Functionalism in Education

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Having attended public schools throughout my childhood and adolescence, I never was familiar with the term functionalism and its many elements. After observing and analyzing my field placement classroom I have come to understand the concept of functionalism to some extent. In general, functionalists “see schools as serving to socialize students to adapt to the economic, political, and social institutions of that society” (Feinberg, p.6, 2004). They also theorize that in order for societies to survive, they must carry out vital functions such as, attaining fundamental knowledge and acquiring essential skills and proficiency, acknowledging certain norms and values within their community, and recognizing authority figures. It is also believed that social solidarity and role differentiation are the primary aspirations for a society and is achieved by means of the educational system. I can recall instances from my schooling experience, where functionalist aspects were taught and are presently being utilized in the classroom I observed. Some of the various features of functionalism that I identified within the classroom are hidden curriculum, role differentiation and specificity, which I will be addressing, more in depth throughout this paper.

The classroom I analyzed from Smith Junior High consists of six special education students between the ages of 13 to 17. A majority of the students are racially diverse and come from a low income household. These students are classified as moderately mentally disabled and each have an IEP, which include their present level of academic achievement

and functional performance. The setting of the classroom is comprised of a structured yet uncomplicated curriculum, where their teacher Angi Root, incorporates practical and efficient learning strategies. The entire curriculum is based upon the concept of functioning in every day situations so I was able to identify numerous functional activities. My first observation of the...
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