Archive for January, 2011

As representatives of the state, teachers are expected to educate their students as factually as possible to the best of their ability.  Perceptions and opinions about the nature of truth aside, teachers are given the responsibility to convey to their students truth about the larger world in the subject that they have been hired to teach.  Accurately constructed perceptions of the world, therefore, must be constructed from an understanding of facts which must be supplied to students through teachers and their curriculum.

There is too much relevant information in the world for students to process.  Any subject has the possibility of losing its relevance and impact if the teacher teaches facts about the world by themselves.  Facts must be organized into larger understandings of relevance and impact.   Facts are more easily retrieved by students if they are taught in the context of their connection to larger ideas or concepts.  For example, a science teacher may start with helping students understand how the periodic table works so that later understandings about specific elements might be categorized under the larger understandings of how elements are related to each other.  Concepts are how information is organized so that students can retain larger amounts of information within broader categories of understanding.

In the subject of history, this means organizing periods of time into the ideas or events for which they were known (Absolutism, The Enlightenment, World War II, etc.) and then further subdividing the facts within a time period into categories of movement and development (Civil rights, Feudalism, Manifest Destiny, etc.).  In this way, dates and facts can be organized so that students remember periods of time for what was most important.  Dates and facts in themselves usually carry little meaning for students without overarching frameworks of conceptual understanding.  Seen within the context of what an event meant to the larger development of a society or for the world, a fact becomes something relevant and worthy of storage for later reflection.  Without the organization of facts under the understandings of larger significance, understandings of facts about the world become stagnant and easily forgotten.  In order for teachers to teach understandings about the larger world to their students, they must organize their information into understandable and memorable frameworks of understanding or concepts.

Scheuerman, R. (2011).  EDU 6526: Survey of Instructional Strategies.  Lect. 3 full text

Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2009).  Models of Teaching.  Boston: Pearson Education.

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Inductive learning is the instructional strategy where students are taught to look at specific information with the goal in mind of creating larger concepts.  By analyzing particulars, students are able to derive general truths from the characteristics and relationships between particulars.  Successful learning and information retention happens when students are able to take multiple variables and organize them into categories and concepts accessible for future understanding and reflection.  Inductive learning is built upon the idea that learning can be organized so that all information taught is categorized for students so that they can build upon conclusions they’ve made about variables to achieve higher understandings.  An easy example of this instructional strategy in practice is math, where specific abilities like adding or subtracting is taught with the goal of being able to apply that ability in future learning.  This first understanding is the foundation for all future understandings.  Without understanding how to add or subtract, it is doubtful that students will be able to perform or understand any higher kind of math ability.

For the teaching of history, Inductive learning in the classroom is the process of talking about specifics in the historical record for the purpose of connecting that information into larger concepts that society has constructed when studying history.  This means that students should be taught dates, places, and events first and then should be taught to analyze those events for the purpose of understanding reasons why those events took place, what the consequences are of those events, etc.  The benefit of using the Inductive learning approach is that larger understandings of history are not given to students for memorization but are rather the conclusions that students have reached from the process of analyzing particulars.  In this way, students can be taught from early on in their education to analyze information for the specific purpose of reaching their own conclusions.  This early analysis and conclusion construction ability is facilitated by the teacher so that students are given the proper ability to analyze and make conclusions.  Not all understanding of historical concepts can be reached by student analysis and so some concepts must be taught to students directly.  The advantage of information gained through Inductive learning, however, is that a student’s understanding of history and historical concepts is their own, rather than information that someone else understands that they have happened to memorize.

Scheuerman, R. (2011).  EDU 6526: Survey of Instructional Strategies.  Lect. 1 and 2 full text

Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2009).  Models of Teaching.  Boston: Pearson Education.

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                Every teacher in every classroom is accountable to political correctness.  For many years, the United States have been attempting to adopt language and perspectives that are not offensive to individuals and cultures.  Teachers as representatives of the state and as public servants are responsible to be careful about what they say because what they say reflects the bias and perspectives of the government and nation that employs them.  Teachers, therefore, must reflect an attitude and communicate a perspective that is embracing to all cultures and individuals so that they might better communicate the perspective of the nation and of the society around them.   

                The problem, however, with the pursuit of political correctness is that it can become a detriment to healthy and honest conversation in the classroom.  The intent of pursuing political correctness is the goal of respecting and supporting the beliefs of every culture and individual.  Often political correctness is seen as a list of the subjects teachers and students are not allowed to talk about.  If this is the extent of political correctness, then those who practice it are not attempting to pursue and support individuals from different understandings then themselves, but rather, finding their perspectives about those cultures taboo, they decide to ignore those cultures altogether.  In this way, teachers in classrooms are not pursuing cultural diversity, but rather sticking to the subjects they know they can talk about without offending anyone.

                A better perspective is the pursuit of being culturally sensitive.  Cultural diversity within a classroom requires open conversation about the differences between individuals, backgrounds, and cultures.  A healthy perspective for students is one that acknowledges differences between individuals, perspectives, and backgrounds in the pursuit of better understanding and respect.  Reconciliation and respect can only be brought about in the classroom setting through engaging conversation and the pursuit of cultural diversity.

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            The demographic of children attending America’s schools is constantly changing.  In many schools no one specific ethnic or racial group is a majority.  Far from the expectation that students within a specific school classroom will have similar backgrounds and motivations, a teacher must be prepared to reach their students of diverse and multidimensional backgrounds.  The attitude and perspective of a prospective teacher should be one that seeks to accept and promote the differences in individuals.

            In order to understand diversity, teachers must be prepared to engage and understand their students.  James Banks (2007) describes how individuals can be better understood by identifying which specific characteristics an individual finds to be the most important of their overall identity.  Each individual differs within specific categories of ethnicity, gender, social class, religion, exceptionality, etc.  Teachers can help students be the most successful in a classroom if they are able to identify these factors for each of their students.  Understanding which groups a student belongs to helps explain a student’s behavior in the general classroom.  Understanding a student’s attitude and actions allows the teacher to change expectations and curriculum accordingly to better reach each individual.

            The diversity of today’s society requires that teachers take a pluralistic or multicultural approach to education so that students of diverse backgrounds might be successful.  Grant and Sleeter (2007) describe the Multicultural Education approach as the process of fighting prejudice and discrimination through implementing practices that reflect pluralism and promote diversity.  Each teacher in each subject is required to integrate material from multiple cultures so that multiple perspectives and beliefs are understood by students.  In addition, a general attitude of acceptance is adopted and policies are pursued that promote diversity.  The overarching goal of Multicultural Education is modeling a school after a healthy pluralistic society so that students are taught at an early age how to be successful in the modern world.    

Banks, J. A., & McGee Banks, C. A. (Eds.). (2007). Multicultural Education: Issues and

Perspectives.  Seattle, WA: Wiley                                                                         

Okun, M. (2011).  EDU 6133: Diversity in America.  Lecture 1 full text

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