Theses Doctoral

Senseable Curriculum: Artful Practices for Curriculum Theory and Design

Gerth van den Berg, Sarah M.

Over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic, works of art explored social isolation, abolition, and climate crisis. The pandemic had ruptured normative curricular practices in schools and learning discourses focused on minimizing those interruptions. Meanwhile, works such as Ellen Reid’s SOUNDWALK, Kamau Ware’s Fighting Dark, and Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest crafted relationships to knowledge through site-specific sounds, familiar materials, and sensory experiences of their environments. A group of curriculum designers, researchers, and educators, including the author of this study, affiliated with a university-based Curriculum Lab engaged with these artworks, while processing the pandemic’s effects on their own curricular practices.

Situated within the Lab, this project used ethnographic and speculative methods to research how the artworks’ aesthetic and sensory strategies activated curricular contact zones and contributed to artful practices for curriculum theory and design. This study built on the work of critical curriculum scholarship which has demonstrated that significant forms of knowledge and belonging are produced through informal and null curriculum, and outside of schools entirely. Drawing on aesthetics, affect, and vital materialisms, this study theorized ambient curriculum: a surround through which any variety of onto-epistemological practices might cohere into relationships of knowing and becoming.

At the same time, this study recognized that formal curriculum exerts a large influence on the daily lives of teachers and students, and that there are educators searching for forms of curriculum more aligned to their commitments to social and ecological justice; beliefs about the complexity of knowledge and learning; and approach to design as a creative process. This project considers the implications of such creative processes for curriculum design as a nomadic practice and curriculum designers as nomadic becomings, making and made by their creations.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Lesko, Nancy Louise
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2022