Archive for May, 2011

EDU 6120: Module 8

“What I Learned”” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module 8

“What Knowledge is of Most Worth” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

In reading the lecture transcript entitled, What Knowledge is of Most Worth, I learned of Herbert Spencer’s primary idea described in his work published in 1859, “the knowledge that is of the most worth is that which prepares people for complete living…. activities that lead to self-preservation and the preservation of the human race.” Specifically, Ellis (p.5) states, “Spencer came to the conclusion that the knowledge that is of the most worth is science”.

Also, 1859 marks the death and birth of two significant and influential American educators—Horace Mann and John Dewey, respectively.  Mann, “considered today to be the father of American education” (Ellis, p.6), is also known for six fundamental ideas that have laid the foundation for the profession of education.  In addition to the numerous contributions of Dewey, Ellis states that, “We have the dawning in Dewey’s time of the Progressive era which is an interesting mix of Romanticism, pragmatism and the scientific method (Ellis, p.9).

In continuing to read the transcript of Ellis’ lecture, I learned of the connections between the ideas presented within Spencer’s essay and ideas contained within Charles Darwin’s book “The Origin of the Species” (also published in the year, 1859). Many of these thoughts lead to the addition of science into school curriculum. Additionally, the Seven Cardinal Principles, via the National Education Association in 1918, as well as the introduction of vocational classes, served to further develop into what is known today as a comprehensive high school curriculum.

The primary question I have, as I consider the course offerings in my high school today with its emphasis on preparing all students to be “college ready” is, how do we find the “balance” that is required to address the needs of a wide variety of students?  My observation is that the many students who are required to retake the required Algebra I (along with a math support class) are the very students who would benefit most from taking hands-on electives. Unfortunately, some of these students feel quite unsuccessful, become discouraged, and even drop out of school–because they do not have room in their schedule to take what will “feed their soul”.

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EDU 6120 Module 7

“Clear and Unclear Windows”” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module

“Progressivist and Essentialist” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

“My Pedagogic Creed” by John Dewey      School Journal vol. 54 (January 1987), pp. 77-80

What seems clear to me now, as I reflect on the lecture material concerning both the Essentialist and Progressivist movements—particularly in the context of Dewey’s beliefs noted in his Pedagogic Creed–is that the conflict I often experience within myself, as a teacher, can be viewed as a clash between Essentialist and Progressivist thinking.

When I consider the various approaches I have taken over the years in my endeavor as a special education teacher to develop and build the reading and writing skills of my students, I must admit that for many years my focus was more on “the skills” than the students.  I took data and measured progress on charts—showing the incremental percentage changes and I only moved students to a new skill after they had successfully reached 80% …for three trials in a row.  Essentialism with “….the use of textbooks, published goals, objectives…tests, grades…” was primary.

In the early 1990’s, as part of a restructuring effort, my high school staff voted to change from a traditional 6-period day to a 4-period “block-schedule” with 90 minute classes. Although I had already become more “progressive” by teaching and practicing the concept of “learning styles” within my study skills and English classes, I began to make a shift toward a less-structured and more creative style in my teaching. Ironically, I began to focus more in the individual interests of my students.

And yet, even with the promise of a new, more student-centered outlook, the conflict within me remains. I often feel caught between the “have-to’s” and the “want-to’s”.  Perhaps for a similar reason, Dewey stated:

I believe that at present we lose much of the value of literature and language studies because of our elimination of the social element. Language is almost always treated in the books of pedagogy simply as the expression of thought.  It is true that language is a logical instrument, but it is primarily a social instrument. Language is the device for communication; it is the tool through which one individual comes to share the ideas and feelings of others.  When treated as a way of getting individual information, or as a means of showing off what one has learned, it loses its social motive and end (Ellis).

What continues to remain “unclear” to me is how to strike that healthy “balance” when striving to meet the needs of students, while also satisfying the requirement for meeting state standards. This is why I pray daily for wisdom. I was encouraged, however, by the statement, “….there is a curious marriage of Essentialism and Progressivism seen in the current standards movements….when one looks more deeply at the methods…one sees many elements of Progressivism (Ellis).

EDU 6120: Module 6

“Key Idea Identification” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module 6

“Alternative Ideas” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

“Emile Durkheim in the Context of the American Moral Education Paradigm”, Arthur K. Ellis

Colonial America, as a homogeneous society, was well- positioned to teach morality in the schools in light of the fact that they were relatively “like-minded”—in their homes, schools, and community.  Throughout the ensuing centuries–moving into the 20th Century—as American society became more complex and diverse in its ethnic and religious composition, and along with developing legal restrictions—the hope of teaching morality became further out of reach.

Educators have continued to put forth noble efforts to “rein in” children who seem to becoming less and less moral—through programs such as “character education”, “citizenship education”, and others, with the common thread of focusing on community and democracy.  However, as Ellis states:

Even the most casual observer should realize that American school, and the institutions that prepare teachers, with their emphasis on the technical interests so evident in the form of crowd control, behavioral objectives, disconnected skills, scripted lessons, dumbed-down textbooks, and standardized tests, are far more interested in how than in why, whether the subject is reading, mathematics, or the enhancing of self-esteem (Ellis, p.10).

Ellis suggests that the American education system today is not effective in teaching on the whole. If this is indeed the case, why should the schools be charged with teaching morality? “Others have questioned the right of an institution, school, having failed at its academic mission, even to dare to consider taking on the high calling of moral training” (Ellis, p 17).

As an educator who has spent three decades in the classroom, I continue to observe the decline in moral expectations/standards among many students, and their families, and have felt an increasing helplessness—sensing that I am “swimming upstream”. I find that I am becoming conditioned to the “overlooking” by staff members of lowered standards. I am saddened to realize that I am actually surprised when a student is corrected by a staff member.  My personal hope is that I never lose sight of the importance of being a positive role model as I influence individual students.

Elllis, A. Moral Education for the Young: Three Alternatives (Lecture)

Ellis, A. The Context of Moral Education, 1998.

EDU 6120: Module 5

Search for Meaning” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module 5

“American Education” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

“Education in America”

Known as the father of the American common school movement, Horace Mann’s dream for American education, as described by Arthur Ellis (2010) was: “….universal, popular education….sustained by an interested public….embracing children of all religious, social and ethnic backgrounds….moral in character….permeated throughout by the spirit, methods and discipline of a free society….provided only by well-trained, professional teachers”. The lecture and readings on the history of education in America provided a wonderful overview of information I had learned as an undergraduate as well as the same “broad brush strokes” picture of the more recent decades that I have experienced as an educator.

From a personal vantage point, having spent a significant amount of time researching my own family history–tracing back to 1425 in England–I have found this week’s readings to be most meaningful.  I have enjoyed visualizing my ancestors living through the time periods of Colonial American education in the 1600’s—as described in the section, “A Day in the Life of a Colonial Schoolteacher”, through the period of the education ordinances of the late 1700s, and then at the time of the opening of “the first state-supported normal school for the training of teachers…in 1839 in Lexington, Massachusetts, by the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, Horace Mann” (Ellis).

Imagining the “lives behind the scenes” of American educators is not difficult for me. My aunt and uncle were the first students to graduate from Seattle Pacific’s Normal School in 1921. Their diplomas are written on authentic “sheepskins” and are located in the SPU archives. C. Hoyt Watson, my grandfather, was Seattle Pacific College’s third president from 1926 to 1959. My mom graduated from Seattle Pacific College in 1937 and ventured out to teach in a two-room school house in a rural Washington community. My uncle was dean of the Department of Education at SPC for a number of years. Numerous members of my extended family have served, or are serving– as teachers, principals, and even superintendents–after having earned degrees in education through Seattle Pacific. I am fortunate to have known each of these individuals—face to face–heart to heart. Although many are no longer living, a sense of their “history in education” has been woven into the fabric of my individual life.

The course readings for this week which trace highlights of “The Contemporary Period: 1920—Present”, include not only my K-12 education in the 1960’s and 70’s, but also the first three decades of my teaching experience. Perhaps some might consider these reflections of such a personal nature as a bit “myopic”, however–on the contrary, I believe the influence of my heritage continues to provide a foundation on which to build my own basis for involvement in the education system of America today. The condensed review of hundreds of years of educational development and change–provides a broad backdrop which allows me to place my personal experience in proper perspective.

Reflection–Library Resources & Information Literacy

Reviewing the Seattle Pacific University Library tutorials throughout this past week was both an informative and reassuring process. I appreciated the opportunity to listen to and view such carefully detailed descriptions regarding guidelines and available services–particularly in light of the fact that it has been a number of years since I have been enrolled in a program with college level course work.

Among the most helpful tutorials was the information ethics site with the updated APA style citations and comparisons between the 5th and 6th editions of the APA Publication Manuals. Equally beneficial, were the reminders on effective strategies for conducting advanced searches within academic journals. Clearly, the ability to refine searches allows for increases efficiency and leads to the location of focused material for papers and projects. I am hopeful that the techniques and formatting will soon become second nature to me.

As a high school teacher, I found the straightforward explanations of strategies for evaluating websites to be especially useful. The information presented put “words” to some of what I’ve somewhat intuitively picked up along the way, and will assist me in providing clear reminders to my students as they are engaged in the researching and writing process.  I appreciate having such a wealth of useful information at my fingertips and look forward to carving out some extra time to go back and take a more thorough look at some of the sites.

EDU 6120: Module 4

“Search for Meaning” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module 4

“European Educational Ideas” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

“Historical Perspectives: Education in the Old World (Part 2)”

The readings and lecture for this week focused on European influences on American education via the four great movements known as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Romantic Movement. I found it very interesting to review this information, through the filter of my years of teaching– versus from my perspective prior to any experience in the classroom. The meaning behind the philosophical approaches takes on a new light as I consider today’s school setting.

The Renaissance beginning in about the 13th century in Italy, followed the time of the Middle Ages and was characterized by an increased focus on classical literature, language, art and science. One of the side effects of the Renaissance involved a renewal of Aristotle’s philosophy of regarding learning through reason and observation. Prior to this time, all learning was thought to be derived from the church.

With the Reformation, which began with Martin Luther publishing his criticism of the corruption in the Roman Church by way of his publication known as the Ninety-five Theses, emphasis on the “individual” took precedence. One of specific outcomes, particularly in England, was the creation of opportunities for the common person to learn to read. Access to reading instruction became available to girls as well as boys with the intent of allowing all–to personally read the scriptures.

The rise of science and the idea of natural law became paramount during Europe’s period of Enlightenment. Ellis notes, “…with the Enlightenment comes the rise of Rationalism, and the search for rational explanations of the world and a new found sense of realism…”

In my work as a special education teacher, each student’s Individual Education Plan, clearly has the child at the center—surrounded by a team. Perhaps this is a derivative of one of the effects on education of the Romantic Movement–that of “the American progressive movement and the child-centered movement”? As I consider the European ideas of “tracking”—vocational, middle and upper—with regard to a student’s course of study—I wonder why there is a current focus to push every student to become “college ready”?

Education today seems to be focused on individual achievement—not only with regard to meeting graduation requirements in terms of credits, but also “meeting standards” in reading, writing and math. Along with diplomas, students who reach these marks are also issued a “Certificate of Academic Achievement” or if modifications are made—a “Certificate of Individual Achievement”.

My question is, however, even though we focus on the academics and see reflections of so many significant European philosophies in our schools today –what aspects of education have been “lost in the translation” over the years? Today, for example, where do we see spiritual learning—in the public school system? Can we effectively teach the “whole” child without addressing this key element?

Ellis, A.K. (2007). European Educational Ideas: The Beginnings of the Modern Era.

Historical Perspectives: Education in the Old World (Part 2)

Reflection–Online Netiquette & Digital Identity

While reviewing the messages posted earlier this quarter in the Online Netiquette &Your Digital Identity forum on the Discussion Board, I was once again mind-boggled by the ever-changing and exponentially increasing aspects of the digital world. As one who has always enjoyed writing, I reflect back to my numerous hand written journals as well as typed (and re-typed) college term papers at SPU, and then recall the thrill of becoming the proud owner of my first personal computer (as a fourth-year teacher!) in the mid-1980s. My little Apple II c opened up a whole new world for me!

Little did I know that one day I would be posting regularly on my own “blog” and maintaining a bPortfolio—through SPU! Now my “new world” is cyberspace. I must admit that I love the instantaneous satisfaction of online publishing–however, I am mindful of the need for taking appropriate safety precautions, as recommended in many of the course materials. In, Realities to Values: A Strategy Framework for Digital Natives, author Helene Blowers offers compelling explanations of the challenging issues that have never before been experienced by previous generations, yet are now commonplace for young adults.

Particularly as an educator, I believe that taking this responsibility of wise internet use seriously, is not only important for my own personal welfare, but is another arena where I must become example for my students. Just as my role includes teaching students to exercise self-control in their interactions with others in the classroom setting (with words, actions, etc.) perhaps I must also teach students to see a broader view of the scope of their “presence”.  They must come to understand that just because something is possible (at lightning speed via the internet)–does not mean it is wise, healthy or positive. Thoughtfulness and self-control are critical–whether words, actions, etc. are “in person” or conveyed via an extension of a person’s “internet presence”.

Although I will probably not be “tweeting” by next week, I do intend to continue in my quest to embrace new technology as I customize my digital profile—with thoughtfulness and wisdom.