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

Instructional Strategies and Learning Styles

learning-stylesEach student we will encounter is undoubtedly unique, varying in countless ways, not least of which are personalities, emotions, and learning styles. With this in mind, educators must understand, that students do not learn the same material in the same ways, nor does a uniform way of measuring student learning exist. Taking all of this into account, teachers need to understand and incorporate the different and distinctive ways in which students learn.

According to an interview with Howard Gardner, the Father of Multiple Intelligences, by Owen Edwards, “the broad spectrum of students – and perhaps the society as a whole – would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a number of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means” (Edwards, p. 1). Edwards suggests that in order to promote the success and learning of all students, an educator needs to incorporate the learning styles: Visual-Spatial—includes drawing, verbal and physical imagery like charts and graphs, Bodily-Kinesthetic—includes physical activity and hands on learning like acting out and making things, Musical—related to sensitivity to sounds, rhythm, and musical media, Interpersonal- related to understanding and interacting with others such as group activities and dialogue, Intrapersonal—related to understanding one’s own interests and goals such as through reflection and independent study, Linguistic—related to the effective use of words and is a way of connecting to students with highly developed auditory skills through reading, playing word games, and writing stories or poetry, Logical-Mathematical—relates to conceptual and abstract thinking for students who like to experiment, explore questions, and solve puzzles (Edwards, p. 1).

Knowing who one’s students are and what they need is an essential and challenging aspect of teaching in the classroom. While planning and implementing activities and lesson plans that cater to the different learning styles of students seems daunting, the curriculum and teaching techniques must evolve just as students grow and change. According to Gardner’s philosophy, while students are young, promoting a more well-roundedness of education in the classroom may be perfectly appropriate, but as students grow older, “it becomes more important to discover and cultivate areas of strength” (Edwards, p. 2). Gardner believes “livelihood and happiness are more likely to emerge” if educators focus and cultivate the strengths and learning styles of older students (Edwards, p. 2). This is the challenge of every educator, to help students develop areas of understanding and knowledge as well as skills and values that encourage pride in livelihood and positive contribution.

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

Image retrieved on February 24, 2013 from: http://www.speak-simple.com/2012/12/

 

Teaching Virtue

According to Russell Kirk’s essay, “Can Virtue Be Taught?,” the virtue of America is dangerously on the verge of collapse and “it is not propaganda nor productivity nor intellectuality that has power to invigorate Americaat the crisis of the nation’s fate” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). Kirk believes moral lessons and the character development of American youth have been neglected. Moral virtue is not being conveyed for many reasons, but in great part due to “the decay of family…modern affluence and modern mobility” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). Kirk criticizes those who believe the school system is wholly responsible for raising up virtuous citizens: “it would be vain for us to pretend that schools and colleges somehow could make amends for all the neglect of character resulting from the inadequacies of the American family” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). However, Kirk recalls a time when intellectual virtue was imparted successfully in eighteenth century British America. They were schooled in the reality of virtue and through literature; they learned to train their emotions, and were “required to read carefully…certain enduring books that dealt much with virtue” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). C.S. Lewis writes about the necessity and influence of such literature: “without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). He is writing 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 is explaining how simply illogical it is to expect a virtuous generation without laying and fostering the proper foundation.

While the classroom may not be able to overcome the laundry list of inadequacies and deficiencies in the lives of every youth, there are many proactive strategies that I intend to implement and develop within my English classroom. Consciously selecting literature that provides opportunities for discussion and promotes the development of personal judgments about virtues is a great foundation. Displaying pertinent and meaningful quotes about virtuous behaviors and attitudes is a way of daily reminding and reinforcing valuable aspects of character development. And finally, 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.

 

Resource:

worksheet adapted from Russell Kirk’s “Can Virtue Be Taught?” The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things are Written in the Sky, 1987.

A Constructivist Perspective on Education

Constructivism operates on the theory that knowledge is received actively through experience and cooperation. Knowledge or the cognitive organization of this knowledge allows from subjective interpretation of reality as every individual constructs knowledge. The process is organic and new, not reproduced or predetermined and requires thoughtful reflection on all elements of experience especially context and content.  One cannot construct knowledge alone, but rather knowledge is received and experienced in collaboration, “by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race” (Dewey, 1897).  According to Dewey’s “My Pedagogic Creed,” this process begins unconsciously almost at birth and is continually shaping the individual’s powers, saturating his consciousness, forming his habits, training his ideas and arousing his feelings and emotions” (Dewey, 1897). In this way, an individual finds meaning within the social group and seeks to meet and adhere to the demands of his social situation. And as a member of the group, the individual becomes responsible for the welfare of that group.

Dewey believes the school is “primarily a social institution,” a concentrated form of community life, a vessel for social progress (Dewey, 1897). This constructivist ideology centers on unity and cooperative learning while still maintaining an emphasis on individual accountability. Within the classroom, cooperative learning operates under the philosophy that isolation limits understanding, so individuals work as members of a group or team in order to learn from one another. This interaction benefits not only cognitive learning, but also the building of social skills. Collaborating and working together affirms the value and contributions of others while affirming once sense of being valued by his or her peers.

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Resources:

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

Image retrieved on February 10th, 2013: http://www.scoop.it/t/5e-s-learning/p/456714456/constructivist-education

Advance Organizers and the Transfer of Information

An advance organizer organizes new material based on what students already know. Information is outlined, arranged and structured progressing from the most general and comprehensive ideas at the beginning to more detailed and more specific. Not only do advance organizers prepare students for new information, but also aid in the process of applying knowledge to new situations. This transfer of information counteracts the laundry list of facts that are often presented to students in the classroom. Jerome Bruner, Harvard Professor and distinguished educational psychologist writes, “We know perfectly well that there are good rote techniques whereby you can get the child to come back with a long list of information. This list is no good, however, because the child will use it in a single situation and possibly not even effectively then. There must be some other way of teaching so that the child will have a high likelihood of transfer” (Bruner, 1966). According to Dell’Olio & Donk, Teachers must provide their students with a abundant amounts of information and advance organizers increase the likelihood of understanding, retention and transfer of information (2007, 388). As instructional materials, advance organizers most effectively integrate new material with previously presented information through use of comparisons and cross-referencing. In this way, students establish connections, are able to understand the structure behind the material that is being presented, and are then better prepared to receive and digest the new material provided.

bloomstaxonomy2

graphic retrieved on February 3, 2013 from: http://elisephillips.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/strategy-3-cues-questions-and-advance-organizers/

“Some Elements of Discovery” by Jerome Bruner from:
Lee S. Shulman and Evan R. Keislar, editors. Learning By Discovery: A Critical Appraisal (1966).

Jeanine M. , D., & Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching: Connection Student Learning With Standards. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

Discovery: Facts vs. Concepts

Facts are observable tid-bits of information confirmed to be true whereas a concept is a general idea, more abstract, and requires thought and understanding. According to the educational psychologist Jerome Bruner, there are many routine techniques that require a student to collect and present a “long list of information” or facts. However, in his essay “Some Elements of Discovery,” Bruner states that this laundry list is “no good” because a “child will use it in a single situation and possibly not even effectively…” and then the information will likely be abandoned or forgotten. This is not effective teaching. As future educators, we must guide students in connecting information to larger concepts, making learning relevant and increasing the likelihood of transfer and retention.

Collecting and even memorizing fact-based information does not require comprehension or reflection, necessary elements of the discovery process. As students discover “neighboring elements,” and connect ideas, “the concept that emerges is like a rope in which no single fiber runs all the way through.” Students are able to make personal and compatible connections, enhancing their knowledge base and expanding their perspective and understanding. Guiding students in the proper application of simple facts and information provides them the opportunity not only to test the limits of their concepts, but also to develop “skills related to the use of information and problem-solving.”

In light of this focus on discovery, I wanted to share this poem by Dr. John Edwards. I am quite confident these will be questions and thoughts I will sincerely consider throughout the entirety of my future teaching career.
After returning home from a lecture, Edward’s wife asked him: And what did you steal from your students today?” He was quite thrown off and after thoughtful reflection, he and his wife wrote the following:

If I am always the one to think of where to go next.
If where we go is always the decision of the curriculum or my curiosity and not theirs,
If motivation is mine,
If I always decide on the topic to be studied, the title of the story, the problem to be worked on,
If I am always the one who has reviewed their work and decided what they need,
How will they ever know how to begin?

If I am the one who is always monitoring progress.
If I set the pace of all working discussions,
If I always look ahead, foresee problems and endeavour to eliminate them,
If I swoop in and save them from cognitive conflict,
If I never allow them to feel and use the energy from confusion and frustration,
If things are always broken into short working periods,
If myself and others are allowed to break into their concentration,
If bells and I are always in control of the pace and flow of work,
How will they learn to continue their own work?

If all the marking and editing is done by me,
If the selection of which work is to be published or evaluated is made by me,
If what is valued and valuable is always decided by external sources or by me,
If there is no forum to discuss what delights them in their task, what is working,
what is not working, what they plan to do about it,
If they have not learned a language of self-assessment,
If ways of communicating their work are always controlled by me,
If our assessments are mainly summative rather then formative,
If they do not plan their way forward to further action,
How will they find ownership, direction and delight in what they do?

If I speak of individuals but present learning as if they are all the same,
If I am never seen to reflect and reflection time is never provided,
If we never speak together about reflection and thinking and never develop a vocabulary for such discussion,
If we do not take opportunities to think about our thinking,
If I constantly set them exercises that do not intellectually challenge them,
If I set up learning environments that interfere with them learning from their own actions,
If I give them recipes to follow,
If I only expect the one right conclusion,
If I signify that there are always right and wrong answers,
If I never let them persevere with something
really difficult which they cannot master,
If I make all work serious work and discourage playfulness,
If there is no time to explore,
If I lock them into adult time constraints too early,
How will they get to know themselves as a thinker?

If they never get to help anyone else,
If we force them to always work and play with children of the same age,
If I do not teach them the skills of working co-operatively,
If collaboration can be seen as cheating,
If all classroom activities are based on competitiveness,
If everything is seen to be for marks,
How will they learn to work with others?

For if they…
have never experienced being challenged in a safe environment,
have had all of their creative thoughts explained away,
are unaware what catches their interest and how then to have confidence in that interest,
have never followed something they are passionate about to a satisfying conclusion,
have not clarified the way they sabotage their own learning,
are afraid to seek help and do not know who or how to ask,
have not experienced overcoming their own inertia,
are paralysed by the need to know everything before writing or acting,
have never got bogged down,
have never failed,
have always played it safe,
How will they ever know who they are?

Resource:
Lee S. Shulman and Evan R. Keislar, editors. Learning By Discovery: A Critical Appraisal (1966).
http://motivationalmagic.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/the-things-we-steal-from-   children/

EDU 6526- Questioning as a Teaching Strategy

Questioning is an effective teaching element used to engage students in the classroom. Proposed questions and inquiries allow students to share conceptual understanding and often what is shared may be useful additions to the other students’ understanding. Providing planned questions and allowing students to answer them, allows for the circulation of new ideas and new information. Students are able to then respond and verbally process the information they are acquiring and the collaborative aspect can lead to deeper understanding for all. Questions allow a teacher to gauge understanding and provide an opportunity for the collection of feedback. In Models of Teaching by Bruce Joyce, Marsha Weil, and Emily Calhoun, research suggests that “inquiry-oriented curriculums appear to stimulate growth in other; apparently unconnected areas” (pg. 88, 2009).

As students consider the answer to questions, they connect important concepts to a larger framework and as active members of the discovering process, they are more likely to remember the information taught and apply critical thinking skills in the future. Additionally, asking students to come prepared to class with questions or inquiries provides a springboard for conversation about specific areas of confusion or interest. Questioning is a constructive teaching strategy for the collaborative collection of feedback. These aspects of questioning as a teaching strategy will be invaluable as a future educator. The link below provides basic but valuable information about how to effectively employ questioning in the classroom:

Questioning Strategies—University of Delaware’s Center for Teaching and Learning: http://cte.udel.edu/publications/handbook-graduate-assistants/questioning-strategies.html

Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2009). Models of Teaching. United States of America: Pearson Education, Inc.