Archive for the ‘EDU 6132’ Category

Both John Medina and Meece and Daniels have written about the importance of the family environment to the wellbeing and educational success of the child.  John Medina (2008) writes that students that experience stressful home lives usually find it difficult to perform in school or be connected to the learning environment of the school.  Meece and Daniels (2008) catalog the different developmental stages that are dependent on a healthy family foundation and describe what happens to students who don’t receive the proper nurturing.  These students often withdraw from their education and communicate to teachers and counselors that they have no desire to work in school regardless of the effect it will have on them in the not too distant future.  Both Meece and Daniels (2008) and Preciado (2011) prescribe an environment at school that is welcoming to different cultures and worldviews and is reactive to the needs of students who grow up in families that aren’t supportive of their learning.  One of the best ways to help students and parents see the importance of their education, they argue, is to get parents involved in their education as much as possible through parent teacher conferences, volunteer opportunities, homework help assignments, and community multicultural activities that invite different members of the community into the school so that they feel accepted and an important part of the school community.

This belief in the ability of schools to include everyone in the community may be to idealistic.  In my observations, I’ve talked to several teachers about students who are failing their class and about what efforts they have made to get these students motivated.  There will always be students who will not care about their education regardless of the effort the teacher makes to get them engaged.  The school that I’m observing in is very culturally sensitive and has a multicultural event this week to bring in members of the community.  This cultural sensitivity is also apparent in the attitude and lessons of the teacher whom I’m observing, and she has given several lessons while I’ve been there that have been ethnically diverse and unbiased.  Her educational practices also include many degrees of varied instruction and assessment that allows her students to perform their very best in her class.  And yet, with all of that prompting and support, she still has students in her classes who refuse to actively pursue their education.  What this illuminates for me is the importance of informing students about the centrality of their will in the success of their education.  Students are often given all of the tools they need to be successful in school and will still fail classes.  What is the saying about leading a horse to water?  A great deal of leniency should be given to students who come from rough backgrounds especially when it comes to helping them gain the right perspective about their education and its importance.  This being said, there are many examples of students and of individuals who are successful despite or because of their poor circumstances growing up.  Students in general need to be taught that their work and effort are directly correlated to their future quality of life.  If students aren’t able to develop a healthy work ethic before they leave high school, how will they be successful in college or at a job where there will be no scaffolds to help them be successful?

References:

Meece, J. L., Daniels, D. H. (2008).  Child and Adolescent Development for Educators (3rd Ed.).  Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Medina, J. (2008).  Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Preciado, J. (2011).  EDU 6132: Students as Learners.  Online Course: Seattle Pacific University MAT Program, Seattle.

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During my observations over this last month, I have really appreciated the attitude and demeanor of the teacher I’m observing and the effect it has on her students.  Specifically in the context of promoting healthy social relations, this teacher conveys to her students an atmosphere of acceptance and respect that allows her students to relax and enjoy learning.  There is a significant difference between the expectations placed on students in her regular classes and the expectations placed on students in honors.  This allows students who are performing at a lower level to take time to understand and comprehend the material they are being asked to learn.  Conversation easily takes place in her classroom between the students and between students and the teacher and when it is time to move on, the teacher casually calls attention back up to the front of the room.  This teacher’s assessments are varied in style and expectation, and her most common assessment involves students composing a short paper or creating a project to show what they know.  Most of her students react positively to this atmosphere and become engaged in the learning community that she has created.  Unfortunately, even with all of these adjustments to her classroom for the sake of the individual and their learning ability, there are still several students who won’t complete assignments for her class.

There will always be students who because of their desire to do nothing take advantage of the system and cut themselves off from the learning community.  These students aren’t motivated by lesser standards or understanding teachers.  They, for whatever reason, have come to the conclusion that the best thing they can do for themselves is to avoid every expectation that is placed on them for the purpose of making their lives easier for themselves.   So what is the correct response for the teacher?  It seems ineffective to lessen standards for the whole class for the sake of these students if lessening standards does little to help them join the community.  There are students who struggle with expectations because of their lack of development for which adjusted standards might be appropriate, but for the purpose of helping that student perform at the level of their peers so that they can be a fully participating member of the community.  Lower expectations only allow the student to never experience expectations that are hard or difficult to their future detriment in life after high school.

The best way to help students develop successful learning relationships in the classroom is to establish an atmosphere of acceptance where conversation is easy and comfortable.  This must come hand in hand with high levels of expectations and standards that ask the student to grow while they are in the classroom.  Lowering expectations will not provide the student with the motivation to work for their education.  This motivation to join the learning community must come from the decisions and mindset of the individual.

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What stood out to me in the readings for this week is the importance of helping students develop independent reading habits.  In the podcast for this week, Jorge Preciado talked about the “Matthew Effect” where students who are naturally inclined to read on their own will naturally develop literacy proficiency, where students who don’t have that tendency will not (Preciado, 2011).   The divide between the ability level of English proficiency of these two types of students only grows with age and maturity.  Similarly, Meece and Daniels (2008) point out the importance of encouraging students to read, both in class and on their own time as a major component to their future success in developing their ability to become a fluent reader and to constructing a meaningful understanding from the text.  There is a strong link between how much students pursue reading on their own and how developed their understanding of the English language is.

In today’s schools, teachers are facing a generation of students that are almost entirely dependent on the media, personal computers, and portable devices for information and understanding.  While the availability of technology is a good thing for student’s education, search engines and Wikipedia allow students to get the information they need in short to the point sentences that rarely require students to delve deeply into their understanding of the English language to derive meaning.  The natural tendency of students who live in the media age is to gravitate towards sources that will illuminate them quickly, with little work being required of them to understand what the source is trying to communicate.  There are fewer and fewer reasons for students to pick up a good book if most popular books are made into movies anyway.  Students who have no drive to study literature will find that their understanding of English is lacking when compared with students who have read and continue to read to improve their fluency.  Students who fail to read also miss out on the experience of reading works that are well crafted and inspiring.  There isn’t an experience that replaces the joy of reading a good book.

It is for these reasons that it is important for teachers to find ways to encourage students to pursue an enjoyment of the written word on their own time.  For most students, this will mean finding subjects that the student finds interesting and impressing on them the importance of good personal reading habits.  With students of all ages, there are concepts and understandings that can’t be covered in the classroom or on videos that can be extremely important to how a student views the world.  This is in addition to all of the reading requirements that the student will have to complete in college and in their chosen career.  The connection between personal reading and individual achievement are clear.  It’s important that teachers encourage students to read as much material as possible.

References:

Meece, J. L., Daniels, D. H. (2008).  Child and Adolescent Development for Educators (3rd Ed.).  Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Preciado, J. (2011).  EDU 6132: Students as Learners.  Online Course: Seattle Pacific University MAT Program, Seattle.

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John Medina (2008) writes in Brain Rules in chapters five and six about how memories work and about effective habits and learning techniques that allow individuals to retain important information longer.  His principle arguments are that short-term memory is enhanced when information is complex and intriguing and that long-term memory can be solidified by review at set intervals.  Meece and Daniels (2008) describe in detail the development of memory and retrieval ability in children and suggest effective strategies for helping students develop habits that increase retention and easy retrieval.

The immediate perception of the application in the classroom of these principles is obvious.  The automatic reaction of a prospective teacher upon understanding this information is to assume that these strategies will be in of themselves effective enough to stimulate student learning, comprehension, and retention.  The effectiveness of memorization techniques seems to almost provide an answer for how to get important information into student’s heads.  What this line of reasoning fails to take into account, however, is the ever present roadblock to effective learning: lack of student motivation.  Effective teaching strategies with lessons and curriculum that promote effective memorization and retention will not necessarily cause inspiration and hard work.  Effective memorization techniques, though important, cannot be assumed to be the ultimate answer for effective learning.  Making it easier for a student to retain information doesn’t necessarily mean that the student will see the importance of the information and commit it to memory.  Often classroom routines that make learning easier for students allows them to be lulled into a false sense of security where their lack of effort will be enough to make them successful.  With some exceptions where students are disadvantaged and not able to perform at the level of other students, the majority of individuals in school need to be inspired and challenged by the information that they are being required to learn.  Information needs to be intriguing and perspective shattering.  Students need to be inspired by challenges that they struggle with to work hard during their education for their future wellbeing.  Students’ need a perspective that sees the importance of learning and the ability to adapt to new situations.  Our goal as educators should be to inspire students with an overwhelming desire to understand and to succeed.

Teachers should by all means organize their curriculum to help students succeed through memorization techniques and retrieval strategies.  The presence of these strategies, however, should not take the place of inspiration.  If effective instruction is replaced by instruction that relies too heavily on memorization techniques, teachers will find themselves with classrooms of students who know lots of information but have no drive to connect that information into meaningful contexts or understandings.

References:

Meece, J. L., Daniels, D. H. (2008).  Child and Adolescent Development for Educators (3rd Ed.).

Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Medina, J. (2008).  Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and

School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

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John Medina writes in his book Brain Rules (2008) in chapters three and four about the importance of understanding that each brain is wired differently and that attention is essential to comprehension and learning.  Every individual has their own way of processing information depending on how their brain has developed since infancy.  This, Medina argues, is important for teachers to realize because adapting instruction to meet the processing needs of different individuals is essential to effective instruction.  In addition, it is essential for teachers to realize the importance of capturing and keeping student attention, because of the effect it has on student learning and the processing of information taught in class.  Medina argues that teachers have about ten minutes before they lose their students’ attention and so must adapt their instruction with hooks and changes of topic every ten minutes.

Curriculum and lesson adaptation for the differences in individuals often neglects the need to challenge students with different ways of thinking.  Most students who have reached high school have entered the Formal Operational Level of understanding as defined by Piaget (Meece and Daniels, 2008).  They are now capable of adapting their thinking from defining aspects of the real to hypothesizing factors in the possible.  They have multiple forms of logic and are beginning to think about their world in more scientific terms.  At the next stage of their education, they will be asked to listen to three hour lectures from professors who don’t care about the individual needs of students and their ability to process and understand the contents of their lecture.  College has proven to be the factor that defines an individual’s social economic status when it comes to what jobs are available to that individual.  It is important that every student in high school is encouraged to pursue an education at a college or university.  If education is adapted at every level to meet the needs and desires of students (whose attention span has been diminished by the media age) with curriculum that doesn’t challenge students to pay attention in class longer than ten minutes, how will students adapt to the requirements of real-life situations where Individuals in charge are less motivated to adapt their expectations to the needs of their employees?  With certain exceptions of students who need help to be successful in the modern world, isn’t it the responsibility of schools to prepare students for what will be expected of them after high school?  If the expectation isn’t on students to do what’s necessary to succeed in classes where instruction isn’t necessarily adapted to meet their line of thinking, when will they learn to adapt to new situations in the real world?  Often it is learning to comprehend the thinking and reasoning of others that forces us to adapt to survive in challenging situations.  Reflecting back on my own experience, it was in the classes of the teachers who weren’t wired like me that I learned the most information, because of the extra time that I spent on the material trying to comprehend the reasoning and expectations of my teacher.  If there are no hurdles for students to get over in their education, will students be prepared to overcome obstacles and barriers to happiness in the real world?

References:

Meece, J. L., Daniels, D. H. (2008).  Child and Adolescent Development for Educators (3rd Ed.).  Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Medina, J. (2008).  Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Preciado, J. (2011).  EDU 6132: Students as Learners.  Online Course: Seattle Pacific University MAT Program, Seattle.

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In order for teachers to be successful in their educational practices and methods, they must first have an understanding of their students’ development and condition.  They must base their teaching methods and educational theories on their understanding of how students develop socially and cognitively and should select their methods to best enhance student development.  A strong understanding of brain development and student condition creates a firm foundation for enhanced learning in the classroom.

Of the student development theories discussed the first chapter of Child and Adolescent Development for Educators by Judith Meece and Denise Daniels, I tend to lean toward the Ecological Contextual Theories proposed by Urie Bronfenbrenner.  I like it because it seems to embrace multiple factors affecting the development of an individual within their biological and cultural context, but it still allows for developments to be largely the choice of the individual.  Maturity and understanding comes from interaction with their environment where development at one level affects the type and character of the development at the next.  This particular theory seems to grasp the complexity that is the growth and development of specific individuals.  Other theories of development make the process of development and reasons for development too simple.

I struggle with the explanations that John Medina gives in his book Brain Rules for the development in individuals of specific brain tendencies.  The tendencies that Medina has discovered through analysis of how individuals operate he relates back to the development of human beings from lesser species.  Medina argues that the process of our evolution is the reason for why the human brain is more successful pursuing specific activities or organizing environments to meet cognitive needs.  This reasoning is hard to accept from the perspective of one who doesn’t believe in macro-evolution.  With my background in Christianity, Creationism, and micro-evolution, I find his arguments for why the brain is the way it is difficult to accept.  I find that I don’t disagree with his arguments about how the brain works and about what changes are most helpful for better cognition and brain work.  However, I find that I have to discover my own reasons for why the brain is the way it is by analyzing my own beliefs about how the world and individuals were created.

References:

Meece, J. L., Daniels, D. H. (2008).  Child and Adolescent Development for Educators (3rd Ed.).

Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Medina, J. (2008).  Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and

School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

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