Sunday, January 27, 2008

writer's block

I'm finding it a little frustrating to write a philosophy of education at this time, because I don't feel that I've fully formed my philosophy yet. I had a perfectly good philosophy before starting grad school; it focused on language arts specifically and discussed multiple intelligences, learning styles, assessment strategies, relevance, creativity, etc, etc. Lots of good stuff. But in just the past semester and past month of grad school, I have learned so much about critical theory, progressivism, moral education, and multiculturalism that I am still trying to wrap my head around and incorporate into my teaching beliefs and practices. I feel that whatever I write as a philosophy now will not be accurate because I have only scratched the surface of some of these topics in my course work, and I have a stack of books and resources that I plan on independently studying. But hopefully this assignment will help me organize my thinking and see where there are gaps in my knowledge. In fact, I've already revised my idea for my Capstone based on my thinking during this assignment and the course readings for this week. But I still hate to write something that I know can't be completely what I want it to be yet!

Friday, January 25, 2008

a statement about mission statements

Constructing statements about the aims of education during the last class was incredibly beneficial. I now have a much clearer idea of what the process looks like and how it can be undertaken in a school system. However, as was noted in the textbook, mission statements seem to be sadly underused by school systems. They do not exist, are not readily available, or when available are not translated into action within the school. I feel that the mission statement or aims of education should be used by the school as the vision of the school community. Along with administrators, teachers, students, parents, and other staff or community members should be invited to participate in constructing the mission statement and revisiting it over the years. Teachers and administrators should not be afraid to openly state their beliefs about education and act on those beliefs.

But then I also have this little voice that says, what good are mission statements if you can't get everyone on board? What good are mission statements if parents can't choose what school their children attend? I am so torn when it comes to school choice. When I look at the big picture, I think that school choice should not be allowed, because that would lead to segregated schools (racial, income, and ability segregation). Separate is inherently unequal. But then when I think about MY (theoretical) children and all the elementary schools that I have been working in for my research assistantship, I would DEFINITELY want to choose what school I sent my child to. And there are some schools that I would rather move than have my child attend. So as a (potential) parent, I feel one way about it, but as an educator, wanting all schools to be good schools and all students to receive equal education, I feel completely different about school choice.

Switching gears a little bit to my philosophy of education, I'm definitely on the progressivism/reconstructionism side of the diagram, and I don't feel that these pieces conflict with one another. I would also add critical theory into the mix, because it really supports both progressivism and reconstructionism. To impact and improve society, we must intensely address the inequalities in society and remedy them. The school system is one avenue through which we can eradicate inequalities.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

a million pages later...or, my blog needs a conceptual framework

I am somewhat overwhelmed by the large amount of information that I will now attempt to reflect upon.

Geneva Gay: "If we are to achieve equally, we must broaden our conception to include the entire culture of the school--not just subject matter content." I would extend this to include the entire community culture, maybe regional culture, maybe national. What will it really take to provide equitable education for all? I think now's the time to think about purposes.

The purpose of education:
  • To better each individual
  • To facilitate the advance and progress of society
  • To provide skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to the progress of society
  • Or, to help "develop the intellectual tools and learning strategies needed to acquire the knowledge that allows people to think productively about history, science and technology, social phenomena, mathematics, and the arts" (p. 5, "Learning: From Speculation to Science").
What are these skills and knowledge?

The purpose of curriculum:
  • To provide a plan of action, to provide the skills and knowledge everyone needs and to describe instructional methods to help teach the skills and knowledge
    • Value others; understand and appreciate other cultures, opinions, and ways of thinking
    • Critical thinking skills
    • Metacognition and transfer skills
    • Historical knowledge that accurately shows the perspectives of multiple cultural groups
    • Communication skills
    • Moral behavior
    • Content-knowledge, in a depth > coverage model
    • Technology skills
p. 22, Developing the Curriculum - Don't "woolly mammoth" the children! Excellent definition of what curriculum should NOT be.

We must rethink what to teach based on our changing society. We must rethink how to teach based on new information about how people learn.

But how can change be achieved? It takes time. People who effect change must be part of the process - bottom-up approach to curriculum development. Change must be gradual and yet holistic.

How would I develop a curriculum from scratch?
  1. Determine the purpose of the curriculum
  2. What is needed to achieve that purpose?
  3. Get input from all levels - student, teacher, parent, administrator, community member, more experienced curriculum developer
  4. Try it out, see how it works
  5. Adapt and try it out again
My goals as a curriculum developer:

To eliminate the reproduction of social inequalities by the school system. This would include reworking the school structure to eliminate tracking, use mixed-ability, mixed-age grouping, teach cultural awareness and appreciation to all faculty, staff, and students, provide a culturally responsive learning community, rework the curriculum to eliminate bias and provide multicultural content, and other things that I am not thinking of so late at night.