Meta-Reflection

animated-teacher

When I look back on this quarter and all that I have learned in EDU 6526: Survey of Instructional Strategies and as I begin to develop my own educational philosophy, this quote from longtime Harvard University professor and distinguished twentieth-century educational psychologist, Jerome Bruner, comes to mind: “We need a surer sense of what to teach to whom and how to go about teaching it in such a way that it will make those taught more effective, less alienated, and better human beings” (Bruner, 1996, p. 118). Knowing who a student is, his or her background, interests, abilities, learning styles, etc. will be essential to tailoring a classroom that challenges, inspires, and provides for specific needs while keeping students engaged and motivated. As a high school English teacher, there are many elements I will need to juggle, but my hope and my goal is to facilitate social growth, moral development and academic success.

One instructional strategy for promoting both academic achievement as well as social development is constructivist learning. Knowledge cannot be constructed alone, but rather is received and experienced in collaboration. John Dewey believes the school is “primarily a social institution,” a concentrated form of community life, a vessel for social progress and this constructivist ideology centers on unity and cooperative learning while still maintaining an emphasis on individual accountability (Dewey, 1897). Within the classroom, cooperative learning operates under the philosophy that isolation limits understanding. Working as members of a group or team allows students opportunities to navigate different social dynamics while learning from one another. This interaction benefits not only cognitive learning, but also the building of social skills. My hope is that collaborating and working together affirms the value and contributions of others while also affirming one’s sense of being valued by others.

And while constructivist and collaborative learning has its place and value, Howard Gardner, the Father of Multiple Intelligences reminds educators that students do not learn the same material in the same ways, so teachers need to understand and incorporate the different and distinctive ways in which students learn (Edwards p.1). Edwards suggests that in order to promote the success and learning of all students, it is important to cater to students’ strengths while also challenging them in areas they may be unfamiliar. An educator needs to integrate these learning styles: Visual-Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic, and Logical-Mathematical (Edwards, p. 1). In addition to incorporating multiple learning styles to promote academic achievement in my English classroom, I intend to implement many instructional strategies to encourage moral development so that my students may grow up to be sensitive, culturally competent and contributing citizens.

C.S. Lewis writes about morality and the influence of literature: “without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). Lewis writes about how unrealistic it is to expect American youth to grow up to be moral, self-controlled citizens if we are not promoting and teaching those virtues. Just as one would not expect daisies to grow without first planting those specific seeds, fertilizing and watering them, so Lewis explains how illogical it is to expect a virtuous generation without laying and fostering the proper foundation.

Consciously selecting literature that provides opportunities for discussion and promotes the development of personal judgments about virtues is a great, subject-specific way of laying a moral foundation. Displaying pertinent and meaningful quotes about virtuous behaviors and attitudes in the classroom is a way of daily reminding and reinforcing valuable aspects of character development. And finally, clearly defining and holding students accountable to classroom expectations such as respect and fairness, as well as engaging students in conversation about virtuous behaviors and attitudes in everyday life are proactive approaches to promoting citizenship and moral education

With Jerome Bruner’s words at the forefront of my teaching philosophy, it is my hope that all students will leave my classroom competent, with increased academic knowledge and belief in their personal potential, feeling heard, understood and valued, confident in their ability to contribute and interact with others. Achieving these goals will be a trial and error process, an education in itself, but I am looking forward to employing the many skills and strategies I have acquired this quarter.

Resources:

Bruner, J.S. (1966).  “Some Elements of Discovery”. In L.S. Shulman & E.R. Keislar (Eds.), Learning by discovery: A critical appraisal.  Chicago: Rand McNally College Publishing Company, p. 118.

Dewey, J. (1897). “My Pedagogic Creed,” The School Journal, 54, (3), pp. 77-80.

EDU 6526: Instructional Strategies worksheet “An Interview with Howard Gardner, Father of Multiple Intelligence” by Own Edwards

EDU 6526: Instructional Strategies worksheet “Can Virtue Be Taught?” by Russell Kirk. Adapted from The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things are Written in the Sky (1987).

Image retrieved on March 3, 2013 from: http://www.bookfrontiers.com/library-wanderings.php

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Building Students’ Self-Esteem

Quick-Tips-to-Boost-Your-Self-Esteem

Students and teachers spend upwards of 13,000 hours together before high school graduation roles around, so it is hardly surprising that teachers have considerable influence on the self-concept of their students just as Carl Rogers’ research suggests. Rogers’ research evidence indicates, “when students’ feelings are responded to, when they are regarded as worthwhile human beings capable of self-direction, and when their teacher relates to them in a person-to-person manner, good things happen” (Rogers, p.2). Part of building a student’s positive self-concept: sense of personal value and self-efficacy: belief in one’s abilities to be a successful learner requires responding to students in terms of their specific needs and goals (Albert, p.1). Asking for student ideas and goals is a way of encouraging students to take responsibility for their education and provides teachers the opportunity to express confidence in students’ abilities to be self-directing and successful—students learn to trust their own instincts and abilities.

Teachers also have the opportunity to reinforce the development of confidence through affirmation and encouragement. When it comes to offering authentic praise, a teacher must not overpraise which making affirmation cheap. Also, when affirming a student’s work ethic, progress, or quality of work, it is important to keep the praise student focused so that the student will develop intrinsic motivation as well as confidence and pride in their work (Albert, p. 1).  To implement strategies that building students’ self-esteem and create a positive classroom atmosphere, a teacher must be proactive and intentional about developing relationships with students so that students will “grow more healthily and achieve more effectively” (Rogers, p.2).

Resources:

Rogers, C. Teacher effects research on student self-concept. Handout from EDU 6526, Seattle Pacific University, Feb. 26, 2013.

Albert bandura and social-cognitive learning. Handout from EDU 6526, Seattle Pacific University, Feb. 26, 2013.

Image retrieved on March 2, 2013 from: http://birminghamcounsellingservices.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Quick-Tips-to-Boost-Your-Self-Esteem.jpg

Continuing on the Road to Cultural Competence

According to Sue & Sue (2003) cultural competence is “active, developmental, an ongoing process and is aspirational rather than achieved” (p.1). Growing as an individual and as a teacher is a journey that takes time as well as patience. Significant transformation is preceded by many small, degrees of change and becoming increasingly more culturally competent requires sensitive awareness, personal reflection, understanding and willingness to adjust one’s attitudes, words and behaviors in order to prevent marginalization and promote the success and happiness of all students regardless of age, race, religion, culture, gender, sexual preference or socio-economic status. When it comes to culturally competent instruction in the classroom, the ASCD Improving Student Achievement Research Panel (1995) provides a strategy list that, as a future high school English teacher, I am going to refer to regularly to ensure that my classroom is a safe and positive space for the growth and development of each of my students:

 

Strategy 1: Maintain high standards and expectation

Strategy 2: Incorporate the home culture

Strategy 3: Encourage active participation of parents or guardians

Strategy 4: Capitalize on Students’ Backgrounds

Strategy 5: Use culturally relevant curriculum materials

Strategy 6: Identify and dispel stereotypes

Strategy 7: Create culturally compatible learning environments

Strategy 8: Use cooperative learning

Strategy 9: Capitalize on students’ culture, language, and experiences

Strategy 10: Respect community language norms

Strategy 11: Use thematic, interdisciplinary teaching

 

In reflection, after completing the cultural competence self-assessment adapted from Sue & Sue (2003) one of the areas that will require development is “Knowledge.” In order to be a culturally competent professional, I need to “have a good understanding of the socio-political system’s operating in the U.S. with respect to treatment of marginalized groups in our society” (Sue & Sue, p.3). Also, I will need to have “knowledge of institutional barriers that prevent diverse groups from using services” (Sue and Sue, p. 3). To develop these areas of competency I will pursue students and parents and ask them to share about their own experiences, but beyond that, I will need to do outside research about the past and present experiences of different groups in order to understand where my students may be coming from and how I can best meet their needs. I will need to be more intentional about knowing what is happening presently both in the community and nationally in order to develop my knowledge-based competence and lay the foundation for advocacy.

Since I am not currently teaching, I took this self-assessment with my past working experience in mind, as well as my day-to-day encounters with others, so I am looking forward to getting into the classroom full-time, and being able to employ the awareness, skills and strategies I have acquired. Taking this self-assessment on a monthly or bi-monthly basis will be an effective way of measuring where I am being effective and in what areas I may be lacking in awareness, knowledge, skills or advocacy (Sue & Sue, 2003). This type of personal accountability and professional reflection will make sure that I continue toward my goals in pursuing cultural competency.

 

References:

Adaptation of “Strategies for Culturally Competent Instruction” from:

ASCD Improving Student Achievement Research Panel. (1995). R. Cole (Ed.), Educating everybody’s children: Diverse teaching strategies for diverse learners.

 

Adaptation of “What Is Cultural Competence?” (www.CulturesConnecting.com, 2009) from:

Sue, D., & Sue, D. (2003). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice. (4th ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley.