Attention Please: Positioning Attention at the Center of Curriculum and Pedagogy

Oren Ergas


This paper explores two contradictory approaches to the concept of attention as it underlies curriculum theory based on conceptual analysis and empirical studies. The first approach depicts a common curricular-pedagogical conception based on the following premises: 1) Attention is a means for the acquisition of disciplinary knowledge. 2) Sustained voluntary attention is an unrealistic goal given the tendency of the mind to wander, hence the teacher is responsible for sustaining students’ attention. The second approach, stemming from theory and contemporary applications of ‘attentional training’ challenges both premises suggesting that: 1) Attention determines the quality of our life thus its cultivation is an end in itself. 2) The cultivation of sustained voluntary attention through self-practice is feasible and holds significant transformative educational potential. Based on the analysis proposed the paper suggests and exemplifies a balancing approach in which subject matter and attentional training can be integrated with each made subservient to the other at different times toward broadening the scope of education.


teaching, attention, curriculum, mindfulness, William James.

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JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

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