von Heyking, Amy

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    Implementing progressive education in Alberta's rural schools
    (Canadian History of Education Association, 2012) von Heyking, Amy
    In the mid-1930s, in the midst of economic depression, social turmoil and political upheaval, the province of Alberta introduced an innovative progressive school curriculum, consisting of the “enterprise” approach and the replacement of history courses with Social Studies. Historians who have examined this revision, like Robert Patterson, assert that the curriculum was never seriously implemented, particularly in the rural schools of the province. They argue that young and inexperienced teachers with few teaching resources were simply not up to the task of putting the child-centred, project-based program into effect. This paper argues that rural teachers, not inhibited by many elements of what Tyack and Cuban call “the grammar of schooling,” were actually well placed to implement hands-on, subject-integrated and student-directed learning activities. An examination of a range of primary source material, including teacher memoirs, newspaper accounts and Department of Education correspondence, indicates that rural teachers, though they faced considerable challenges in fully implementing progressive curriculum reforms, adopted and adapted teaching practices they saw as relevant and useful for the students in their classrooms.