Archive for October, 2010

Key Idea Identification is a reflective assessment practice that asks the students to relate what the most important key concept was for a specific amount of time in class.  Students are required to write down or to tell the teacher in a class discussion what the most important idea or foundational concept was out of all of the information given and discussed in the classroom.  This reflective practice requires the student to think critically about what they have learned for the purpose of finding a foundational thought to their understanding of the rest of the material.

The most important concept in the lecture and in the readings for EDU 6120 for this week is the centrality and effectiveness of inspiring inquiry and discussion in education for the purpose of preparing students for their future place in society.  In order for students to truly retain and use information given and discussed in class, the information given must cause cognitive stimulation.  Lectures and talks given by the teacher should inspire students to ask questions about the information that they have been presented with.  Education in school should not be seen as the process of merely communicating all of the important wisdom to students, but rather should be understood as the process of asking students to think for themselves about the needs and problems of the world, as is understood by the Progressive school of thought.

Petrarch taught that the education system of his day should include the understanding of classical virtues in the process of developing an understanding of the relationship between man and God.  Martin Luther wrote about how the future of a city is dependent on the education of its citizens.  Johann Comenius wrote about how children should be educated through a process of reason and discovery in a gentle rewarding environment to produce a person educated with the best foundations of morality, honesty, and wisdom.  All three of these writers understood the importance of inspiring individuals to wisdom and intelligence for the sake of the community.  Many writers over the centuries have seen education as the answer to fighting ignorance and poor societies.  Unfortunately, teachers now face a generation that is uninterested in the process of learning in school.  Teachers must be able to take information that is necessary for student understanding and make it applicable to a student’s desire to understand.  The perspective of the teacher and of the students should encompass the great rewards that are gained from the understanding that comes from the process of learning in schools.  Information learned or received in class should cause the reaction of student interest and the desire for further inquiry.  Learning should be an exciting process for both the student and the teacher.  Students should understand early on how the process of learning in schools is a part of the larger process of incorporating them into society as capable productive citizens.

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 5 Full Text.

Ellis, A.  Philosophical Perspectives.  Retrieved October 28, 2010, from http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-5-ellis-philosophical-perspectives.pdf

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One of the most interesting and perhaps most challenging disabilities for a student in a general education classroom is Autism.  With cognitive problems and deficits in social ability and responsiveness, students with Autism present a case where Inclusion could either be extremely successful or destructive to the learning environment, depending on the teacher and the resources that are provided for the student in the classroom.  I’ve chosen to focus my Inclusion presentation on students with Autism because I’ve had many experiences with students who have varying levels of Autism, and because I find their irregular decisions and social disabilities to be very interesting and intriguing.  My heart goes out to them in their struggle to find understanding and to be successful at school and in the modern world.

Children with Autism have certain tendencies depending on their level of Autism.  They tend to have deficits in social responsiveness: Their reactions seem to be unrelated to their surroundings or stimulus (they won’t smile in social situations, but then will laugh out loud at what appears to be nothing), they tend to act differently at different times to different people, they tend to avoid eye contact, they show little interest in people and tend to focus on objects, and they often don’t have a desire to communicate and are sometimes confused to be mute.  Children with Autism will often have ritualistic motor motions that they repeat often.  Examples of this could be twirling, spinning certain objects, or rocking.  Children with Autism will also have certain cognitive problems similar to the problems that children with intellectual disabilities face.  This may be accompanied by extreme ability in one area or function that appears to be unrelated to all of the rest of the child’s learning (Autistic Savant).  The problems that a child with Autism face can be narrowed down to problems with executive functions, weak central coherence motivation (or the desire to connect understanding of many parts into a meaningful whole), and difficulty with understanding and respecting the perspectives of others.

Exceptional Learners: An Introduction to Special Education suggests several educational strategies for working with students with Autism: direct Instruction, behavioral guidance, age appropriate natural settings, the assistance of a social interpreter, and coaching for correct social interaction from the teacher.  At the moment, according to Exceptional Learners, the most popular form of educational consideration for students with Autism is the self-contained classroom.  There is evidence, however, that students with Autism can be successful in the general education classroom especially with the assistance of a para-educator or social interpreter.  It is a worthy goal of educators and school administrators to eliminate the fear and misunderstanding surrounding students with Autism.  One healthy way that this can be accomplished is through inclusion into the general education classroom.  I will endeavor to prove in my PowerPoint that this is not only possible but can have great benefits for students with Autism and for the general student population.

Hallahan, D. P., Kauffman, J. M., & Pullen, P. C. (2009).  Exceptional Learners:  An introduction to Special Education.  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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“Learning Illustrated” is a reflective learning exercise where students are asked to show in a picture, map, or graph what they learned that week.  The idea is that by asking students to do this, you are encouraging students to use different parts of their brain to construct something from what they learned.  Involving different types of brain activity over information learned encourages longer term memory and retention.  The project also asks for creativity and allows students who have difficulty communicating through words to have a different medium for telling you what they know.

The Tree of Understanding

Plutarch wrote that the soil of a man must be good before the seed of knowledge can be planted in him.  This means that the student must be receptive to the process of learning and must have the ability to retain and expand upon the knowledge given to him.  No curriculum is good enough to educate a soul not in tune with the process of learning he or she is a part of.

The image of a tree can be an allusion to a person’s understanding.  The seed of knowledge or the desire for knowledge is planted deep within a person, from which a tree of knowledge and understanding grows.  This specific illustration illustrates a part of a specific individual’s understanding.  The roots of the tree represent the foundational understandings that all other understandings are based on.  Philosophy is written in the soil of the illustration as a foundation for the roots of the tree, a subject that was important to Quintillion.   To this I add foundational concepts that we’ve discussed in class: moral reason and the understanding of social values.  For this particular individual, religion and religious understanding were also foundational in his pursuit of knowledge.  From these roots grows the trunk of a person’s understanding, which is surrounded by other trees of knowledge or the understanding of other individuals.  Being surrounded by society in the pursuit of knowledge was another point important to Quintillion.  Out of the trunk of this person’s understanding branches many of the different fields of his education.  At a very early age, this individual was taught fundamentals like colors, numbers, and letters, etc.  From this understanding came more complicated understandings like reading and writing.  From these understandings came the exploration of social studies and elementary calculations, and the further pursuit of understanding of the English language.  The pursuit of Art was also a pathway of understanding and knowledge.  From elementary calculations came the pursuit of more formal understandings of science, math, and music.  From social studies, came the pursuit of understanding politics and history.  From history came the dual branches of historical study and the desire to understand how to teach.  Teaching as a profession and a goal is the fruit of the labors of the individual to pursue understanding.

This illustration is by no means complete in its depictions of the understandings of this particular individual, but rather seeks to illustrate the connection between foundational understandings and other kinds of knowledge.  This illustration also seeks to illustrate how one understanding branches off from one another during the course of one’s education until the individual decides which specific focus of understanding bears the most fruit in their lives and in their pursuit of education.

Scheuerman, R., & Ellis, A. (2010).  Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement.  Washington State Kappan, Volume 4, #1, Winter/Spring 2010

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 4 Full Text.

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                One academic challenge that you will face with Learners with Learning Disabilities is their difficulty with social and emotional abilities and behaviors.  Learners with LD experience social/emotional problems and will have a tendency towards depression, social rejection, suicidal thoughts, and/or loneliness.  This tendency coupled with motivational problems like learned helplessness and an external locus of control causes the learner to lack concentrated effort on schoolwork and to distance themselves both from the teacher and from other students.  This tendency will make it difficult for the teacher to motivate the student to achievement in their classroom, both in individual work and in work with other students. 

                A teacher should be inclined to assist the student who seems to have difficulty making friends in their classroom.  In the case of the Learner with LD, it is essential that the teacher have this focus in mind for social and academic reasons.  It is a responsibility of the teacher as a representative of the state to help Learners with LD understand the difficulties they’re experiencing, and to help them develop strategies to work through social and emotional difficulties.  At the primary level of education, this means that the teacher should organize as many activities that involve the Learner with LD working with other students.  Other students should be taught what the natural difficulties are of Learners with LD so that they can identify what behaviors seem odd to them.  The teacher should also work as much as possible directly with the student to help them overcome their difficulties and fears. 

                For the secondary level of education, much more subtle practices must be used to ensure social development for Learners with LD.  Group activities should still be used as much as possible as a rule.  Other students should similarly be made aware of the difficulties of LD either directly or informally.  Peer tutoring, or having another student help the student with LD measure achievement and behavior, could be extremely effective in helping the student with LD gain social ability if the student who is assigned to the student with LD volunteers and does so with the desire to help and to develop a relationship with the student with LD.  The defining factors in the process of social development for the student with LD is the desire of others to have a relationship with this individual and the patience of others in helping the student develop social ability.  Without these, the student might be made to feel like they’re a project or as someone with whom social interaction is pointless.  In the event of this, the student with LD will remove themselves from social interaction more and more until dangerous consequences occur.  It is important to realize that wherever a student is in their academic development, social development and the increase of perceived self-worth are essential to the continuation of a student’s development on any level and to the maturation of the general individual into adulthood.

Hallahan, D. P., Kauffman, J. M., & Pullen, P. C. (2009).  Exceptional Learners:  An introduction to Special Education.  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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“Clear and Unclear” is a reflective assessment strategy that asks the students to write down at the end of a class session one thing that was clear to them and one thing that was unclear to them.  This strategy is similar to the “I Learned” statement in that it requires the student to recall information they received during the instruction of the day.  This strategy also requires that the student do some critical thinking about what they have just learned so that they can clarify things they heard but didn’t understand. There might be a tendency in students to put little effort into finding something they genuinely don’t understand.  This strategy, however, at least gives the student the opportunity for critical thinking and allows teachers to assess how the students are doing in their classroom.

The writings of Solomon and the teachings of Jesus encourage Christians to follow the pursuit of knowledge and the practice of critical thinking.  In Proverbs 3 and Ecclesiastes 12, Solomon encourages his reader to cling to knowledge and understanding.  Out of the pursuit of knowledge flows healthy living, wise conduct, and a long life.  For Solomon, the pursuit of knowledge is the pursuit of God’s truth.  It is the Lord’s understanding that one must pursue in order to live the life the Lord has ordained and desires.  It is in his ways that one truly finds happiness and peace.  The pursuit of knowledge in itself will lead to ruin, but the pursuit of God’s understanding leads to love of God and a blessed life.

Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 5 reveal the same emphasis.  Jesus taught that it is not the wise and elevated man on earth who triumphs in the end, but rather the meek and the least.  Jesus teaches that the pursuit of God should define the attitude, motivation, and character of a person.  The focus should not be on the rewards of this life, but rather the rewards of the next.  A person should focus on the salvation and the needs of other individuals.  The pursuit of good for others should be elevated above the needs of the self.  The peace and understanding of truth given to individuals by God should be a light guiding others to relationship with God.

The important thing to notice about these two passages is the call by God to man to rethink what they understand in pursuit of God’s perspective.  Reflective assessment strategies encourage students to do the important work of thinking critically about what is taught in the classroom.  For Christians, it is important for them to be constantly analyzing what they are taught in the light of the Holy Spirit’s understanding and what the individual knows about the character and desires of God.  Teachers must understand the importance teaching the truth to the best of their ability in the classroom and must be willing to allow the students to analyze what they are taught in the pursuit of what is true.

Scheuerman, R., & Ellis, A. (2010).  Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement.  Washington State Kappan, Volume 4, #1, Winter/Spring 2010

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 3 Full Text.

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Students with intellectual disabilities will experience academic challenges within a general education classroom.  They may have difficulty with general lectures and may not necessarily understand or interpret all that is taught or inferred.  This may come from a larger difficulty with understanding body language, both in understanding what they observe and in expressing themselves.  Students with intellectual disabilities may also learn at a slower pace than the other students and may need information repeated to them more than once.  They may also have difficulty applying concepts from one setting to another.  Students with intellectual disabilities may have behavioral problems like self-learned helplessness, rigidity when addressed, or the tendency to shut down when problems are too difficult.  They may have problems with social skills or have difficulty making true friends.  Very rarely will their frustration turn into aggression, but a general education teacher must be prepared to deal with that student as well.

There are several things that a general education teacher can do to provide for students with intellectual disabilities within the classroom.  They must be very direct with their instruction to their students and must look ahead to the needs of the individual.  The teacher must have very clear expectations for the student and must be willing to assist the student to meet those expectations.  Since students with intellectual disabilities may have difficulty understanding information if they are only taught in one way or one method of instruction, the teacher must be willing to alter their normal methods of teaching and must be willing to repeat information.  The teacher must also establish for the class established routines.  Students with intellectual disabilities have difficulty knowing what is expected out of them if the expectation changes from week to week.  The student must be encouraged by positive behavioral support or the rewarding of good behaviors with positive encouragement.  Students with intellectual disabilities should be supplied with whatever instructional technology they require to succeed in the classroom.  Concepts taught in class should be applied to real life examples for the future application of concepts and abilities.  Finally, the student must have a place as a member of the class and should be included with other students as much as possible.

The above suggestions are helpful for instructing all students.  It is a good policy to make sure that information is taught to students in different ways and that there are clear expectations for what is expected of them.  Implementing the policies mentioned above will help all of your students be successful with the material taught in your classroom.

Hallahan, D. P., Kauffman, J. M., & Pullen, P. C. (2009).  Exceptional Learners:  An introduction to Special Education.  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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Another exercise suggested by Arthur Ellis and Richard Scheuerman in Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement is “The Week in Review”.  For this reflective exercise, students are put into groups of three for about fifteen minutes and are asked to recount the most important concepts learned throughout the week.  This strategy is similar to the “I Learned” statement in that the statements of students can then be used to judge how much of the week’s lessons the students retained, which can be a foundation for the teacher’s preparation for the next week’s lessons.

It is essential for prospective teachers to be aware of the different information retention strategies that are available for helping students retain the information taught in class.  It is also important that teachers practice the exercises so that they are informed about what the process entails for their students.

EDU 6120: Important Concepts for the Week

During the lecture on the evening of Monday the 4th of October, Dr. Scheuerman said that telling students that there is no consensus on a specific values system is still teaching the students a value system.  Dr. Scheuerman then went on to explain that there are six pillars of our society that defines what it means to be a citizen of our nation.  They are Service (or Volunteerism), Honesty (or Trust), Civility (or Obedience), Kindness (or Mercy), Participation (or Cooperation), and Commitment (or Work).

In the excerpt from Plato’s Cave: “On breaking the chains of ignorance”, Plato compares the process by which a human being comes out of ignorance into knowledge to the idea of a person living in darkness for most of his life and then suddenly being brought into the light.  He then goes on to explain how individuals with knowledge cannot plant what they have come to understand in the minds of other people.  Those that wish to teach must teach individuals with a desire and ability to learn.  All human beings are in the process of becoming through learning.

In the excerpt from Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Book 1, Aristotle makes the claim that every person is a critic.  In order for someone to be a good critic, they must be well educated.  Aristotle is identifying the ability of human beings to discern what they perceive and to make decisions about what choices they will make.  In order for someone to develop this skill to the best of a person’s ability, that person must be educated.  Aristotle later states that it is better to pursue a life of virtue than a life of honor.  This simply means that it is best for a person to base one’s decisions on the merit of the action than to base one’s decisions on the approval of others.

Arthur Ellis in the excerpt from Schooling and Education explains the difference between education and school.  Education, he explains, is the life-long process that individuals go through to gain knowledge about the world, which takes on a variety of forms.  School, however, is a specific kind of education, which is defined and limited by specific subjects and kinds of information.  School is also limited and defined by a certain amount of time, where education is ongoing.  The knowledge gained in school is non-random.  Also, schools educate with the intended goal of preparing individuals for occupations.

Dr. Scheuerman, in his memorial for Arden Johnson, describes the life of a kindergarten teacher whose teaching methods and style continues to inspire those who knew her.  A few of the many important things about Arden Johnson were her understanding that education in schools is a part of the larger process of learning in life; her ability to be flexible and to make everything into a lesson; and her ability to make children feel like they belong in her classroom, with all the rights and responsibilities.  Arden Johnson tried to keep away from strict lesson plans and criterion, and focused on the development of the individual, which has left an impact on all of her students and on those who knew her.

Scheuerman, R., & Ellis, A. (2010).  Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement.  Washington State Kappan, Volume 4, #1, Winter/Spring 2010

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