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Nieto defines culture as “the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared, and transformed by a group of people bound together by a combination of factors that can include a common history, geographic location, language, social class, and religion” (Nieto, 2008, p. 129). I believe this also can apply to individuals. As I’ve lived, many of my values, traditions, relationships, etc. have changed. The most important aspects of my identity are friendships, family, ethics, service, pride, and faith. Each has changed over the years and even changed in importance.
In the process of taking this class I came to realize culture reflects all the things on my original mind map and so much more. For example, friends include multi-racial children, GLBTQ, atheist, Catholic, and Pentecostal. Many of us are from different socio-economic backgrounds, with varied careers and levels of education. As a group, we have managed to find common ground and I believe we can also accomplish this with multi-cultural education. We must find a way to reduce the achievement gap and make learning fun.
Nieto, S. (2008). Chapter 9: Culture and Education. Yearbook Of The National Society For The Study Of Education (Wiley-Blackwell), 107(1), 127. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7984.2008.00137.x
This fascinating book was written by a female educator living in Iran right after the overturn of the Shah. Azar Nafisi resigned a professorship at a prestigious university when she found she could no longer submit to the restrictions which hobbled her ability to teach.
Professor Nafisi selected seven young women to form a book club from which they read, and examined, English literature. The women in the club looked to her as a mentor and guide. The women were different from each other but shared a common appreciation for the opportunity to study this literature.
The book is a history of how Iran changed and the impact it had, not only on women, but on men as well. It was a cultural revolution. Professor Nafisi and her students make it real. As women, they are finding ways to circumvent and oppose the Revolutionary Committee and the religious teachers. Their escape to Nafisi’s living room, and Lolita, is described as their “link to that other worlds of tenderness, brightness and beauty.” (Part 1, Chapter 17). It was their escape from the reality of an oppressive reality.
Please see the link to my Project…MEMOIR – MEMORY AND MASTERY PROJECT
Impact of Teaching Common Core to Multi-Cultural Students
The United States continually strives to improve education for its children. The founding fathers made speeches about the importance of education, followed by the development of standardized testing to No Child Left Behind and now, Race to the Top. Part of this is the recognition that ours is a nation of diverse ethnicities and cultures. There is a struggle to meet the needs of our multicultural students while ensuring the educational standards are met for all.
As Merfat Ayesh Alsubaie (2015) says, “There is a relationship between education and culture. Because culture is an important part of the education system, the education should reflect it, and it has to be an appropriate for students and their cultures.”
Nieto defined culture as “the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared, and transformed by a group of people bound together by a combination of factors that can include a common history, geographic location, language, social class, and religion” (Nieto, 2008, p.129). This is never more obvious than in a classroom. At any time, teachers may have students from different socio-economic backgrounds, different countries, and varied family settings. These cultures will vary from urban to rural to suburbia. Research tells us the majority of teachers in America are white, middle class, and English monolingual, (Nieto, 2008). For the school year 2011 – 2012, in the United States, 81.9% of all teachers were white/non-Hispanic (Schools and Staffing Survey (n.d.). The San Jose Group notes, 38% of Hispanic young adults plan to obtain a college degree. (2013).
Many attempts have been made to ensure that all students have equal access to quality education. This wasn’t always the case. In the 1960’s, during the Civil Rights Movement, there was an exodus of African Americans from the South to the Northeast and West. Generally, they settled in urban environments which became deeply segregated, such as Harlem or the South side of Chicago. “This contributed directly to growing problems of over-crowded schools, resulting in large classes, double-shift schedules, and over-burdened staff and facilities”. (J. L. Rury, 2014). Studies also show that even today, where the families live influences the risk factor to educational achievement. Children whose families reside in either large cities or rural areas are more likely to less successful academically than children living in suburbs. Statistics show almost four times as many African American families live in large cities as do white families. (Murphy, 2010). Also, families who move around a lot, generally in a lower SES, are more at risk for lower academic achievement for the students.
Educators and lawmakers are working diligently to change the statistics. In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented with the goal of raising standards “while assessing students’ attainment of those standards.” (Burks, et al, 2015). This was followed by The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which were initiated in 2009 by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (Wiley, 2014).
From the Common Core website:
“Building on the best of existing state standards, the Common Core State Standards provide clear and consistent learning goals to help prepare students for college, career, and life. The standards clearly demonstrate what students are expected to learn at each grade level, so that every parent and teacher can understand and support their learning”.
During the 2012 – 2013 school year, the Common Core was being implemented in most states and “The CCS call upon states to derive 85% of their local educational standards from the CCSS, with the remaining 15% set aside for state specific standards” (Wolf, et al, 2014). Unfortunately, Common Core, as originally written, did not take into account the needs of multicultural students. According to Ron Schachter (2013) of the Minneapolis School District, “more than 95 native languages other than English are spoken, accounting for 11,500 of the district’s 33,000 students.” It would be interesting to learn if the teachers are using strategies “to include an academic, cultural, emotional, and social focus that moves students closer to examining issues they find relevant to their lives.” (Tatum in Chiarello, 2012). Students should be using texts with pictures and words that include many different cultures.
It is also important to recognize differences in home environments and how they influence achievement (Murphy, 2010). Families with low socio-economic status do without needed educational tools. The availability of books and computer ownership are keys to student success. Computers are helpful for both reading and math. J. Murphy (2010) quotes research by Uhlenberg and Brown (2002), citing the work of Novack and Hoffman, “Statistics show 73 % of white students have a computer in the home, but only 32 % of African American students own one. Additionally, the family structure is very different for these students.
Murphy (2010) examines family structure and provides information to show that single-parent families are increasing across the US, but even more so in minority families. There is a direct link to poverty and family structure. Specifically, The relationship between Socio-Economic Status (SES) and single-parent family structure is strong and close to linear—that is, as SES goes up, the proportion of young children in single–parent homes goes down”(p.32). The statistics Murphy provides are shocking:
- Biological father is present in 86% of white families and only 39% in African American families.
- 25% of white children live in single-parent homes while 62% of African American children live in single-parent homes.”
Children of single-parent homes are more likely to struggle with academic achievement (lower test scores and lower grades) and drop out before completing high school. (Murphy, 2010). One must remember the essential issue here is the association between family structure and income with more single-parent families specifically living with less available income.
Common Core tells us that teaching literacy skills requires us to focus our efforts on helping students read, write, and think in English. This will enable them to learn the content and “be able to make new meaning through original analysis, evaluation, synthesis, and application. Strong skill-based instruction relies on explicit teaching, high expectations, strategic scaffolds for learning, and skill practice” (Literacy TA, 2015). Wiley and Rolstad (2014) note “literary practices are seen as being shaped by the dominant social, economic, and political institutions in which they are embedded.”
For example, there are likely “implicit biases and hidden curriculum”. This applies to the minority and immigrant students. They go on to discuss earlier work by Bernstein (1971), which says, in brief, “middle-class children are advantaged in schools.”
Some teachers are using this to their advantage. Leslie Maxwell (2013) tells educators how schools are using “more-experienced students help ‘acculturate’ the newer arrivals and a team of teachers sticks with the same group for two full years.” The question arises, how do teachers meet the Common Core standards while also meeting the needs of a multicultural classroom? According to Maxwell (2013) one way is for teachers to team up. Teachers responsible for content (Common Core subjects) are working closely with ESL teachers, and have begun “picking apart the standards, stripping them down to the essential concepts, simplifying the language, and developing strategies that all of them can use to support English learners…”
At other schools, these same specialized teachers are crafting “common-core lessons in English/language arts and math that outline explicit supports and ‘scaffolds’ for ELLs, based on their proficiency levels” (Maxwell, 2013). Previously, the focus of English language learning was to separate the ELLs from the main classrooms where they would work only on language development.
It is also important for educators to understand how best to teach students that In a training video created for JCPS Employees (2012), several tips are given to help educators recognize diversity and the steps they can use to improve sensitivity. These tips are important in teaching all students, but especially those from different cultural look and speak differently from them and other students. For example, the speaker on the video says “Don’t judge or criticize cultural differences. They are neither good nor bad; it’s what we do with them that counts.”
It is important to remember why Common Core was implemented. The goal has been to have standards by which all children will have an equal opportunity for learning. Although history has shown that mandating change, such as integration, is not the entire answer, it may be necessary in order to facilitate change. Overall, there are many factors which contribute to the success of students from multicultural backgrounds. Diversity can enrich the classroom. This student would reiterate how imperative it is for educators, at all levels, to recognize and respect these cultures. Only then, will standards, such as Common Core, be effective.
Alsubaie, M. A. (2015). Examples of Current Issues in the Multicultural Classroom. Journal Of Education And Practice, 6(10), 86-89. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1081654.pdf
Ardasheva, Y., Bowden, J., Morrison, J., & Tretter, T., (2015). Comic Relief. Science Scope, 38(6), 39-47. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=43591227-e5a2-4ff9-9c43-c61696ffdc3d%40sessionmgr4002&vid=10&hid=4208
Burks, B. A., Beziat, T. R., Danley, S., Davis, K., Lowery, H., & Lucas, J. (2015). Adapting to Change: Teacher Perceptions of Implementing the Common Core State Standards. Education, 136(2), 253-258. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c6cd033c-7042-4faa-8d04-6ad35ec4155c%40sessionmgr102&vid=10&hid=122Chiarello E., (January 9, 2012).
Chiarello, E. (2012, January 9), Building diversity into the Common Core. Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/blog/building-diversity-common-core
Frye, K. (2015). Can the Common Core Counter Educational Inequity? International Legal Lessons on Closing the Achievement Gap. Indiana International & Comparative Law Review, 25(3), 493-540. doi:10.18060/7909.0029. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=0ac16ef7-1578-419e-b9bc-08ac9730c48a%40sessionmgr198&vid=4&hid=108
Halladay, J. L., & Moses, L. (2013). Using the Common Core Standards to Meet the Needs of Diverse Learners: Challenges and Opportunities. New England Reading Association Journal, 49(1), 33-44. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c6cd033c-7042-4faa-8d04-6ad35ec4155c%40sessionmgr102&vid=17&hid=122
JCPSEmployee. (2012, September 11). Introduction to Cultural Competence [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9sLePALZ3M
MAXWELL, L. A. (2014). ESL and Classroom Teachers Team Up to Teach Common Core. Education Digest, 79(5), 4. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c6cd033c-7042-4faa-8d04-6ad35ec4155c%40sessionmgr102&vid=8&hid=122
Murphy, J. (2010). The Educator’s Handbook for Understanding and Closing Achievement Gaps [eBook]. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/detail?sid=f3e37293-36e0-4565-9622-01c214b77c9b@sessionmgr112&vid=0#AN=470523&db=nlebk
Nieto, S. (2008). Chapter 9: Culture and Education.Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 107(1), 127-142. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7984.2008.00137.x
Rury, J. J. (2014). The Power and Limitations of Historical Case Study: A Consideration of Postwar African American Educational Experience. Social & Education History / Historia Social Y De La Educación, 3(3), 241-270. doi:10.4471/hse.2014.15. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2cda14ff-c9fe-4070-9852-48c3340e36de%40sessionmgr4002&vid=12&hid=4202
San Jose Group (2015). Education Statistics of Hispanics and African Americans Infographic. Retrieved from http://blog.thesanjosegroup.com/education-statistics-of-hispanics-and-african-americans-infographic/
Schachter, R. (2013). Are Schools Getting Tongue-Tied? District Administration, 49(4), 57. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=43591227-e5a2-4ff9-9c43-c61696ffdc3d%40sessionmgr4002&vid=18&hid=4208
U.S. Department of Education (n.d.), National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2011–12. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/SASS/tables/sass1112_2013314_t1s_001.asp
Welcome to TA: Our Online Teacher Assistant (2015). eCoach. Literacy TA. Retrieved from http://www.literacyta.com/ecoach/ta-orientation
Wiley, T. G., & Rolstad, K. (2014). The Common Core State Standards and the Great Divide. International Multilingual Research Journal, 8(1), 38-55. doi:10.1080/19313152.2014.852428. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=43591227-e5a2-4ff9-9c43-c61696ffdc3d%40sessionmgr4002&vid=8&hid=4208
Wolf, M. m., Yuan, W., Blood, I., & Huang, B. H. (2014). Investigating the Language Demands in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Learners. A Comparison Study of Standards. Middle Grades Research Journal, 9(1), 35-52. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=43591227-e5a2-4ff9-9c43-c61696ffdc3d%40sessionmgr4002&vid=6&hid=4208
This picture is from Adam Sicinski’s blog, Creating a Life Resource List. Retrieved from http://blog.iqmatrix.com/life-resource-list
I found this website some time ago and kept it in the back of my mind while working on the Professional Resource Catalog. Every article, book, blog, video, and conversation becomes part of our own life resource list. Let’s learn from them and use the information to grow and become better teachers.
- Edutopia – Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blogs/tag/differentiated-instruction or http://www.edutopia.org/blog/vocabulary-instruction-teaching-tips-rebecca-alber?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=blog-vocab-tips-image-repost
This website bases all its resources on six basic strategies for learning:
- Comprehensive Assessment
- Integrated Studies
- Project-Based Learning
- Social and Emotional Learning
- Teacher Development
- Technology Integration
Founded by filmmaker/director George Lucas, the idea is to promote exciting learning with “student teams working cooperatively and children connecting with passionate experts”. The resources include videos, job postings, research, and lesson plans.
There is one whole section on diversity with several short videos for teachers. One in particular is narrated by Dr. Dorothy Strickland (2012), which recommends the teacher learn as much as possible about where each child is coming from, but be able to step back and deal with each child as an individual. This also applies to adult learners and isn’t necessarily easy, but very important.
- Smithsonian Education (multiple resources with state standards, lesson plans, etc.). http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/index.html
I was able to visit just part of the Smithsonian earlier this year and found myself amazed at the overwhelming amount of knowledge contained within the walls. Now, much of that knowledge is available online through this website with resources for teachers, students, and families. One can search by state standards to ensure the lesson plan is appropriate for the region. There are suggestions for planning field trips, and opportunities for professional development.
I especially like the webcasts available online and would certainly use some of those in a classroom. Another lesson plan which would appeal to the students is From Corido to Ballad which teaches about the history of the cowboy culture. “El corrido de Kansas” is probably the earliest existing song about the cowboy life, and in the lesson, students change a Spanish language song to an English language song. It presents the opportunity to understand the gist of the song, rather than a literal translation.
- Educurious – Retrieved from http://educurious.org/
Educurious® is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization on a mission to fundamentally transform the K-12 education experience. Our vision: To create an effective education system in which young people learn in meaningful and inspiring ways, and classrooms are places they want to be. Their goal: “To cultivate curious, motivated young people who are ready for college and tomorrow’s careers….They combine project-based learning, technology, and connections with real-world experts, to create meaningful learning experiences that cultivate contemporary skills.
- Teacher Toolkit – Retrieved from http://teachertoolkit.me/2014/05/15/50-forward-planning-questions-by-teachertoolkit/
This resource offers links to many articles and blogs by others in education. Most recently, I found an article that had lists of questions for every level of teacher to ask themselves for classroom/self- improvement. In addition, there are links to training, chat, YouTube videos, etc. One can search for ideas specific to their teaching. Type in “writing” and the site brings up many resources.
- Colorado State University – Retrieved from http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/esl/lesson_materials.cfm
This website offers varied ESL lesson plans and the materials (worksheets) to use. While observing the ESL class these last weeks, I mentioned this site to the teacher and she uses it quite frequently. It provides resource links to other colleges and universities. Currently, I’m reviewing lessons on writing.
- The Power of Reading, by Dr. Stephen Krashen (2012). [Youtube video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rx_ZJwZCo0
Dr. Krashen’s ideas have been integral to the entire TESOL program. He discusses what the differences are between acquisition of first and second (or third) languages. His lecture is easy to follow and he emphasizes key points.
- “My English”: Second Language Acquisition as Individual and Social Construction, by Kurt Kohn. (2012). [Youtube video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCfpD49YhSg
Another video, this one brings understanding to the teachers about the why of learning and speaking English. Kohn says, “I want to get it right” not just be understood. This is especially important for adult learners. As a bonus, it was pleasant to hear English spoken so carefully and clearly.
- Research-Based Strategies for English Language Learners (White Paper) – Retrieved from http://www.heinemann.com/shared/onlineresources/e00810/chapter4.pdf
I found this paper to be quite helpful in explaining and showing how scaffolding works in teaching English to non-native speakers.
- CASAS-CAHSEE (2014). CASAS Basic Skills Content Standards. Retrieved from https://www.casas.org/home
This website offers the standards for students to take and pass the CASAS-CAHSEE Exam (2014), a state test of English language proficiency which is designed to show proficiency in:
- Writing conventions
- Writing strategies
- Word analysis
- Reading comprehension
- Literacy response and analysis
There are assessment tests available. Students preparing for citizenship tests or employment opportunities will appreciate the experience. CASAS recognizes the following areas of competencies: phonology, vocabulary, grammar, general and informational discourse, and strategic and critical thinking.
- Discovery Edu Retrieved from http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/
This network features blogs by educator for educators. Recently, I have been following SOS, Spotlight on Strategies. There are many resources for training and techniques for bringing Discovery into the classroom.
The Impact of Multilingualism on Grade Point Average among College Undergraduates
EDU 653: Second Language Acquisition
January 18, 2015
Synopsis of Article
The Impact of Multilingualism on Grade Point Average among College Undergraduates (Kovalik, 2012) discusses research to determine whether or not students who speak more than one language have an impact on the grade point average of those students. Multilingualism is first defined as fluency in multiple languages. Merriam-Webster (n.d.). Alexandra Kovalik determined that very little research was available on this topic. She presented a survey to “various preselected classrooms” … of students in a “large public university in the northeast” (p.142).
The survey was administered to 305 students of whom only 12% were multilingual. Of those multilingual students, 71% indicated an existing grade point average of 2.67 to 3.55. In contrast, students who spoke only one language had higher grade point averages of 3.76 to 4.0. The author further describes benefits of multilingualism which include the ability to “bridge gaps in communication,” encourage respect, and “create cohesion within the world” (p. 142). There were only four literature reviews conducted by the author who determined very little had actually been written specifically to address grade point averages. She posited two hypotheses:
- Null: There is no difference in grade point averages…
- Alternative: Multilingual students would have a higher grade point average.
The survey appears to have validity in how it was administered, although there was a large gap between gender participants. The author determined results that “suggest that there is no significant relationship between multilingualism and grade point average, or if there is one, that the relationship is negative” (p. 147). The author further states her finding “contradict much of the increasing value that is being put on learning multiple languages”. She does draw attention to the deficits of the survey and suggests ways in which it could be improved if completed again.
Article Analysis and Reaction
This student found the article quite interesting and also expected the results to support the second hypothesis that multilingual students would have higher grade point averages. A study by Braunmüller and Gabriel (2012) states “default modes of communication observed in large parts of the world are determined by both individual and societal multilingualism rather than by monolingualism”. It would therefore seem logical that multilingualism benefits would outweigh the disadvantages and perhaps even increase scholastic results.
In the first review of an article by Lutz and Crist (2009), results seemed to indicate students “who have some sort of ability to speak Spanish have a higher GPA than those who do not” (p. 143). However, another study by Coombs and Cebula (2009) appears to dispute that theory. Coombs and Cebula studied whether nurses who were multilingual were rewarded for having that skill. Apparently, they are not, even though there is a great need for multilingual nurses. Jacob Koppenberg (n.d.) says “If a patient speaks a different language than the healthcare workers around them, a trip to the ER – or even a routine doctor’s appointment – can become terribly overwhelming, scary and even potentially dangerous”. Nurses are often the liaison between patients and doctors and there is great value in their ability to communicate in the patients’ native language.
Peter Martin (2010) performed a different study to “examine the impact of multilingualism on a student’s identity” (p. 143). The author of the subject article admits this research does not “look at grade point average” but seems to feel this is important. It may not be as easily measurable, but important in an abstract way. The conclusion of Martin’s study was that multilingualism had a negative impact on students. The students felt isolated and experienced feelings of “racism and exclusion due to the lack of space given to embrace their multilingualism” (p. 143). Steve Marshall (2010) supports this and says “ESL is not only a linguistic state, a course, an abbreviation, appreciated by many, disliked by others; it is also as an institutional and learner identity that some students associate with non-acceptance, deﬁcit, and even non-recognition of their multilingual and multicultural knowledge and competence” (p.51). He further describes “a range of social, cultural, and linguistic factors” which helps students identify themselves within university settings. Often these students’ assets are not recognized for their value, because of their first identity as ESL students.
The final study by Joyce Milambiling (2011) was also a study of feelings and not specific to grade point averages. Students appeared to benefit from being multilingualism as they were able to use “their language skills to help them when learning another language” (p. 143). This supports the view of this student that an instructor should get to know the students cultures, characteristics and backgrounds. The instructor should also understand the motivations and goals of their students and learn how each processes information and learning styles. With that, the instructor can help the students by identifying challenges and being able to use resources more efficiently.
Most of the studies seem to have difficulty identifying the actual value of learning a new language. The intrinsic values are easy to see but much harder to quantify. Further surveys should be conducted in this area. Those surveys could rely more on instructor feedback as opposed to being self-reported by the students. A larger data base with balanced gender participants would indicate higher validity. As Ms. Kovalik says, “Although this research question doesn’t confirm that multilingualism positively impacts grade point average, it cannot be concluded that it doesn’t impact other aspects of one’s life” (p. 148).
Gabriel, C. & Braunmüller, K. (2012). Multilingual Individuals and Multilingual Societies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.
Kovalik, A. (2012). The Impact of Multilingualism on Grade Point Average among College Undergraduates. Perspectives (University Of New Hampshire), 142-148. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? sid=79caa98a-8dfa-4ab0-9034-97a4250935e5%40sessionmgr4005&vid=6&hid=4211
Coombs K. C. & Cebula, R.J. (2009). “Are there rewards for language skills? Evidence from the earnings of registered nurses.” The Social Science Journal. 47:3, 659-677.
Koppenbert, J. (n.d.). The value of being a multilingual nurse” Oniglot. Retrieved from http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/multilingualnursing.htm
Lutz, A. & Crist, S. (2009). “Why Bilingual boys get better grades in English-only America? The impacts of gender, language and family interaction on academic achievement of Latino/a children of immigrants.” Ethnic and Racial Studies. 32:2, 346-368.
Marshall, S. (2010). Re-Becoming ESL: Multilingual University Students and a Deficit Identity. Language And Education, 24(1), 41-56.
Martin, P. (2010). “‘They have lost their identity but not gained a British one’: non-traditional multilingual students in higher education in the United Kingdom.” Language and Education. 24:1, 9-20.
Merriam-Webster (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/multilingualism
Milambiling, J. (2011). “Bringing One Language to Another: Multilingualism as a Resource in the Language Classroom.” English Teaching Forum. 1, 18-35.
This latest discussion is meant to be a reflection of my personal learning experience in this class. The topics spanned Artificial Intelligence to Playing the Whole Game to applications to real-life experience.
I had limited knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) when we began. I remembered the robots of my childhood, such as WALL-E, Johnny 5 (Short Circuit), C3PO (Star Wars), and Rosie the Maid (The Jetsons). These examples of AI showed intelligence, compassion, and emotion. Computers can process millions of bits of information very quickly and perform tasks or answer questions. They can even converse. In reality, however, they are not able to feel emotion.
We’ve discovered emotion, or feelings, are necessary for true thinking. “Feelings can be seen as responses to facts and sensations that exist beyond the tight horizon of awareness. They can also be thought of as messages from the unconscious, as conclusions it has reached after considering a wide range of information — they are the necessary foundation of thought” (Lehrer, 2007).
The next steps in our journey brought us to how to understand how we think – cognition.
There were some key concepts in this and include:
Rules – Rules are the guidelines for behavior. They are learned and keep life from deteriorating into chaos.
Logic – Logic is a name for the general family of formal proof systems with inference rules. It’s reasonable and based on connections between facts and observations.
Concepts – Concepts are the big picture ideas and are the representations of our mental images wherein groups of similar features are grouped together.
A perfect example of this is the class. We were given certain rules regarding assignments, due dates, participation, etc. The readings and research provided the logic to back up our ideas. This all comes together to form concepts of what we have learned and understand.
So how does this apply? In the workplace, we also have rules although the logic sometimes escapes us. The general concept for most business is to make money by providing some type of service. In teaching ESL, we will use grammar rules to help students understand and be able to speak English. Logic will come into play as we apply reasons for the rules and bring it all together to categorize similar concepts.
After learning the basics of how we think, it was time to Play the Whole Game (Perkins, 2009). Perkins presented us with seven principles, using analogies, to learning how teachers can transform education.
Play the Whole Game – Start simple but teach the overall lesson. Explain the rules, and make the experience meaningful. This is especially important when teaching adults. Carl Rogers believed adult learners need their learning to be practical and applicable to their lives.
Make the Game Worth Playing – Help the students understand the why of learning. Is it applicable to their lives? Is it meaningful? What motivates the student, or even the teacher? My favorite quote on student engagement and motivation was by Wlodkowski (1999, p. 7) “Historically, motivation and sex share a similar fate: both promise extraordinary rewards but when actually realized they continue to mystify and confuse. At the core of each is desire”.
Work on the Hard Parts – Practice the difficult things. If multiplication is tough, work on it until the student ‘gets it’. Golfers work on their swing, quarterbacks work on their throw.
Play Out of Town – Transfer learning from one concept to another. Help the student see connections so every lesson is not learned in a vacuum. This is valuable outside the classroom as well. When children learn to walk, they no longer think about it when running to catch a ball. Math learning will be applied to handling a budget and shopping.
Uncover the Hidden Game – Dig deep and understand what is going on beneath the surface. The hidden games include:
• Strategy – break it down to the basics
• Causal Thinking – what is the relationship between cause and effect? Is it always the same?
• Inquiry – “What do you notice? What do you see? Why?” (p. 151)
• Power – sometimes exhibits of “power, privilege, and presumption” are not obvious. One size does NOT fit all
Learn from the Team – Learn from others. Social learning and a great ESL learning tool which is “Pair Problem Solving” (p. 175). Communities of Practice defined by Etienne Wenger (n.d.) “are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”. They share a craft or profession and there usually are experts.
Learn the Game of Learning – Help the students learn how to learn. Empower students. This is where the rubber meets the road. As Perkins says, “explicit principles are likely to serve learners well…as objects of reflection and plans of action…” (p. 210). School gives us the tools to continue our education.
Other Important Concepts
We explored our personal learning styles and how this may affect our teaching styles. While I had no big surprises, it was helpful to see the different styles for each of my classmates. In a previous class I learned that most adults are visual learners. As Felder and Solomon (n.d.) point out most college instructors present material either in written or lecture format. When I teach ESL I plan to emphasize visual learning for the adult students, but incorporate other learning styles too.
We also discussed dynamic learning systems. The definition of dynamic is, “always active or changing”, (Merriam-Webster). So learning systems should be changing constantly. Since beginning this program, I’ve seen many changes in how we teach. We started with one-room schoolhouses and have evolved to online programs such as this. Adult education in particular, has changed drastically over the years with the emergence, and proliferation, of online education. The number of online students, with at least one course, surpassed 6.7 million in 2012 (Babson Study, 2012). WOW!
Another important concept was that of Cognitive Illusions. World Mysteries talks about the four kinds of cognitive illusions:
1. Ambiguous – offer significant changes in appearance
2. Paradox – impossible
3. Distorting – distortions of size, length, or curvature
4. Fiction – genuinely not there to all but a single observer
Illusions can be called departures from the truth. They are not logical and break the rules. We have circled back. A great video from Beau Otto (2009) gives great examples of what the eye sees may not be real.
How does this impact and influence my present or future professional learning environment? I’ve been lucky to have a training mentor in my current job. Without knowing the rules, logic, or even concepts I’ve learned by playing on her team. Now I have tools! As my goal is to teach English to adult speakers of other languages, I would like to develop a lesson plan using both formal and informal learning. I will apply the lessons of Playing the Game to these learners. I’m much more cognizant of learning styles and will incorporate different ways of imparting the same information. Mostly, I hope to motivate and engage the students by giving them guidance so they can be in control of their own learning.
How does this impact and influence the world of education and training? Knowledge is power and we can change one classroom at a time. As many new teachers are, I am excited and ready to make a difference. Is this an illusion? The reality may be that time, budgets, and apathy will take a toll. However, I believe we are forming our own Community of Practice and will work together to be better teachers.
How does this impact and influence my personal learning journey? As a student, I’ve gained deeper understanding into my own personal motivation for going back to school at 60 years of age. I can’t help but compare this experience with prior learning environments. I’m fully playing the game and applying concepts to my own reading and research. I’m reminded of Perkins discussion of the “hearts & minds” theory. Every school, every class, every teacher, and most parents do this at some time. “Take it to heart, keep it in mind, and do better next time” (p. 80). I will demand and give constructive feedback.
Questions for the future? Since I haven’t taught in a classroom yet, I wonder how I will recognize the hidden games. Will the lesson plans be effective? Will I be a good teacher?
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Beau Otto (2009), “There is no inherent meaning to information. It’s what we do with that information that matters”.
Felder, R., & Soloman, B. (n.d.). Index of learning styles questionnaire. Retrieved from http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html
Lehrer, J. (2007, April 29). Hearts and minds. Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2007/04/29/hearts__minds/
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dynamic
Otto, B. (2009). Optical Illusions show how we see [Video File]. Retrieved from
Perkins, D. (2009). Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Rogers, C.R. (1961) On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Webster’s Dictionary (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Wenger, E. (n.d.). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. [Website]. Retrieved from http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Brieft-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf
Wlodkowski, R. J. (1999). Motivation and diversity: A framework for teaching. New Directions for Teaching & Learning (78), 7.
World Mysteries. (2011). Cognitive illusions. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.world-mysteries.com/illusions/sci_illusions3.htm