Archive for the ‘Entry and Exit Activities’ Category

In today’s schools, teachers face students who have absolutely no motivation to learn the information required in school curriculums.  Students today are trained at an early age to participate in the classroom’s learning process, but often have no reason why they personally should find the information they are learning important or applicable.  How many courses do adults look back on as being unimportant in their pursuit of their quality of life?  How often does the process of assisting children with middle school or high school math homework intimidate adults who have supposedly mastered these subjects (as evidenced by their high school diplomas)?  Teachers today face the need to inspire their students to learn the important skills and concepts necessary to make them successful in the modern world.

Teachers need to make the information that they teach appealing and applicable.  Information gained in class must be taught in such a way that students realize the immediate or long-term application of what they are learning.  Students must be taught to critically analyze all information they receive for application to their environment.  This especially applies in the field of history, where dates and facts are lost easily if there is no meaning or significance applied to those dates and facts.  Information must be structured in such a way that important concepts are taught and freedom is allowed in the classroom for the exploration of student interests.  Teachers themselves need to be focused on caring for each one of their students.  Teaching methods should be focused on principles which elevate the needs of individual students.  Student understanding of information must be grounded in cultural and historical understanding of the world they live in.  Subjects such as History and English must connect what is being taught to the conditions of the modern world. Often to achieve this, teachers will need to work together to make their subjects connect to the learning happening in other classrooms.  As no class can fully inform students on all important ramifications of information, the connection to understandings in other classrooms must be established.  A student must understand that the information that they learn in class should be applied to their general knowledge and understanding.  Teaching should be a process of helping students understand how they can use information to form their understanding of the world.  In this way, they can be successful in whatever they decide to pursue.

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Leo Tolstoy asks in “On Popular Education” what the right is of schools to force education or the learning of knowledge on their students.  Why should society ask its newest individuals to conform to the expectations of knowledge that educational institutions create?  Through the medieval era and up to the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, the reasoning behind asking students to learn information was founded on an understanding that man must have knowledge about God and creation for him to find salvation and for him to succeed in the world.  Since the advent of Darwinism and the findings of science, society has moved away from having religious foundations for education.  Society has focused their reasons for education on the effects of education on people in their environment.  Tolstoy wrote about how in Russia these two conflicting perspectives had provided no good answer as to why individuals should be taught a specific catalogue of information.  He believed that there should be no specific expectation of knowledge to be learned, but rather that schools should conform their teaching to the needs of today’s society and that all learning should be based on freedom and experiment.

The answer to the question that Tolstoy sought in his society lies for us in the importance of understanding an individual’s future place in society.  John Dewey writes in “My Pedagogic Creed” how education should be out of the larger life experience of the child.  The purpose of education should be to provide the child access to the lessons learned by those who have gone before him or her for the purpose of finding answers to the questions they consider important.  This process of allowing a student access to society’s understanding of morality and nature allows the student to take full command of themselves as a powerful and able individual.  Through their participation in the society of the school they are allowed to develop their understanding of how to function in society at large and from there to understand what place they will take in it.  School, therefore, should pursue both the goals of the institution and the goals of individual.

Without a specific religious calling for individuals to education in today’s society, the reasoning for the importance of education must lie in the place specific individuals will take in tomorrow’s society.  As they will become tomorrow’s citizens, it is important that they achieve the understanding that will make them apart of an enlightened society.  Without education, society runs the risk of becoming entirely composed of individuals who have no understanding about the importance of the world around them.  It is therefore important for them to gain a sufficient understanding of the world to make the correct decisions.  In order to engage the student’s desire to become apart of this process, the school must be willing to work with the student to answer their specific questions about the world around them.  Preparation for life after schools, therefore, should occur in such a way that the student is prepared for what they want to do.  Their active place in society will not become meaningful for them if they are forced to fit into a place that they weren’t made for.

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 8 Full Text.

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Arthur Ellis in Multicultural Education writes about how the dream of the melting pot in the United States has never been realized.  Israel Zangwill envisioned a land where peoples from around the world came to America where they would leave their cultures and languages behind in the pursuit of being an American.  This dream of an American identity separate from all other cultures and nations never came to be.  The country that we live in is a mixture of cultures and identities, which all continue their separate existence in differences in individual backgrounds and family histories and traditions.  Arthur Ellis argues that our perspective as a society should not be one of America as a melting pot or as a singular society, but rather as a pluralistic society containing multiple cultures and dimensions.

The problem with this perspective is that it lessens the importance of American identity for the sake of preserving and uplifting the identities of other cultures.  Often when Immigrants come over to the United States they come from rough environments and want to be enriched in the character and culture of America, with all of the freedoms and abilities that come with it.  As teachers we have the responsibility to help students become better citizens, and how will they develop a sense of their connection to the American system without a perception of their own American identity?  It is important that regardless of the many cultures that compose our nation that we as a people still have a perception of ourselves as Americans.

Previous generations understood the importance of their identity as Americans and sought to make education a part of the process of passing on their national heritage and beliefs.  Horace Mann wrote about the responsibility of the state to promote the necessity of individuals working for their own preservation and enrichment.  He also wrote about how education elevates the poor and destitute so that wealth can be shared by all and so that individuals will have the ability to defend themselves against the selfishness of others. In so doing, he promotes American ideals and beliefs about the state of humanity and what should be done about it.  His belief in the American system shines through his writings on the importance of education.

Many others wrote about the importance of what it meant to them to be an American.  As the nation grew and changed, the perspective and beliefs of the people altered the national perspective of American Identity.  Booker T. Washington wrote about how individuals should pursue the opportunities that are all around them.  He also wrote about how different racial groups in society should learn to cooperate for the betterment of all.  The American people have worked to eradicate the evils of discrimination.  Racial tolerance has become a hallmark of what it means to be an American.   It is important that individuals are encouraged to embrace their individuality and that especially in schools cultural diversity is continually developed.  However, the existence of American identity does not stand in the way of encouraging the differences between people.  America is now composed of different racial and ethnic backgrounds than it was in previous centuries and so the conversation that should be taking place throughout the nation is who are we now?  What does it mean to be an American?  General Educators are given a responsibility to educate students on their responsibilities as citizens and so are entitled with the calling to develop the next generation’s perception of their own identity.  If the United States becomes disconnected in its perception of itself, what is going to keep other cultures from completely overrunning it?

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 7 Full Text.

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Arthur Ellis writes in Educational Challenges about the responsibilities of the school to prepare children for the outside world out of their obligation to society.  Schools are required to educate individuals with understanding in information and skills, awareness of cultural values, development of social ability and peer group relations, and with a modest preparation for working life.  Teachers are given a responsibility to prepare students for citizenship.  Central to the process of a child’s growth as an individual is the development of their moral understanding. This process, however, is complicated by the fact that multiple cultures and value systems influence and affect our society and the diversity of students in a classroom.  So, a teacher is endowed with a responsibility for moral development, but society hasn’t defined what their moral values are.  An aware teacher understands their effect on students and their perception of understanding.  Students assume automatically that the teacher is well learned in the subject they teach and are taught by society to trust what the teacher is saying.  Therefore, a teacher holds responsibility for everything they say and for every value they teach their class.  But from where should a teacher define their moral standards and beliefs?

Johann Hobart in The Ethical Basis and Aim of Instruction writes that the aim of education is the pursuit of virtue, and virtue is found only in true inner freedom through the pursuit of insight and volition.  Virtue includes the process of moral self-determination, for which Hobart prescribes an education in religious training.  The pursuit for a communicable system of moral values is a search to find an anchor, by which to tether all perceptions of how society should be and what the correct course of action is for society and for individuals.  Without something to base society’s perceptions on, moral values change from generation to generation and there is no understanding of moral absolutes to be passed to the next generation.  For generations, western culture was based on the moral values and understandings found in Christianity.  Our current society rejects Christianity as a viable source for moral values.  Society is only happy with the teachings of Jesus if those teachings line up with society’s perception of moral values.  This means that moral values are no longer a hard foundation of understanding, but rather something that fluctuates with the changes in society.

All individuals feel that actions are either right or wrong and from this we perceive society’s view of moral understanding.  The nation that we live in dictates actions as legal or illegal based on the agreement on and acceptance of laws upheld by the government.  From an understanding of this and from an understanding of what actions generate favorable outcomes can a teacher derive their perception of a system of moral values communicable to their students, says society.  There are, however, teachers whose convictions run deeper than society’s perception of right and wrong.  It is inappropriate, by law, for those teachers to teach their students those convictions. Yet it is difficult for a teacher to not teach those attitudes when their values are communicated by their actions and their own attitude.  Ellis also points out how a teacher’s life is defined by small victories in the classroom and the cumulative positive effect that they have on student outcomes.  It is a responsibility of a teacher to better the lives of their students through the understanding that they communicate to them.  So how does a teacher better their students by encouraging them to pursue moral understanding if moral values fluctuate with society?

One of the foundations of education for Rousseau in his Emile is the importance of directing students to nature and inviting them to curiosity.  Nature as understood either by man’s nature or by the natural world is knowable through observation and through pursuit of understanding.  Moral absolutes, if they are all encompassing and definite, are definable and knowable by individuals.  What is best for self and for others is an understanding that is worthy of student interest.  The obligation of the teacher is to teach individuals the rules that society dictates in the context of the conduct of individuals, and then to ask questions that will pique their curiosity about what the correct course is for humanity.  It is only by asking these questions that humanity is allowed to progress and to make changes for the betterment of all people.  Moral understanding in today’s society is a process of searching for absolute truth.  Teachers ought to use their position to encourage students to ask the kinds of questions that will lead to student understanding of absolute moral values.

Scheuerman, R. (2010).  Lecture 6 Full Text.

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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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“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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“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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