EDS 111 Module 3D: Questions towards reflectivity

As a student teacher, I should be aware that theories should not become our main source of food when it comes to learning how to teach. Reflection is a valuable form of in-practice professional development, and perhaps sui generis.

A researcher who valued the social reform outlet of teaching,  Dewey has prescribed 3 attitudes a teacher must possess in his or her reflective practice. They are openmindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness (Dewey, 1933).

But what are the vital questions we should ask ourselves in order to achieve a higher sense of thinking in this regard? Consider the following:

OPEN-MINDEDNESS:

  1. Do you think about who may be affected or offended by your activities in the classroom?
  2. Do you bother to be sensitive enough to your non-believing students?
  3. Do you question gender profiling, inequality of racial representation, stereotypes, language discrimination and other socially relevant issues as possible biases in applicable contexts in your content?
  4. Do you inquire and interrogate texts on what could else be considered normative ideologies?

RESPONSIBILITY:

  1. Do you take the time to look up other resources to explain multi-raciality, religion and other idea variants when your material lacks exposure of the other sides?
  2. Do you encourage debates and peer learning that examine the topics and ideas shared, even of your own? Can you take students’ critiques and be humble enough to remain level- headed when others are critical?
  3. Do you harbor fear of making mistakes in front of your students? Or are you able to bounce back with grace and be able to own that mistake with a thorough and salient answer?

WHOLEHEARTEDNESS:

  1. Do you accept that this profession is public service?
  2. Do you acknowledge that teaching is never a self- serving practice?
  3. Is it important to you to cater to others needs first before your own? Are you clear on who and what should teachers prioritize?
  4. Are you committed to selfless service to all students, no matter who, where or in what surroundings?

Teaching is not a one size fits all practice as we have learned in the previous modules. Because of this, it will easier to see that different contexts, different scenarios, different students and different cultures will invariably prove that correct teaching cannot be prescribed. But if there is one thing that can be prescribed in the profession, it is reflective practice. It is more than professional, and it teaches us respect, and other desirable personality traits universally useful for a progressive self.

Reference:

Grant, C.A and Zeichner, K. M. (1984). On becoming a reflective teacher. In Preparing for Reflective Teaching (pp. 103-114). Retrieved from http://www.wou.edu/~girodm/foundations/Grant_and_Zeichner.pdf

EDS 103 Module 3D (on Vygotsky): Cognitively- underdeveloped students a result of incompetent teachers?

Vygotsky’s ideas on constructivism are nothing short of brilliant that promotes a largely beneficial school of thought for education. One of its most salient points was about the importance of a competent mentor that facilitates learning. Vygotsky readily suggests parents as the first and original, to provide the initial social interaction for a child,  but as biological maturity proceeds in a typical society, so does the need for a child to enter formal education.

Inevitably, this means that a huge chunk of a child’s life of the next 12 years or so will be spend in the care of school administrators; to be put under the heavy influence of curriculum life as its virtual bible and the youth at the mercy of class room teachers from age 4 to 5 to their formative years, puberty and then adolescence and adult life. This shows how great of an impact, and of responsibility the education system has on a person’s life, and you may ask who becomes their closest mentors next to their parents? None other than the teachers. An unbelievably  huge privilege and a responsibility at that.

But, as teachers and future ones reading Vygotsky and his preaching on the need for good  teachers to become proper role models, I cannot help but reflect on non-performing students. They are the ones who we could consider underdeveloped— lacking in critical thinking, displays poor reasoning abilities, lacking knowledge on correct learning techniques and strategies. The list can go on but what I am pointing out here is an observation I have made… are weak students necessarily mentored by incompetent teachers- models?

The following passage is quoted from Saul McLeod’s article on the famous thinker Vygotsky’s thoughts on social influences on cognitive development:

According to Vygotsky (1978), much important learning by the child occurs through social interaction with a skillful tutor. The tutor may model behaviors and/or provide verbal instructions for the child. Vygotsky refers to this as cooperative or collaborative dialogue. The child seeks to understand the actions or instructions provided by the tutor (often the parent or teacher) then internalizes the information, using it to guide or regulate their own performance. (2014)

Following this claim, it might well mean that the reverse could also be true? Think of the Ivy League and a local community college: does it mean that students who attend the top schools who boast of the best education in the United States (maybe even the world) are the way they are primarily because they are being mentored by elite minds of the American academe, during and pre- tertiary? And does that also follow that the converse is true, that if you find yourself poorly performing and lacking in the fundamental pillars skills, then it is partly because that you’ve been mentored by passive teachers, by teachers who didn’t really care, by teachers who lacked passion and the drive to be able to become the best model for their students, or worse, by teachers who are also equally clueless and misinformed?

I do not wish to discount the fact that the self accounts for something in cognitive development, as Piaget and the others who had developed theories on intelligence and the like, but as far as social cognition is concerned, do you think Vygotsky will blame incompetence of the tutor in his model?

I believe that this module has shown us the heavy importance of Piaget’s lessons to current and future educators in educating us about readiness (the stages of cognitive development), and Vygotsky on material and teaching appropriateness (the ZPD) and the significance of skillful models (McLeod, 2014). In the end, perhaps both the self and social factors determine our rate of cognitive development and one cannot be given more significance over the other, and neither one can be blamed more than the other.

References:

McLeod, S. (2014) Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html#social

Dweck, C. Mindset. Free Books Online, p 39. Retrieved from http://www.freebooksol.net/Mindset/39.html

Cherry, K. Piaget’s Stage of Cognitive Development. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/a/keyconcepts.htm

EDS 111 Module 3C: Creative versus Interesting

As a sucker for Buzzfeed and internet facts lists, idling before for hours on end (and probably procrastinating), I have come across an article on the 4 general traits of interesting people (“Four Characteristics Interesting People Have” by Steve Bloom), and it immediately reminded me Danah Henriksen and Punya Mishra’s list of the five guideposts for teaching creativity, and somehow I have found a huge deal of similarity and parallels. It has made me reflect whether interesting is synonymous to creative, and the other way around.

According to Bloom’s list the four general characteristics of interesting people are:
1. a risk taker
2. curious
3. opinionated
4. has presence

and in Henriksen and Mishra’s list of what makes creative teachers are:
1. connects their interests in their practice
2. imparts real- world learning
3. has a creative mind-set
4. collaborates
5. takes risks (Henriksen and Mishra, 2013).

Putting these side bsy side will undoubtedly yield parallel results. For one, risk taking, according to Bloom, makes for stories that will have historical value in the future because they were the type of people who were headstrong on making a big move for the sake of experience, and then knowledge. This was the same lack of fear of mistakes Henriksen and Mishra was looking for in teachers to become creative and inventive. Curiosity takes you out of passivism, and in taking charge of discovering interests; with these interests, you will be able to share something with your class. While idea collaboration and risk taking may have something to contribute to being an opinionated individual, Bloom said if you are offering no opinions and or afraid of forming new ones, then that is not worthy of interest. Confidence is something that we can borrow from all of guidelines from Henriksen and Mishra, as strong and creative pedagogy requires presence to deliver in front of students.

This comparison begs us to think that if being creative and interesting are indeed similar, then does that mean that interesting individuals automatically make creative, and effective teachers? Perhaps, but as the TPACK framework suggests, it takes a union of different kinds of elements– pedagogy, content knowledge and technology to fully assist learning (Koehler and Mishra, 2009). To the layperson, this means that not everybody who is good in the arts, who is interesting, who takes risks and who is confident makes for a creative, and effective teacher. I have personally seen teachers abroad with zero teaching experience and nay any form of training go straight to occupying a teaching post in SE Asia. Foreigners are revered this way and are seen perhaps as more competent by virtue of their accents and bright skin color, and most of them, due to the privilege of language, brave the teaching waters, armed only with “a tad bit of teaching creativity sense”, and this is where we mess up becuase of our definitions. Sure, some of these intersting individuals proved to be “naturals”, but there are some whose practice still requires formal training and education of pedagogy.

Perhaps it takes a certain teacher sensibility and mindset to become a teacher, formal training or none, to be able to creatively execute a fun and engaging lesson. Making sure that proper learning occurs can be accomplished by at least trying to subscribe to the lists above, and strive to be both an interesting person AND a creative teacher.
Bloom, S. (2011). Four Characteristics interesting people have.Retrieved from http://dosomethingcool.net/4-characteristics-interesting-people/

Henriksen, D., & Mishra, P. (2013). Learning from creative teachers. Educational
Leadership, 70(5). Available at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educationalleadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Learning-from-Creative-Teachers.aspx.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge?
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/articles/v9i1general1.pdf

EDS 103 Module 3C: Folderize your brain! (and how to teach categorization)

Do you have an imaginary number line in your head to help you do mental math? Do you have boxes that store the different phyla of the animal kingdom that helps you remember that the centipede is not in the same phylum as the segmented earth-worm, and that an octopus is a mollusk? Do you have folders in your head?

This is the first time that I have revealed that the above exists in my thoughts, because until now, I did not know that a few many cognitive psychologists have explicitly drawn much conclusion that there is such an organizational memory structure (Huitt and Lutz, 2003) in human brains that help us with memory retrieval.

Jerome Bruner (1998) was one of the first thinkers to articulate this idea explicitly in his constructivist theories that touched on memories and memory formation. Eliasmith’s (2001) definition of memory, according to Lutz and Huitt (2003), implied that there is such a mental structure that organizes our new memories in a fashion that makes sense to us.

This being said, I am now sure that I am not the only one who has a structured computer hard drive – like manner of remembering things. But as cognitive theorists would suggest, the importance of an organized and structured prior knowledge would elicit a resounding agreement. What are its benefits?

For one, categorizing knowledge we perceive thru the senses (sensory memories), that translated into working memory, and then made its way into our long term makes it easier to retrieve for future use (Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968). Imagine if new memories are not given due attention and was left “lying there in the brain” as it was perceived, then our brains would be too cluttered to form new ones, and to assist in other much harder cognitive processes, or “brain jobs”, such as planning, reflection and metacognition.

Priming is based on prior knowledge and is necessary to make new memories thru the use of previously encountered date, to form associations, and so are a whole lot of learning endeavors. The use of a top- down (Miller et al, 1960) and the bottom- up information processing uses organized prior knowledge. Establishing connections to previous memory is necessary for learning to occur (Lutz and Huitt, 2003).

So now we see how valuable organizing, sorting and labeling the different “folders” in our head, how do we attempt to teach that to our students? One way could be teaching discrimination and identifying similarities. Making distinctions between the things and concepts that are around us can help students form their own ideas of what could be classified together and what cannot be grouped. Teaching thru priming can also build mental associations that eventually lead to a rich, diverse, adn then sophisticated network of ideas that encourages open- mindedness and tolerance to others (making cultural associations).

Cognitive organization helps teach expertise (Schraw and McCrudden, 2013) as memory and prior knowledge becomes more and more vivid, and then powerful. So go ahead, whip out the label- maker and start folderizing your thoughts like a crazy obsessive person (because it works).

Lutz, S., & Huitt, W. (2003). Information processing and memory: Theory and applications. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/papers/infoproc.pdf

EDS 111 Module 3B: Preschool teaching as a female dominated profession: where males are lacking

Discussing the prospect of a new hire in our school, my directress sipped water from her brightly colored bottle after playfully choking on her response, hearing that I suggested a male candidate should not be ruled out in choosing a new teacher. She has always been the first and final say on the hire even though I participate here and there especially in dropping a list of skills that I think are necessary for the new class suffering a teacher- vacuum.

Then I have come to remember that on my first formal teaching position at a kindergarten in Vietnam 6 years ago, the roster has always been all female. In fact, even the security personnel, helpers, nannies are female (there’s the cook, by the way).

I didn’t wish to be discriminating as I have had experience hiring a male when I was teaching in China over a year ago which worked beautifully (interestingly I chose a male only once), but after learning about the interpersonal skills needed in preschool teaching, it is starting to make sense now. After all, Lilian Katz in 1989 said that mothering and teaching very young learners are distinct, and in my experience, male teachers are very good in making this firm distinction. But the evidence pointing to the need for fostering tender attachment (within the scope of professional decorum) (Scarlett, 1998), I believe, is more overwhelming than the need for firmness and gentle authority. The need is just more deep-seated and innate. The ability to establish the secure attachment is so strong a teacher trait that caregivers openly appreciate it, and parents put in so much value. And touch… let’s not even go there.

Does it really take female teaching sensibilities to perform this job? Or are we being sexist? I surely don’t want to be discounted from being a suitable candidate by virtue of my gender, I have always believed.

Although in light of all these, I refuse to make gender distinctions when it comes to competence, I cannot help myself from seeing females as better candidates (not better teachers, take note) overall to fill the jigsaw shape that parents and maybe students as well are seeking to fulfill. Teaching preschool now makes me feel like only the very distinct form of the female kind of instruction can satisfy the nurturing, caring, loving needs of students in this developmental stage. There might be little difference in ability and skill but maybe, there is an intrinsic one in personalities influenced by gender.

Scarlett, W. G., Ponte, I. C., & Singh, J. P. (2009). Building positive teacher – student relationships (Chapter 3). In Approaches to behavior and classroom management. SAGE Publications. Retreived from http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/26067_3.pdf

EDS 103 Module 3B: So what, Albert Bandura?

In the previous module, we have critiqued and interrogated the text surrounding the learning involved in the behaviorist approach. While most have accepted the efficacy of conditioning and the power of association, we are yet to apply them in real life settings as learners of education.

Bandura’s social learning theory (1977) suggests that as creatures of society, our learning is also highly susceptible to our sensory observations. What we see, hear, taste… anything we perceive that we deem moral and just, we may copy. But has Bandura considered whether the learners have thought about the more profound reasons why they behave/ want to behave like they do? Do they have full understanding why they have considered to copy certain behavior they wish to do so?

He said that in his pursuit of explaining behavior, he has formulated the social cognitive theory to be able to cover the lack of weight on the influence of human cognition in behaviorism. He suggested that in his theory, people also mentally process the morality of the behavior that helps us judge whether it is a behavior/ learning we desire to have or enact (Bandura, 1989). But the purpose of the consequence of that behavior, it is really something we aspire? And how many of us use a metacognitive reflection to tell  whether this is what we want?

Bandura has arrived at the conclusion that the bobo doll experiment had the children consider the environment to assist them in making that call of modeling the observed behavior, but I wonder if the children actually know what purpose this behavior will serve them later. After learning how to use periods religiously after the writing  teacher models this desirable behavior, do students really know why it is important for them to put end marks in their sentences? What purpose has this served? After desiring a nice little body and craving money and fame, do followers of Kim Kardashian understand their purpose as to why they choose to imitate her demeanor and the way she looks? Or is it plain fanaticism?  After the deed has been done, the most imposing question is: so what?

Perhaps I have yet to read more on Bandura and the cognition he posits to happen, to understand the thought that goes into why we model from certain behaviors. Or it could be too convoluted and muddy a concept that the social learning theory does not involve itself in. Perhaps it is too broad to be explained by such one theory, and that other theories are in play?

Kendra, C. Social Learning Theory: How People Learn By Observation. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/a/sociallearning.htm

Mahto, A. (2006). Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory. Retrieved from http://ananda.mahto.info/albert-banduras-social-cognitive-theory/

EDS 103 Module 3B: Role Models table

Models and Mentors in My Life

My Models and Mentors

Role Models and Mentors Their Contributions
Mother She has instilled that a strong personality is resilient to challenges in life
Step- father Has shown me incredible intelligence that I aspired to have: etiquette, manners, class, worldliness
Friend and former manager She has demonstrated to me that a Filipino female can thrive against a predominantly Caucasian –biased teaching industry abroad

The Type of Role Model I Want to Be for My Students.

 
1.      A view of fairness and justice, respect for others’ ways and means
2.      Being open minded and anti- bigotry
3.      An equal gender view
4.      The importance of lifelong learning
5.      The emphasis on the power of character strength and independence

 

How I Will Incorporate Models and Mentors in My Classroom?
In teaching ESL in Southeast Asia, I feel that it would be of great help to put a successful immigrant local child into a classroom of learning students of English as a model. This model would be completely relatable, and this puts the abstract purpose of learning another language in perspective. A model like this could be applied whenever I can; a sort of a guest speaker- resource person. An open forum could be held and students may ask about the child’s path to success in another land, and how he/she was able to conquer challenges.

Whenever this is not possible, another model that can be applied is to invite a native English speaker friend who is also a relatable and a highly amiable person. He may serve as a guest demonstration partner in showcasing a Demo Day, where the teacher and students can participate in a demonstration, interviewing/ interrogating/ dialogue-ing with the guest in front of the class.

As you can see, these model formats are not a constant fixture in the class, but only as an invited figures. In this case, then the modeling could be continued to carried out by the teacher (myself) after the models have left the class for their appearance. They may only serve as inspirations and a figure the teacher and the students can refer back to even after the appearance in class, as a case study when practical issues and questions are encountered.

Who Will Be My Education Mentor? What Would My Ideal Education Mentor Be Like?
A person I have so much respect for was a friend and a former manager I had the pleasure of working with in Vietnam teaching English to young and adult students. She was female, which is a rarity in managerial positions that is dominated by young White Westerners, which also means she was the supervisor to a whole team of native- English speakers. She is a highly respected teacher in the school, and is also valued for her consultation services.

I have considered her a mentor as I still contact the person to ask questions to, to consult difficulties I might be having professionally, and seek her interpretation of certain scenarios that confuses me, aside from being a truly good friend to me. I believe she has considerable experience as she had been teaching for 2 decades now, and I trust her to offer me sound judgment. She has a lot of best practices to share with me, and she doesn’t scrimp on straight and unbiased critique. She is also highly intelligent as she has been trained in the US and in other countries, and have trained teachers herself in the Philippines and Vietnam.

I have worked with her and seeing the response of both the parents and the students to her work, I would definitely consider her excellent and passionate at her job, something all of us current and future teachers can learn. The results of the product of her work demonstrate what kind of teacher I would want to be.

EDS 103 Module 3: Sticker- stingy

I have never been one who was known among my students to be generous with extrinsic rewards. I have fought against what B.F. Skinner (1938) had termed “token economy” in the classroom. I have never subscribed to the rewards of a tangible reward such as stickers and other gifts to motivate my students and here’s why:

  1. I refused to teach my students to equate amiable behavior/ performance to a small and a very impermanent joy such as a sticker; to me, it’s the equivalent of bribery.
  2. I want to instill in my students the rewards of learning in itself: better grades, knowledge that they can use sooner or later, a competitive edge among their peers if it suits them (my students are young children), possessing know how, general contributor to intelligence, usable abilities, among others;
  3. I want them to value more lasting trophies (knowledge) than disposable ones (tokens);
  4. I hope to shape their attitude towards good behavior does not always equate to immediate positive responses. Some things are cumulative and process- based and patience and long term hard work is sometimes necessary;
  5. I wish to help them adjust into the real world outside a token economy with realistic expectations that not every positive deed will be rewarded, and a positive deed is already a source of pride. (McLeod, 2007)

These reasons listed above are my personal feelings towards reinforcements and rewards. I respect the proponents of behaviorism as they have very solid arguments in most aspects, but perhaps I could be trying to teach and discipline from a more reformist bias.

Make no mistake on how I also subscribe and employ several tactics on conditioning (again, my students are at a very malleable age). As a matter of fact, I have come to trust the theories of behaviorism as highly effective and compatible in preschool education. But somehow, I cannot require myself to go beyond smiley stamps, verbal encouragement and a pat on the back (it’s a high-five nowadays).

Not to mention that I have to pay for the stickers myself.

McLeod, S. A. (2015). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

EDS 111 Module 3A: “I’m not YouTube-ing; I am TEACHING!

I have to shamefully admit that I have never heard of the TPACK framework until now. I am sure that I am not alone in this course who had eureka moments and found themselves nodding in realization in identifying that the use of Youtube in their classes already has a name in theoretical education.

In my personal point of view, I can see a few implications of the usage of the internet (TPK) at my school where I teach. For those who wanted to know, I teach reading to toddlers here in Manila. Our school caters to very young but technologically exposed learners. In seeing them begin or grow into their big schools (transitioning from a preschool to formal education), I
have had a few observations how their iPads too big for their hands had influenced the knowledge they bring into our classrooms, and into their kindergarten schools.

I have encouraged the teachers to use videos in teaching reading and comprehension to our young ones, especially in attempting to teach difficult to explain concepts such as this book we have about Paris (some of them have never been to Paris, or even if they have, they don’t know what Paris is. “Teacher, is Paris food?”), or where you need a bug hut for
(someone asked me why would you need to make a home for insects when they are, apparently, “yucky”). So useful, yet, what are the positive and negative implications of the internet?

I have divided them into two as I have seen how it can be a double edged sword. In our context, there are:

1. Con- extremely shortened attention spans
2. Con- increased demands of high- end, top- shelf wants such as expensive toys and figures
3. Con- addiction to visuals that promote unrelated lessons, borderline obnoxious
4. Pro- high technological knowledge
5. Pro- students can travel outside our classrooms thru videos
6. Pro- interesting class format
7. Pro- social tool in making the students more well rounded and in contextualizing our
content

A negative effect of exposing students to Youtube is somehow an observed correlation of short attention span in children. They start craving dynamic visuals and loud audios instead of sitting down in a quiet corner to quaintly open a book in peace. Young children also see all sorts of new and expensive toys on website advertisement and I think it can encourage materialism. Addiction to attractive and slapstick humor that are available on the internet also makes a lot of students
trade informational videos to one that don’t really have intrinsic value except being “silly- funny”.

There are definitely good things that come out of using videos in class, such as a sense of informational technolgy at an early age. The pupils can also “travel” outside the class through videos that are rich in experiences and being able to create a vicarious learning atmosphere, which makes for a more interesting class. Lastly, we teachers strive to plan our video- added lessons accordingly to shape the computer as a social tool to let them contextualize the abstract concepts in their heads.

Although in no way we encourage nor foster a computer-culture in our lessons by giving them freedom to use the electronic resources in school (or outside, for that matter), there is an unavoidable effect that we are possibly making them think that Youtube-ing is without limitations. Anyway a teacher uses it, there is always danger that the learners might misinterpret this as a good tool as long as you know how to click and play. Number one hazard is since it is easy to use, Youtube can offer children easy access to anything.

An informed and responsible utilization of technology as a lesson tool is the whole point of the TPACK. Its theoretical framework posits that if teachers meet the required knowledge base of a rich TK, PK and CK and the merger of the three, then effective teaching should take place. As far as our school goes, we try to continually discover the correct synthesis of the TPACK in order to foster the more positive implications it creates and mitigate the bad.