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American Education Posts

DAVID HAWORTH FINAL PAPER
EDU 6120 American Education Past and Present
Dec. 1, 2014

Question #1: Many of the authors we study contend that the most important goals of education are to improve the moral and social fabric of students and to raise the academic achievement. Explain what this means to you and provide illustrations showing how these goals might be attained.

Raising academic achievement and improving the moral and social aspects of student’s lives are two of the most important goals of education. Raising academic achievement will help students be more successful in key future endeavors like college and careers. It will also help improve the way they feel about themselves, increasing their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Improving the moral and social aspects of student’s lives will help them be more successful in developing and keeping meaningful relationships and also help them become more productive members of society.

According to leading educator Arthur Ellis, there are six social functions of education: transmission of skills, transmission of values and beliefs, preparation for working life, caretaking of youth, promotion of peer group relations, and transmission of culture (Ellis, 2014). All of these skills can help improve the moral and social aspects of student’s lives and help raise their academic achievement.

The transmission of skills is a direct way that teachers can accomplish education goals. According to Ellis, the transmission of skills include: mathematics, reading, and language; character or social development skills; citizenship or participatory skills; and skills of private realization. Unfortunately, there is no one, correct way for a teacher to teach all these skills to their students. Teachers, however, can draw from a wide range of sources including research studies, their peers and even trial and error in their own classrooms to develop a curriculum that touches on each of these skills.

One of the research studies that teachers can draw upon for the foundation of their curriculum is the core values from the Architecture of Moral Education Pantheon example (Scheuerman, 2014). Studies have shown that the core values from this example (called the six pillars of responsibility) are the same for all Americans. These six core values are service, honesty, civility, kindness, participation, and commitment. Promoting these core values can help transform a teacher’s students, classroom, school and even their community.

The service value is an important, but overlooked value that teachers can promote to students. Teachers could organize a community service project, such as cleaning up an inner city park. This project would touch on all six of the American core values. The students would learn to volunteer in the community, they would be trusted to do a good job and to help others, they would be obedient and listen to their teacher and/or a community representative, they would be showing kindness to the people they were helping, they would be cooperating and working in groups, and they would be working to accomplish their service goal.

A community service project would also be fun, educational and extremely rewarding for the students. For many students, a community project like this could be a very positive moral and social experience that would also help raise their academic achievement.

Many educators believe that reflective self-assessment is an ideal way to raise academic achievement. Surprisingly, the idea of reflective self-assessment has been around for thousands of years. Confucius wrote that “study without reflection is a waste of time” and Socrates taught “that the unreflective life is not worth living” (Ellis, 2010).

There are many reflective self-assessment strategies that would be extremely useful in a class room, but three strategies in particular stand out to me as being ones that would be effective ways to enhance and solidify student learning. The first strategy is called I Learned Statements (Ellis, 2010). This strategy is where a teacher has a student write about one thing that they learned about in today’s lesson. The second strategy is called The Week in Review (Ellis, 2010). This strategy is where students get in small groups to reflect and then write down what they consider to be important things they learned during the week. The third strategy is called Learning Illustrated (Ellis, 2010). This strategy is where student’s draw a picture, or a map, or a graph on what they learned in today’s lesson. This strategy would work well with students who aren’t as proficient at showing what they learned in traditional communication methods, such as essays.

Incorporating reflective self-assessment into a teacher’s lesson plan has been proven to be an effective way to help students take ownership of their learning, which will help raise their academic achievement. Even the best activity, the most challenging lesson, will fall short of the mark if we do not give learners opportunities to personalize or capture what they have learned (Ellis, 2010).

Teachers can also improve the moral and social aspects of their student’s lives by teaching them life-long learning habits. For example, a physical education teacher can teach kids the importance of regular physical activity for their health and for their minds. Studies have shown that regular exercise decreases the risk of many types of diseases and that it also increases cognitive abilities. Lack of regular exercise has become a major social concern for students in our country, where childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels. Students will learn first-hand how to combat this issue, which will improve their health and overall well-being. Learning these lifelong exercise and nutrition habits will also benefit society as a whole by having a healthier population.

Transmission of skills, American core values, reflective self-assessment and lifelong learning are key examples of how teachers can meet the important education goals of raising academic achievement and improving the moral and social aspects of student’s lives.

Question #3: Of all the individuals and philosophies we have discussed during this course, select one or two whose ideas have influenced you the most. What are those ideas and what relevance do they have to your own philosophy?

There were many individuals that we studied in my American Education class that will influence the way I teach, but the two who stood out the most to me were Johann Comenius and John Dewey.

The pedagogical ideas that Johann Comenius (1592-1670) developed hundreds of years ago are surprisingly still relevant today. Of his many pedagogical methods, the ideas that will influence me the most in my teaching philosophy include:

• Textbooks in all subjects but not encyclopedic volumes of facts, rather summaries of essentials.
• Visual aids to depict physical and abstract concepts.
• The classroom should be arranged to engender as much pleasure as fairs.
• Teach practical application in everyday life and of definite use.
• Interdisciplinary studies.

Textbooks can have an important role in a classroom, but students can get overwhelmed if the textbooks are huge volumes of information. Today more than ever, information overload is something every teacher should be careful to avoid with their students. It is part of the teacher’s role to filter the most relevant information to foster their student’s successful learning growth.

As a visual learner myself, I know first-hand the benefits of utilizing visual aids in a class room. Without visual aids, the students who are visual learners would struggle with learning physical and abstract concepts. It is also important for teachers to incorporate teaching methods into their curriculum for their auditory and kinesthetic learning students.

I do not agree wholly with Comenius that a classroom should “engender as much pleasure as fairs,” but I do believe that classrooms should be as pleasurable experience as possible. As a future physical education teacher, I know the benefits of keeping the activities as fun as possible. If the students are having fun, they will not even be aware that they are learning.

It’s so much easier for students to learn something when it has a practical application in their life. A great example of this is teaching students about the benefits of exercise and good nutrition. Students will not only learn about these benefits, they will learn direct, practical steps on how to apply it in their everyday lives to improve their health.

Interdisciplinary studies is a Comenius teaching method that would be interesting to use in a middle school physical education setting. The teacher could set up stations around the gym where students did various physical activities like push-ups, sit-ups and jumping rope. When the students completed the physical activity at a station they would then need to complete a quiz question in math, geography or social studies before they could move on to the next station. Interdisciplinary curriculum experiences provide an opportunity for a more relevant, less fragmented and stimulating experience for students (Hayes Jacobs, 2014). The teacher would work with the other teachers in the school to incorporate questions from their current curriculum. This would not only improve student’s learning and academic achievement, but it would also improve communication and relationships between teachers within a school.

The student centered teaching approach of John Dewey (1859-1952) will definitely influence my teaching style. On a side note, it was interesting that Dewey was born on the same day that another influential educator, Horace Mann, died.

A physical education class will be an ideal setting to incorporate Dewey’s student centered teaching ideas. One of the main goals of physical education is to teach kids the importance of physical activity in their everyday lives. Providing a place where kids can have some freedom in choosing a type of physical activity that actually interests them will help inspire them to participate at a higher level. If a student doesn’t like a physical activity they typically won’t participate with a high degree of enthusiasm or energy, which defeats the purpose.

One of Dewey’s student centered ideas was named authentic applications. He was known as the champion of the authentic applications approach, which has students actually do something in real life with the knowledge or skills they acquire in class. Authentic tasks are not the norm in schools and classrooms, but research and contemporary perspectives on how students learn suggest that these types of tasks are powerfully effective for learning (Harris, 2009).

The first time I heard the term authentic applications was in my American Education class. After discussing it in more detail in class, it became apparent that this would be a very practical way to reinforce student learning. One example of authentic applications that we discussed in class was having the students submit an article to a newspaper about information they learned in class. Another example is having students organize a class project to make and sell t-shirts for a community fundraiser.

A good example of an authentic application in a physical education setting would be to have students teach other students how to do a particular skill, like shooting a basketball free throw. Having kids teach kids is a wonderful way to reinforce student learning, as long as the teacher ensures they are teaching the skill correctly.

The teaching methods of Comenius and Dewey are still very relevant today. These methods and ideas will help me shape my curriculum and will definitely influence the way I will teach my students.

References

Ellis, A. (2014), Educational Challenges, retrieved from http://mountainlightschool
wordpress.com/mat/edu-6120/

Scheuerman, R. (2014), The Architecture of Moral Education, handout in Seattle Pacific University EDU 6120 American Education class.

Ellis, A. and Scheuerman, R. (2010), Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement, Washington State Kapan.

Harris, C. (2009), Authentic Tasks, http://www.Education.com.

Hayes Jacobs, H. (2014), Interdisciplinary Curriculum, http://www.ascd.org.

 

Nov. 30 Post:  “Authentic Applications.”

In last week’s session we discussed the authentic applications aspect of John Dewey’s student centered teaching approaches. We learned that Dewey was the champion of the authentic applications approach. I had never heard of the term authentic applications, but discussing it in class made me realize it would be a very practical way to reinforce student learning.

What a great idea to have students actually do something in real life with the knowledge or skills they acquire in class. Authentic tasks are not the norm in schools and classrooms, but research and contemporary perspectives on how students learn suggest that these types of tasks are powerfully effective for learning (C.Harris, 2009, Authentic Tasks, http://www.Education.com).

One example of authentic applications that we discussed in class was having the students submit an article to a newspaper about information they learned in class. Another example is having students organize a class project to make and sell t-shirts for a community fundraiser. A good example of an authentic application in a physical education setting would be to have students teach other students how to do a particular skill, like shooting a free throw.

 

Nov. 23 Post: “I Can Teach.”

In this week’s session it was interesting contemplating the different ways to teach a physical education class. John Dewey’s “student centered” teaching approach seems like a great way to teach in a physical education setting. One of the main goals of physical education is to teach kids the importance of physical activity in their everyday lives. By providing a place where kids can have some freedom in choosing a type of physical activity that actually interests them will help inspire them to participate at a higher level. If a student doesn’t like a physical activity they typically won’t participate with a high degree of enthusiasm or energy, which defeats the purpose.

George Counts “society centered” approach also has some interesting ideas for a physical education setting. In our current society the decline of overall physical fitness due to a sedentary lifestyle is a big issue. It is very important from an overall society perspective that kids learn about the benefits of physical activity at an early age. The gym class would be the instrument for physical fitness social change.

I will try and use a balanced teaching approach in my physical education class, incorporating some of the concepts of both of these approaches.

 

Nov. 16 Post:  “All Things Considered.”

It was very interesting discussing and considering how teachers need to be magicians and need to wear different hats for their students. One of the examples of this that we talked about was coaching, which is a great way to connect with students outside of the class room. Coaching provides teachers with a way to really get to know their students better and establish a rapport with them that they would not otherwise have. This can pay huge dividends in the class room. It really isn’t a magic act at all. It is just about connecting and communicating with students and showing students that you care about them.

It was also enlightening to learn more about Horace Mann and his Annual Reports. As a future P.E. teacher, the Fifth and Sixth reports on health and fitness of course peaked my interest. Studies have shown that physical activity increases student’s cognitive abilities, but I thought this was a relatively recent trend in education thinking. Mann was definitely ahead of his time. The 12th report on the natural religion and common principles that all people can agree on was also interesting. “It is impossible for a nation to be ignorant and free,” was a great quote from Mann. As we discussed in class, education benefits everyone and everyone should have the right to an equal education. Especially in a free, democratic society.

 

Nov. 9 Post:  “Searching for Arthur Ellis.”

Every week in our American Education class we read a different article from Arthur Ellis. This last week we read a very informative article by Ellis about philosophical perspectives, including the five major schools of philosophy and the five education philosophies. Every one of Ellis’ articles has been interesting and informative, but I realized that I knew very little information about Ellis himself.

I decided to do a short research project and find out a little more about Ellis. As with most information searches these days, the first step was to do an internet search using the key words “Arthur Ellis SPU.” This quickly led me to his faculty profile page on SPU’s web site, which listed his contact info, photo and background information, including that he has been at SPU since 1986 and that he is the author of 20 published books and numerous articles.

My next step was to research where to find books and articles written by Ellis. To find his books I utilized Primo, the SPU library’s online search system. This search turned up all the books written by Ellis, including a book that I’m very interested in reading: “Teaching, Learning and Assessment Together: the Reflective Classroom.”

To find his articles I utilized Primo’s “ERIC” database, which at first did not turn up any of his articles. I had been typing in “Arthur Ellis” in the author search and then realized I needed to type in “Ellis, Arthur,” which was successful. Two other sources for researching articles are the online searchable databases Summit (local libraries) and Illiad (other college libraries), which are both accessible through SPU’s online library search system.

All of these resources made it easy to find pertinent information about Arthur Ellis and they will be great tools in my future search for meanings.

 

Nov. 2 Post:  “Key Idea Identification.”

There were many interesting ideas that we discussed and read about in session 5 of our American Education class, but the one key idea that stood out to me was the pedagogical methods of Johann Comenius. I was surprised to learn that he was the first to utilize textbooks and visual aids. I am a very visual learner, so I (and many other students) would have been lost in my earlier schooling without these pedagogical methods. Thank you Comenius!

I agree with Comenius that textbooks should not be huge volumes of text, but rather they should be summaries of the essential facts. Today more than ever, information overload is something every teacher should be careful not to do with their students. I also agree with him that students should be taught “practical application in everyday life and of definite use.” It is so much easier for students to learn something when it has a practical application in their life. I especially agree with him that classrooms should be a pleasurable experience. As a future P.E. teacher, I know the benefits of keeping the activities as fun as possible. When the kids don’t want to leave your gym, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Interdisciplinary studies is a Comenius teaching method that would be interesting to use in a middle school P.E. setting. You could set up stations around the gym where students did various physical activities like push-ups, sit-ups and jumping rope. When they completed each station the students would then need to complete a quiz question in math, geography or social studies before they could move on to the next station. You could work with the other teachers in the school to incorporate questions from their current curriculum. This would be a great way to reinforce what students are learning in other classes and in a fun setting.

 

Oct. 26, 2014 Post:  “Pumpkin Jump.”

In our third session of American Education I learned the importance of doing things differently during the “observance of sacred festivals.” In the U.S. we observe many sacred festivals, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Veterans Day and Easter to name a few. In most schools, however, we tend to just go through the motions with these events and only have a typical, ho-hum dry assembly or event. As we discussed in class, these sacred festivals are actually the perfect time to go above and beyond in school. They provide a perfect opportunity to apply key teaching principles that could have a profound effect on students.

A great example of this is the “Pumpkin Jump” they do at my son’s elementary school every Halloween. The school’s P.E. teacher organizes this event to highlight the importance of exercise and good nutrition, the key principles of physical education. The kids all do 15 minutes of jump rope and read some fun, basic literature on the importance of good nutrition and not eating too much candy. When they complete the jump roping and reading every student wins a small prize and they are entered into a drawing to win a pumpkin. The kids all love it! They are so busy having fun in the carnival-like atmosphere the P.E. teacher has set up that they don’t even realize they are learning valuable life skills.

Every major holiday in America seems to be centered around food and especially candy. No wonder children obesity has become an epidemic in this country. Teaching kids the importance of physical activity and good nutrition (especially around the major holidays) is paramount to combat this epidemic. Some of the fun ideas I came up with for exercise and nutrition themed holiday school events include: the “Turkey Ball,” the “Valentine’s Dash,” and the “Easter Bunny Relays.” I can’t wait to try these ideas in my P.E. classes.

On a side note, I also learned I had better find some ways to incorporate reading comprehension into my P.E. classes since it is now a law in Washington state!

 

Oct. 19, 2014 Post:  “American Core Values.”

Of all the things we discussed in our second American Education session, I was most intrigued by Dr. Scheuerman’s “Architecture of Moral Education” Pantheon example. I am a very visual learner, so this example was very clear and useful in helping me understand the concepts we were discussing in class.

It surprised me a little that the core values from this example (the six pillars of responsibility) were the same for all Americans. I would have thought that there would have been some differences between people’s core values in different parts of the country. Are people’s core values in places like the Midwest really the same as people’s core values in places like Southern California?

As we discussed in class, these core values seem like a wonderful thing to promote to students. I would be especially interested in promoting the service value in my class room. Organizing a community service project with my students, such as cleaning up an inner city park, would actually touch on all six American core values. They would be volunteering in the community, they would be trusted to do a good job and to help others, they would be obedient and listen (hopefully) to their teacher and/or a community representative, they would be showing kindness to the people they were helping, they would be cooperating and working in groups, and they would be working to accomplish their service goal.

A community service project would also be fun, educational and extremely rewarding for the students. I’m sure the students would love to do something outside the norm and outside their classroom.

What is a little unclear to me is what are the practical steps in organizing a school project like this? Would it be difficult to obtain the support of the school administration and the student’s parents? What is the best way to motivate the students? I think the first step would be to network with other teachers and find out if anyone else has done a project like this and learn what’s worked and what hasn’t worked.

 

Oct. 12, 2014 Post:  “I Learned Statement.”

In the first session of my American Education Past and Present course I learned the importance of reflective self-assessment. Incorporating reflective self-assessment into a teacher’s lesson plan seems like a very effective way to help students take ownership of their learning.

It surprised me that the idea of reflective self-assessment has been around for thousands of years. Two quotes from the article entitled “Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement” by Arthur Ellis and Richard Scheuerman (2010) highlighted this fact. The first quote was by Confucius, who stated, “that study without reflection is a waste of time.” The second quote was by Socrates, who stated “the unreflective life is not worth living.”

This same article listed seven, very practical and intriguing strategies for reflective self-assessment. All seven of these strategies would be extremely useful in a class room, but two strategies in particular stood out to me as being ones that would be effective ways to enhance and solidify student learning.

The first strategy that intrigued me was the one that Ellis and Scheuerman labeled “I Learned.” It’s ironic that, of course, that is the strategy I’m using right now in this blog post. It’s where a teacher has a student write about one thing that they learned about in today’s lesson. After writing this blog, I can attest that this is a very useful teaching strategy.

The second strategy that intrigued me was the one that Ellis and Scheuerman labeled “Learning Illustrated.” This strategy is where student’s draw a picture, or a map, or a graph on what they learned in today’s lesson. This seems like a great way to reach students who aren’t as proficient at showing what they learned in traditional communication methods.

I’m looking forward to trying all seven of these strategies in my class room.

 

References:  Ellis and Scheuerman (2010), Reflective Self-Assessment and Student Achievement, Washington State Kapan, Volume 4 (pages 5-7)

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Characteristics of an Effective Teacher

I have been blessed with being taught by many wonderful teachers over the years. My 8th grade social studies teacher, my high school journalism teacher, my college East Asian history teacher. Other wonderful teachers I have known include my wife, several close friends, and my son’s elementary school P.E. teacher to name just a few.

All of these amazing, special teachers had different teaching styles, but they all possessed the same key characteristics. Below is a list of these key characteristics and these are the characteristic that I believe are essential to be an effective teacher:

  1. Organized. You need to have an organized lesson plan and curriculum in place, but also be prepared to be flexible if a surprise learning tangent comes up. Your class room should be organized and easy for students to find the materials and resources they need.
  2. Approachable. You need to have an environment where your students feel comfortable asking questions, both during and after class. Your students need to feel it’s easy to communicate with you.
  3. Passionate. You need to be dedicated to your students and your subject. You have to be an expert in your field. You can really tell the difference between a good and mediocre teacher by their passion level.
  4. Caring. You need to show your students that you care about them and they aren’t just a number. Their thoughts, problems, ideas and questions are important.
  5. Fun. When kids are having fun, sometimes they won’t even realize they are learning. Humor and laughter is such an important part of life and should not be forgotten in a class room.