EDTECH 504: Building a Framework for Lifelong Learning

I like to think of myself as a constructivist teacher, but state mandates, pressing schedules and demanding standards often cloud my purpose. I agree with Vygotsky, Bruner (to some extent), Maslow, and Gardner, but I find Piaget’s four stages of cogntive development (Leanord, 2007) rather confining in application. I am also a proponent of brain-based learning, and have spent years researching how our brains anaylyze, accomodate, and evaluate new information.
One way I expand students’ understanding is to make their thinking process visible. Students demonstrate different thinking processes by mapping their problem solving aloud or on paper. When they are learning new thinking operations, I provide scaffolds by utilizing process worksheets and cues. Exercising quality thinking and providing meaningful purpose motivates the students to improve their thinking and provides better cognitive skills to apply toward subject-matter learning, or the content of the lesson. To make sure I plan activities that develop quality thinking, and to better develop my constructivist teaching approach, I try to consistently practice reflective assessment. Students write in journals and think about the processes they used to gain a new skill. Unfortunately, this reflection is sporadic, and oftentimes is used as an afterthought to more objective forms of assessment.
I am happy to say that I have been commended for creating a secure community environment where students take thinking risks and accept the risks taken by their peers. Risk-taking is evident by the quality of interaction between me and my students, and between my students and their fellow classmates. I envision extending that level of secure classroom to promote the different intelligences within that community. Ideally, learning is concentrated on higher levels of thinking, such as understanding, analysis, application, and synthesis of ideas and skills. That learning is reinforced with the ability to practice reflective thinking.
At risk of contradicting Phillips position that I as a teacher “treat the curriculum of an educational institution as vehicle for furthering the socio-political interests and goals of a ruler or ruling class” (Phillips, 2009) besides development of quality thinking, I also plan situations for social interaction to take place and further develop communities of practice (Barab, 2000). The first element of interaction is the implementation of rules, or guidelines, with specific and reasonable consequences for breaking those rules to be applied consistently. Even after ten years of classroom experience, I find myself inconsistent in applying consequences for minor infractions. Once rules are established, I promote social interaction with active classroom discussion on controversial or value-based topics. For example, I posed to my seventh grade math class, “ethical standards are necessary in a school setting” and randomly divided the class in to two groups; one for pro, one for con. The groups had five minutes to research online and come up with an oral argument for their assigned position. Being able to argue for something one believes in is a skill; being able to argue for something one does not hold true is an art.
When the groups have completed the assignment the concept of ethics will not only have been learned, but experienced. At that point, I guided reflection of the groups as to what processes they put into practice to arrive at the level of learning they achieved. In the future, I would like to add a self-reflection on how the groups did in arriving at the level of the class as a whole, and determine what actions could be taken next time for even further learning.
As a teacher, I have the responsibility to provide experiences that scaffold future learning. Furthermore, I must be a reflective practitioner in order to keep growing. In my classroom, I expect my students to learn and to recognize different thinking processes to fall back on when they encounter an unfamiliar situation or problem. They will learn how to interact with others through good communication skills and respect for diversity, and learn to draw off each other’s strengths to complement individual weaknesses. They will develop self-esteem and take pride in their accomplishments. It is my goal to fulfill my teaching responsibilities and to motivate students to fulfill their learning responsibilities. My actions in planning, delivery, and assessment will be based on those aspects, and I will continue to strive for personal and professional development to achieve my goal. I would like to define education as that which is gained upon application, synthesis, and reflection of an experience. I have a duty to teach students how to inquire, think, and know – and then how to analyze, apply, synthesize and evaluate so that they, in turn, can contribute to organizational, social, and global values.

REFERENCES:
Barab, S., & Duffy, T. (2000). From Practice Fields to Communities of Practice. In Jonasson, D. & Land, S. (Ed.), Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (pp. 25-55). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrencw Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Leonard, K., Noh, E.K., & Orey, M. (2007). Learning Theories and Instructional Strategies. In M. K. Barbour & M. Orey (Eds.), The Foundations of Instructional Technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/itFoundations/
Phillips, D.C., “Philosophy of Education”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

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