The Problem of the “Good” Student

The reading “Preparing Teachers For Crisis: A Sample Lesson” by Kumashiro explores ideas of anti-oppressive education by calling on educators to examine commonsensical ideas of learning. Kumashiro notes early in the article that “[t]heir is something oppressive about what we often say it means to be a student and, simultaneously, what it means to learn” (23). He introduces the revolutionary idea of teaching about oppression through the end goal of student crisis, where students confront troubling knowledge and learn by “work[ing] through their crisis” (30). The reading invokes many questions we have about common sense ideas in our education system surrounding oppression and how to avoid it. It seems like common sense to question and advocate for anti-oppressive ideas and practice but it often isn’t. I believe the first step in doing so is identifying common sense norms, such as what our education system expects from “good” students. 

What does it mean to be a good student? This question is more heavily weighted than what one might think. My own common sense answer to this is centered around hard work, positive attitude, good attendance, and good listening skills. To get a more broad understanding of what one expects from good students I took to my twitter account.

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I got a broad range of  great answers from educators and aspiring educators. Though these ideas can be considered common sense they still are important qualities in classrooms. Most of the answers portrayed similar common sense ideas about a “good” student as my own. A few examples are shown below.

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Our education system is built around rewarding students with qualities such as the ones above. These students often produce work at the levels expected or even beyond what the teacher intends. They absorb information presented to them in a timely manner and are able to relay the same information without challenging it. These types of students often come from supportive families, who are willing to help aid and foster the students educational needs. These students typically don’t have disabilities that make it challenging for them to sit still, process information, spell, read, etc. Students that have conflicting qualities and circumstances as the ones above, unfortunately, are often oppressed by our education system and don’t benefit from the same rewards as a “good” student. 

These common sense ideas of a “good” student can be dangerous. It leaves students who aren’t considered to be “good” behind and their full potential untapped. Teaching  for and rewarding only one type of student allows for only one type of student to perform at their greatest potential. It’s important to question common sense because if we didn’t there would be dire consequences. Residential Schools and slavery would still exist, women wouldn’t have the vote or even be considered a person, Tobacco would be considered a medicine, ect. Questioning common sense ideas of what a “good” student is, is important for student success as a whole, thus future success of our society. Educators need to broaden their view of what a “good” student looks like so they can adjust their teaching methods to help all students succeed and avoid oppression. 

Below are some examples of what questioning  commonsensical ideas of what a “good” student can look like.

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Kumashiro, Kevin. “Preparing Teachers For Crisis: A Sample Lesson.” Against Common Sense. Routledge: London, 2009. 19-33. online

Critical Summary – Reconciliation and Curriculum

For my critical summary I have chosen the topic of reconciliation and curriculum, focusing on Linda Radford’s theories. The main article I will be using is “Learning to teach for reconciliation in Canada: Potential, resistance and stumbling forward”. The article details a study of the findings from pre-service teachers experiences learning about reconciliation and responsibility. I believe this topic and article to be of great importance as teacher education can contribute so much towards reconciliation.

The article is part of a “growing body of research [that] looks at the ways education policy and curriculum initiatives are being used to address reconciliation agendas in societies divided by conflict or injustice” (Radford & Aitken, 2018). The article focuses on the heightened emotions caused from the topics of truth and reconciliation. The authors note that the resistance caused from this is “inevitable” but not “immobilizing”. Throughout the study three themes became evident among the pre-service teachers: new recognition, changes in self-awareness, and concerns over provoking learners’ emotional responses when teaching for reconciliation. The study acknowledges teachers resistance to teach reconciliation in the past and its consequential effects on the movement. The article seeks to uncover the social dynamics at play to reverse this effect.

My next steps for the assignment will be to find two more articles relating to the topic and one more scholar. My second scholar will be Nicholas Ng-A-Fook. He has several interesting articles about the topic including, “Spinning Curriculum Designs at a Crossroads: Big Ideas, Conversations, and Reconciliation,” which appears to be promising. That leaves me with one more scholar to find work on surrounding the subject. I will be comparing and contrasting these last two articles to “Learning to teach for reconciliation in Canada: Potential, resistance and stumbling forward”.

Aitken, A., and Radford, L. “Learning to teach for reconciliation in Canada: Potential, resistance and stumbling forward.” Science Direct 75 2018: 40-48. Web. 21 January 019.

Curriculum and the Tyler Rationale

In our first ECS 210 lecture the question was asked “what is curriculum?” Even though all of us have experienced curriculum in our educational journeys many had trouble putting it into words. The class eventually settled on a definition along the lines of “a set of guidelines set out by the government that students should learn.” In the reading Curriculum theory and practice by Mark Smith curriculum is defined in several ways. It is defined by Stenhouse as, “the attempt to describe what happens in classrooms rather than what actually occurs” (Smith 2000) and by John Kerr as, ‘All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school’ (quoted in kelly 1983). The reading Curriculum theory and practice goes over four ways of approaching curriculum theory and practice, one of which is the Tyler rationale. This approach is “[t]he dominant mode of describing and managing education” and is heavily linked to the success of the product” (Smith 2000). It’s a technical exercise where “[o]bjectives are set, a plan drawn up, then applied, and the outcomes (products) measured (Smith 2000).

In my own schooling I have had a lot of experience with the Tyler rationale, both good and bad. Many of the most memorable experiences occurred in elementary school where learning was fast paced and the efficiency of the teacher or curriculums success depended on the students performance. One area where the Tyler rationale’s set objectives and structured plans worked for me was learning to read. The skill came naturally to me. I hit all the objectives set out either early or just where I was expected to be and received the praise I was rewarded with confidently. I couldn’t understand why some of my other peers kept stumbling over their pronunciations and syntax. It never occurred to me that they could have a legitimate reading disability or just simply take a bit longer to learn. As I progressed into higher grade levels I began to encounter math skills that challenged me. I was simply not catching on to these skills as fast as my other peers. This had never happened to me before and I was confused and frustrated. The class was moving too fast for me and I was being left behind. In this way the conveyor belt system of the Tyler rationale failed me and I began to realize that learning is not  one size fits all as the Tyler rationale approach suggests.

It is obvious that the Tyler rationale has it limitations; the first being “the plan or program assumes great importance” (Smith 2000). This leaves students with no voice in their education and it can deskill educators. Educators are to apply the curriculum and are judged by the outcomes, effectively turning them into technicians. Secondly, “there are questions around the nature of objectives” (Smith 2000). The model is very dependent on measurability of the product but, there is always room for error when measuring. This is dangerous as it is often difficult to judge the impact of an experience. Thirdly, “there is a real problem when we come to examine what educators actually do in the classroom” (Smith 2000). Educators often have difficulties with meeting objectives, which points to something being inherently wrong with the approach. Lastly, “there is the problem of unanticipated results”(Smith 2000). All the focus on pre-specified goals causes both teachers and students to overlook learning that is not an objective but a product none-the-less.

Despite the Tyler rationales limitations it does have some benefits. The approach “is systematic and has considerable organizing power” (Smith 2000). This allows teachers the ability to methodically organize a fixed one size fits all plan and reuse these plans. Teachers also have the ability to easily pinpoint success and evaluate it as the desired outcomes are clearly noted. This approach also works well for students who are deemed to be “on the right track”. They are able to systematically learn the material presented and reap the rewards for their success.

Curriculum can be defined and approached in many different ways. The Tyler rationales systematic approach has both limitations and benefits. It is a convenient approach in terms of organization and for students who are performing within the levels of the objectives set out, but not so much for others. My own personal experience with it, as I’m sure is similar to others, has been both positive and negative. It is great for students who are able to meet the objectives the curriculum sets out but, leaves many students behind in doing so. Upon deeper analysis of my experience with the Tyler rationale I realized that it potentially has had lasting effects on my behavior. I would consider myself to be a box ticker and a “worrier”. I go through life wanting to meet all the targets I feel one should hit in order to be considered successful. For example, going to university, getting good grades, one day balancing a successful career with a husband and 2.5 children, etc. All these objectives are great but, when the success of these objectives is threatened (i.e. bad marks, tough deadlines, ect.) I feel anxious about failing or not meeting the same status quo of my peers. Not to mention it leaves me with little regard for things I would rather be doing (i.e. travelling!). Though this is hypothetical it’s undeniable that theirs links to this behavior and the conveyor belt like system of the Tyler rationale I experienced so often during my youth. Due to this, combined with the approaches other limitations I would say this approach to curriculum needs to be seriously revised or left in the past.

References
Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) ‘Curriculum theory and practice’ the encyclopaedia of informal
education, http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-curric.htm.

Common Sense: A Common Problem In Anti-oppressive Education

The definition of common sense is, “[t]hat which is reasonable or sensible; that which appeals to or is in accord with instinctive understanding or sound judgement” (“Common Sense, n2.a”). In the reading “The Problem of Common Sense” by Kevin Kumashiro common sense is defined in relatively the same way. Unlike most people however, Kumashiro does not see common sense as an advantage when it comes to the education system. He wrote, “[c]ommon sense limits what is considered to be consistent with the purpose of schooling” (xxxv). He suggests that common sense creates a false sense of security within school systems that has led to an oppressive education system that is marginalizing many of its members. Paying attention to what is considered to be common sense in the education system is vitally important because of this.

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When it comes to fighting oppression within our school systems we need to largely leave what we consider to be common sense at the door. This is easier said than done however. As Kumashiro points out challenging commonsensical ideas is difficult for two reasons. The first being that “it is difficult to recognize those ideas that are prescriptive,” largely due to social pressure to conform, and secondly, “commonsensical ideas often give us some sense of comfort” (xxxv). Due to this difficulty it’s imperative that we consciously search out commonsensical ideas, or norms of schooling that contribute to oppression and marginalization of “others on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, language, age, and other social markers”(Kumashiro, xxxvii). Doing this can help eliminate a direct symptom of common sense within the education system being, “it has become normal for us to experience oppression without realizing we are doing so” (Kumashiro, xxxvii).
A particular example I can think of in my own personal education experience were oppression occurred was in my high school biology class. We were discussing the formation of life on earth billions of years ago. My teacher started the lecture with a dismissive comment about creationism, saying something along the lines of “I don’t care if you believe in creationism, we are going to be learning about life on earth via science” and added a dismissive wave of her hand. I didn’t think much of this comment, mostly because at the time I wasn’t even aware of what creationism was, until a close friend mentioned that she felt offended. The comment had oppressed her based on her religious beliefs. Me and many other students in the class never thought to question this teacher because we believed the creation of life on earth via scientific processes to be common sense. We had all fallen guilty to not questioning commonsensical ideas for the two reasons mentioned above, “it is difficult to recognize those ideas that are prescriptive”, largely due to social pressure to conform, and secondly, “commonsensical ideas often give us some sense of comfort” (Kumashiro, xxxv). I realize now that this is a perfect example of an area that contributes to oppression that a teacher needs to consciously search out and question to avoid.

Kevin Kumashiro opened my eyes to the dangers of common sense in the education system. His approach of questioning commonsensical ideas to avoid an oppressive educational experience is a strategy I never thought about as being effective, but now it’s definitely something I plan put into effect in my future career. We need to challenge common sense in order to challenge the oppression impermeated in schools and identifying these areas of common sense is the first step.

References

  • “Common Sense, n2.a” OED Online. Oxford University Press, 2019. Web. 7 January 2020.
  • Kumashiro, Kevin. “The Problem of Common Sense.” Teaching and learning toward social justice. Routledge: London, 2009. XXIX- XLI. online.

The Last Howrah

Welcome to my last blog post of EDTC 300, where ill be wrapping up my learning project. As you may remember from a previous post my goal was to learn a few songs from a designated playlist I made. I managed to learn one of my favourites; Sweet Home Alabama. Check out the video of me playing below.

Learning guitar was something I’ve always wanted to do but, something I never found the time for previous to this taking EDTC 300. As someone who had previously never thought of themselves as very musical I was nervous to start. With the help of some great online resources and the motivation form my class mates it turned out to be a lot of fun. Playing guitar is now a regular part of my life and something I plan on continuing to improve on.

Though my goal was to learn 3-4 of the songs from this playlist I’m still happy with learning only one. I was brand new to guitar at the beginning of the semester and underestimated the time it took to master a musical instrument. I was unaware of the basic skills I would have to learn first before catapulting myself into learning songs. With that said, with those skills now under my belt I will be able to progress a lot faster.

From this project I also learned the value of becoming a life long learner. Here is a great article on the importance of teachers committing to life long learning. I had gotten my self in a rut from my previous 3 years of post secondary education of only learning for my classes and not for my enjoyment. This lead to me being well versed in my science classes but, left me missing out on some important life lessons. I’ve decided to carry on taking on a new project every year to keep me out of this rut.

Favourite Resources

I used a lot of great online resources to in learning to play guitar. The magic of the  internet really does make it possible to learn almost anything. The following list shows the resources I used listed in order of my most to least favourite.

  1. Yousician: This app takes 1st place for it’s in time feedback and simple instructions
  2. Marty Music on YouTube: Marty deserves second place for his to the point, easy to follow instructional videos. He has tons of videos available for any skill or song you want to learn on guitar.
  3. Thomas Michaud on YouTube: Thomas Michaud is second to Marty music only because he doesn’t have as many videos available or as wide a variety of song genres to learn from.
  4. Guitar Chords Scales and More: This site has some great diagrams of chords. I always found it helpful to look at chord diagrams to see the exact placement my fingers needed to be in.
  5. Fender Play: This resource gets last place due to the fact that even though its a paid for app its missing a key feature; in time feedback. Though it does have some good instructional videos you can find most of the same information on the internet for free.

Greatest Inspirations

I had a lot of great inspiration in learning guitar. Some I had had previous to learning and were what made me want to pursue learning in the first place and others motivated me well I was learning.

  1. The school of Rock is my all time favourite movie and the my biggest inspiration to learn guitar. Who can resist Ned schneebly’s guitar solo in Rock Got No Reason.

2. Ian Munsick, an up and coming country singer has some mad guitar skills. he has an great ear for music and can make any song sound great on an acoustic guitar.

3. Ben Crosby or @confetticoordinates on Instagram is an awesome guitarist who posts a cover on his Instagram daily.

That’s a wrap folks! I hope you enjoyed following my learning journey this semester. if your looking to read up on some of my other classmates learning projects ill link a few down below. You never know what might inspire you to learn something new!

 

Communication: The key to Success

Over the past four months in EDTC 300 I’ve contributed to several platforms to build my personal learning network. In contributing to these platforms I’ve gained valuable connections and resources. I’ve also been able to share what I consider to be valuable resources and perspectives of my own to these platforms. I believe the key to both personal and career success is communication. Thus, I tried to contribute as often and as much as I could the platforms used in EDTC 300 via a course blog, twitter, and a slack community.

Course Blog

On my course blog I was able to receive as well as give feedback to my classmates. I followed as many of my classmates journeys through the course blog as I could. I commented words of motivation and encouragement on learning project posts, shared my perspectives on blog posts, and gave honest feedback if I saw an area that could be improved. I replied to comments left on my own blog as well, answering any questions they had or simply thanking them for their feedback. I also ensured to add pingbacks from my other classmates posts if I particularly liked their post, as well as share them to twitter to get more notoriety outside the EDTC 300 course blog. Check out the slide show below to see some examples of my contributions to the learning of others via my blog.

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Twitter

I was new to twitter at the beginning of the semester, but was quick to catch on. Twitter to me, was the most helpful platform in growing my professional learning project. I typically tweeted 3-5 times a day about topics on class content, education in general, or anything else I found interesting that I thought others could benefit from. I explored the use of different hashtags such as, our course hashtag #EDTC300, DigLN, DitchBook, EDChat and many others in hopes of reaching a lager networking platform. I also used the platform to ask questions, take polls, and gain new perspectives to course and some non-course related material . I was sure to contribute to these areas in others tweets as well whether they were classmates, or other professionals I followed.  I was able to share my own blog posts to twitter for those not in our course to see, and my other classmates as well. My favourite part about twitter was the twitter chats. I completed several throughout the semester and made valuable connections from them.Check out the slide show below to see some examples of my contributions to the learning of others via my twitter.

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Slack Community

I used slack often to ask and answer other classmates  course related questions. I also  shared relevant articles to the course that I didn’t feel targeted my twitter audience as much as the slack community. These were often scholarly articles on topics relating to the course. I also had private messages with people in the course such as Danica, where I shared some inspiration I found for her learning project. Check out the slide show below to see my contributions to the learning of others via the slack community.

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Thank you to everyone that participated in helping me grow my Professional learning network! I hope I was able to contribute something valuable to yours as well!