Curriculum theorist and expert William Pinar developed the system of currere in the 1970s as a way to reimagine education using personal stories and experiences as the starting point. Lived experience—the stories we carry with us—matter, and Pinar understood the wisdom that the past holds. But it’s more than just the past. It’s our journey. And how that journey influenced us and continues to impact us.
You see, autobiography (or stated another way, personal, lived experiences) are important. The memories we hold inside of us are precious and beautiful because they are part of what is carved on our heart as proof of having lived. They are our story. These experiences should be pulled into our academic spaces and used to guide instructional decisions. Too often, educational experiences—those provided to educators and students—deny the importance of our pasts, and instead of learning from what has or hasn’t worked, we trudge onward with someone else’s goal, usually based on data that is void of any humanity. Or we do things the way we’ve always done them.
Since working together, we have believed in the power of personal stories. And with this article, we invite you to participate in Pinar’s process of currere.
Of course, Pinar’s process is one that has gone through multiple revisions since it was first described in 1975, and with each iteration in college classrooms and professional development sessions, much has changed since the original manifestation. Together, we have thought through what this looks like for us, and this is the version we are sharing with you.
The process of currere works like this:
- Think back on your past educational experiences. What stands out to you? What moments were formative? Affecting?
- What could the future of education look like? What actionable steps could be taken to achieve that goal?
- What is happening in the here and now in regard to education? What is working? What isn’t working?
- Based on steps 1, 2, and 3, what can be done to infuse your vision for education into the here and now?
These changes you think of may be considered too visionary or laden with comments such as, “This will never happen.” But, we encourage you to look again and consider the parts of the second step in currere could actually come into existence in your school. Usually, it is after taking a closer look that we see how possibility can become reality.
We hope you will take the time to think through William Pinar’s brilliant sequence and share your thinking with us. Better yet, try this with your teachers and collect their thinking on large chart paper. Hang these in a common area so everyone can see the possibilities for your school.
It is through deep thinking that we arrive at something amazing. Imagine, fall in love with those imaginings, and watch as things transform. We stand in awe of the critical work that you do.
Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award-winning educator, author and international speaker.
Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.