977A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Centre for Studies in Curriculum and Instruction)We accept this thesis as conformingTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAMAY 1993© Jill Arlene McCaffery, 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature) Department of 024\1..c.R_Cc..<- fluet4e_ tf■ The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate /q1.3DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTThis study explored the meaning of practical experiences in home economics for year sevenstudents. The research sought to gain insight into, and a deeper, richer understanding of themeaning of practical by investigating students' perspectives and the meanings that they attribute tothe practical through their actions and experiences in home economics.The research involved the students and the teacher of two classes of year seven homeeconomics students in a small town in . British Columbia. The study was conducted over a twelveweek period in the Spring of 1992.Students from both classes participated in the study by way of response journals. Inaddition, nine students selected from one class participated in semi-structured interviews andconversations on four occasions.The study used a phenomenological approach in order to elaborate on practical experiencesas gleaned from conversations, stories told in conversation and response journal writings providedby year seven home economics students. Data was collected through guided response journalentries, audiotapes of conversations, and entries in the teacher's journal. The collected data wasanalysed and loosely collated into two categories; shared or similar themes, and variations orunique themes. It was through both the common and the unique themes that a sense of students'meanings of practical experiences developed.The students' conversations, journals and stories presented a colourful collage of variedexperiences and meanings of the practical which could not be reduced into a simple statement ofdefinition. The themes did, however, speak of practical experiences as valuable and relevantassisting students in a process of "becoming." The practical from the perspective of the student isthat which mediates between themselves and the adult world in their process of "becoming adult".iiTABLE OF CONTENTSABSTRACT^ iiTABLE OF CONTENTS^ iiiACKNOWLEDGEMENTS viCHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION^ 1Focus of the Study 4Statement of the Problem^ 4Research Questions 5Background and Rationale^ 5Significance^ 8Terms of Referencel^ 9Assumptions 12The Organization of the Thesis^ 12CHAPTER H: LITERATURE REVIEW 13The Origins of the Practical^ 13The Practical in Education andHome Economics Education^ 15Related Research: Students' Perspectives 20Related Research: Students' Meanings^ 22Related Research: Using Phenomenology in theSearch for Meaning^ 25Summary^ 25CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY^ 27What is Phenomenological Research?^ 27Why Do Phenomenological Research? 29iiiivOn Objectivity and Subjectivity^ 30On Generalization^ 31The Phenomenological Research Method^ 31On Language^ 32Research Setting 32The Research Group^ 33The Conversation Group 34Sources of Data^ 37Response Journals^ 37Student Conversations 40CHAPTER IV: THE MEANING OF THE PRACTICAL^ 43It's Fun^ 45I Can Do It Again At Home^ 48Two Wheeling 51Building Trust, Becoming Responsible,Beginning Independence^ 54The Goal Stick^ 56You Will Need It When You're Older^ 60Cooking and Eating^ 61And Finally: What Does Practical Mean To You?^65Summary^ 69CHAPTER V: SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION, CLOSINGSAND OPENINGS^ 71Summary and Discussion 72It's Fun^ 72I Can Do It Again At Home^ 75Building Trust, Becoming Responsible,Beginning Independence^ 79Cooking and Eating^ 82Closings^ 84Part I 85Part II^ 86Openings 90LIST OF REFERENCES^ 94APPENDIX A: RESPONSE JOURNAL MARCH 23, 1992^97APPENDIX B: RESPONSE JOURNAL APRIL 10-24, 1992 98APPENDIX C: LEARNING LOG MAY 15, 1992^ 99APPENDIX D: RESPONSE JOURNAL JUNE 12, 1992 100APPENDIX E: SAMPLE LESSON PLAN^ 101APPENDIX F: SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS^ 102APPENDIX G: CORRESPONDENCE^ 103ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI wish to express my appreciation to Dr. Linda Peterat for the assistance andencouragement she has given both as my advisor and as the chair of my committee. I also wish tothank other members of my committee, Dr. Ann Anderson and Dr. Carl Leggo. And, thanks toBrian for always being there.viCHAPTER IINTRODUCTION"And the purpose of this activity,"? the teacher inquired. "You learn how to makeyour own food and then you can eat it," came the response in chorus.Reflecting on my own experiences as a youth in home economics I can not summonforth a crystalline notion of the "practical." I did undertake a variety of enjoyable "practical"learning activities, yet I do not recall any thoughtful consideration or questioning of myunderstanding of "practical" apart from the day's handiwork and edible products. Nor did Iview the activities as empowering me to take critical or deliberative action on problemsrelated to myself, my family or my home. And perhaps on reflection that was as the activitiesintended, technical tasks oriented toward an end product.The concept of the "practical" within home economics and education has been acontentious issue since the late 19th century (DeZwart, 1990), contentious in part because theterm itself lacks a consistent agreed upon definition. Historically in its original sense Aristotleidentified the practical as one of three classifications of the disciplines, the other two beingthe theoretical and the productive.In the 19th and early 20th centuries practical within the context of schooling came tomean "manual" to describe the learning of skills that involved the manipulation of tools andmaterials. And "practical" has been used instead of "applied" to describe skills and ideas thatcould be directly utilized, but which may not necessarily be manual (Heyneman, 1987). The12notion of "concrete" also developed along with the "applied" and "manual" interpretations indescribing practical learning as relevant to students.Schwab (1969) added another interpretation of the meaning of practical in relation tocurriculum. He maintained that the practical was concerned with "choice and action"(Schwab,1969, p.80) and leads to "defensible decisions" (Schwab, 1969, p.80).In 1980 Brown reconceptualized the field of home economics as a critical science.Within this definition the practical was defined as that which enables and empowersenlightened and deliberative action in solving problems of home and family (Brown, 1980).This conceptualization introduced yet another interpretation of the meaning of practical,adding a moral and ethical sense characterized by an individual's and family's critical thought,choices, actions and reflection in their daily lives.None of these meanings or interpretations of the practical has replaced another. Someinterpretations have been favoured at times because they appear to remedy industrial, politicalor economic situations (Layton, 1984), but they have all co-existed within education. Brown(1980) acknowledges and Thomas (1986) concurs that home economics itself as a practicaldiscipline has been fragmented by the different interpretations. Currently all of these views ofthe meaning and significance of the practical are represented in our education systems, andoften multiple views are held concurrently within the same school and department (Thomas,1986). This fact in itself invites a new questioning, a re-view of the meaning of "practical" inhome economics and education.These notions or views of the practical from Aristotle through to Schwab and Brownare representative of an academic or "top-down" perspective, and it is from this perspectiveboth historically and currently that school curricula is initiated and developed.New home economics curricula have been developed in the United States and recentlyin British Columbia based on the notions of Brown. And it is the theorists, planners and3teachers like Brown who have conceptualized the practical, who define the "perennialpractical problems" (Brown & Paolucci, 1979) and who design the experiences to enable andempower deliberative action in our students. But at no point have we explored the other keyperspective, that of our students. We have not attempted to understand the meaning and thesignificance that classroom activities, what we may regard as "practical," have for students inhome economics education; nor are we sensitive to the ways in which students experiencesuch curricula components.Curriculum planners and teachers alike make many assumptions regarding the learningthat "will occur," or that is "expected to occur" as a result of undertaking practical activitiesin home economics. But do students see and understand these activities as we expect? Forexample, do students see their specific nutrition and food preparation activities as connectedto enabling their action and solutions to world food problems? Do students understandconsumer education activities and their connection to empowerment in solving inequities? Ordo students see practical activities as breaks from regular schoolwork, as opportunities tosocialize, or as time to make things?There is increasing awareness and sensitivity in some branches of education tostudents' experiences in curricula. Studies such as Children's Experience of Place, (Hart,1979), The Tone of Teaching, (van Manen, 1986), and "Seeing It Their Way: What Children'sDefinitions of Reading Tell us About Improving Teacher Education" (Bondy, 1990) offeralternative points of view to guide educators in curriculum planning and decision making.But as yet there has been little or no attempt to understand how students experience practicalcurricula, or to understand the meaning and significance that practical activities have forthem.In "Bases for Curriculum Decisions in Home Economics: From Questions to LivedPractice" Hultgren (1990) acknowledges the need for teachers, curriculum theorists and4planners to reflect on their understanding of the practical, to look at the field and to reflect onhow we have experienced and understand the practical. Hultgren suggests this is a necessarystep of re-viewing "what is," and "what has been," in order to go beyond to that which "couldbe." How can clear direction and focus of curriculum be achieved? How can the intents ofthe curriculum be met if we don't understand student experiences of the practical? It wouldseem that if curricula purposes and practices are to be defensible, we must consider not onlythe current understanding and conceptions of those that teach the curriculum, but also theunderstandings and meanings of those who experience it. The students' perspective cannotbe neglected.The focus of this research is on understanding, understanding the richness, thesignificance, and the meaning of students' practical experiences. Seeing the experiences ofthe practical through the eyes of the students will hopefully provide insight and understandinginto this often neglected perspective.Focus of the StudySpecifically the study will focus on year seven students' practical experiences inactivities in home economics and the meaning and significance of these activities for them.The research will explore the meaning that students attribute to the practical through theiractions and experiences in home economics classes.Statement of the ProblemThe research seeks insight into, and a deeper, richer understanding of the meaning ofpractical and the meaning that practical activities have for seventh year students. While thefocus of the research is on home economics, other areas of the curriculum and experiences athome unavoidably constitute students' meaning.5Research QuestionsIn exploring students' practical experiences and meaning of the practical, the followingspecific questions guide this research. The central question of this study is:What is the meaning of practical experiences for year seven students?The following questions elaborate on the central question:What school activities and experiences do students see as beingpractical?What sense, what understanding do students make of theirpractical activities?What is unique, and what is common in these experiences?What is it about these activities and experiences that constitute"practical"?In what ways is the practical pedagogical?Background and RationaleConcern for the practical has its origins with the Greek philosophers and Aristotle.During this time the practical was established as one of the three classifications of thedisciplines. The concept of practical education in schooling which has been variously knownas practical arts, manual arts and manual training has been associated with home economics inCanada for close to 100 years (Peterat & DeZwart, 1991). As the public education systemexpanded to include not just the elite, but all children, the areas known as home economics,agriculture and mechanical sciences gained recognition as school subjects. Their popularityincreased with the "new" or "progressive" education which maintained that education shouldbe relevant to the reality of the child's everyday life.The "progressivists" included William James and John Dewey who believed thatchildren were more apt to learn general principles and subsequently would be more curiousabout other applications if they had the opportunity to be actively involved with actualmaterials in concrete situations (East, 1980). But practical education was also relevant to thetimes and found support among the new industrialists and social elites as appropriateeducation for the working classes, and particularly for young women (Peterat & DeZwart,1991). These interpretations of the practical stressed the utilitarian aspects in which manualskills and application of knowledge were promoted. Within home economics Alice Chownsupported the progressivist notion of the practical, but cautioned against education for thehome that was primarily utilitarian in its appeal and consequently anti-intellectual (Brown,1985).Jesse McLenaghen put forth the view of home economics and practical education inthe 1930's as integrating knowledge, skills and attitudes from across the curriculum to betterequip individuals for life in the modern world (Peterat & DeZwart, 1991). Schooling in the1950s and 1960s was influenced by the launch of "Sputnik" and the ensuing over emphasis onscience and technology. Technology, instrumental reasoning and empiricism dominated alldisciplines including the practical where the utilitarian, product oriented and applied scienceinterpretations were emphasized.The rapid and continual changes in society and schooling have necessitated changes inhow we as teachers and curricula developers conceptualize the practical and homeeconomics. Brown's (1980) reconceptualization of the field of home economics focuses onthe perennial practical problems of families. This notion of the practical has become a basisfor the British Columbia curricula revision for home economics which emphasizes"understanding family problems in a multi-disciplinary frame-work" (Peterat & DeZwart,1991, p.58).6In the rhetoric of education there is renewed interest in the practical and thesignificance of practical learning experiences. This renewed interest is evident in thecurriculum and program revisions in Britain, the United States and British Columbia. In theprovince of B.C. new programs are organized around four strands, one of which is thepractical arts (comprised of home economics, technology education, physical education andbusiness education). Theoretically the revival of the practical in education in BritishColumbia in part supports a fundamental principle of the curriculum, that of being "learnerfocused." A key feature in the development of this learner focus is the provision of relevantcurricula and learning experiences across the four strands. Students are encouraged to be"active learners," to take responsibility for their learning, to develop critical thinking and tobe reflective. However, in reality the justifications for these practical learning experiencesremain ambiguous, reaffirming many of the historical views ranging from the utilitarian,vocational skills acquisition arguments, to arguments for a competitive labour force, as wellas for a liberal integrative education (Thomas, 1986).As a home economics educator involved in curriculum issues I am keenly aware of thetensions that the conflicting interpretations of the practical have created in education andparticularly in home economics. But what of the understanding of those whom we teach andwho experience the curriculum? If we as educators and curriculum planners experience thetensions of conflicting interpretations, what of our students? Student and parent commentssuch as: "Mrs. M . My mom wants to know what home economics has to do withfamilies?," brings forth the vivid realization that misunderstanding and misinterpretation alsoexists outside the profession. Misunderstandings such as these reveal an oversight on thepart of teachers and curriculum planners. We have overlooked how students experiencedcurricula. We need to return to those that we teach to discover and uncover the meaning of7practical for students. If curricula intends to support the concepts of active learning,reflection and critical thinking it cannot ignore students' experiences.SignificanceThis research seeks to understand students' experiences, understandings and meaningsof the practical in home economics.In theoretical terms the significance of this study lies in broadening and deepening ourunderstanding of the practical in home economics. By recognizing and understanding "whatis" we can then authentically plan our curricula and our teaching towards critical social actionand "what could be," and perhaps a reconceptualization of the practical, considerate of andattuned to students' experiences.Understanding students' experiences and bringing their meanings to our attention hasthe potential to inform better our practice as theorists, curriculum planners and homeeconomics educators. An understanding of students' experiences can facilitate thedevelopment of relevant curriculum, curriculum that is cognizant of the developmental stagesof its audience. Furthermore, this understanding of students' experiences is equally if notmore important to the implementation phases of any new curriculum, lessons or practices.Relevant curriculum that is implemented in a way that is attuned to its audience is much morelikely to achieve its intentions. In addition, the research may also have implications for thedesign and implementation of teacher education programs.8Terms of ReferencePracticalHistorically the concept of practical has had different meanings particularly in itsrelationship to education and home economics. It has been associated with utilitarianobjectives, manual activities and the application of scientific methods and principles.More recently in home economics education the practical is concerned with whatBrown (1980) and Schwab (1969) describe as "choice" "reflection" and "action on thosechoices." This appears to be a return to the original Greek interpretation of the practicaldisciplines and the forms of knowledge and reasoning that are appropriate to it. According toSchwab (1969) the theoretical deals with abstractions and representations of real things andleads to the drawing of conclusions. The practical on the other hand treats real things, realchildren and experiences and leads to the making of defensible decisions. The essence of thepractical in curriculum lies within these "experiences of actions and their consequences, toaction and reaction at the level of the concrete case" (Schwab, 1969, p.91).Brown's notion of the practical in home economics education similarly emphasizeschoice and action. The focus is on the perennial practical problems of families. Theseproblems are practical in that they are concerned with understanding and taking action aftercritical thought and reflection.Today's home economics educators have most likely been influenced by one, or more,or all of these meanings of the practical. In fact one could make the assumption that we holdmultiple views of the practical and the significance of practical activities in education. Thesedifferent views or interpretations of the meaning of practical have as Brown (1980)acknowledges created tension within the field of home economics. I personally experiencethis tension between my understanding of the practical and the significance of practical910activities in education and the understandings of many of my colleagues and students. In partit is this tension which has provided some of the impetus for this research.As an educator and researcher the meaning of the practical that I hold is based onBrown (1980), but has been further developed by Hultgren (1990). Hultgren considers thepractical in curriculum as fostering the development and practice of attitudes, behaviours andskills of interdependence, responsibility, critical thought and reflection in a modern andcomplex society.The purpose of this study is to uncover student meaning and come to a deeper, richerunderstanding of student meaning of practical experiences, and therefore any attempt at thispoint to put forth a comprehensive definition of the practical would be of little value.However, it is important to identify and make clear the understanding and the meaning of thepractical that I as a researcher and educator hold.MeaningThis study is concerned with meaning. Within the context of phenomenology meaninghas special significance and it is within this context that the term is used in this study.Meaning is more than just the definition or significance of a thing. It refers to the experienceof a phenomena and the understanding of that experience. For example, this study couldhave inquired only as to the definitions of practical that each student held. This may be quitedifferent from the descriptions that students might give as to their understanding of thepractical through their experiences. In this way a teacher can come to an understanding of"how a child meaningfully experiences or lives a certain situation" (van Manen 1990. p.183)without having the child explicitly articulate the situation and perhaps without theirawareness of these meanings. Within phenomenology this is often termed "lived meaning"(van Manen, 1990).1 1PerspectiveThe focus of this research is to understand the meanings of students' practicalexperiences. It is the experiences from their points of view or perspectives, seeing the worldwith their eyes, hearing with their ears and understanding the world from that place, from thelife world of a year seven student that I seek to understand. A student's perspective maydiffer from that of an adult or a teacher because of the different conditions which may affector influence their views. A student's perspective may be influenced by prior knowledge andprevious experiences with a phenomenon and their understanding of it. A student'sperspective may also be influenced by their expectations and anticipation of both thephenomenon and of their experiences of the phenomenon. In this sense then a student'sperspective is not only how they might view a phenomena or situation, but encompasses allthat they may bring to the experience to make sense of it.PhenomenologyPhenomenology is associated with the philosopher Edmund Husserl (Hitchcock &Hughes, 1989). "It is a philosophical position concerned to describe the phenomena ofconsciousness, that is the foundation of our common-sense-taken-for-granted assumptionsabout the social world" (Hitchcock & Hughes, 1989, p.100). Max van Manen (1990) hascontributed much to the understanding of phenomenological research and writing and itsrelation to education. He maintains that a definition or true understanding of phenomenologycan only be achieved by "doing it." However, he does characterize phenomenology through aseries of remarks. For the purposes of this study van Manen's descriptive statements willconstitute a working definition of phenomenological research.Phenomenological research is the study of lived experience.Phenomenological research is the explication of phenomena asthey present themselves to consciousness. (van Manen,1990,p.9)Phenomenological research is the study of essences. (vanManen, 1990. p.10)Phenomenological research is the description of theexperiential meanings we live as we live them.Phenomenological research is the human scientific study ofphenomena. (van Manen, 1990, p.11)Phenomenological research is the attentive practice ofthoughtfulness.Phenomenological research is a search for what it means to behuman. (van Manen, 1990, p.12)Phenomenological research is a poetizing activity. (van Manen,1990, p.13)AssumptionsIt is assumed that understanding the meanings of students' practical experiences candraw us closer to an understanding of the meaning of the practical for students. Furthermore,it is assumed that students' experiences can be articulated and the meaning of thoseexperiences constructed through conversations, stories and response journal writings.The Organization of the ThesisThe first chapter describes the context of the research and identifies the focus andpurpose of the study, its limitation and the definitions of relevant terms. Chapter twopresents a review of the relevant literature investigating the concept of the practical and itsvarious meanings in home economics education. Chapter three describes thephenomenological methodology used in this research. Chapter four consists of thedescription and analysis of the qualitative data. Chapter five is comprised of the researcher'sreflections and conclusions about the research.12CHAPTER IILITERATURE REVIEWThis chapter reviews literature relevant to the study. It includes four areas of review:1. The diverse views and meanings of the practical.2. The meanings of 'practical' in education and in home economics education.3. Related research on students' perspectives, and students' meanings.4. Using phenomenology in the search for meaning.The Origins of the PracticalThe concept of "practical" and practical education is anything but a new concept.However, it is a concept that has over the course of history been re-vitalized, reinterpretedand reconceptualized in support of economic, commercial and educational issues. Thepractical originates from Greek philosophy and Aristotle who argued that it was a distinctdiscipline that differed considerably from the theoretic and productive disciplines.Aristotle's "System of Categories of Knowledge" (East, 1980) formed the basis for thescholarly disciplines of science, art, practical wisdom, intuitive wisdom and theoreticalwisdom (East, 1980). These derived from the "five states of mind through which truth isreached" (East, 1980, p.8). These five scholarly disciplines were classified as theoretical,productive or practical disciplines (Can & Kemmis, 1986).1314For each of these classifications Aristotle described appropriate forms of knowledgeand reasoning. In the theoretical disciplines truth was reached through contemplation, "itstelos is the attainment of knowledge for its own sake" (Carr & Kemmis, 1986, p.32). In theproductive disciplines the form of knowledge considered appropriate was "poietike whichcould be best described as "making action" and is exemplified in the required skills andknowledge of a particular craft (Carr & Kenunis, 1986). "The craftsman's disposition wastermed techne, a disposition to work in a true and reasoned way according to the tales of thecraft" (Can & Kemmis, 1986, p.33). Because the productive discipline is concerned with themaking of products it has often been interpreted as practical. Many school curricula andvocational/industrial education curricula are described as practical, but are in their originalsense productive. From this productive discipline and the disposition techne we have derivedthe form of reasoning that is termed technical or means-end reasoning (Carr & Kemmis,1986).In the practical disciplines the form of reasoning was termed praxis. Praxis can beunderstood as "doing action" (Can & Kemmis, 1986). Praxis is differentiated from poietikebecause it is "informed action which, by reflection on its character and consequences,reflexively changes the knowledge base which informs it" (Can & Kemmis, 1986, p.33). InAristotle's view practical wisdom was not about how things were made, but rather thepower of deliberation about how a whole state of being can be brought into existence" (East,1980. p.8).It is this definition of the practical by Aristotle which appears to be drawn upon bySchwab (1969) in his description of the practical in education and by Brown (1980) andHultgren (1990) in home economics education. For example, Brown (1990) uses the term"deliberative action" which returns to the Aristotlean notion of action and change as a resultof reasoned reflection and deliberation.15The Practical in Education and Home Economics EducationThe "New Education" or progressivists in the late 19th century supported the inclusionof practical learning experiences in education and the inclusion of home economics as apractical discipline in public schooling. They emphasized practical learning using concreteexamples as opposed to abstract reasoning which characterized the "old education." Manualtraining was important not only for utilitarian reasons, but also for its educative and sensetraining potential (Selleck, 1968).The progressivists saw the orientation in curriculum towards the practical as fosteringthe development of the intellect. Students would be engaged in the application of generalprinciples in concrete situations and would be more likely to explore further applications andtransfer their knowledge to other situations (East, 1980). One of the proponents of this view,John Dewey had a significant influence on home economics. The "Cooking and Sewing"model is one by which home economics has come to be defined and considered as a practicalart (East, 1980). It is based on an interpretation of John Dewey's inductive reasoning model.According to Dewey practical activities such as cooking and sewing were part of a liberaleducation if they initiated and promoted both inquiry and reflection (East, 1980). Theutilitarian and vocational interests were quick to see the benefits of practical orientations incurriculum as a key to the revival of industrial and commercial competitiveness (Layton,1984). This belief that education and particularly practical education could remedy industrialmalaise originated around the turn of the century in Great Britain (Selleck, 1968) and has beenresurrected at times during the twentieth century (Layton, 1984). According to Peterat andDeZwart (1990) practical education also became "classist and sexist" (p.57) as educatorsdetermined the education that the working class was to have and the "appropriate educationfor young women" (Peterat & DeZwart, 1990, p.57).16Dewey's notion of the educational value of practical arts was subscribed to byCanadian Alice Chown among others. Chown, like Dewey saw the educational value ofpractical experiences not in the making of a product as the "end" sought, but rather in theactivity as the application of principles which then gave it "the potential to broaden theintellectual horizon" (Chown in East, 1980, p.22). However, it was the utilitarian andvocational aspects of the practical that were upheld in the early 20th century particularly byindustrial concerns. As practical education became available to an expanded public schoolpopulation there emerged the potential of providing industrializing economies with thenecessary labour force. East (1980) maintains that as this manual training aspect of practicalactivities was increasingly emphasized it was as if Dewey's inductive reasoning model hadbeen amputated, the practical experiences and manual training remained, but the notion ofdeveloping the intellectual traits, of inquiry and reflection were severed. It became as Chownhad cautioned "anti-intellectual."For women, the occupational/manual training aspect was de-emphasized in favour ofeducation for their traditional role of homemaking. This interpretation remains deeplyembedded in the current understanding of home economics and practical curriculumevidenced by the predominance of females enrolled in home economics courses. In addition,Thomas (1986) found that some of the descriptions provided by school and communityofficials continue to reflect the view of home economics as "contributing to homemakingskills" and as "something all girls should take" (p.164).The integration of the practical into the public school curriculum has been neithersmooth nor long-standing. In British Columbia it enjoyed a golden age from 1935 until about1960 with the support of Jessie McLenaghen (DeZwart, 1990). McLenaghen maintained thathome economics was practical because it drew its content from many subjects across thecurriculum to address the issues and problems of living in the times:17Practical Arts courses justify their place in a curriculum today upon the basisof social need as well as upon their cultural values to the individual, andtherefore they have attained a new status in education. They are graduallybeing regarded as a necessary agency in the development of types ofknowledge, skills, and attitudes which are increasingly necessary forsuccessful living in a new and extremely complex social and economic order.(British Columbia Department of Education, 1934-5, p.248)In a new expansionary phase of the late 1950s and early 1960s curriculum became lessintegrated and more specialized and technically oriented (DeZwart, 1990). Science andtechnology were given a high priority in the post-Sputnik era in schooling, and theinstrumental and applied approaches to practical activities were emphasized. Within homeeconomics this encouraged the use and application of scientific knowledge to the practicalactivities of everyday life (Thomas, 1986). The purpose was to control and improve theenvironment. Science and technology influenced food preparation as in "kitchen science" or"food science" courses, where educators focused on such things as the properties andfunctions of carbon dioxide gas in baking. Earlier in this century the applied science view hadalso been emphasized and was concerned with the physical and biological sciences in terms ofhealth and sanitation. Later in the 1960s the social sciences became more visible, and therewas a corresponding shift in home economics to a "focus on the family as a socialenvironment" (Thomas, 1986, p.167).Currently within home economics Hultgren (1990) considers the practical in curriculumas fostering the development and practice of attitudes, behaviours and skills ofinterdependence, responsibility, critical thought and reflection in a modern and complexsociety. In both the views of Hultgren (1990) and Brown (1985) home economics is a critical18science and with the introduction of this critical view there is a moral-ethical notion attachedto our understanding of the practical.These conceptions of home economics are consistent with one of the four historicalviews of the discipline put forth by Thomas (1986), that of "Education for HouseholdManagement" (p.171). This view is rooted within Aristotle's description of practical wisdomand households and supports "the practical as a home economics perspective" (Thomas, 1986,p.171). Underlying this view of home economics is the democratic notion of improvement orbetterment through thoughtful deliberation and planned action to determine and achieveworthy goals and states. The major concern of the "Household Management" view is withachieving a "good life" which in turn produces "good people" (Thomas, 1986, p.171). While"Household Management" reaffirms the current conception of practical as choice,deliberation and action, the term unfortunately has been misinterpreted by many who areunaware of its history. Consequently "Household Management" is frequently associated withthe view of home economics as appropriate education for women (Thomas, 1986).In recent years the concept of practical has been re-introduced into the educationalrhetoric, particularly in curriculum revisions in the United Kingdom, and in British Columbia.However, it does not appear that the concept has been clarified, nor rehabilitated to itsoriginal sense.The many and divergent views of home economics and the lack of conceptual claritysurrounding the practical as a home economics perspective has from the outset led to tensionand dichotomy within the field. There remain those from a technical rationality that holdhome economics as an applied science and support practical experiences in home economicsfor skills acquisition and vocational interests. This view of the practical is concerned with theend product or materials which have value in and of themselves. Others hold the practical inhome economics as part of a liberal arts education, supporting cultural interests and enabling19"productive action" (East, 1980, p.15). In this view of the practical the product is the meansby which one can enter into larger considerations. The material or product may not benecessary, "but the deliberation is practical, focused in moral and ethical considerations" (L.Peterat, personal communication, October, 1990). However, for the most part homeeconomics educators try to synthesize and pull together these different views to present a"coherent whole" in our K-12 home economics programs (Thomas, 1986, p.162).Public perception is equally confused. Divergent conceptualizations have affectedstudents and the community. The meaning, significance and implications of practicalexperiences in home economics are different depending on one's view of home economicsand understanding of the practical. For example, experiences in food preparation activities inclassrooms where the understanding of the practical is utilitarian and supportive of vocationalinterests may emphasize the acquisition of skill and focus on the "end product" as in a lessonon preparing and cooking meat. Whereas experiences in which the food preparation is aprocess of applying principles, of orienting student's inquiry and reflection, then the processhas the potential to enable productive or deliberative action in solving problems related tohome and family (Brown, 1985; East, 1980). For example, where the preparation of ameatless meal is part of a larger study/problem solving exercise based on questions like:"What should be done about the health risks related to animal proteins, and, what should bedone about the environmental costs of providing animal proteins?"The purpose of this review has been to establish the development and currentunderstandings of the practical in home economics. To date as Thomas (1986) suggests, thehome economics "whole" has been a synthesis of these views with differing emphases atdifferent times. However, curriculum decisions are made and planned in support of aparticular view. There has been much discussion regarding the conceptual and paradigmaticchange that home economics educators need to make to support a critical view of the20practical, but all this is accomplished from a perspective which appears disassociated with thevery foundation which gives it legitimacy, the students.Authentic and defensible curriculum, be it practical or otherwise, must be grounded,must be considerate of and attuned to those who will experience it. Understanding students'meanings of the practical, starting from their experience, forms part of the logical groundfrom which to make such curricular decisions.Related Research: Students' PerspectivesThe notion of a student's perspective is an emerging concept within education, but onethat is not yet reflected to a great extent in the literature. In today's curriculum terminologyone hears "learner-focus," "child centered" and "active learning," to describe ways in whichstudents are encouraged to become involved, responsible and reflective about their thinkingand learning. However, these concepts alone are not sufficient to describe a studentperspective.A student's perspective needs to encompass experiences, and what those experiencesare like, what meaning and significance they have. What is it like to understand something?What is it like to know? As educators and curriculum developers we often talk and thinkabout children "professionally," in theoretical language overlooking the uniqueness that eachchild brings to school. Van Manen (1990) suggests we attach theories to everything in ourlives to make sense of our world and forget "that it is living human beings who bringschemata and frameworks into being and not the reverse" (p.45).Bollnow in a phenomenological writing translated by van Manen explores the"Pedagogical Atmosphere." He defines the Pedagogical Atmosphere as all "those affectiveconditions and qualities which are necessary for the raising or educating of children to bepossible or successful" (Bollnow, 1989, p.5). In this pedagogical situation he explores theperspective of the child and the perspective of the educator and their relationship to eachother.The perspective of the child is characterized by the necessary and fundamentalpreconditions for learning. The most important of these are the pedagogical relationships oftrust and security between child and parent, and between child and educator, and the virtuesof the child. The virtues of the child are described within the context of "mood and lifefeeling" which includes cheerfulness, joy, expectation and the sense of "morning-ness"(Bollnow, 1989, p.22). Bollnow suggests that it is within the notion of "morning-ness" thatlies the significance for pedagogy, in its unique character which presents the pre-conditionson which "all future approaches to education should be based in order to be successful"(Bollnow, 1989, p.24)."Morning-ness" is that "sense of the joyful unfolding of lived time" (Bollnow, 1989,P.22). Experiencing morning is to experience a new beginning, an awakening, a freshness, abrightness towards the day. Expectation is very much a part of the "morning-ness" in achild's perspective. However, Bollnow (1989) maintains that educators "have no idea whatthe expectations with which children confront the future mean for them" (Bollnow, 1989,p.28). "Educators are usually oblivious of the often exciting expectations children cherishand they tend to plan their curriculum without any consideration- completely independent ofwhat it means for children" (Bollnow, 1989, p.28). It is "these forgotten notions, the child'ssilent ideas and questions, which connect the new concepts to life in a deeper way" (Bollnow,1989, p.28.)If curriculum is to be authentic, if it is to be truly learner focused, then it must fosterthe spirit of "morning-ness," it must be considerate of and attuned to the perspectives ofstudents, to their expectations, and to the meaning that experiences have for them. Max vanManen (1990) perhaps best summarizes the importance of the student's perspective when he21inquires, "Can classroom methodology be responsive if it does not understand the ups anddowns of one child's experience?" (p.150).Related Research: Students' MeaningsAs curriculum theorists, planners and educators we design and implement practicalactivities to attain desired learning outcomes with respect to knowledge, skills and attitudes.We make assumptions about the learning and understanding that will occur as a result of thelessons we plan. We assume that students see, know and understand as we do. Indiscussions on the principle of "understanding" McClaren (1988) notes that students do notarrive in our classes as "blank slates." "They bring with them existing ideas, past experiences,and established patterns" (McClaren, 1988 p.97). New ideas and knowledge that is presentedbecomes integrated with the established structures (McLaren, 1988, p.97). This integration isnot the same, nor does it occur in the same way for everyone. The integration may be faulty,old concepts may not be replaced, or modified. New information may be superimposed atopold, consequently, the potential for knowing and understanding differently is great.In the area of curriculum implementation the teacher is one of the key factors in thesuccess or failure of new curricula. Considerable research, inservice and pre-service traininggoes into determining what the curriculum and the changes mean for teachers (Fullan, 1982).However, we make the assumption it seems that the pre-understandings and meanings thatcurricula have for students are of no consequence. While we purport to be learner focusedand encourage students to become more actively involved in their learning, we do notadequately consider the meanings and understandings that they already hold. Similarly, Hart(1979) in Children's Experience of Place  found that "any attempts to design successfulenvironments with children should be preceded by an understanding of children's activities inand experience of the physical environment" (p.3).2223The notion of understanding the child's perspective, and meanings was also portrayedrather humourously in the movie "Big" starring Tom Hanks. Hank's character is a little boywho is granted his wish of becoming big. Trapped inside the big adult body Hanks is still thechild, a child who manages to climb the corporate ladder in the toy business. His successarose from his uncanny ability to know and understand toys and play from a child'sperspective. While "Big" was sentimental and entertaining it did make very clear the pointthat we cannot ignore the meanings, understandings and experiences of children in designingcurricula, (toys, environments).While there is considerable phenomenological research on human experience and themeaning and significance of experience, it is primarily from an adult perspective. There islittle research available that explores the perspective of the child or the young student. Theobvious difficulties surrounding the child's ability to articulate and communicate do notnegate the richness nor the value of the experiences, it does however make them much moredifficult to access. How does one understand and interpret student experience and whatthose experiences mean for them?In "Seeing It their Way: What Children's Definitions of Reading Tell us AboutImproving Teacher Education" Bondy (1990) focused on first grade students' socialconstruction of definitions of reading. Bondy (1990) used interviews and observation in aqualitative study that drew from constructivist and symbolic interactionist theory. Thestudent definitions of reading were not their own direct verbal accounts, rather they weresocially constructed from the classroom contexts, and from the types of reading activities thatwere presented. Bondy (1990) explains, "by focusing on the many classroom contexts inwhich reading occurred, I investigated 'the work that teachers and students do together toconstruct, maintain, and modify their definitions and conceptions about reading'"(p.33). For24example, "saying words," a reading related activity, became one of the children's sociallyconstructed definitions of reading.For Bondy the social construction of meanings about reading effectively overcame thedifficulty of young children trying to articulate and communicate their experiences andunderstandings. However, constructivism tended to reduce the experiences andunderstandings of reading into generalizable categories. Consequently, the "construction" ofa meaning may also make it "untrue" to the individual child's experience. While the socialconstruction of meaning may overcome the problem of articulation it may overlook theunique in children's experiences of reading.The intention in this study is to explore students' practical experiences and to describethem in their own voices. However, Bondy's work is nevertheless significant in that itprovides an alternative window through which one might explore students' experiences andmeanings. The notion of social construction of meanings could become pertinent,particularly if data from students' journals is limited (a problem that Oldham found withjournals from high school biology students).In her research "On Difficulty" Oldham (1986) gathered direct accounts from highschool students on their experiences with difficulty. The study sought to uncover themeaning of difficulty as experienced by high school biology students. The research includedparticipant observation, semi-structured interviews, written accounts and journal writing.Oldham found the phrases students used to describe their difficult experiences in biologyrevealed much about the meaning of difficulty. Experiencing difficulty was described andunderstood from a surface level within the context of the biology curriculum and at a deeperlevel as "a mode of being in the world" (Oldham, 1986, p.vi). Part of the significance ofOldham's study for this research lies in the methodology. Oldham's study demonstrates thatstudent descriptions of their experiences reveal much about the meaning of a phenomenon.25As stated by Barritt et al., (1985), "meaning resides unanalyzed in experience" and thereforeit need not be constructed.Related Research: Using Phenomenology in the Search for MeaningIn Researching Lived Experience van Manen (1990) describes a human scienceapproach (hermeneutic phenomenology) to research and exemplifies it by engaging the readerin narratives, anecdotes and conversations, thereby allowing us to reflect as teachers, parentsand educators on how we live in this world with children. While it is a methodology that maybe employed in many fields, van Manen (1990) maintains that the orientation is pedagogic.And pedagogy "is the activity of teaching, parenting, educating or generally living withchildren, that requires constant practical acting in concrete situations and relations" (vanManen, 1990, p.2). Teachers and parents acting tactfully and thoughtfully in their relationsand their living with children are in this world in a pedagogic way. A human science orphenomenological approach is sensitive and attuned to children's lived experience ("children'srealities and lifeworlds") (van Manen, 1990, p.2).van Manen's work is important to this research in that it not only explores and orientsus to lived experiences as a form of research data, but also provides a framework anddemonstrates the "how to" in terms of gathering, interpreting and writing experientialmaterial.SummaryThe review first discussed the literature on the meaning of the practical and the diverseviews and interpretations that the practical has represented over time. The review thendiscussed the meanings of 'practical' within education and particularly within home economicseducation. East (1980), Brown (1985) and Thomas (1986) maintain that there are many26divergent conceptualizations of the practical in education and home economics education andthat this has led in part to tensions within the field and confusion and misunderstandingoutside. Thomas (1986) maintains that home economics educators try to pull together andsynthesize these divergent views into their home economics programs.The third area of the review discussed related research on the student's perspective andon students' meanings. Research from other areas of education was reviewed to explore thesignificance of the student's perspective to pedagogy and what it is that constitutes a student'sperspective. Bollnow (1989) maintains that the perspective of the child is fundamental toestablishing a "Pedagogic Atmosphere" and those preconditions necessary for education.Other qualitative research was reviewed to explore the "how" of orienting oneself tohuman experience in education, how students articulated their experiences andunderstandings, and the ways in which researchers interpreted and drew meaning from thoseexperiences. Bondy (1990) investigated first grade student's socially constructed definitionsof reading and the implications of the study for teacher education. Bondy's research providesinsight into ways in which one can research student meaning when the informants may not beable to verbally articulate their definitions and understandings. Although dealing with olderstudents (Grade 12) Oldham (1986) used students' direct accounts and phrases as theydescribed difficult experiences. Oldham found the phrases to be metaphoric revealing muchabout the meaning and the significance of difficulty within the context of high school biologyand within the context of living in this world.The final area of review explored using phenomenology in the search for meaning. vanManen (1990) presents a human science or phenomenological approach to researchingexperience which is both sensitive and attuned to the realities and lifeworlds of children.Chapter IIIMETHODOLOGYThe research approach in this study is based on phenomenological assumptions. Thecentral research question is a question in search of meaning. The meaning of practical andthe significance of practical activities in the lives of students who experience them are notquestions that are observable or quantifiable phenomena, and for this reason qualitativemethods are most suited. The methodology requires an approach which constructs ordisplays meaning by way of rich description and through reflection provides greater insightinto the "ordinary" and "everyday" experiences of curriculum. In addition, the methodologyneeds to accommodate the notion of the teacher researching within the practice setting withthe intent of developing a deeper understanding through which practice may be improved.For these reasons, it was decided that a phenomenological approach would provide the bestmethodological framework in which to pursue the central research question.What is Phenomenological Research? Phenomenology is the study of the life world or lived experiences (van Manen, 1990).The phenomenon or experiences are found in the common places, the taken-for-granted inour everyday existence (Barritt, Beekman, Bleeker, & Mulderij, 1985). Phenomenology triesto capture the meaning of everyday experiences, as they are experienced pre-reflectively.2728One attempts in phenomenological research to take a fresh look, to look with new lenses atthe phenomena, for the moment suspending our categorizations and preconceived ideas. It isa search for what is essential (essence) in a particular experience, "what it is like," or thenature of the experience as opposed to a search for generality.Phenomenological questions are questions of meaning, not problems to solve.Merleau-Ponty (1962) describes an individual as condemned to meaning as one throughoutlife tries to interpret, understand and make sense of the situations we encounter. As weexperience things, we simultaneously experience the object and the meaning of the object asone (Barritt et a1.,1985). For example, a book is perceived not as a rectangular object andthen named a book, it is perceived as a meaningful object, a book. Accordingly, "meaningresides unanalyzed in experience" (Barritt et al., 1985, p.22).Phenomenological research may pose many questions, yet there are few answers. Butthe questions in and of themselves will be better and more richly understood. It isunderstanding in a new way that may allow us to act thoughtfully and tactfully as educators(van Manen, 1990).There are three main branches within phenomenology; transcendental phenomenology,existential phenomenology and hermeneutics. Transcendental phenomenology developedwith Edmund Husserl, existential phenomenology with Maurice Merleau-Ponty amongothers, and hermeneutics with Martin Heidegger (Barritt et al., 1985.). Within these branchesthere are a number of schools of thought as to what it is that constitutes phenomenology andphenomenological inquiry with the result that new methodologies such as criticalhermeneutics and phenomenography have developed.The phenomenological tradition is not a rigid methodological approach with definedboundaries and orthodox procedures, but rather, an approach with broad guidelines toaccommodate different problems and different approaches. While phenomenology lacksspecified dimensions there are three criteria that an approach claiming to bephenomenological should meet (Speigelberg, 1975):(1) A phenomenological approach must start from a direct exploration of theexperienced phenomena as they present themselves in our consciousness(2) It must attempt to grasp the essential structures of these experiencedphenomena and their essential interrelations.(3) It should also .explore the constitution of these phenomena in ourconsciousness, i.e., the way in which these phenomena take shape in ourexperience. (p.267)Why Do Phenomenological Research? In a search for meaning one needs to recognize that children are also part of socialworlds and they too are "caught in webs of meanings which are part of their language"(Barritt et a1.,1985, p.23). Acting tactfully and thoughtfully in education requires us tounderstand children's lives and to try to see and understand this world from theirperspectives. Phenomenology invites us to explore this perspective, to allow the ordinaryworld of school curriculum experiences to become extraordinary.Phenomenological research is an appropriate qualitative methodology because it seeksto uncover and bring to our awareness meanings of which we were previously unaware. Intheir discussions of phenomenology, Barritt et al. provide insight into and justification for theuse of a human science perspective in educational research:Through description, analysis, and thematic identification in interaction withinformants, one names the world. This moves the overlooked from the29background to the foreground, making it possible for critical reflection to leadto understanding and to change. (Barritt et al., 1985, p.69)Phenomenology studies the nature of everyday experiences and situations rather than"a set of pre-selected variables" (Barritt et al., 1985, p.24), and therefore the studies arecontext bound (Barritt et al. 1985).On Objectivity and SubjectivityPhenomenological studies are subjective; there is no alternative. They study eventsthat are "personal and private" (Barritt et al., 1985). The goal is to describe the phenomena,to name the world as it is experienced by those that are in that world. It is assumed thatthrough description the phenomena will become more clearly, more deeply understood andthat the description might be plausible to the reader bringing forth a common or sharedunderstanding of the experience.On the other hand, objective experiences are in a sense impersonal and "public events"(Barritt et a1.,1985, p.61) as the experience is for everyone. The individual or the uniqueaspect of an experience is not important, but rather, the parts of the experience that can beagreed upon by those that were present. For example, one person's feelings and reactions toa particular painting in an art exhibition is a personal and private event. The description ofthat person's experience of the painting is subjective, but may well be shared by others. Thissame example as an objective experience would be concerned with the fact that an artexhibition featuring a particular artist occurred at a particular place, day and time, aspects ofthe experience that all who were present could agree upon.Some of the criticism of phenomenological studies suggests that their subjective naturemakes them untrustworthy (Barritt et al., 1985). While they rely upon the personal reportsand stories of informants and the interpretation and judgement of the researcher, that is not to3031say that there are no boundaries or standards. Phenomenological studies must be rigorous.They must provide an interpretive description of some aspect of experience in its fullest andtruest sense. It must be true to the experience of the informant and must ring true to thereader. Phenomenological studies also must exhibit the "bounds of common sense, of fairargument and of honest prose" (Barritt et al., 1985).On GeneralizationPhenomenological research seeks the uniqueness and enlarging of a particularexperience rather than a reductive generality which is the common pursuit within theempirical tradition (or mode) of research. Phenomenological research ascribes to a differentmeaning of generality. It is that which occurs from the "shared understanding of anexperience that the researcher describes and the reader responds to" (Barritt et al. 1985,p.26). For example, when the description of an experience brings forth from the reader, "Ifelt that," or "I understand that," or "I can appreciate the possibility of that," then generality isachieved.The Phenomenological Research Method van Manen (1990) discusses a human science research method as an interplay betweenthe following research activities which loosely constitute a phenomenological researchmethod:(1) turning to a phenomenon which seriously interests us and commits us tothe world;(2) investigating experience as we live it rather than as we conceptualize it;(3) reflecting on the essential themes which characterize the phenomenon;(4) describing the phenomenon through the art of writing and rewriting;(5) maintaining a strong and oriented pedagogical relation to the phenomenon;(6) balancing the research context by considering the parts and whole. (p.30)On LanguageThe language of phenomenological research is the language of the everyday world as itseeks to understand the unique in ordinary experiences (Barritt et al., 1985). Inphenomenology there needs to be an attentiveness to language and precision in its use. It isthrough language that we come to understand our experiences and share with others in thatunderstanding. Heidegger states that "it is language that tells us about the essence of a thing"(1954, p.324), but even language has its limitations and we must be wary of its own essence.For example, a particular experience may not be captured in its original sense with thelanguage available. However, the language that is used by the informant to try to describethat experience may have an essence of its own, reflective of the time, and the world fromwhich it derived.Research SettingIn an effort to come to a richer understanding of student meaning of the practical Ichose to work within my own classroom. The school is a middle school comprised of yearssix, seven and eight and is located in a small town on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.The school population is about 500 students. The students come from backgrounds that areethnically very homogeneous, but economically, socially and politically tend to be verydiverse. Many of the communities on Vancouver Island and in our district have developeddistinctive reputations based on their positions on issues such as the environment, peace,development and alternative lifestyles. Many of these attitudes are evident in our studentpopulation.The school itself is an old structure that does not lend a very good first impressionaside from some spectacular views of the Strait of Georgia and Mt. Arrowsmith. Though the3233school has been slated for either renovation or demolition since 1980, at present no decisionhas been made. The structure remains, the school functions, and what the facility lacks inaesthetics it makes up for in terms of the programs and services offered. It has been therecipient of an Intermediate Program Developmental Site Grant for two consecutive years.The grant moneys were used to develop and sustain an Interdisciplinary Teaming Project.Year seven students participating in this research have had considerable exposure to theInterdisciplinary Teaming project both in their year six classes as well as in this year seven.The Teaming Project has few if any implications for this study except for the fact that thestudents are familiar with guests in the classroom, and are comfortable with observers andwith talking to visitors about their activities in the classroom and school environment.The middle school philosophy promotes the notion of a gradual transition from theelementary to the secondary school. This is accomplished by decreasing degrees of homebasing of classes from year six through to year eight. Year seven students are homebasedfrom 75% to 80% of their timetable. This means that their home economics class is one ofthe few opportunities for many students to see and work with friends not in their homeroom.This can enhance the popularity of courses such as home economics because students canplan their practical arts choices with friends. It also can lead to some interesting classroomsituations.The Research GroupThe entire research group was comprised of two year seven classes. The conversationgroup was a group of individuals selected from one of the year seven classes. The decisionabout which class the conversation group would be drawn from was based on timetableconsiderations. The class that was chosen met on Tuesdays and Fridays for a 47 minuteperiod in the final term of the year. The term began at the end of March and extended twelve34weeks until the middle of June. On Tuesdays I had a preparation period prior to the classwith recess following, and on Fridays the class was just before lunch which afforded someextra time for set-up, note taking and reflection.Students are timetabled into home economics for two blocks per week for one term of12 weeks. For the other two terms they have choices of technology, computers, industrialeducation, art, drama and choir. Because there are six year seven classes and two separatesections of home economics, students will participate in their home economics classes withmembers from two other divisions. In effect, in each term there are new classes constitutedfor the practical arts courses. In this final term, year seven classes met on Tuesdays andFridays while the other section met on Mondays and Wednesdays. Almost all students inHome Economics seven would have had home economics in year six and would likely befamiliar with some of the classroom procedures and content.The research group was forty-four students drawn from six year seven divisions.There were 28 girls and 16 boys. The classes were extremely active and vocal. Ashomerooms the classes had been involved in a number of proactive and community projectsand were quite comfortable and vocal in class discussions and activities. They represented awide range of abilities, personalities and socio-economic backgrounds. The students werekeen to take home economics, for a variety of reasons. However, cooking seemed to figurelarge in the decisions of many individuals. Like all year seven students this group wasanxious to "do" and to "make" things reflected by their comments on the first day of class:"Do we get to cook anything today"?The Conversation GroupThe students were selected from the Tuesday/Friday year seven co-educational homeeconomics class. Letters were sent out to all parents of students in this class requesting their35consent for students to participate in this study. Eight students were to be chosen from theclass to interview or engage in conversation about their experiences with the practical. Everyeffort was made to choose eight students that represented diversity within the class so as togain as broad and deep an understanding of the students' perspectives as was possible giventhe class. Unfortunately, return of the consent letters dictated to some degree the choice ofthe eight. There was a disappointing return of eleven of twenty-four issued and of thoseeleven one was negative. Consequently, of the eight students that I had initially identified asoffering some diversity in terms of background, culture and gender, only four were able toparticipate. The balance was then made up by individuals I had previously identified assecond or third choices.Three boys and six girls made up the conversation group. The boys were Tim, Jackand Roy; and the girls were Linda, Kathy, Mary, Ann, Carol and Lana (names have beenchanged). A brief description of these nine students follows.Tim is a small boy for his age and very quiet and thoughtful. He is a bus student froma rural area well•known for its proactive community spirit. Through conversation Timindicated his and his family's interest and concern over environmental and health issues. Atone point he commented, "We don't even have a microwave; my parents are totally againstthem."Jack is large for his age and has a very easy-going manner. He could be characterizedas the class comic as he manages to joke about everything. He is very vocal in both hissupport and objections to various issues that arise in discussion. Jack was not one of thestudents that I had originally intended to have in the conversation group primarily because hisfather is an educator in the same district, is also working on his Masters Degree in education,and is a friend of mine.36Roy is a very enthusiastic student and a chatterbox. He is average to above average inacademics and works well in a group. He is always cheerful and easily excited and lacks alittle of the maturity of the other boys in the class. He was chosen primarily because of hisinteresting response journal entries.Linda is an enthusiastic and involved student. She is well thought of by her peers andteachers. Academically, Linda is one of the stronger students in the school and a movingforce on the student's council. Both of Linda's parents are professionals and are activemembers of the local Parent Advisory Council.Kathy is a new student to the school. She appears to be strong academically and isquite articulate as evidenced by her response writing. Although new, she has adjusted andsettled into her year seven class with few problems. She was chosen because in coming fromanother school in the province it is quite likely that her experiences (if any) in homeeconomics might be quite different. Her perspective I thought would be helpful to theresearch adding a new or fresh view.Mary is an outspoken student. She is very confident and very verbal. She is not afraidto ask questions or to question the reasons behind activities and lessons. She is quite willingto take risks and to experiment with new ideas. She is very bright, but appears to lack a"stick to it ness."Carol is a quiet, friendly and cooperative student. She is average in her academicabilities. She is a bus student and from the north end rural area which is characterized as alower socio-economic area. Carol was chosen because of her responses and because I feelthat she is the type of student that can be overlooked in a classroom, going about herschoolwork quietly, without drawing any attention to herself.Ann is a very caring and cooperative student. She is above average in her academicability and is really enthusiastic. Originally Ann was a second choice for this study partly37because she lives in town, is academically strong and is also very close friends with Mary. Totry to maintain a gender balance I was hoping that a male student would be available.However, that not being the case I had to go to second choices. As with all the students Igot to know Ann a lot better through the course of our conversations and I found hercontributions very interesting and am consequently very pleased that she participated in thestudy.The ninth student to participate was Lana. Lana is a pleasant and enthusiastic student.She tries to do everything to the best of her ability and is stubborn in her determination to dowell. She is a very thoughtful and articulate student and provided us with some interestinginsights. Lana was not originally identified as part of the conversation group. However, verysoon into the start of the research there were a number of absentees and Lana was keen toparticipate, and consequently became a regular contributor regardless of the absenteesituation.Sources of DataResponse Journals. There were a number of sources of data for this research. One large source of datawas the response journals of both the year seven classes. Response journals are part ofregular class room procedures at our middle school and students are becoming familiar withtheir use in language arts. Response journals or "Readers Journals" have been used in thelanguage arts area for some time, where they are a method of capturing a student's initialresponses to literature. The purpose of response journals is "to encourage students todevelop the habits that research has shown successful readers have such as predicting,looking forwards and back for connections, reflecting and speculating" (Terpening, 1992,p.8). Journal writing is an approach that is consistent with the notions of "active learning" as38described in the B.C. Intermediate Program Document, however, its value goes beyondliterature. Response journal writing is a method that could have wide application in manyareas of the curriculum encouraging students to reflect on activities, their meaning andsignificance, to look for connections to other disciplines and aspects of their lives, and toevaluate their participation and understanding in an activity. [Written response journal entrieswere collected from all students (approximately 44) on four occasions following specific unitsof study in home economics classes in the last 12 week term. Though the students had theoption of remaining anonymous, most put their names on their responses.]In terms of the current research, all year seven home economics students completedResponse Journal activities. The first Response Journal activity asked students to recordtheir thoughts and feelings about their activities for the last week of March 1992 using"Response Starters" (see Appendix A). The second response journal activity followed a foodsafety unit and required short paragraphs that began again with "Response Starters" (seeAppendix B). The third journal entry was collected in mid May and required students toreflect and write about their activities and learnings in home economics to date in the term(see Appendix C). The final journal activity asked students to reflect on their homeeconomics experiences of the past two years and to write what they liked about the courses,their thoughts on the purpose of home economics and their understanding of practical andhome economics as a practical school subject (see Appendix D).The responses can be utilized in many ways by teachers, parents and the studentsthemselves. Responses can be used to assess comprehension, to construct, share andnegotiate meaning. They can be used to initiate, develop and sustain the writing process.Responses are also valuable to the development of inquiry and critical thinking skills as wellas for valuing and evaluating.39For teachers, response journals provide valuable insight into student's comprehension,thinking skills and learning styles. They are also invaluable to lesson planning and evaluation.Response journals could be considered formative evaluation allowing teachers to adjustteaching, and to emphasize or de-emphasize concepts.In home economics the purpose of the response journal is to provide the students withthe vehicle and the time for reflection on their own learning and understanding. Throughreflection students will hopefully see the significance/insignificance in their lives of thelearning and activities, as well as connections to other parts of their lives, such as home andfamily. Students may also use the response journal as an evaluative tool for self, group,teacher, and/or course, reflecting on their participation, strengths and areas needingimprovement and preparing or planning for change.The use of student response journals as data for research into home economics is anew concept that may have been first initiated with this particular research. It is, however,not unlike other journal writing except that perhaps it can be more subject and activityspecific.The data that was collected from the journals was used in a number of ways. First thedata alone provided a window into the perspective of a year seven student in middle schoolhome economics. Secondly, it provided the backdrop for the conversations, uncoveringsome of the commonly held notions and in a sense validating the themes, notions and issuesthat emerged from the conversational data. And finally response journals identified some ofthe unique issues and questions that could be pursued by way of conversations to further theunderstanding of students' perspectives.On each occasion following a journal activity I would review the responses andhighlight interesting and/or unique comments, commonly held points of view, thoughts that40needed clarification or that students in the conversation group might be able to elaborate on.For example, consider the following early response journal entry:Roy: I enjoy the way the teacher lets us do everything.Roy later became a member of our conversation group. It was one of those types ofcomments that I felt needed clarification both for this research and for job security.Consequently, in our conversation group I asked what was meant by the statement. Royexplained his response and the context from which it was made. Others in the group seemedto have little difficulty with the language of the statement. There was it seemed anintuitiveness about the meaning as they willingly contributed comments and examples tofurther my own understanding. It reminded me of the saying and its many variations, "I knowyou think you know what I said, but you know it is not what I meant." Language,articulation or its lack thereof, may prove significant in this study.From a phenomenological point of view I couldn't be sure that one individual'sthoughts, ideas, and attitudes would be representative of all the year sevens, nor was Iexpecting that to be the case. However, although consensus was not necessary in thisresearch it was reassuring to find that some of the notions, ideas and themes were held incommon by the conversational group and the rest of the year seven classes.Student Conversations. In addition to response journals, semi-structured interviews (conversations), were heldon four occasions with nine students. There were four students in one group and five in thesecond group. Each conversation group met separately with me on three occasions and thefourth meeting was with all nine students for pizza and windup discussions. The dates of themeetings were; May 12th and 15th, May 19th and 22nd, June 9th and June 12th with thewindup party on June 16th. We met lunch hours for approximately 25 minutes. Students41were encouraged to bring their lunches and I supplied some soft drinks and cookies.Generally the conversations were initiated by a question or two to stimulate some thoughtand discussion and then students would answer, comment, and discuss the particular questionor issue. On some occasions there would be much round table discussion, comments andjokes with little prompting from myself, and at other times the students would comment oranswer more directly. They were encouraged to reminisce and relate anecdotes and stories toillustrate their points or issues and a number of "stories" did emerge. I would have liked tohave had more conversations, but our year seven students were extremely busy at term endwith four day camping trips, band trips and field trips.The central question of this study was, What is the meaning of practical experiencesfor year seven students? The following questions are a sample of the types of questions thatwere used to initiate conversations. These questions derive from the central question and arean attempt to begin to draw from the students their sense, their understanding of theirexperiences in home economics as a way to uncover the meaning that practical has for them.It was hoped that each of these questions would reveal a new layer and would begin touncover that which is essential about the practical for these students.(1) What do you like about courses such as home economics?(2) What kinds of things do you like doing in this class?(3) Why do you like these?(4) What activities do you like the most?(5) What is "good" about this or that activity?(6) What is the experience like?(7) What are your feelings when you are doing this?(8) What is important to you about this activity?(9) Will you use this again?(10)Is this like anything you do at home or out of school?(11) What do you see as the purpose of these activities?(12) What does practical mean to you?(13) What is practical about this experience or that experience?(14) What activities/ experiences would you describe as practical? Why?42The conversations were audio-taped and transcribed as soon as possible after school.I also kept a journal that started before the data collection stage and was maintainedthroughout the research and writing stages. I used my journal to record my thoughts,worries, concerns and questions as the data collection proceeded. I recorded descriptionsand perceptions of my students and analyzed and commented on their conversationshighlighting thoughts and notions that might be of significance. The journal was also usefulwhen on one occasion there was a tape recording problem and a number of minutes ofdialogue were lost. Students recapped for me their comments and I wrote them in myjournal. The journal was also used to do some preliminary speculation as to the themes thatappeared to be emerging from the research. During the analysis and the writing stages it wasused to record my reflections and possible recommendations for the final chapter.CHAPTER IVTHE MEANING OF THE PRACTICALThose who absorb themselves in their children's experiences oflearning to read, to write, to play music, or to participate in anykind of in or out of school activity whatsoever, are struck bythe staggering variability of delight and rancor, difficulty andease, confusion and clarity, risk and fear, abandon and stress,confidence and doubt, interest and boredom, perseverance anddefeat, trust and resentment, children experience as commoneveryday occurrences. (van Manen, 1990, p.150)This variability quite aptly describes how early adolescents experience the world. Theworld of the early adolescent is a complex world, one that is increasingly unfamiliar to adults(except perhaps for vague recollections of having visited "once upon a time"...). Anadolescent's experience of events and activities, their meaning and significance while differentis no less important than that of the adult. There is much to learn from the experiences ofyouth in educational activities, and as Connolly (1990) concurs, more studies are needed thatseek to understand the world and the worlds of education from the early adolescent student'sperspective.What is the meaning of year seven students' practical experiences? As I explored thisquestion with my students I was alternately panicked and then reassured. Panicked! Will Ibe able to collect sufficient data? It remains a question. And when conversation andresponse journal data emerged there was reassurance and then panic again. Panic becausethese year seven students didn't respond as philosopher kings, but they did respond and ittook me some time to put aside my panic, to put aside my expectations and to recognize and4344to see the world of home economics, of the practical through an eleven year old's eyes. I hadto and still have to continually orient myself to their perspective, to those things that mattermost in the eyes of these students.Do you remember what it is like to be eleven in public school? A time when new"back to school" jeans were suddenly too short before school even started. A time whenthere was never enough food, milk or bubble gum to stave off the hunger pains between afterschool and dinner. A time of heightened sensitivity, when friendships could be forged orpermanently severed with one careless glance. And teachers forever scorned for failure tonotice the absence of orthodontic hardware. It is an age where causes and love are enteredinto with fervor and short, but unswerving loyalty. However, parents and family are oftennot identified as one of those causes. It is also a time when the gruesome, the macabre, the"Freddy on Elm Street" command more thought provoking conversation than a homeeconomics teacher inquiring about the meanings of experiences with the practical; hence mypanic.It is the perspective of these students, their understanding of the experiences of thepractical that I set about to research. Through conversations and written response journalsfrom March through June in 1992 I tried to come to a sense of their understanding ofexperiences in home economics and to look at them in light of my own understandings andpedagogy. And it seems that in a sense we share in adolescence, I with my pedagogy, andthey with their being.Home economics is a practical subject and my own understanding of the "practical"has been evolving and maturing through my career and my studies. It is an issue which tothis day is divisive of home economics education, and I was curious as to how my studentsunderstood the practical. I wanted to get a sense of what was important, what was essential45to their experiences in home economics. At first I intentionally avoided inquiring about themeaning of practical, and only well into the study did I broach the topic.Connolly (1990) in her dissertation "Asking After the Lived Experiences of and withDifficulty in Physical Activity in the Lifeworlds of Children and Young People" describeswhat emerged from her interviews as a "constellation of difficulty" (Connolly, 1990, p.87).The terminology is thought provoking for without delving into the substance of thedissertation I am immediately struck by the description of the interview data as aconstellation. As I review my own data I see as van Manen's quote suggests an incrediblevariability in children's experience. In my minds eye a constellation has an outline, a shape inthe sky, clearly defined with key points formed by brilliant stars. Constellations are easilyrecognized like the Big Dipper, Little Dipper and the Southern Cross.The metaphor of a constellation is not one that describes the data I've collected on thepractical. Perhaps the best descriptor to frame the practical from the student's perspectivewould be that of a collage, because a collage is composed of ideas, notions, attitudes,pictures, and emotions. A collage, ill defined as yet, with fuzzy edges, but overflowing,expanding beyond the borders with potential, possibility and energy, much like the earlyadolescent. Thoughts, ideas and feelings are juxtaposed somewhat haphazardly on thiscanvas, but it is hoped that a composition will emerge that will capture the uniqueness ofpractical experiences from the students' perspectives at this particular point in time.It's FunIn this collage many ideas surfaced that describe students' experiences of the practicaland their understanding of these experiences. One of the notions that was extremelyimportant to these year seven students was the notion of "Fun." In the conversation groupRoy tried to describe for us his idea of fun in home economics.46Roy: I wouldn't like to lose courses such as home economicsbecause I like them and you do learn allot in a fun way. Schoolisn't always fun, but it is fun for these courses.In asking about their experiences in home economics invariably responses, whetherconversational or written, mentioned the notion of fun, enjoyment and/or pleasure. My firstreaction was guilt; I wanted to close the classroom door and erase the tape. Why does funfigure so prominently in their discussions? How can they be really learning? How can I bedoing my job if they are having fun? I found it disconcerting. However, since "fun" was sooverwhelmingly identified with their home economic experiences I was reluctantly obliged toexplore the notion further.What makes courses such as home economics fun? What is it about these experiencesthat brings enjoyment? Are fun and enjoyment critical to education? As our conversationsunfolded it became apparent that it was a certain kind of fun, of enjoyment that wasimportant to their experiences in home economics. It wasn't the exhilarating fun of a ride atthe fair or the amusement provided by the clown in the circus. Rather these students spokeof en-joy-ment, the joy in, the taking delight in and the pleasure they derived from theirexperiences. They spoke of the en-joy-ment from activities that are hands on, when they areengaged in learning with friends in activities that allow them to try, to do, and to explore.Some of the members of the conversation group were quick to elaborate on their en-joy-ment.Roy: I like courses such as home economics and shop becauseyou get to do things with your hands, and I feel good when I'mdoing them.Ann: It's fun because I enjoy what I make.Kathy: It's less structured. You don't have to write aboutthings we do. It is more fun. I have the opportunity to talkand mix with friends. Sometimes we talk about other stuff, butmost of the time we talk about what we're doing in class.Linda: I enjoy the group I'm with because we know each otherwell. It's fun because we are given a thing to do and we workon it by ourselves.Response Journals: It's fun. I like making different things.I like hands on stuff-it's better than just sitting.It's fun because it's real, like you get to see what 125 millilitrereally looks like.What is wrong with having fun, with taking delight or joy in classroom activities? Arefun and learning incompatible? And why is it that teachers feel guilty and want to conceal orde-emphasize the notion of fun in practical activities?Joy is an important quality of life. Cheerfulness, joy, laughter are essential qualities ofmood and life feeling. These according to Bollnow (1989) are often overlooked in education,but have far reaching consequences. The joy that characterizes unrestricted play, activity,productive work, the enjoyment that arises from the sense of power and accomplishmentcontributes positively to the growth of the child. Joy then has the power to open the studentto the world. "Joy leads the person to gain interest in his or her surroundings and soexperience joy in his or her own activities" (Bollnow, 1989, p.19).For Roy, Ann and Linda their enjoyment arises out of their feelings of beingproductive, their sense of accomplishment. For Kathy the lack of a rigid structure allowedher to take pleasure in sharing thoughts and ideas in the company of her friends. Fun (joy) ofthis nature hardly seems incompatible with education: rather it appears to be fundamental toit. Somewhere, somehow between year one and year twelve (if we are to listen to what ourstudents are saying), education seems to lose much of that enjoyment. As Bollnow (1989)suggests:It is in the nature of education to be oriented to learning and schoolworkin a conscientious, orderly and disciplined manner, in contrast to free play47which sponsors joyful laughter and other signs of unrestricted childhoodwhich tend to be clumsily smothered by the serious attitude of education.(p.21)Roy: School isn't always fun, but it is fun for these courses.Jack: Courses like home economics give us breaks fromregular schoolwork.Were Roy and Jack through their comments identifying the practical as one area,different from "regular" schoolwork where students are encouraged to take pleasure in theirproductive activities and accomplishments, to have fun and to open themselves to the worldof potential and possibility? In that sense then shouldn't all schoolwork, all subjects bepractical?JM: Why should we keep courses such as home economics inpublic schooling?Mary: If they took these courses away we'd have nothing tolook forward to every day.. its practically all I look forward toare my electives.I Can Do It Again At HomeAnother theme that characterizes students' experiences of the practical is that of "I cando it again at home." At first, I superficially interpreted this notion as it presented itself to mein the conversations.Ann: I like things like cooking and making food. I learn stuffthat I can make at home, like when we learned how to makepeanut brittle and my dad loves peanut brittle. He wants me tobring the recipe home.Response Journals: I will make hamburgers for dinner onenight because my dad will appreciate it.48I like home economics because you're learning for what youcan do at home now.Preparing meals is important because it is something you cantake home.This is after all what we as educators strive for, the transference and application oflearning from one situation to another. I look at these statements, I listen to the students andI get a sense that students feel that having explored and experimented with a concept withinthe classroom context and having incorporated that learning into their lives they can nowtransfer that learning to new situations, specifically their home environment. The new orchanged behaviour, the knowledge, or skill will not only be appreciated by others, but also itseems to enhance their regard within the family.However, intertwined within this theme of "I can do it again at home" are two otherrelated and very important issues or sub-themes. The first is simply that of competence, "Ican" and the second one of permission, "I can/ may," or "I am allowed."One of the important concepts in education and particularly in adolescent developmentis that of self-esteem. How we see ourselves, value ourselves and understand ourselves arenow considered critical issues for educators. There are hundreds of educational programsavailable that are designed to enhance self-esteem in the learner and teacher alike. Self-esteem is a major component of programs written into the current curriculum for homeeconomics, family management and learning for living. In addition, many schools provideadditional programs to enhance the development of self esteem such as Skills forAdolescence. How we see ourselves and define ourselves is in terms of "what we are," "whatwe know," "what we do," "what we can do," "what we think " etc. Acquiring skills andknowledge, being competent and even good at something is important to one's feelings ofself-worth. Both the conversation group and the response journals mentioned the "good"feelings they got from their accomplishments as an important aspect of practical experiences.49JM: It seems that in these courses you like making things.Roy: Yeah, because of how you feel when you see that youmade it with your own hands, you feel quite proud.Mary: I have learned to cook for myself and my family orwhen I am bored and hungry. It is useful because I can cookmyself and enjoy what I make.Ann: You get a satisfaction out of it because you made it... weare proud of ourselves when it is finished and it is efficient andeffective.Roy: I like these courses because you're expandingeverything.... your knowledge.Response Journals: I have learned that cooking isn't asfrightening or as hard as I thought.I like to be able to take care of myself.I like the food we make because I make it and I know I can.These attitudes, the "I can" and "I am able to" are important milestones in our life'sjourney. I use the term milestones for many of these abilities mark significant points in ourlives. The passing of a milestone allows one to enter into new and different worlds,broadening the horizon and bringing the future closer. Each milestone demands new anddifferent knowledge, skills and responsibilities, but also marks the journey into a world thatoffers more opportunity. Surpassing a milestone marks a time at which we can re-define whoand what we are and where we look forward to an ever-broadening horizon of what we canbecome.As educators, have we lost touch with this aspect of the student's perspective, withunderstanding "what it is like to learn, to know, to be able"? Have we forgotten the elation,the pride, the empowerment that came with learning to read? The horizons it opened, theopportunities it provided. One can be re-defined, "I am a person who can read." I can read5051even that which is not intended for me. I can read instructions, but so enabled have theresponsibility to heed them.In our conversation group we had fun discussing our memorable practical experiences.My intent was to try to get a sense of their feelings in these experiences, "what it is like."Lana recounted for us her determination, exasperation and finally button-busting pride inlearning how to tie her shoelaces. For Ann it was learning how to ride her two wheeler.Although Ann didn't elaborate much on the process, she did provide some interesting insightinto the feelings one has at accomplishing or mastering something.Two-WheelingAnn had been riding a bike with training wheels for sometime, but was not confidentenough to go without them. She was envious of her older brother who had much moremobility with his bike and who didn't hesitate to tease Ann about her training wheels. What isparticularly wonderful about Ann's recollection is her pride, her sense of self worth and herwanting the whole world and especially her brother to recognize her passing that milestone.Ann: My brother and everyone except my mom was either atschool or at work when I finally managed without the trainingwheels. It was really important that I show my big brother andhis friends that I could ride without those wheels. So I rodeand rode up and down and around my street all afternoon untilhe came home from school. I was afraid to stop and get off incase I wouldn't be able to do it again.Ann's story is a simple story of one milestone in her life. But it is a story which takesus back into our own life and our own milestones. It makes us remember that learningsomething new can be difficult and frightening. Realistically it is no mean feat to learn to ridean object which is 48 inches long, 32 inches high and contacts the ground in only two places.It is imperative that one stay balanced and upright, which can only be achieved by continuousmotion, pedaling. Add to this seemingly impossible task the physical realities of childhood,able only to pedal perhaps half of the circumference necessary unless standing, and unable yet52to grasp the concept and coordination of feet, pedals, position, lean, and timing to apply thebrakes. Yet now we have the audacity to jibe, "It's as easy as riding a bike."What Ann's story did for me was to bring forward the memories, the feelings of pride,of power, accomplishment, and grownup-ness associated with being able to... and howimportant it is to education to build, maintain and preserve those feelings of self-worth. Inthis sense the notion of "I can do it again at home" becomes much richer. It is not astatement of fact that something can be redone at home like a spelling list. It is an assertivestatement of self. "I am a capable person." "I have the ability to make a meaningfulcontribution to this family." From a student perspective their understanding of the practicaland the significance of practical learning experiences in their lives appears to be not unlike thenotions of Brown (1980). Both recognize the capacity of the practical to "enable," to"empower," to "become."The other aspect of "I can do it again at home" has to do with the notion ofpermission, that is, being allowed to.Jack: Courses like home economics are important becausewhen I'm home alone or whatever I can cook for myself insteadof ordering in pizza. My mom doesn't let me touch anything.I'm only allowed to cook microwave stuff.From student conversations and response journals I developed a sense that parents feelthat once their children have experimented and completed projects at school that there arenow grounds for permission to be allowed to try it at home. Teachers often hear commentslike Jack's about not being able to touch equipment at home until after first report card sothat parents are somewhat reassured that disaster is not imminent.Mary: I wanted to make some macaroni one time when myparents were out. I asked my older sister to help me but shewouldn't. I got really mad and set out to do it by myself. I puta bunch of water in the pot together with the package ofmacaroni and I put it on the stove, on high. Soon the waterand macaroni started to boil and foam. It boiled over andeverything boiled over onto the stove. I wrecked the stove.We had to get a brand new stove. I was crying and stuffbecause I really didn't know what I did. For quite awhile Iwasn't allowed to make anything for myself if no one wasthere.In The Tone of Teaching (van Manen, 1986) discusses how the school like the homehas the special and unique responsibility of providing both the time and the space to allowchildren to explore the larger world without becoming part of it.On the one hand school is a protective enclave, a shield against variousrealities for which children are not yet ready. On the other hand it is a placewhere the private and personal space of home is expanded to take in largerpublic or community space. In this sense the school mediates between homeand the larger world. (van Manen,1986, p.33)"I can do it again at home" or Jam now allowed to do suggests that through thepractical activities of home economics students have the opportunity to experiment andexplore concepts, issues and products that are associated with the larger adult world. Thereis little threat or risk from within this protective enclave. They can try on, experiment withroles, attitudes, ideas and products in a very adult way.Response Journal: The learning in home economics isdifferent from other courses because- well, you actually get totry things you do like cooking and helping others.Practical activities in a sense provide the opportunities for students to enhance self-esteem, by enabling and empowering. It allows students to play a meaningful and productiverole within the family, as in "I can do this again at home" and offers, or "allows" the potentialfor larger opportunities and greater freedoms. Risk and the prospect of failure in the adultsense are not deterrent factors in this world which may serve to enhance their enjoyment and5354delight in such activities. One student in the final response journal entry spoke to this notionof risk.Response Journal: I feel that I like this course because I maytell my feelings.Home economics is different from other courses because inhome ec you can say what you think and not be embarrassed ifyou are wrongBuilding Trust. Becoming Responsible. Beginning Independence. Closely connected to the notion of "I can do it again at home" are the notions ofbuilding trust, becoming responsible and developing independence. Trust, responsibility andindependence are three very important and related issues in the social development ofadolescents. In conversation students commented that they weren't "allowed" to do thingsbecause they weren't trusted. Through these conversations and Response Journal writingsstudents spoke of allot of frustration with what they perceived as the lack of trust the adultworld placed in them. It is a difficult issue and one I'm sure that adolescents, parents andteachers will wrestle with until the end of time. However, in the view of these students,practical experiences in school and in home economics were seen as positive steps in buildingtrust, responsibility and developing independence between themselves and the adult world.In our conversation group and in the response journals students often described theirexperiences in home economics class as having "more freedom."Roy: You're not as supervised in these courses. You kind ofdo your own thing. You get a project and you just do it insteadof the teacher always checking up on you.Jack: I think teachers put more trust in you in these classes.I learned that some teachers actually trust their students not tofool around.55Student Comment: My mother trusts me now. She will letme work alone in the kitchen. (Prior to commencing thisresearch I visited another middle school home economics classand was engaged in discussions with a number of students.The above comment I recorded from those discussions).The nature of and the quest for trust was perhaps best revealed to me from a surprisesource. Tim was a participant in the conversation group. He is quiet and as I discoveredvery perceptive. I first met Tim in the Fall of 1990. He was one of those tiny year sixstudents that was no where near adolescence and seemed so out of place in the middleschool. It is not that the middle school is bad, it was just that Tim seemed too small, toovulnerable, and too quiet, to weather those first weeks. I remember speaking to StudentServices (counselors), afraid that he might be one of those students who slips through thecracks and becomes a casualty of the system for no other reason than being quiet, sensitiveand unobtrusive. My fears were probably exaggerated as Tim was quite successful inadapting to middle school life. This year I was delighted to find that he had again chosen totake home economics and felt that he might have a unique perspective to give on the practicalif he could be included in the conversation group. However, at first his mother wouldn'tconsent to his participation, but later in the week Tim sought me out to explain she hadthought the letter of permission referred to his younger brother who was already involved intoo much. Tim now had permission and was able to join our group.Tim really enjoys the practical arts courses like home economics and although othersin the group related similar descriptions and feelings he was one of the few that seemed to beable to capture those feelings and experiences so clearly.Tim: I guess I like these courses because I have more of aresponsibility here. You see my dad has a workshop at homeand my mom loves to cook, but they treat me like a little babyand here I get to do what I want56The frustration was evident in his voice. I didn't take issue with his statement aboutgetting to do what he wanted because I realized from my observations of his classroommanner and efforts in the past two years that it wasn't the "I can do anything I want withoutregard for others" type of comment. It was more of a statement recognizing that there wereopportunities to make some choices and decisions on his own, which allowed Tim to be incontrol of one aspect of his life. I wondered aloud if he was allowed to try some of the thingsthat we did in home economics at home?Tim: Well if I am, my dad or my mom helps me allot when Idon't really need it. I am the oldest now and my sister hasmoved away and I can't really do anything. They won't let me.Our conversation turned to discussions about experiences with practical activities athome. Tim mentioned that he had just finished a project at home.Tim: It is more related to woodwork.Does that count?I assured him that I was generally interested in experiences in a number of practicalactivities and it surely did count.The Goal StickTim wanted to make a hockey stick, a goalie's stick as a gift for a friend. I had neverheard of a year seven student actually making a hockey stick let alone a goal stick particularlysince it wasn't part of the woodworking program. Tim wanted to make this on his ownoutside of school time.Tim: But I had to do it on weekends because my dad wouldn'tlet me use the shop when he was away.As a teacher in an area that has safety as a focus I had little difficulty understanding hisfather's position. As our conversation continued I began to realize that this was not a shortterm project and that Tim was crafting the goal stick completely on his own, without it57appeared his father's knowledge or assistance. Tim mentioned that he discussed many of thedetails with the technology teacher after class. He inquired about and learned how to cut, fit,mold and glue the various components of the goal stick. He would then go home and workon it. However, at a certain point Tim needed to use the equipment in his father's shop, butthat was essentially off limits.Tim: I told my mom that I needed to go over there, and shesaid yes because she sometimes takes my side. It was just mydad... I guess he's pretty scared. So I went over there andworked on it.JM: How did it turn out?Tim blushed almost crimson and in a barely audible voice said,I guess it was pretty good.I don't know if it was the blush or the way that he lowered his head and mumbled,however, it was evident to all in our conversation group that he must have done anoutstanding job. He was extremely proud of the fact that his friend was not only pleased withhis gift, but was using the custom made goal stick regularly. I asked if his father knew nowthat he used the shop, and, if he treated Tim any differently?Tim: I guess he trusts me a little more.The word "trust" seems to be one of those words in the language that is usedfrequently and often benignly to the point where perhaps some of its original meaning andsignificance is lost. Bollnow (1989) in his description of trust and its importance to educationand the "Pedagogical Atmosphere" maintains that trust is "related to the person's moral core"(p.41). He distinguishes between two words that we tend to use interchangeably, that oftrust and confidence. Confidence is "a simpler form of behaviour" (Bollnow, 1989, p.38)related to a person's abilities. We can have confidence in the ability of a coach or a mechanic,however, we might not trust them. Confidence then is one-sided and "independent from a58person's reaction to our confidence in him or her" (Bollnow, 1989, p.38), whereas "trustdemands a response" (Bollnow, 1989, p.38). It is reciprocal in that trust requires one to havefaith in one that trusts us (Bollnow, 1989). Trust is also distinguished in that when we trust,we trust the whole person, and not selected abilities. It is this general trust that isindispensable to education. On the one side it begins with the trust of the child in the mother,and the trust the child has in his or her surrounding world and the subsequent development ofthe child's sense of security.The other side of trust is the trust of the parent, educator, (the environment), in thechild. He or she needs to be able to trust the surroundings, to feel secure, but also needs thetrust of the environment, of parents and educators for social and moral development(Bollnow, 1989). The trust of an educator and often the trust of a parent is risky for there areno guarantees that the trust will not be abused. There will inevitably be disappointments,where the student or child does not live up to the beliefs and expectations of parents andeducators, (just as the child's trust is disappointed when he or she realizes that people[including parents], are not gods and are fallible). Faced with disappointments it is oftendifficult as an educator to restore trust, but it is the beginning again, the re-building and re-storing of trust after such disappointments that is important to a child's social and moraldevelopment and to education.Tied to the notion of building and developing trust are the issues of responsibility andindependence. The trust placed in students by parents and teachers carries with it the notionof reciprocity, the responsibility to uphold that trust.Tim: I like courses such as home economics because I havemore of a responsibility.Roy: I like being independent... you get to do your own stuffinstead of like the teacher always being on your back.59The phrases "let me," "by myself," "by ourselves" and "on my own" punctuated manyof the conversations and response journal entries. In practical courses students felt that theywere "let," were trusted and seemed to appreciate having the opportunity to demonstrate thereciprocal nature of the responsibility.Taylor (1991) explores this notion of "Letting Learn" and refers to Heidegger'sdiscussion of the "exalted activity" (p.351) of teaching. Heidegger contends that one of themost difficult aspects of teaching is to "let" students learn. Taylor further elaborates that forteachers the concept is uncomfortable and unsettling. What it implies is a "letting go" wherethe focus and responsibility lie no longer with the teacher, rather the "attention and emphasisis on the student, who gropes his or her way toward personal understanding, who discovers,with surprise and delight, what it is like to own knowledge" (Taylor, 1991, P.351).Linda: You give us a thing and we get to work on it byourselves and no one is really helping us or telling us what todo.Ann: Well if you always have people telling you what to dothen you're not going to really learn....because you can learnfrom your mistakes when people aren't telling you what to do.Mary: It is kind of boring when people tell you what to do andstuff.Independence develops as parents and teachers do not necessarily place moreconfidence and trust in children, rather the situations in which trust is placed in the earlyadolescent are expanded. As children uphold the trust and become responsible forthemselves and their actions to the world in an increasing number of situations they becomeless dependent on their parents. With an expanding of the child's circle of life the child'sdependence on the parent to provide a "trusted realm" of security diminishes as childrenbegin to build their own (Bollnow, 1989).You Will Need It When You're OlderOne of the questions posed in the response journals and to the conversation groupwas, "What is the purpose of Home Economics?"Ann: It prepares you for the future.Kathy: It will help me when I'm older and married or when Imove out of my house and go to college.Response Journals: It is important to learn about cooking andresponsibilities because you will have to use it when you growup.It is important that you know how to cook and take care of afamily when you are older.I'll need it for the future or for when I'm grown up, concurredseveral other journal entries.Roy: Probably people would learn more in these courses, it ismore like, more to do with reality. Like for instance cooking,when you get older you can't do without food and sewing,you'd just let your clothes get all ruined.The students' replies were puzzling to me in two very different respects. In the firstinstance the comments about needing home economics for a time when they are older orgrown up seems directly to contradict earlier statements (by the same students) regarding thefact that they like home economics and practical activities because they "can do them again athome, now." I wonder what if anything distinguishes that which can be done at home now asopposed to that which they will need for the future? Could those things be one and thesame? Could they be different aspects of the same activity, product and process? Forexample, specific food recipes, preparation techniques, safety precautions, (products) arethings that students are realistically "able" and "allowed" to do at home now. Whereas thewhole concept of menu planning, budgets and shopping for a family, (process) are knowledge60and skills that are not realistically things for which they are "allowed" or "able" to haveresponsibility. However, they will need them for the future.Response Journal: What is not practical about homeeconomics is why we have to learn about the price of groceriesfor a meal for a family.While puzzling, these contradictory statements are enlightening on the students'meanings of practical. It appears that which is most useful, most relevant to their everydayreality, to the here and now is that which is viewed as practical. When asked directly aboutthe practical, the notions of utility, relevance and reality reoccurred.JM: What does the practical mean to you?Roy: You would use it allot.Lana: It's a modern day thing in everyday life, you cook... andyou have to make breakfast and dinner so you probably do itevery day.Response Journals: Practical Means useful and real.In contrast to the relevant and utilitarian definitions students spoke of some of theirpractical learnings as if they were items they were collecting and storing away like thecontents of a trousseau. And when at last that magical "grown-up" or "older" day arrivesthey will be able to pull forth these items, like rabbits from a hat to assist their adult life. Itappears that for concepts other than food preparation there is a distinction between now andwhen they are grown up. Where is the connection, the thread in which they see theinterrelationship between all the learning in their classes and their own lives, here and now?Perhaps many of the practical learnings are things that they identify more directly withthe adult world. A world that they are looking forward to, but a world at this time for whichthey lack a sense of responsibility. Bollnow (1989) describes this "future oriented sense oflife of the soon-to- be-adult young person" (p.23) in his discussion of the "Morning-ness" and6162"Expectation" in a child's perspective. Grown-up life represents a world of promise to youngpeople. "The growing youth craves the realization of his urge to be useful in the active life ofadults, where he or she wishes to enjoy a full sense of responsibility and power to accomplishthings" (Bollnow, 1989, p.23). Those things that students can do at home now, allow themperhaps to enjoy that usefulness, the sense of power and responsibility however, practicallearning experiences like creating a family's food budget are areas where they feel they haveno usefulness, responsibility or power to affect. Consequently, it remains as something tolook forward to.Cooking and EatingHome Economics is more than just cooking and sewing. Yet even as I try toemphasize other more critical aspects of the discipline I am continuously fighting with the oldstereo-types. I knew in undertaking this research that to a large majority of my class cookingand sewing were the only reason for the existence of home economics. Why else would onehave six kitchen units in a classroom? And true to my fears the notion of home economicsand practical was largely one of cooking.JM: What kinds of things do you like doing in homeeconomics?Mary: I like cooking and eating.Tim: Yeah, I like cooking because most of the stuff we cook isgood.... because sometimes my parents make really awfulmeals, elaborate and really spicy.... it tastes like your mouth isgoing to burn up.Mary: Mostly food preparation. I like to sit down knowingthat I or we made it. It's a good feeling.Kathy: I like cooking because it is fun and interesting.Carol: I like cooking because I cook at home for my dad and Ican learn how to make sure stuff is really cooked and not let itburn.Tim: My favourite activity is cooking because it teaches mevaluable lessons. (Tim didn't have the opportunity to elaboratebecause the bell had rung to signal the end of lunch.)Response Journals: You get to eat.Baking, because it's neat.Making food and eating.You make your own food and then you can eat it.In our next meeting I went back to their comments of the previous day. Feeling morethan a little frustrated I asked the students why cooking and eating were so prominent in theirconversations and in the response journals.JM: What is it about cooking and eating that is so important?Almost every person in this class that I speak with gives thesame response.Linda: We like to eat... Everyone our age likes to eat.... we'reusually hungry.Carol: It's important to me because when I'm home I'll knowhow to make things.Kathy: So you'll know how to make more things and followmore recipes.Carol: You start to understand and you can do more,understand and follow more difficult recipes.Kathy: There were some things that I don't understand whatthey mean and when you come to home ec you learn how to dothings, like the things they don't mention in recipes.Jack: It's important because in shop and home ec we makethings that we really need.Roy: It's important because of how you feel when you see thatyou made it with your own hands, you feel quite proud.6364Response journals also identified cooking and eating as important and one of thethings they liked about home economics. The reasons given in the response journalsconfirmed those of the conversation group. Cooking is something that is important for themto learn. It is something that they can "take home" and "can do" and in most cases are"allowed to do."Perhaps for the early adolescent cooking is one of those "milestones" that are passedon the journey to adulthood. If we look back on our lives and look at our own "milestones,"they are many in childhood; first steps, tying shoelaces, riding bikes, learning to read, andthey are many in young adulthood; first date, first job, learning to drive, and graduation fromschool. However, that period between learning to read and learning to drive, earlyadolescence, seems to be somewhat lacking in milestones. From the students' perspectives itappears that learning to cook certainly qualifies as a milestone in their world at this time.The student's new found knowledge, ability and expertise is something that can beimmediately appreciated by the rest of the family, particularly working parents. A keeninterest, a willingness not only to experiment in the kitchen, but to help out in the day to daypreparation of family meals must be readily welcomed by parents. Being able to cook, toprepare foods allows them to take a useful active role in the adult world, whereas perhapssome of the other practical activities might be seen as more speculative and even threateningin nature. Budgeting meals for a family, being responsible for the planning and buying as wellas the preparing of all the meals or making changes in the way things are done at home arenot activities for which they are responsible or for which they are likely to be given anyconsideration. It is not realistic for them at this particular time. Consequently, it may not beviewed as practical because it does not allow them to take a realistic, active and useful role inthe adult world, the same as preparing a meal might.65A colleague recently made a comment to me about his daughter's activities as a resultof a "Foodsafe" lesson in my class.Teacher/Parent: When I cut chicken I always wipe mywooden cutting board well. I don't need to hear from mydaughter about what I should cut on and how I should bepreparing chicken or about salmonella and crosscontamination!As a teacher I was impressed to hear how much of an impact the Foodsafe lesson hadmade on the student. And, I thought to myself this is perhaps nudging that critical level thatBrown (1980) speaks of; enabling deliberative action for the well-being of the family. But Iwas made very aware of the limits of this child's responsibility and her clearly defined rolewithin the family. In effect it revealed to me in a much more telling way a tension that existsbetween home and school that underscores many of the student comments about the meaningof the practical and practical activities. Does the true essence of my colleague's commentspeak for other parents? "Teach my child how to cook, don't teach him or her to question orcorrect my practices."And Finally: What Does Practical Mean To You?It was my intention to try to get a sense of students' understanding of the meaning ofpractical by trying to understand that which characterized their experience of the practical.However, I still needed to pose the question. The definitions were many and varied withmany focusing on the notions of "usefulness," "immediacy" and "reality."Roy: Practical means something that you would use allot.Lana: Yeah, it is a modern thing in every day life... you cook...and you have to make breakfast and dinner so you probably doit like every day.Kathy: It is something that you will use not just maybe use...sometimes in math you learn stuff that you might usedepending on what you do, but in home economics you woulduse it.Jack, Roy, Kate and Lana: Yeah, useful normal, modern,sensible, important.Roy: Yeah, right to the point nothing fancy, just normal.Many of the responses from both the journals and the conversation group elaboratedon the "everyday," "useful to me now" aspects of their notion of the practical. Some of theconversation data seemed a bit convoluted, but I and the reader must remember that for mostpeople, whether eleven years old or forty, being asked to define a word point blank is adifficult task. There was a little groping, grasping and negotiating of meaning that wasevident, as well as some "leapfrogging." By leapfrogging I suggest that when a common ideawas expressed, e.g. "useful," others in the conversation would use that to clarify and add totheir own thinking, and then would "leap" on to other connections thereby negotiating theirown meaning.It is perhaps pertinent to point out that the one distinction I noticed between theconversational data and the response journal data was that the conversation periods allowedfor much more clarifying of thinking, negotiating meaning and understanding as well asdiscussing the connections to their lives. For example, the stories, the anecdotes and themore thoughtful comments emerged from the conversations and not from the responsejournal data which might indicate the degree of clarification, negotiation, understanding andconnecting to their own lives that the conversations naturally incurred.There may well have been among the conversation participants very disparatemeanings of the term practical and the role of practical in home economics however, thesewere not extracted through the conversation. Rather, after an initial silence and tentativesharing of a definition by Roy a lot of negotiating of meaning occurred. Whereas the66response journals (except for those from the conversation group) showed a lot of disparity.For example;Response Journals: I don't know what practical means can Iuse a dictionary?Practical means the simple things not the extravagant.I haven't really thought about it much. It means the usual wayof doing things.Practical means cheap, but not too cheap like not good quality.The word practical means to me that it is the most likely thingto do.I don't know maybe practical means to be calm and not to gooverboard, to take control of yourself.The response journal question on the meaning of practical followed a week or so afterthe conversations on practical. Response journal entries from those in the conversationgroup supported the same notions they had discussed in their groups and some of theirresponses indicated more of the negotiated meaning around the notions of "useful," usefulnow as well as in the future and "sensible" or "realistic." In addition, being in their regulartable groups in home economics class a fair amount of discussion took place between peoplein the conversation group and members of their table groups. Some of the responses fromsome of the tables where members of the conversation group were located indicated thatthere had perhaps been some negotiation and discussion of meaning within the table groups.For example, the following response journal entries are from individuals who were in tablegroups with the conversation participants.Response Journals: Practical means being normal, smart,being aware.6768Practical means useful and real to me.Practical means useful.Practical means reasonable or realistic.It means something that is not difficult, but is helpful.It seems from these conversations and responses that the notion of practical that theseyear seven students have is tied up with the notions of "useful" and "real" as in realistic.Something that is practical allows students the opportunity to become active, "useful"members of the adult society. It affords them some definition, some space to "be" or to"become" at a time in life which has metaphorically been described as "Incompleteness."In "The Metaphor of Adolescence" Michalko (1984) discusses how theorists havetypically represented that period of life known as adolescence. It has been described asincompleteness with adulthood representing completion. It is commonly referred to as atransitory stage, a transition from childhood to adulthood or as a preparatory stage in whichone spends adolescence in preparation for adulthood (Michalko, 1984). In-transition, in-complete, in-preparation and in-anticipation of adulthood, adolescence might then be definedas "becoming." Michalko (1984), sees adolescence as such as a metaphor.It is a metaphor for the lack of wholeness or for incompleteness. And morethan this adolescence is a metaphor for the desire, on the part of that whichlacks a whole and that which is incomplete to be whole and to be complete.(p.298)69SummaryThe data in the form of student conversations, stories and journal writings has helpedme to see that understanding the meaning of students' practical experiences could not bereduced. Rather, what emerged from the data was an overall picture or collage, acomposition of numerous themes depicting students' meanings of practical experiences.Within this collage students characterized their practical experiences as "Fun." They tookpleasure in and en-joy-ment from productive activities that allowed them to do, explore, andaccomplish.Practical experiences were meaningful for students in that they "Could Do ThemAgain At Home." Home economics class activities provided opportunities for students toenhance self esteem, to develop abilities allowing, (permitting) them to play a moremeaningful role within the family. In addition, I found students descriptions likened theirexperiences to milestones; those significant points in their lives where they could re-definethemselves in terms of new abilities and understandings, and, where passing a milestoneallows entry into new horizons, the future, and what they can become.Closely related to the notion of "I Can Do It Again At Home" was the theme of"Building Trust," "Becoming Responsible," and "Beginning Independence." Studentsunderstood their practical experiences as exceptions to what they felt was a general lack ofopportunity at home and at school to develop these adult attributes. Students also spoke tothe notion of "Letting Learn," of being given the opportunity to do, to try, and to makemistakes as they develop personal understanding.One of the unique themes that emerged from the data was "You Will Need It WhenYou're Older." This theme seemed to stand in opposition to the notions of "I Can Do ItAgain At Home." Students understood practical learning experiences that they could doagain at home as allowing them to enjoy the usefulness, the sense of power and responsibility70they associate with the adult world. However, if practical activities were such that studentsfelt there was little opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, to take responsibility, orthat they lacked a sense of power to affect change, then their understanding of these activitieswas that they would be important for the future.Students' understanding of practical and the meaning of practical experiences wasmeshed with the notion of "cooking." This theme emerged continually in conversations andjournals, and in a sense provided the context or background for other themes. Cooking andeating are important to this age group. Being able to cook is not only fun, but also enhancesself-esteem, builds trust and allows for the development of responsibility and independence.In that sense "cooking" represents a milestone along the path to "becoming adult."The above themes and sub-themes juxtaposed on a canvas created a collage thatattempts to capture the meaning of practical experiences for year seven students. However,the canvas seemed somewhat incomplete, perhaps untitled. I felt that I needed to get somesense of students' understanding of "practical," aside from their experiences. While themeanings were varied numerous students spoke to the notions of "useful," "real" and"relevant." And, if one were to superimpose this notion onto the collage we might be able tosummarize that the practical and the meaning of students' practical experiences is that whichallows students realistic opportunities to become active, useful, and responsible members ofadult society.CHAPTER VSUMMARY AND DISCUSSION, CLOSINGS AND OPENINGSThe purpose of this research was to explore students' practical experiences as a way tounderstand student meanings of the practical. The study used a phenomenological approachin order to elaborate on practical experiences as gleaned from conversations, stories andresponse journal writings provided by year seven home economics students. The study beganwith data gathering by way of guided response journal entries for two year seven classes andcontinued for approximately 12 weeks with four sets of response journal entries. The majorsource of data was comprised of audio tapes of four conversations that were held with eachof two groups of four pre-selected students. The data were collected through audio tapes ofthe conversations, collected student response journals, and entries in the teacher's journal.Once the data were collected they were analyzed and loosely collated into two categories:"shared themes" or "common statements" and unique statements or "variations" (Barritt et al.1985). It is through both the "shared" and the unique statements and themes that a sense ofthe students' meanings of the practical developed.Reviewing the conversations, stories and journals the image of a collage came to mindas a way of picturing the meanings of students' practical experiences. In a collage numerousthemes can be captured; the canvas is in a sense infinite. The collage allows for greatvariability: the common that may overlay the canvas, the unique that may stand alone, themajority and the minority. All experiences can be represented equally without order, without7172priority. In its infinity it may never be complete, but what hopefully emerges is an essence ofthe experience of the practical. The artists of this collage are the students themselves. Theyare young and their youthful enthusiasm and some of their brashness colours this canvas, butit is the meaning of their practical experiences from their life world, from their perspectivethat this research seeks to uncover. However, one must be mindful that this collage is butone possible canvas, at one instant in time and may not speak to all the possibilities.Summary and DiscussionThe following summary discusses each of the themes, their uniqueness and some ofissues that they raise to help broaden and deepen our understanding of the meaning ofstudents' practical experiences.It's FunOne of the many themes in this collage of practical experiences was the notion ofenjoyment. En-joy-ment, the joy in, the pleasure in productive activities andaccomplishments was important to the students and was often associated with their practicalexperiences. Cheerfulness and joy are the qualities of mood and life feeling which accordingto Bollnow (1989) are essential to a "Pedagogical Atmosphere," essential to a student'sopenness to a world of learning. However, by year seven as students commented, school isnot very much fun. It seems that education starts to become serious business with theconsequence that much of the joy is smothered. Perhaps it is because curricular demands andcourse requirements allow little time to en-joy our learning or perhaps it is because weassociate fun-in learning with childhood and these students are no longer children.King (1984) explored the work/play dichotomy in which fun and enjoyment are thecriterion that intermediate students use to differentiate work from play. Three types of play73were identified; "instrumental play, recreation, and illicit play" (King, 1984, p.5). Classroomactivities such as experiments, games, films, and (home economics activities) would beconsidered instrumental play in that they are enjoyable for the students, but are still directedand controlled by the teacher. King (1984) found that the "locus of control" (p.6) is a keyfactor in the differentiation of work from play. "The more aspects of an activity which fallunder the child's control, the more likely the activity will be seen as play" (King, 1984 p.6).Activities such as those students participate in in home economics are considered enjoyableand fun when there is opportunity for students to direct and shape their activities according totheir thoughts and expectations. Becoming responsible, being able to do things on their own,to direct their own learning were the words that students in this research used to describetheir understanding of their practical experiences as well as their enjoyment of them. Seen inlight of King's (1984) notion of play, Roy's comments about his practical experiences, asbeing more "fun" than other courses, and, as enjoyable because "the teacher isn't always onyour back" take on a greater significance.One of the questions to which this research is directed inquires as to how the practicalis pedagogical. If one aspect of students' understanding of the practical is fun and enjoyment,how does that speak to pedagogy? From the point of view of Bollnow (1990) cheerfulness,joy and the pride in accomplishment are essential to a student's openness to learning anddesire to learn, to know, and become. Fun and enjoyment need, therefore, to be encouragedin our pedagogical relationships with children. From the point of view of King (1984) fun,enjoyment, and play need to be integrated into the curriculum so as to avoid the sharpdistinction between work and play. Perpetuating sharp distinctions between work and playmay negatively affect how students see themselves in their present workplace, the school, andmay affect their future work and potential as adults.74During real play children learn to organize their time and set their own tasksand goals. They learn to negotiate personal relationships, to settle disputesand to share materials. Such experiences create the opportunity for exerciseof genuine decision making and personal autonomy. While such skills may notseem directly relevant to the work situations of some adults, these skills arecertainly relevant to all persons who hope to create personally fulfilling lives.(King, 1984, p.11)The pedagogical significance of this differentiation between work and play lies in thefact that we can as teachers and pedagogues plan and organize curricula so that activities arenot rigidly divided between work and play, and, so that students have the opportunities toexercise autonomy in all areas of learning (King, 1984). Accordingly schools should be"more concerned with preparing students for participation in a rich variety of adult activities"(King, 1984, p.14) in which they have the opportunity to develop their capabilities,responsibility, independence and creativity rather than preparing students for specific andrigidly defined work situations. Students, then, may "learn to expect to organize and to enjoytheir work (a potentially radical expectation)" (King, 1984, p.14).As a teacher I experience some feelings of guilt when my students describe homeeconomics as fun because of the tension between curriculum requirements and enjoyablepractical learning, and, between what we feel we should be teaching and what we areteaching in practical courses. My own and others' guilt feelings may arise from our failure torecognize the value and significance of "play" and "fun" in education. I too am caught as mycolleagues in perpetuating the work/play dichotomy and only when faced with trying tounderstand the practical and learning with our student's eyes do we understand thesignificance of "enjoyment" and "fun" to education. If practical activities are fun becausethey "let students learn," because they encourage students to control and direct their learning,75because they encourage responsibility, independence and creativity, then, all learning shouldbe practical.Perhaps teachers perpetuate the work/play dichotomy because of the perception that"fun" courses, (play), have little credibility in an education system which has placedconsiderable emphasis on academics (work) and university entrance. To gain credibility andstatus, to be considered worthy of the term "work," should teachers then de-emphasize thosevery qualities that are essential to practical learning, those qualities that make it unique?Adding to this dilemma is the guilt that arises from abandoning my own principles and idealsabout practical learning. Must I perpetuate only a "doing" curriculum and sacrifice the"practical," (making action), curriculum to maintain that uniqueness and ultimately classenrollments? This dilemma is shared by many colleagues within home economics education.It is a question that invites continued discussion and its resolution would seem to liesomewhere in the balance of the two.I Can Do It Again At HomeA theme that was characteristic of many students' practical experiences was "I Can DoIt Again At Home." My first reaction to this theme was "how ordinary." It wasn't until Ireviewed some of the stories that I began to understand the description of phenomenology asseeking out the "extraordinary in the ordinary" and the "uncommon in the common places ofcurriculum." In a small sense I may have found some of the "uncommon." The storiesconveyed much more than a simple repetition of an activity at home. Students commentedon their practical experiences as activities that they had "the ability to do" and "the permissionto do" again at home. Feelings of pride, accomplishment, power and of being grown-upenriched and coloured this theme.76Three sub-themes or issues emerged that were intertwined within this theme. First isthe notion of exploring and experimenting with concepts, skills, and activities within theclassroom situation and then being able to use and apply their learning in a new situation, thehome. Students saw their practical activities as something that they felt confident enough todo at home and also recognized that practical abilities in many cases served to enhance theirstatus within the family at home.A second notion is that of competence illustrated in the simple statement; "I can do it."For these year seven students acquiring skills and knowledge, "being able," "accomplishing"and having confidence in their abilities was important in their experiences. The studentnarratives also let us see practical experiences as significant points (milestones) in their liveswhere students could redefine themselves in terms of their learning and look forward to anever broadening horizon and new milestones.A third issue or sub-theme woven into the notion of "I can do it again at home" wasthat of permission or, "I am allowed to." The school in this sense was seen as the mediatorbetween the home and the world at large. It provides a protective environment in which thestudent can explore and experiment and having done so might be permitted to demonstratehis/her capabilities at home, but without yet having to take on the associated adultresponsibilities of that world.The theme, "I Can Do It Again At Home" and its sub themes raise a number of issuessignificant to both pedagogy and the practical arts. In terms of thinking and learning studentscommented that not only have they acquired new knowledge and skills, but that they are alsoincorporating the knowledge and skills into their lifeworld and applying these to newsituations, their homes and families. The significance to pedagogy lies in the fact that throughtheir practical experiences students are engaging in some higher order cognitive processes.They are not passively memorizing and reciting, rather, they are actively engaged in using,77applying and transferring learning to new situations. This supports the notion of practicaleducation held by Dewey and the progressivists where active involvement with actualmaterials in situations relevant to the child's world enhanced their learning of generalprinciples and their curiosity about other applications (East, 1980).As educators we need to recognize the importance of activities that integrate theoryand experience. Activities such as food preparation in home economics, manipulatives inmathematics, and field studies in science and social studies hold a significance for pedagogyat all levels of education. Educators need to continue to develop and implement relevant,"hands on" activities and experiences that re-establishes the "use-full-ness" and that personalsense of wealth, of "knowing" for all learners and in all curriculums. Perhaps the pedagogicalsignificance of the notion "I Can Do It Again At Home" is most aptly and simply stated in aChinese Proverb:I hear and I forgetI see and I rememberI do and I understandAnother question to which this research is addressed inquires as to what it is aboutstudents' activities and experiences that constitutes "practical"? How does this theme, "I CanDo It Again At Home" speak to the notion of practical as choice and action? Admittedly Iwas disheartened by student responses to their activities that appeared to focus more on the"productive" considerations than those of the "practical." Again I needed to remind myself tosee the world through my students' eyes and through their experiences.The ability to choose and to take action does not begin at a community or global level,it begins with the individual, doing, acting and choosing for themself. By doing, byincorporating new, changed behaviours and knowledge, by doing for one's self they arechanged. While perhaps not able or permitted to alter the practices or habits of the family,they have begun to act on a personal level and that personal change, choice, and action78should indeed be recognized and celebrated. It is within this personal change and personalaction on one's own behalf, "at home" that we can see the constitution of the practical.Within the sub-theme "I can do it" arose the notion of milestones. The term was notused by students in their discussions, rather the notion came to mind as I reflected on thedata. As educators we generally expect and accept that children learn and will be able "todo" certain tasks and activities. That is the ordinary. The extraordinary, and thephenomenological interest lies in understanding what it is like for children to learn, what itmeans to "be able," and, "to do" something. Therein lies the significance for pedagogy; theknowledge of the experience of learning, of what it is like "to do" that enables us to actthoughtfully and tactfully in our relationship with students.Students spoke of memorable practical experiences that seemed to mark an importantstage or turning point in their lives. They spoke of their pride, their joy, their sense of powerand grown-up-ness that came from learning to tie shoelaces, learning to ride a bike, andlearning to cook. I likened these experiences to the milestones we may pass in our life'sjourney. I realized that there are many important experiences and points (milestones), in ourlives to which we look forward, work toward and mark passage into new horizons. Eachmilestone we journey towards demands new and different knowledge, skills andresponsibilities. In passing a particular milestone we re-define ourself as a person in terms ofthose newly acquired attributes and look forward to an ever-broadening horizon, to newmilestones, and, to what we can become.Students viewed their practical experiences, (acquiring knowledge, skills,responsibilities, attitudes etc.) as empowering and enabling. They are able to reach or toaccomplish a particular milestone. They are empowered both by the actual knowledge, skillsand attitudes that have allowed them to attain a milestone and by their sense of self worth andconfidence that comes from knowing and understanding that he/she "can do it."79The issue of self-worth and/or self-esteem and its relationship to a student's ability tolearn is currently a key focus in education. Many programs have been developed to fosterpositive self-esteem, however, the notion of a separate program, to develop self esteemseems somewhat artificial in contrast to that sense of self, of confidence that studentsdeveloped quite naturally from their practical experiences. And, perhaps it is in the uniquecontribution which the practical makes to that sense of self that is important to pedagogy.Engaging in practical experiences, acquiring new knowledge skills and attitudes and in"doing" students define and redefine themselves in terms of these attributes developing a truesense of self-worth and the knowledge and confidence that they can make a difference in theirworld.Building Trust, Becoming Responsible, Beginnings of Independence. Another theme of the practical that colours this canvas is the notion of "BuildingTrust," "Becoming Responsible," and the "Beginnings of Independence." Students expressedthe feeling that the adult world did not extend the kind of trust to them that they felt was theirdue. There was a sense of frustration that they had few opportunities in which to build thattrust and responsibility. Comments such as "without the teacher on your back," "won't let metouch a thing" and "let us do it by ourselves" indicate some of that frustration. However,their practical experiences represented some exceptions and students understood theirexperiences as fostering those attributes.Students' conversations and anecdotes revealed that their understanding of theirpractical activities included some of the current conceptions of the practical in homeeconomics. Brown (1980) and Hultgren (1990) use terms such as enabling and empowering,the students in this research talked in terms of being "trusted," "responsible," "able, and"independent." As a society we expect our young adults, (almost by definition) to exhibit80such qualities, but as students' conversations illustrate we seem to provide limitedopportunities in schooling for early adolescents to practice and develop these adult attrIbItts.Practical activities in home economics were identified by students as fostering these qualffies,allowing students to try, to practice, and to develop some of the skills and attitudes societyrequires of its adult citizens. But here again a tension was created. A tension between"home" and the traditional view of the practical, and the "home ec teacher" and a newconception of the practical. While we may aspire to enable and empower deliberative actionthrough curriculum, the reality of the situation is that many families may not maintain thatview. Families may not be very democratic. There may well be very distinct role definitionand expectations. In this case "empowerment," even if it is for the well being (the health) ofthe family, may be viewed as threatening by the parents.Again, I need to be mindful of the age and the lifeworld of these eleven year olds andto not let my expectations prevent me from understanding the meaning of their experiences.In practical activities, the "doing" for oneself is a subtle and perhaps necessary way to beginto engage in deliberative action. Through cooking activities students are incorporating newideas, knowledge and practices and may be made aware of other related issues. And whilepromoting change in others, (the family), is important we must recognize that critical firststep in the change of self.An image that superimposes itself on the trust and responsibility issues is the notion of"Letting Learn." Students' conversations and journals often mentioned their desire forparents and teachers to "Let Us Learn." As educators we direct, we teach, we delivercurriculum, but do we let our students learn? The students were honest in theirunderstanding that there are no guarantees that given the opportunity, or "let" would theyalways be able to uphold our trust, to live up to our expectations and to be responsibleenough. They realize that they are going to make mistakes, that they will probably lose our81trust and will likely experience some failures in their lifetime. However, they also understandthat mistakes and failures are integral to lifelong learning. Being able to begin again, to learnfrom mistakes, to rebuild from a position of greater understanding is a skill and an attitudenecessary to their development and to our world. In Ann's words:Well if you always have people telling you what to do thenyou're not going to really learn....because you can learn fromyour mistakes when people aren't telling you what to do.The theme "Building Trust," "Becoming Responsible," "Beginnings of Independence"and the notion of "Letting Learn" raise important pedagogical issues. One might suggest thatit is pedagogically good to place more trust in our students and to "let them learn," but whatshould this mean for educators? How, for example, can we stand on the sidelines withoutneglecting our purpose as teachers?With the sincerest of intentions many teachers wish only to impart to their pupils theinformation, understanding and appreciation of the world that has excited them and whichthey feel is important ana worthy of knowing. They want to help their pupils avoid needlessmistakes, to save time, energy and frustration. However, as Taylor (1991) suggests "it issometimes appropriate to be reticent, to withhold information, to withdraw fromconversation as an active participant....in the interest of letting learn" (p.352). This does notmean that one sits idly on the sidelines, but rather, listens to students openly and thoughtfully."One must be silent yet supportive, leaving space for learning" (Taylor, 1991, p.353). Thismeans learning to listen to our students, not just hearing their words, but listening attentively,creating the atmosphere, the space where students are listened to and where they can listen toeach other. As teachers we need to acknowledge our own role as learners and openourselves to that learning. As such, teaching in the true sense "can only take place when theteacher is more teachable than the students" (Taylor, 1991, p.351).82Cooking and EatingAnother theme that provides the background color to this collage is the notion of theimportance of "cooking and eating." Student's knowledge about and skills involved in foodpreparation were commonly identified in descriptions of their practical experiences and manyof the emerging themes and sub themes are connected or framed from the context of cooking.Cooking was considered fun, important, immediately rewarding, relevant, and a milestone intheir lifeworld. Students understood their food preparation activities as something they couldbecome accomplished at, something they could gain status and recognition within the familyfor, and could foster such attributes as responsibility, trust, and independence. In addition,one cannot dismiss the reality of the importance of food to this age group. Early adolescentgrowth demands increased caloric intake, and as most parents and teachers are aware, food isa subject that is never far removed from their conversations and thoughts. In light of thesefactors it is perhaps somewhat understandable that "cooking" receives so much attention. AsLinda commented:We like to eat.... everyone our age likes to eat....we're usuallyhungry.The pedagogical significance of practical activities such as cooking lies in that they arethe vehicle through which students engage in real life situations exploring problems andsolutions, developing knowledge, skills and attitudes and beginning to taking action on issuesthat affect them on a personal level. Developing the ability to cook and care for theirpersonal nourishment adds to their sense of self worth, helps to build self-confidence andaffords the opportunity to be "grown-up." Practical experiences then have the potential notonly to develop capabilities, but also to foster students' recognition that they have the powerwithin themselves as individuals to make a difference in their world.It was disappointing at first that cooking figured so prominently in students'understandings of their practical activities. I had hoped that by emphasizing other topics and83more critical aspects of home economics that the practical would come to mean more than"making things." However, the reality of the situation is that the more traditional conceptionof the practical in home economics, the "cooking and sewing model" is deeply entrenchedand is perpetuated by parents, primary teachers, and by our own actions in the classroom.The fact that students identified many of their practical experiences in terms of cookingfurther raises the question that research such as this serves only to reify a "doing" curriculum.And, that may be pedagogically good depending on one's interpretation of "doing."To "do" means to carry out, to make, perform or effect. As such all curriculum shouldbe "doing" curriculum as the term speaks to the action of, or the engagement of students inand with curriculum. The distinction or the problem lies in the end product of the "doing."What is it that we as home economics educators want as the end product of a "doing"curriculum? Is it the making or effecting of "things" as in Aristotle's notion of the productive,or is it "making action" and "effecting change" in the practical sense that is the intention ofhome economics educators? Historically, much of home economics curricula has beenproductive. This research indicates that students like to make things, and there is much to besaid for the contributions that a productive curriculum makes to the development andpractice of knowledge, skills and attitudes. In that sense this research does reify a "doing,productive" curriculum. However, the productive is but one part. The practical curriculumin home economics education fosters the development and practice of attitudes, behavioursand skills of interdependence, responsibility, critical thought and reflection. This researchalso indicates that students responded to practical curriculum in terms of "making action" anddeveloping skills of interdependence and responsibility. Through their "doing" students are"making action" and effecting change, change in themselves.This research does then reify a "doing" curriculum. More importantly it points to thenotion that all curriculum, be it home economics or otherwise should be "doing" in the sense84of engaging, making and effecting. Furthermore, I suggest that for home economicscurriculum it is not an "either," "or," situation; either practical, or productive. Rather, thecurriculum should aim to achieve a balance or complementarity between the two.To achieve a balance, to go from predominantly productive curricula there is a need tore-interpret curricula in the "practical sense," in terms of "making action." This will requireunderstanding "action" in a broad, rich and varied way. Action is more than mere activity ormovement. Action encompasses all of activity, movement, doing, directing, ^ but in areasoned and reflective manner. This does not mean that skill developing activities andmaking products are de-emphasized, rather that the curriculum become more proactive in thecritical sense, in terms of making choices, reflecting, deliberating and acting on those choices.For example, environmental concerns are often discussed as part of lessons for studentsengaged in making food products. In teaching we might only mention and raise awarenessabout the packaging of certain products used in our food preparation and that is the extent ofit. Students have little opportunity to "make action." However, within the same activity byallowing students the opportunity to choose an environmental packaging issue that affectsthem as individuals, by reflecting on how as individuals or as a group they can effect changeregarding that issue and then carrying out that plan, illustrates "action" in a deeper and richercontext. Understanding "action" in this broad sense and providing opportunities incurriculum for students to make "action" can only help to foster socially responsible,educated citizens.ClosingsPhenomenological research may pose many questions and yet provide few answers.However the questions may themselves change, and be posed from a position that is moredeeply and richly understood. Phenomenology demands a rigor and attentiveness that writing85and rewriting never quite seem to achieve. In essence, it defies conclusion for one is stillthinking, questioning and seeking greater understanding. And, while there is no conclusion inthe traditional sense, there is closure to this phase of the research, but with the explicitrecognition that there are new questions, new openings to explore.Part IThe purpose of this research was to seek insight into and a deeper, richerunderstanding of the meaning of practical and the meaning that practical activities have foryear seven students. The literature review discussed the diverse views and meanings of thepractical that have developed over time and the meanings that "practical" has had withineducation and home economics education. While current curricula in home economics isdeveloping along the notions of Brown (1980), Hultgren (1990), and Schwab (1969) inwhich the practical in home economics education fosters the development and practice ofattitudes, behaviours and skills of interdependence, responsibility, critical thought andreflection there still remains as Thomas (1986) suggests a multitude of views that aresomehow synthesized into a "whole" that home economics presents to students.The meaning, significance and implications of practical experiences in home economicsare somewhat contingent on the view of home economics that a particular educator mayrepresent and on the conception of the practical that the public and the students themselveshold. The preconceived ideas and notions that the students in this research brought withthem to class, their "expectations" (Bollnow, 1989) about the practical, about homeeconomics, and the nature and significance of practical activities was prominent in theirunderstanding. The references by students in their conversations and anecdotes to cookingand making things reminds us that traditional views of practical activities and homeeconomics are still quite prevalent.86In this research the educator's concept of the practical as choice, deliberation andaction has developed along the critical lines of Brown (1980) and Hultgren (1990). Thelessons around which the research occurred were planned with this notion of practical inmind. The students' experiences of the practical taken from this context were many andvaried, reflective of the traditional as well as the current conceptions of the practical, and yetdifferent in that they have provided some fresh and unique views of the experience andmeaning of the practical in home economics.The conversations, anecdotes, journals and stories have presented me with a colourfulcollage of students' experiences and meanings of the practical, each significant andcontributing to the overall picture. A collage of students' meanings that cannot be reducedinto a simple statement or definition. However, many of these themes spoke to the notion ofpractical or described something as being practical as that which was realistic and allowedstudents to "become" useful, active, productive members of adult society. Practicalexperiences are valuable and relevant assisting students in a process of "becoming." Thepractical, from that unique perspective of the student is viewed as that which mediatesbetween themselves and the adult world in their "becoming able," "becoming responsible,""becoming self-directed and autonomous," in essence "becoming adult."Part HIn coming to understand the meanings of practical experiences I have been allowed tosee the world with my students' eyes. Their experiences have captured for me much of whatis important to these students in their lived worlds. They captured the pleasures, thefrustrations, the expectations, the desires and the fears. This collage of experiences, this viewfrom a student perspective is invaluable to me as a teacher of home economics, as acurriculum planner and as a pedagogue. It causes one to question not only what it is that87students should know, and how they should come to know and experience that curriculum,but also what it is that creates the atmosphere that encourages students to want to know, towant to learn; in essence to become "possible." Bollnow (1989) describes this notion as the"Pedagogical Atmosphere." He uses it to mean "all those fundamental emotional conditionsand sentient human qualities that exist between the educator and the child and which form thebasis for every pedagogical relationship" (Bollnow, 1989, p.5).Seeing the world with our students' eyes may give us insight into fostering the"Pedagogical Atmosphere." This view may allow us to develop truly learner focusedcurricula, curriculum that is practical, relevant and engaging, attuned to the students'understandings and experiences. And understanding the meanings of student experiencesmay allow us to teach with thoughtfulness and tact. Pedagogic thoughtfulness is that specialquality that develops from that "certain kind of seeing, of listening, of responding" (vanManen, 1986, p.12). This knowledge may help us as teachers to act with tact, to dointuitively the right thing in OW pedagogical relationship with children.It became apparent to me very early in this study that to come to a rich understandingof the experience and the meaning of the practical, the methodology would have to be basedon a phenomenological approach. It is an approach that I have come to respect, that has thepotential to truly illuminate the "what is," the essence of a phenomenon.Through a phenomenological approach, through the stories and conversations, I havebeen given the opportunity to view practical experiences from the lifeworld of eleven yearold's. I have been able to get a sense of what was important and essential to theseexperiences of the practical for my students. Coming to understand the "what is," theessence of students' experiences provides insight into "what should and could be" in terms ofcurriculum planning and teaching. As a methodology phenomenology is sensitive to and88allows one to capture the ups and downs of one child's experience. A phenomenologicalapproach also accommodates the notion of a teacher researching within her own practice.Phenomenology invites us to reflect, to come to deeper understanding, and, ultimatelyinvites us to change, with the result that while I began researching students I have come toresearch myself. Earlier in this thesis I commented that upon reflection I found that thestudents and I share in adolescence, they with their becoming and I with my pedagogy. Istruggle with my pedagogy itself in adolescence, in the process of becoming. I struggle withmy notion of the practical that has been evolving and maturing through my career and mystudies and try to resolve some of the tensions that persist because of differentconceptualizations that my colleagues and my students hold.Yet through this research I have come to a better understanding of myself as a teacher,of my pedagogy, and of the issue of the practical. More importantly, I have gained a sense of"what practical experiences should provide for students" and "what could be" in terms of thepotential of practical curriculum in education.It is now almost a year since the research began, and as I review my journal I have toask, "Have I made any progress?" "Do students understand their practical experiences anydifferently now than a year ago?" The answer to that question lies outside the realm of thisresearch, but within the response journals of the present year seven classes. While progressmay not be a certainty, change is. Throughout this research I have experienced changes inmy thinking, my teaching, and my relationships with children and colleagues.In planning for this research both my lesson planning and teaching changedconsiderably. It was a risk, not only was I trying to present new lesson materials in apractical problem solving manner, I was also collecting data, by way of conversations andresponse journals on students' experiences with these same lessons. I was encouragingstudents to take responsibility for directing their own learning, to research what they needed89to know and do, and to evaluate their performance and knowledge. For example, studentswere given a problem/recipe with certain requirements (evaluation criteria), and then studentswere left to research the problem, plan and carry out tasks, and then assess theirperformance. It was risky because quite suddenly the teacher became a resource person andhad to "let go," transferring some control to the students. And, risky, for how wouldcolleagues interpret what appeared at first to be chaos as students grappled with the newresponsibilities. Intuitively I knew it was pedagogically the "good" thing to do. I was notrelinquishing my responsibility for the education and safety of my students, but I wasallowing students to assume responsibility, to take control and direct their own learningwithin given parameters.This research and the resulting implementation of some practical problem solvingapproaches has had an impact on my teaching and has affected my curriculum planning forfuture years. I now find myself asking, "What will this mean for students?" "How can Imake this relevant to the lifeworld of the eleven year old?" "How can I encourageproactivity?" To this end I see future curriculum considerate of a balance andcomplementarity between the productive and practical aspects of home economics. Activitiesneed to be attuned to student experience and allow opportunities for students to control,direct and take responsibility for their own learning, and practical activities need to be re-thought to emphasize more proactive, "malcing•action" opportunities. Both current andfuture curricula needs to be cognizant of the connections, the threads by which students seethe interrelationship between what they learn in class and the relevance to their lifeworld,here and now.I have throughout this study experienced the full range of emotions, but luckily, not allat once. I have been frightened, disappointed, panicked, elated, puzzled, guilty, confident,insecure and happy. There is always that fear and insecurity in starting out on any new90venture and the constant worry that nothing will happen. However, once underway I reallyenjoyed researching within my own class. There was a reciprocal feeling of comfort andsecurity that I am positive fostered good discussion, and storytelling. I had hoped that thelessons and my teaching over the past year would have made a big difference in studentsunderstanding of their practical experiences. I was at first disappointed that productiveactivities dominated their view of home economics. However, once I cleared away mydisappointment and really listened to what students were saying I came to the realization thatthere is a complementary relationship between the productive and the practical. And as homeeconomics educators we need to become more aware of that relationship and engage studentsin curriculum that combines both the productive and the practical.OpeningsWhile this research has broadened my own understanding and given insight into themeaning of students' practical experiences it has also opened new possibilities and newquestions, and, may have implications for teacher education, curriculum development andfurther research.Throughout this study it has become apparent that there needs to be further andcontinued research to try to understand experiences from the perspective of the earlyadolescent student, not only in home economics, but in all curricular areas. Often times earlyadolescent thoughts, ideas and experiences are not seriously considered on issues such asthose related to gender equity, science and technology and the environment. Research on theexperiences of youth in environmental movements, or the experiences of girls in science andtechnology or mathematics might prove to be not only interesting research topics, but couldalso serve to better inform teaching and curriculum planning.91To understand the student's perspective we must learn to listen to our students, hearwith their ears, see with their eyes, and try to come to understandings of their experiences, of"what it is like ^ " It seems only logical that coming to understand the "what is" for thestudent informs us of "what should be taught," "when," and informs our curriculum planningand teaching methodology that in the true sense of teaching thoughtfully leads our students to"what could be" and "what they can become."Connolly (1990) also noted a need for more studies from the early adolescentparticipant's perspective. Such studies have perhaps been inhibited because of the difficulty inobtaining experiential descriptions and/or the inability of young children to articulate theirunderstanding. Those difficulties are not insurmountable when one considers the wealth ofknowledge and understanding to be realized. In this particular research it seemed that attimes students were unable to find the words to convey exactly what they meant and part ofthe challenge of such research is to devise methods of data collection that allows one toconstruct meaning while still remaining true to the experience. In situations involving earlyadolescents I found that employing a number of data collection strategies most useful inconstructing meaning. Informal and loosely structured conversation groups were quitesuccessful with this age group. Students were more relaxed in situations with peers and therewas allot of opportunity for clarification and negotiation of meaning and understanding.Response journals also proved invaluable to this research and I would highly recommend theuse of directed journal type activities in studies involving early adolescents. One datacollection strategy not employed in this research was video taping. If students wereaccustomed to videotaping it would be helpful in capturing the actions, body language andexpressions of conversation groups, those insights that we often miss in our observations.In terms of practical experiences there are many possibilities for research however, thefollowing questions raised by this study may warrant further consideration. As new curricula92is developed and implemented it will be important to continue to research and monitor howstudents understand their practical experiences. For example, will students' understanding oftheir practical experiences change significantly after exposure to curricula developed in thecontext of practical problem solving?Coming to understand the meaning and significance of students' practical experiencesin home economics has raised questions as to the role of practical learning in otherdisciplines. For example, would students' enjoyment and understanding of mathematics beenhanced through practical problem solving or "hands on" approaches? The information andunderstanding gained from such studies would assist teachers and curriculum planners inmeeting the needs of students, and may significantly change curriculum and teachingmethodology.This study may also have implications for teacher education. In terms of practicalcurriculum and teaching in the practical arts we need to be mindful of the notion of "LettingLearn" and provide the opportunities for students to "make action" as well as to "makethings." It is important to curriculum planning as well as teacher education to recognize themerit of play and to promote the integration of play into the intermediate and upper levels ofeducation avoiding sharp distinctions between work and play. Teacher education could alsobenefit from exploring the notion of the "Pedagogical Atmosphere" (Bollnow, 1989) and thequalities of the educator and the child which create that atmosphere and which are basic topedagogical relationships.In terms of the practical in home economics education it is recommended that there beserious discussion and consideration by all teachers of the meaning and significance of thepractical and practical activities in education and in home economics education. Thefollowing questions have been raised in this research and may serve to focus discussions.What is the aim of home economics curriculum? Is it a "doing" curriculum in the productive93sense? Is it a "making" action curriculum in the original sense of the practical? What is therelationship between the productive and the practical in curriculum? Are they complementaryas this research suggests or are they opposed? Is there a need to reconceptualize thepractical in home economics education? How do we use our understanding of studentexperiences of the practical to better inform our teaching and curriculum development?These and many more questions need to be explored and addressed to resolve tensions withinhome economics and to de-mystify the practical in home economics, among colleagues, ourstudents and the public at large."And what is practical or not practical about the activities you do in homeeconomics?," the teacher inquired. "Most things are practical in home ec.because what we learn is used for real life," came the reply.REFERENCESBarritt, Loren, Beekman, Tom, Bleeker, Hans, & Mulderij, Karel (1985). Researching educational practice. Grand Forks, North Dakota: University of North DakotaPress.Bollnow, Otto, F. (1989). The pedagogical atmosphere. Phenomenology + Pedagogy, 7, 5-11.Bollnow, Otto, F. (1989). The pedagogical atmosphere: The perspective of the child.Phenomenology + Pedagogy, 7, 12-36.Bondy, Elizabeth (1990). Seeing it their way: What children's definitions of reading tell aboutimproving teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education. 41(4), 33-45.Brown, Marjorie, M. (1980). What is home economics education? Minneapolis: University ofMinnesota.Brown, Marjorie & Paolucci, Beatrice (1979). Home economics: A definition. Washington,D.C. American Home Economics Association.Can, William, & Kemmis, Stepen (1986).Becoming critical, education, knowledge and action research. London: Falmer Press.Connolly, Maureen (1990). Asking after the lived experiences of and with difficulty in physical activity in the lifeworlds of children and young people. Unpublished doctoraldissertation, University of Alberta, Edmonton.Dewey, John (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier.DeZwart, Mary, L. (1990).Historical inquiry into the meaning of practical arts. Unpublishedpaper. University of British Columbia, Vancouver.DeZwart, Mary, L. (1990).A yellow pudding is its own reward: Cultural and vocational value in home economics education in B.C. Unpublished thesis proposal, University ofBritish Columbia, Vancouver.East, Marjorie (1980). Home economics past, present, and future. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Fullan, Michael (1982). The meaning of educational change. Toronto: OISE Press.94Hart, Roger (1979). Children's experience of place. New York: Irvington.Heidegger, Martin (1971). Building dwelling thinking. In A. Hofstadter (Trans.). MartinHeidegger, poetry. language. thought. (pp.145-161). New York, Harper & Row.(Original work published 1954).Heyneman, S.P. (1987). Curricular economics in secondary education: An emerging crisis indeveloping countries. Prospects, 17(1), 63-70.Hitchcock, Graham, & Hughes, David (1989)Research and The Teacher. London:Routledge.Hultgren, Francine, H. (1990).Bases for curriculum decisions in home economics: Fromquestions to lived practice. Illinois Teacher. May/June, 1990. 162-166.King, Nancy, R. (1984). Lessons in the meaning of leisure: Understanding the work/play dichotomy (Curriculum Praxis Occasional Paper No.26). Edmonton: The Departmentof Secondary Education, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta.Layton, David (Ed.) (1984). The alternative road. Leeds: Center for Studies in Science andMath Education, University of Leeds.McClaren, Milton (1988). A Curricular Perspective On The Principal Of Understanding. Unpublished paper. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.Michalko, Rod (1984). The Metaphor of Adolescence. Phenomenology + Pedagogy. 1(3),296-311.Oldham, Valerie (1986). Interpretations of Difficulty in "School Biology". Unpublishedmaster's thesis. University of Alberta, Edmonton.Selleck, R.J.W. (1968). The new education 1870-1914. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons.Schwab, Joseph, J. (1969). The practical: a language for curriculum. In David E. Purpel &Maurice Belanger (Eds.), Curriculum and the cultural revolution. (pp. 79-99).Berkeley: McCutchan.Speigelberg, H. (1975). Doing phenomenology. Den Haag: Martinus Ni jholTaylor, Cynthia (1991). On the Way to Teaching as Letting Learn. Phenomenology + Pedagogy. 9, 351-355.Terpening, R. (1992, February). Integrating Writing and Literature. Workshop presentationto School District # 69, Qualicum Beach, B.C. Canada.95Thomas, Ruth, G. (1986). Alternative Views of Home Economics: Implications For K-12Home Economics Curriculum. Journal of Vocational Home Economics Education. 4(2), 162-188.Van Manen, Max (1986). The tone of teaching. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Scholastic TAB.Van Manen, Max (1990). Researching lived experience. London, Ontario: The AlthousePress.96APPENDIX AHome Economics 7Response Journal Entry for the Week of March 23, 1992.Record your thoughts, feelings and ideas about this weeks activities and classes in homeeconomics.Listed below are Response Starters. Choose 5 and respond to them and then explain yourresponse, (follow it up) with a "because" or and "explanation."I likeI don't like^I learnedI found interesting^My favourite activity/partThis reminds me^I willI thinkI would likeI enjoy^97APPENDIX BResponse Journal for April 10- 24thRecord your thoughts, feelings and ideas about this past two weeks activities and labs on"Foodsafe."Listed below are three response starters. Respond to each one and then follow up yourresponse with a 2-3 sentence "because" or "description" or "explanation."I learned-...It is important-...I care about-...98APPENDIX CHome Economics 7Learning Log for weeks ending May 15th 1992.Think back on the things that you have learned and the activities that you have done in thepast two weeks in Home Economics. In the space below write down the things that you havenoticed, though and felt about the activities in your home economics classes. Note thingsthat you have found exciting, boring (and why) an also include things which puzzle you andthe questions you think are important.What things have you learned that are useful to you?How are they useful?99100APPENDIX DGrade 7 Responses for the weeks ending the 12th of June 1992.Take a minute to think about your experiences and activities in home economics over the pasttwo years, then answer the following questions.I. What do you like about courses such as home economics?2. Why do you like these courses?3. What is important/or not important about the things you learn in home economics?4. What is different about the learning that happens in home economics as compared to othercourses?5. What do you see as the purpose of courses such as home economics?6. What does the word practical mean to you?7. What is practical/not practical about the things you do in home economics?APPENDIX ESample Lesson Plan for a year seven home economics classLesson 1 Meal Preparation-Your group is to prepare the following recipe in a safe, cooperative, and efficient manner.Your group will be responsible for ;-using the proper utensils in preparing the meal-observing safety guidelines-following the method-setting the table and serving the meal-cleaning up properly after the mealYou have one class before preparing the meal in which to organize your group, locate andidentify equipment and ingredients, and to clarify any techniques, terms, etc. that you do notunderstand about the recipe /assignment.Evaluation will concentrate on;PlanningCooperationSafetyCleanupProduct and Presentation.Sample of Response Journal to be used following the lesson.Response Journal Starters to be completed with, "because," "an explanation," or "why"I likeI don't likeI learnedI found it interestingMy favourite activity/partThis reminds meI willI would likeI wishIt is important to me thatI try101APPENDIX FInterview QuestionsFollowing Response Journal entries (20 -24) the opportunity, need may arise to conduct asemi structured interview with 8 students. The 8 students may possibly be identified andchosen through interesting, diverse, thoughtful responses to the activity. The interviewwould use questions such as those provided in the Sample Interview Questions and wouldmost likely begin with discussion of their responses.Sample Interview QuestionsInterviews will take place as soon as permission is granted and will be done with a group of 4students on Tuesday and the other 4 students on Friday.Interviews will be audio-taped and questions will emerge from response journals as well assome prepared questions to explore the thoughts, meanings and feelings students have aboutthe practical.1.What do you like about courses such as home economics?2. What kinds of things do you like doing in this class?3. Why do you like these?4. What activities do you like the most?5. What is "good" about this or that activitiy?6. What is this experience like?7. What are your feelings when you are doing this?8. What is important to you about this activity?9. Will you do or use this again?10.Can you use something from this experience elsewhere in your life?11.Is this like anything you do at home or out of school?12. Are they the same? Are they different? How?13.What do you see as the purpose of these activities?14.What does practical mean to you?15.What is practical about this or that experience?16.What activities/experiences would you describe as practical? Why?17. What is it about these activities/experiences that constitutes "practical."102APPENDIX GCORRESPONDENCE103The University of British ColumbiaOffice of Research Services B92-132104BEHAVIOURAL SCIENCES SCREENING COMMIrThE FOR RESEARCHAND OTHER STUDIES INVOLVING HUMAN SUBJECTSCERTIFICATE^of APPROVALINVESTIGATOR:UBC DEPT:INSTITUTION:TITLE:NUMBER:CO-INVEST:APPROVED:Peterat, L.Math & Science EducQualicum Beach Middle SchoolUnderstanding student meaning of thepracticalB92-132McCaffery, J.A.APR 3 0 1992The protocol describing the above-named project has beenreviewed by the Committee and the experimental procedures werefound to be acceptable on ethical grounds for researchinvolving human subjects.Dr. R.D._,SpratleyDirector, Research Servicesand Acting ChairmanTHIS CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL IS VALID FOR THREE YEARSFROM THE ABOVE APPROVAL DATE PROVIDED THERE IS NOCHANGE IN THE EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURESJill A. McCaffery471 Yambury RoadQualicum Beach, B.C.V9K 1C7April 2, 1992.Superintendent of SchoolsSchool District #69, QualicumP.O. Box 430Parksville, B.C.V9P 2G5Dear Sir:As part of the requirements for a masters degree in education at the Universityof B.C. I am proposing to conduct research entitled 'Understanding StudentMeaning Of ThePractical. I hereby apply to your School District forpermission to conduct the study in my Home Economics 7 class. Theproposal is for the Spring of 1992, and the data will be collected from theclass during the months of April, May and June 1992.I am enclosing a brief summary of the proposal to outline the purpose andprocedures. Enclosed also is a draft of a parental permission letter.Thank you for your assistance with this request. If further information isneeded or if you have any questions, please ask me.Sincerely,105J.A. McCaffery106THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAFaculty of EducationDepartment of Mathematics andScience Education2125 Main MallVancouver. 13.C. Canada V6T 1Z4Tel: (604) 822-5422^Fax:(604) 822-4714April 24, 1992.Dear Parent,As part of the requirements for a masters degree in education at the Universityof British Columbia I am proposing to conduct research entitled "UnderttandingStudent Meaning of The Practical". The purpose of this research is to come toa better understanding of what practical means to year 7 students and the sig-nificance of practical experiences in education. The focus of the study is onunderstanding a "student perspective" which will be very helpful in planningand implementing curriculum.The research will not affect the course material that students will learn, norwill it affect the activities that they will participate in as a normal partof their course.I am asking your permission to involve your son or daughter in this research.If you agree it will mean;1. The use of student.response journals- response journals are a part of normalclassroom procedures at Qualicum Beach Middle School.2. Student interviews- approximately 8 students will be interviewed by myselfon 4-5 occasions following their home economics class at a time that will notaffect their other classes.The information gathered in this study will be confidential and students willnot be identified in the final report of the research. Interview transcripts andaudio-tapes will be destroyed as soon as my thesis is complete.The parent or student may withdraw from participating in this study at any timeby a statement - orally or in writing. Refusal to participate or withdrawl atany time will have no consequences for the student.My faculty advisor for this research is Dr. Linda Peterat, Department of Math--matics and Science Education, Faculty of Education, University of BritishColumbia.If you have any questions concerning any aspect of the project, the proceduresto be used or the extent of your son's/daughter's involvement I would be happyto discuss these with you. I can be reached at Qualicum Beach Middle School(752-9212) or Dr. Peterat can be contacted at (822-4808). If you consent toyour son's/daughter's participation please sign below, detach and return tome by May 4, 1992.Sincerely,Jill A. McCaffeI have received and read a copy of the parent consent form for the researchproject entitled, "Understanding Student Meaning of The Practical"I consent^I do not consent^ to my child's participation in this study.Date^ Signature

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