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.
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