Category Archives: Education Concepts

Essentialist Teacher

Essentialism was an educational philosophy that was reacting to the superficiality of instruction that was associated with progressivism and the aristocratic air that was linked with perennialism. Essentialism was a call to teach the basics. This position of providing a no frill basic education for employment is the primary position of most educational positions in the world.

1Background

Starting in the 1930’s, essentialism is based on the philosophies of idealism and realism. Essentialism supporters have stressed the need to return to a more subject centered approach vs child centered position. Transmission of knowledge is more important than transforming society.

There were two major moments in American history that propelled essentialism to the forefront of education. The first, happened in 1957 when the Russians launch the Sputnik satellite. Critics of progressivism stated that all this child-centered teaching had crippled an entire generation who lacked basic skills in math and science to compete with the Russians. This was a major blow to progressivism as schools refocused on teaching math and science and having a subject centered curriculum.

In essentialism was not already triumphant it certainly was by the 1980’s when the article “A Nation at Risk” was published. This article stated that American education was mediocre and lead to schools needing to focus on the five basics. By the 1990’s such ideas as “core knowledge” or “common core” was being pushed. Such ideas demonstrate how there are basic truths and ideas that supposedly all students need to have.

Philosophy

School is a place where students master basic skills in preparation for working in society. This includes the three R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic) and some of the humanities. The subject matter cannot always be interesting or even immediately relevant for students.

The mind needs to be trained and some memorization is required. However, there is  less of a focus on raw intellectualism such as is found in perennialism. The center of learning is the teacher and the students are there to follow the teacher.

Essentialism has similarities to perennialism. However, there are differences such as the idea that Essentialism does not have a problem with adapting ideas from progressivism for their on own purposes.   There is also a general indifference to time honor classics  in the humanities for the training of the mind.

In Education

An essentialist teacher is going to focus on developing skills and competency rather the learning knowledge for the sake of knowledge. There will be a focus on the basics of education and the classroom will be subject centered. There will not be much tolerance for meeting needs or understanding differences among students.

Focus on job skills and training towards employment would also be stressed. The focus of the education is in training people to be equipped for the workplace and not for personal fulfillment. If students enjoy what they learn this is an added bonus but not necessarily critical for the learning experience.

Conclusion

Essentialism was in many ways a working-class version of perennialism. Stripped of the humanities and focused on developing job skills, essentialism is the engine of education in many parts of American education. As long as the economy and employment are most important to people we will continue to see a continued support for essentialism.

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Perennialist Teacher

Perennialism was a strong educational movement in the early part of the 20th century. It pushed a call to return to older ways of learning and instruction in order to strengthen the man in preparation for life. In this post, we will look briefly at the history, philosophy, and how a teacher with a perennialist perspective may approach their classroom.
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Background

Perennialism came about as a strong reaction against progressivism. The emotional focus of the child-centered approach of progressivism was seen as anti-intellectual by perennialists. In place of child- center focus was a call for return to long establish truth and time honored classics.

Supporters of perennialism wanted a liberal education, which implies an education rich with the classical works of man. The purpose of education was the development of the mind rather than the learning of a specific job skill. This position has often been seen as elitist and has clashed with what the working class need for the education of  their children to be in a more practical manner.

A major influencer of perennialism is neo-scholasticism, which is also a supporter of classical studies and was based  on idealism. Perennialism was originally focused higher education and high school but by the 1980’s its influence had spread to elementary education. Prominent supporters of this style include Motimer Adler and Maynard Hutchins.

Philosophical Position

Perennialism believes that people are rational rather than primarily emotional beings. This is the opposite of progressivism which is always worried about feelings. Furthermore, human nature is steady and predictable which allows for everyone to have the same education. Thus, the individual is lost in a strong perennial classroom.

The focus of the classroom is not on the student but rather on the subject matter. The classroom is preparation for life and not design for real-life situations as in progressivism. The mind needs to be developed properly before taking action. Through the study of the greats it is assumed this will help the student become great.

Perennialism and Education

A perennialist teacher would have a classroom in which all the students are treated the same way. Material is taught and delivered to the students whether they like it or not. This is because material is taught that is good for them rather than what they like.

This material would include ancient time tested ideas because that is where truth is and exposure to this great minds would make  great mind. The learning experiences would be mostly theoretical in nature because training in this manner allows for intellectual development.

The classroom might actually be a little cold by the progressivist’standard that focuses on group work and interaction. This is because of the rational focus of perennialism. When the assumption is everyone  is rational and only needed exposure to the content with or without an emotional experience.

Conclusion

Reacting is not always the best way to push for change. Yet this is exactly what brought perennialism into existence. Seeing the lost of absolute truth and long held traditions, perennialism strove to protect these pillars of education. There are some problems. For example, their emphasis on the rational nature of man seems strange as the average person is lacking in the ability to reason and control their emotions. In  addition, the one-size fits all when it comes to education is obviously not true as we need people who have a classic education but also people who can build a house or fix a car. In other words, we need vocational training as well in order to have a balanced society.

Another problem is the fallacy of the appeal to tradition. Just because something is a classic does not make it truth or worthy of study. This simply allow the traditions of the past to rule the present. If all people do is look at the past how will they develop relevant ideas for the present or future?

The main benefit of these different schools of thought is that through these conflicts of opinion a balanced approach to learning can take place for students.

Progressive Teacher

Progressivsim is an educational philosophy that in many ways is the foundation of educational theory in the United States. In this post, we will look at the background of progressivism as well as the beliefs and how it may be practiced by a teacher.
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Background

Progressivsim is yet another reaction to traditional teacher. The era in which this philosophy was developed was the late 19th to early 20th century. This was a time of rapid change and the development of the philosophy called pragmatism, which had a strong influence on progressivism.

Pragmatism had such beliefs as that there was no fixed truth and that whatever works is true. Progressivism adapted and expended on this idea in the context of education. Another major source of influence on progressivism was the work of Freud who encourage self-expression in his writings.

The primary movers in propagating progressivism includes William Kilpatrick, George Counts, John Dewey, and others. This movement dominated educational theory in America from the 1920’s to the 1950’s until the launching of the Sputnik satellite by Russian moved Americans away from child centered self expressive education to an education focused on the essentials in order to compete in a global competition.

Philosophical Position

In the classroom progressivism does not support a teacher-centered approach, nor a heavy focus on textbooks or memorization. there is even concerns with the classroom environment in that the use of fear or physical punishment is discouraged.

The child is the centered of learning rather than the subject. This means that the interest of the child should be taken into consideration when developing learning experiences. Of course, there is a limit to the child’s input as the teacher has a certain responsibility for the learning. However, to even consider the child’s opinion on learning was somewhat revolutionary at the time.

Students need to be active rather than passive. This  means that lectures are unusually because the student not active when listening. Learning by doing is a primary assumption of progressivism. The teacher and the student interact and learn from action rather than from listening.

In order to establish active learning, problem solving is one of the primary tools for teaching. Problem-solving leads to a whole lot of thinking in a systematic manner in ways that are tied to reality rather than to theory.

Lastly, progressivism supports the idea of a democratic classroom. This means that everyone is a learner, including the teacher, and the learning environment encourages discussion and debate. The motive behind this is preparing students to participate in a democratic world.

Progressivism in the Classroom

There is little here to add that was not already mentioned. A progressive teacher is going to support a warm and engaging classroom. The teacher will see themselves as a facilitator of knowledge rather than as a dictator of it. Students will work in groups or alone depending on interest and the content learned  will have input from them. There will be few lectures and more hands on learning activities with a focus on the thought process rather than the product of the  learning.

Conclusion

Progressivism is yet another philosophical system that claimed to have the answer for learning only to eventually lead t people’s disappointment. It was hard to assess learning during the progressives era due to the open nature of problem solving. In addition, when the Russians beat the Americans into space. Focusing on the child simply became impractical due to the perceived threat of Russia. In many ways, progressivism was successful because when it was no longer practical it was abandon and this is something that progressivism teaches.

Postmodern Teacher

During the last half of the 20th century the philosophical school of post-modernism arose. Just as with existentialism, post-modernism is a school of thought that is anti-definition and anti-organized. As such, it is hard to pinned down exactly what post-modernist believe and stand for in a way that this could be done for older philosophies. In many, ways, as we get closer to the present era the ideas and tenets of the current philosophies become almost invisible  perhaps because we are living directly under their effect rather than looking at their influence in the past.
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Background

Post-modernism, like almost all philosophies it seems, is a reaction  to modernism.  Modernism primary tenet was to understand the world through the use of reason. Modernist believed that the world had fixed laws that could be observed and understood. Science was the way to understand reality and attain truth. There was also this sense of continuous progress, which is something that is still repeated in the media today.

However, modernism did not solve all problems and lead to a Utopian existence. Instead, throughout the late 19th and 20th century there were consequences of scientific and social progress from pollution, to atomic destruction, wars, famine, disease, etc. It seemed as if every time science solved one problem it eventually led to more problems that were not anticipated.

The foundation for post-modernism was laid by Friedrich Nietzsche who claimed that truth and God are dead. This shifted knowledge from something that was absolute to something that was human generated.

Pragmatism and existentialism further laid the groundwork for post-modernism with pragmatism’s position that knowledge was provisional and constantly changing. Existentialism simply reinforces Nietzsche’s position that knowledge is constructed rather than discovered.

Perhaps one of the strongest influences on post-modernism is Marxism. Karl Marx was focused on class struggles from an economic perspective. Within Postmodernism this was extended to other aspects of society including feminism, racism, sexism, LGBT,  weightism, or generally any minority group who is crying out against the perceived “privilege” of the majority.

Philosophical Implications

Postmodernists essential question everything and it almost seems as if they tear down everything with no real replace for what they are tearing down. It is permissible to have opinions about anything but there is no truth except for the truth that there is no truth because they say so.

An example of questioning reality itself  is in the work of Jacques Derrida and his work on deconstructionism. According to Derrida, language has blocked us from understanding reality because we are using words to describe this reality. This means that whenever we read or examine text we have to unpack or deconstruct the assumptions that the author of the text had in terms of their word choices and context. This is critical because the dominant group writes in a way that excludes the minorities and those without power. Of course, you would need to support Derrida’s words even though they may not be representative of reality either

Other postmodern philosophers suggest that reality is socially constructed by those who have power. Those in power shape reality to benefit themselves. There are examples of this in history, as people in power normally portray the powerless negatively. This has even happened in the world of science where views on bloodletting and even the consumption of cocaine.

After identifying these injustices, the postmodernist is not content to identify problems but to push change. The marginal groups need to rise up from the shackles of their oppressors. Pragmatism push change slightly but postmodernism can almost be revolutionary in its language for transformation. Everything is viewed with an eye towards suspicions that begets change except for the idea of viewing everything with skepticism that leads to change.

When everything is viewed as oppression eventually everything is overturned. Whoever gains power will then be viewed as oppressive until they too are overthrown. Eventually, there is nothing left. The problem with postmodernism is not that it identifies problems but that they have no solution beyond tearing everything down over and over again.

In Education

A postmodern teacher is going to be skeptical of absolute truth. They will stress the idea of doubting the text and trying to identify the inconsistencies in an author’s argument. There will be a focus on minority groups and how they are oppressed by those who are privileged.

With deconstructionism, students are trained to be sensitive to language and its use. This is perhaps one reason why such terms as politically correct are used today. People have been trained to be sensitive to language that does not fit the narrative and to identify hurtful language as almost dangerous.

All opinions are expected to be embraced and appreciated no matter how much they lack in validity and credibility unless they are defined as insensitive. Students will never be called upon to store and share the knowledge of the past. Rather, students are change agents who are called to overthrow the social injustice of the planet. This is not revolution as Marx saw it but rather reconstruction of what was deconstructed.

The curriculum is a process and not based on content. The teacher is also a social justice warrior. What is needed is people who challenge the status quo rather than work within it. Therefore, postmodernist thought is much more people in the softer sciences rather than in STEM fields. STEM requires stability in order to expand technology and make discoveries and money. Unfortunately, social stability is not required as much for a sociology or liberal arts major.  The idealistic nature of postmodernism denies the reality that life has never been fair ever in the entire history of humanity.

Pragmatic Teacher

In this post, we will take a look at pragmatism. This philosophy has played a critical role in shaping ideas about education for a long time. In particular, we will look at the characteristics of pragmatism, its philosophical implications, and how it may manifest it’s self in the classroom.

Background

Pragmatism is a uniquely American 19th century contribution to philosophy with some of the primary influences in this school being such people Charles Perce, William James, and John Dewey. The era in which pragmatism was developed was the industrial revolution and an era of great change. Science was gravitating towards the idea of evolution, which at the time was astounding and even the religious world was in turmoil with people speaking of the end of the world. This environment of rapid change was deeply influencing the thoughts of many people.

With all the chaos swirling throughout the world pragmatism came to the point that there were no ideals or principles to look for. Rather, the focus was on what works and benefits the most than on conforming to an external standard.  This position has had a profound impact on education through the work of the progressives as we shall see.

Philosophical Implications

There are no absolutes with a pragmatist. If there is some form of ultimate reality there is no way to know it here. In other words, while Plato bemoaned the cave and Socrates stated that the cave is all there is, a pragmatist may say that the world of forms is possible but since all we know for sure is the cave we should try to make it as nice as comfortable as possible.

One of the sources of argument that pragmatist make about the constant state of change implying a total lack of absolute truth is changes in science. Examples include, moving from a geocentric worldview to a heliocentric one, or moving from a creationist account of life to an evolutionary one. Since these ideas have changed there must not be any absolute truths to hold on to even though the realm of science is notorious for constant changed.

With all the chaos of the world, pragmatist has decided that truth is what works. Knowledge is based on experience. Through trial and error people learn how to deal with various problems. It is this active process of constructing knowledge through experience that knowledge is constructed. Knowledge is not external or outside the person, instead it is created through interaction with the world. This is a major shift in thinking from pass viewpoint and requires that the individual be an active rather than passive learner because they must interact with the world.

There is a separation in the mind of the pragmatist between knowledge and belief. Beliefs are private while knowledge is publicly available., which means it can be observed and verified by others. True knowledge or truth is relative because of the unstable and changing world that we live in.

Since truth is relative morals and values are relative as well. Local societies decide for themselves what is right and wrong and not an external standard. However, this does not mean anything goes. Stealing is disdained in most societies because it does not work as it tends to encourage crime and chaos. The same for murder. This does not mean to the pragmatist that there are universal moral laws, instead it is simply an indication that different groups of people have had similar experiences with stealing and murder and have made the same conclusion that this does not work.

Pragmatism and Education

A unique belief of pragmatism about students is that they need to be active learners. Students need to experience the world around them through learning activities. School is not preparation but is rather part of life it’s self. Therefore, life long learning is to be expected and not just a temporary period of life in which it is needed for studying.

The  teacher is an expert guide who helps the students. They  are a guide because the world changes too quickly to just dictate material to students. This means that the teacher is learning as well with the advantage of more experience living in a world of flux. Since truth is changing, there is no fix curriculum from yesteryear. Instead, the student’s interests are the center of how  the curriculum is built.

With the focus on the environment, the pragmatic teacher is focused heavily on having students impact the world. This means that an emphasis on social action is a part of the pragmatist classroom. In some classroom social change and attaining social goals (ie social justice warrior) is the entire purpose of education. Other philosophies were trying to maintain the status quo but pragmatism is trying to overturn it if it works.

Conclusion

Pragmatism, like most new movements of their time, is simply a reaction to what came before in response to the challenges of the current context. Pragmatist reject absolute truth except for the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. The world was truly changing quickly when this school of thought was born. However, unlike Plato, who was also experiencing rapid change and decide to search for absolutes in order to find comfort, the pragmatist reject absolute truth for the comfort of constant change. Instead of trying to preserve knowledge it was better to go with the flow as long as it worked.

Existentialist Teacher

This post will examine the mysterious position of existentialism,  which is basic a school of thought that denies that it is a school of thought.  We will look at the origins of existentialism, the characteristics, and its role in education.

Background

Existentialism is all about the individual. In an interesting paradox, existentialism is so individualistic that they do not see themselves as a group with set of beliefs as other philosophies do. There is a rejection of any unified body of beliefs, thoughts, or system.

Early proponents of existentialism include Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. These two 19th century philosophers were reacting to the nature of Christianity during their time. Kierkegaard focused on emphasizing the responsibility of the individual believer and their choices within religion. Nietzsche went in a different direction and became convince that there was no God and that man was responsible for his actions alone. This conclusion  eventually drove Nietzsche crazy in a literal manner.

Between the extremes of Kierkegaard and  Nietzsche is where most beliefs of existentialism are. Primarily, existentialism is trying to regain the lost of the individual. This sense of lost may have come from more and more people living in cities to work for others along with the growth of the  government in providing services. The existentialist longed for the day when people were independent and could do what they wanted in returned for the responsibility for their actions.

Philosophical Implications

According to existentialism,  a person must define who they are. Defining who you are is not left to an Absolute Self or Natural Law but to the person who existence. Reality is found within the individual person. This is a major shift from idealism view that reality is beyond this world and realism’s belief that reality is in the physical world.

Truth is based on a person’s choice. People believe what they want because  they want to. This seems confusing but it is laying the foundation for post-modernism min the near future with its view of relative truth. Now, the individual is the source of authority and not any other code.

With a lack of external authority existentialism has to determine right and wrong with no source of authority. This source of freedom has been called a slavery to freedom by some. Slavery is bad but paradoxically too much freedom can be burdensome as well since there is no guidance in terms of how to act. Most people want some freedom but perhaps nobody wants complete freedom as this would be injurious to themselves and others if they could truly do whatever they wanted.

Existentialism and Education

A teacher with an existentialist perspective would be surprised at how students are taught. They would see it as oppressive and even with tendency towards being a form of propaganda. Students would need much more choice and responsibility for their own actions since the current form of teaching destroys individualism.

The existentialist teacher is not the center of the instruction but rather a facilitator. The goal is to help students better understand who they are as individuals. This also means that the student should have a choice in what they learn and that the curriculum needs to be somewhat flexible. The goal is the development of the individual and not the society as the society does not care for the ultimate development of the individual.

Conclusion

Existentialism is a system of thought that claims not to be a system because everyone within the system wants total freedom.  This is contradictory yet considered consistent among existentialist. The reaction they have towards the growing power of large society gives this philosophy a romantic longing for almost a wild pre-industrialization world. However, though many people may not agree with some of the tenets of this group many do wish that they could have at least a little more personal freedom and individuality.

Neo-scholastic Teacher

Scholasticism and Neo-Scholasticism is a philosophy that has had a stronger influence in Christian education rather than in secular circles. This post will explore the characteristics of these philosophies as well as their role in education.

Background

Neo-Scholasticism began as simply scholasticism and was simultaneously a movement and a philosophy that sprang up during the medieval time period in Europe somewhere between 1050 and 1350 originating in the early universities. This was primarily a movement within the Catholic church as they controlled higher education at this time in Europe. The scholars of this movement were not as concern about discovery new truth as it was with proving and establishing the validity of existing truth. In other words, Neo-Scholasticism was primarily reactionary in nature.

The reason for the reactionary nature of Neo-Scholasticism was the rediscovery of the writings of Aristotle. These writings had been lost for centuries but had been preserved in the Islamic nations. Through interactions with the Muslim world through trade and war Aristotle’s writings were translated from Arabic into Latin. Aristotle’s realistic views were a challenge to the Platonic/idealistic views of the Christian church.

Scholars, for whatever reason, were convinced that church teachings had to be harmonized with the writings of Aristotle. Why religious teachings and beliefs had to bow to the influence of one Greek philosopher is subject of debate but perhaps the status of Aristotle compelled the church to merge his ideas with their own in order to maintain intellectual leadership of Europe.

The leader of this merger of faith and reason was Thomas Aquinas. He proposed that people should learn as much as they can through human reason and have faith in matters that cannot be reasoned about. Therefore, at the heart of scholasticism was human reason which in many ways had displaced faith.

Neo-Scholasticism is the modern equivalent of Scholasticism.  The primary difference is that Neo-Scholasticism has religious and secular branch whereas Scholasticism had only one main branch or school of thought.

Philosophical Implications

Scholasticism focus was on accommodating the philosophy of Aristotle with christian thought. Therefore, many of Aristotle’s beliefs are reinterpreted as much as possible to be consistent with Christianity. For example, Aristotle spoke of the Unmoved Mover, which he stated was the first cause of all other causes in the universe. Aquinas equated the Unmoved Mover with God.

Reality had a dualistic nature to it for the scholastic. The natural world was understood through reasoning while the supernatural world was available through revelation and intuition. Truth could be self-evident such as “2+2 = 4” or it can depend on observed experience such as “The average life expectancy is 72 years.” The greatest truth are the unchanging self-evident such as those found in mathematics rather than observed experiential truth.

Morality is governed by reason. There is an assumption that people are rational at their core. The more rational the higher moral quality a person should have.

Neo-Scholasticism and Education

The teacher’s role from a Neo-Scholastic perspective is to help rational students develop their reasoning, will power, and memory. The teacher is the center of the education process and works with students to transfer information. The subject matter takes precedent over the students’ interest.

With  its religious roots, Neo-Scholasticism see the teacher as a spiritual leader. This involves discipleship and even discipline at times. Only through this process can the student acquiring understanding of the unalterable truths of the world.

The curriculum of Neo-Scholasticism would include the humanities, math, and foreign languages (primarily Greek and Latin). The humanities allow students to understand the logic and thinking of great minds, math demonstrates unchanging truths, and foreign languages provides rigors training for the mind. The mind is a muscle that must be strengthened through examining the works of other men.

Conclusion

Neo-Scholasticism has not had the impact on education that idealism or realism has. The emphasis on teacher-centered instruction and memorizing is a major departure from modern forms of teaching. A good memory is not the same as a critical thinker. As with all schools of thought, Neo-Scholasticism suffers from a lack of balance. What is really needed is a flexible position that varies depending on the context.

Metaphysics & Education

Metaphysics is the study of reality and the nature or character of it. This branch  of philosophy deals primarily with what is real. This may seem like an obvious question with an obvious answer. However, different people answer this question in different ways based on what they believe about the nature of reality and how we come to know it.

There are at least four sub-branches of metaphysics  that attempt to address the question of the nature of reality. These four branches are…

  • Cosmology
  • Ontology
  • Anthropology
  • Theology

We will look at each of these and then try to examine how metaphysics manifest itself in education.

Cosmology

Cosmology deals with the origins of the universe. The main views of the origins of the universe can be seen as a continuum from the universe was created or design by God or the other extreme that everything about the universe has happened by accident as is commonly viewed by evolution.  A middle ground along this continuum would be theistic evolution, which states that a divine being used evolution to create the world.

The beliefs an  individual has about cosmology affects other aspects of their life, education, and how they interpret what they experience. For example, an atheist scientist see nature and is awed by the random movement of natural selection to create such beauty. However, a theist would see the same evidence in nature and be led to the conclusion that God has created a beautiful climate. When these two sides meet they cannot agree because they have different assumptions or beliefs about origins and interpret what they see based on these beliefs.

Ontology

Ontology is the study of existence. This is probably one of the harder positions to understand. However, ontology deals with such ideas as whether reality is physical or spiritual, or a combination of the two. In addition, Ontology addresses whether reality is orderly and stable.

People’s beliefs about being can impact how the approach life. If there is nothing there is no reason to care or do anything. However, if there is something beyond this life and life was created with purpose this will alter a person’s behavior as they consider how they may be held accountable for their actions.

Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of man. Some questions that anthropology focuses on in particular is the relationship between the mind and the body. Is it the mind or the body the primary agent of behavior. Other questions include examining whether people or good or evil or morally neutral. Lastly, anthropology addresses the question of the freedom people have. Do people have choice or is their behavior determined by their environment?

The nature vs nurture argument is an old argument about the condition of man. The ultimate question is who is responsible for the actions that people take. The answer to this question evolves around views of the will.

Theology

Theology is the study of the nature of God and plays a profound role at least indirectly in all philosophy. Atheist strongly believe there is no God. As such, the support primarily science as a way of understanding reality. Theists believe there is a God or gods and this natural affects how they view realty.

Even among theists there is disagreement over how many gods there are. Polytheists believe in many gods while monotheists believe in one God. Pantheists believe god(s) is in everything and that they are gods. The position a person has on God can change how they view the world. Monotheists often believe in having a relationship with  one God in order to prepare for the reality of death in this life and the promise of living forever. Polytheists tend to have a contractual quid pro quo relationship with many different gods in order to do better in this world now and smooth the transition to living another life via some form of reincarnation.

Metaphysics and Education

Metaphysics manifest itself in many ways in education. In terms of cosmology and theology, most schools support the idea that the world came about by chance and that life evolved from almost nothing billions of years ago. This is related to theology in that most schools doubt the existence of God being openly atheistic in nature or may at most be agnostic in nature.   In a non-Western context, gods or polytheism is acknowledged and accepted in everyday life but traditional science and atheistic origins of the universe are generally taught in school. This can lead to a dual world view at times.

In terms of ontology and anthropology, the views on ontology vary by culture in education. In the West, the spiritual aspect of man is not acknowledged in education due in part to the focus on science. However, this is beginning to change with the emphasis on mindfulness and meditation in public education. In the East, there is a more open view towards the spiritual nature of man.

In terms of education, students are generally taught that man is inherently good but  may be corrupted by his environment and culture. In the East, education teaches that man is good by nature but may make mistakes. Culture is rarely criticized in eastern education.

Conclusion

Metaphysics is a difficult concept to try to address and understand. The important thing to remember is that metaphysics deals with the question of what is reality and that different people answer this question i different ways. How people answer these questions depends in part on their beliefs about cosmology, ontology, anthropology, and theology.

Realistic Teacher

Realism is another philosophy that has had a tremendous impact on education and the world in general. The modern world seems to be almost exclusively realist in terms of its worldview thanks in part to the scientific position that most individuals take on matters.

In this post, we will look briefly at the characteristics of realism. In addition, we will also examine how a teacher who believes in realism may approach teaching and realism’s impact on the broader educational process.

Background

Just as Plato was reacting to the change that was surrounding him when he developed his views on idealism, his pupil Aristotle react to idealism by proposing realism. Realism states that objects we perceive with our senses are independent of our mind. In other words, what see exist independently of us and our mind.

However, realism is not a rejection of idealism but in many ways an extension of it. Aristotle thought that everything was made of a combination of form and matter. Form was similar to the ideals of Plato’s idealism and matter was the new contribution that Aristotle was making which is a focus on the material aspect of an object. Form or ideas can exist without matter, such as the ideal or form democracy. Yet matter cannot exist with a form, such as a physical chair with the idea or form of a chair.

Aristotle further proposed that studying the world or matter would lead to a better understanding of universal ideas. This concept has had a strong impact on research in the development of inductive methodology also known as the scientific method.

Philosophical Implications

Reality as seen through idealism is the physical world. The world is similar to a giant machine in which humans are both passively acted upon and actively influencing as well. There are also natural laws that govern the physical world that can be discovered through observation.

Knowledge is gained only through the senses. Something is true because  it was observed. The natural law is within the reality of the natural world and the realist is looking for this through specific examples. This inductive process helps the realist to understand the world around him. In many ways, the Natural Law of the realist is the Absolute Self of the idealist. The difference is in how each is discovered. The idealist thinks about the Absolute Self and knows through intuition that there is an external standard. The realist observes the Natural Law with is senses which confirms the Natural Law’s reality.

Natural Law also extends into the realm of ethics. It is through observing nature and the world that what is right and wrong, beautiful and ugly can be determined according realism. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson  alludes to realism when he speaks of “inalienable rights.” In other words, Jefferson was proposing that some of the rights of man are obvious if one examines the world in which they live.

Realism and Education

A realistic teacher stresses that students learn through their senses. This involves teaching methodologies that have students doing and experiencing things rather than just listening. This can include such activities as field trips, group work, projects etc.

On a darker side, a realist teacher may believe that students are a product of their environment. This has been interpreted as meaning that students do not truly have choice as they are simple responding to the stimuli in their environment. This has lead to a push in education for a focus on behaviorism and even classical conditioning. Furthermore, most learning objectives are behaviorist in nature because a teacher can “see” a behavior which is evidence that the student can do something.  Off course, this has clash with cognitivism (idealism in the 20th century) which focuses on the mind rather than the behavior.

The teacher’s role is to provide sound information about the reality of the physical world and the Natural Law. This is further supported by a focus on math and science, which today is viewed as a focus on STEM majors. One thing all STEM majors have in common is a focus on what can be seen and a disinterest in the realm of ideas and the highly theoretical. Critical thinking is focus almost exclusively on  problem solving and never for the development of an opinion. What really matters are facts and not so much what people think about them.

With the focus on the senses, one thing the teacher and the students will notice is that the world is in a constant state of change. This has led to a rejection of a permanent Natural Law due to the ephemeral quality of reality.

Conclusion

Realism is the primary worldview of education  today. Seeing is believing as the saying goes. Almost nothing is taken seriously unless there is clear observable evidence to support it. Of course, many people believe that feelings and personal experience counts as evidence. This is because feelings and personal experience have actual occurred in the individual person’s life.

Idealistic Teacher

Idealism is an ancient philosophy that had a strong influence on education through the 20th century. Recently, this position has been overshadowed by realism, however, the influence of idealism can still be felt in education to this day. In this post, we will describe idealism, explain the implications, and examined how an idealistic teacher views education.

Description

Idealism is focus on reality as consisting of ideas, the mind and self. In other words, the mind makes the material world rather than the other way around as found in realism. Plato is the primary author of this philosophy.

The context of Plato’s life was one of change. This was during the time of the Persian Wars in which Greece, Athens in particular, did remarkable well. War naturally brings new ideas to both countries which was leading to changes. In addition, there was a push for individualism from a group of philosophers known as the sophists which was straining the communal culture of Athens.

Some have stated that Plato’s idealism was a reaction against this threat of change. Truth for Plato was permanent and unchanging. Since the world was changing, there could be no truth in this world. Truth must be found somewhere else. The real truth was found in the world of ideas a place that was beyond the senses used in this world.

Plato has rather negative views towards the senses. In his “Allegory of the Cave”, Plato essentially asserts that people who go by their senses are chain and trapped inside a cave of ignorance where they are bound to watch shadows of reality. Those who break free from these chains are those who have gone beyond their senses and use their intellect to reach the world of ideas. Naturally, only an elite handful of chosen ones or philosopher kings are able to do this.

Philosophical Implications

For idealist, the source of knowledge comes from intuition (knowing without conscious thought), revelation (knowing through supernatural encounters), and rationalism (knowing through conscious thought). What is important here is what is missing, which is empiricism (knowledge through the senses). Idealist do not require empirical verification of what is true. In the world today, this is almost laughable but was a core component of education for centuries.

Ethically, idealism emphasis a belief in an external ethical standard to man. Man cannot be the one to decide what is right or wrong. Instead, morals are determined by the world of ideas through the intellect. There is something called the Absolute self that the individual self is trying to imitate. This Absolute Self is considered by many to be God as seen from a christian perspective. Again this is something that would not be considered seriously by many educators.

There is an eternal consistency to truth for idealist.  Something is true when it fits with the harmony of the universe. Even art must make sense and must be used in a way that is consistent the perfect form of the world of ideas. This explains the sonority of early forms of music that have been lost gradually over time.

Idealism and Education

An idealistic teacher is going to focus on the development of the students mind. There is a constant striving for perfection in study of various subjects. Speaking of subjects, the curriculum consist primarily of the humanities and math. History and literature help students to see what is ideal for humans and the study of math is powerful because of its universal nature along with it being a self-evidently true. Generally, any subject that brings students into contact with ideas rather than things should be considered for the curriculum

The teacher’s responsibility is to pass their knowledge of the ultimate reality to the student as the teacher has more experience in this and the Absolute Self. Therefore, the teacher is an example for the student. Knowledge is seen as something that is transferred from the teacher to the student either verbally or writing. This implies that lecturing and direct instruction are key methodologies.

One of the more shocking positions of the idealistic teacher is that the school is not an agent of change. The idealistic teacher and the idealistic school do not train and educate “change agents”. Rather, since absolute truth is unchanging the school should natural reflect an unchanging nature and support the status quo. Anyone familiar with education in universities today would find this difficult to accept.

Conclusion

With focus on an other worldly perfect standard,  idealism is strongly out of place in a world that is governed or perhaps controlled by what they see and experience. Whenever people try to appeal to some sort of unqualified standard it is looked upon almost with ridicule. The exception seems to be when people share an emotional objection to something. Feelings have replaced some form of ethereally standard because emotions are experienced and felt rather than thought about.

The overemphasis on ideals is perhaps the weakness of idealism. Plato thought that people who only rely on their senses were trapped in a cave and unaware of true reality. However, the same can be said of a person who is trapped in the world of ideas. The person who is truly free is the one who can move between the senses and the mind or who can move between the reality of t ideas and physical world. Moving between these positions provides a flexible that neither has by itself.

Undergrad and Grad Students

In this post,  we will look at a comparison of grad and undergrad students.

Student Quality

Generally, graduate students are of a higher quality academically than undergrad students. Of course, this varies widely from institution to institution. New graduate programs may have a lower quality of student than established undergrad programs. This is because the new program is trying to fill sears initially and quality is often compromised.

Focus

At the graduate level, there is an expectation of a much more focused and rigorous curriculum. This makes sense as the primary purpose of graduate school is usually specialization and not generalization. This requires that the teachers at this level have a deep expert-level mastery of the content.

In comparison to graduate school, undergrad is a generalized experience with some specialization. However, this depends on the country in which the studies take place. Some countries require rather an intense specialization from the beginning with a minimum of general education while others take a more American style approach with a wide exposure to various fields.

Commitment

Graduate students are usually older. This means that they require less institution sponsored social activities and may not socialize at all. In addition, some graduate students are married which adds a whole other level of complexity to their studies. Although they are probably less inclined to be “wild” due to their family they are also going to struggle due to the time commitment of their loved ones.

Assuming that an undergraduate student is a traditional one they will tend to be straight from high school, require some social support, but will also have the free time needed to study. The challenge with these students is the maturity level and self-regulation skills that are often missing for academic success.

For the teacher, graduate students offer higher motivation and commitment generally when compared to undergrads. This is reasonable as people often feel compelled to complete a bachelors but normally do not face the same level of pressure to go to graduate school. This means that undergrad is often compulsory due to external circumstances while grad school is by choice.

Conclusion

Despite the differences but types of students hold in common an experience that is filled with exposure to various ideas and content for several years. Grad students and undergrad students are individuals who are developing skills for the goal of eventually finding a purpose in the world.

Using Blended Learning in Your Classroom

Blended learning is becoming a reality in education. Many schools now require some sort of online presences not online of the school but also for individual classes that teachers teach. This has led to much more pressure for teachers to figure out some sort of way to get content online to support studnets. This post will take a look at the pros and cons of blended learning and provide tips on how to approach the use of blended learning.

Pros and Cons

Blended learning gives you flexibility. You are not tied to either traditional or elearning completely. This allows you to find the right balance for your teaching style and the students learning. Some teachers want more online presence in the form of activities and submission of assignments. Others just want a centralized place for communicating with their students and tracking academic progress. Whatever works for you can probably be accommodated when employing blended learning.

Communication and documentation is another benefit of blended learning. Announcements and messaging can be handled by the online platform and these forms of transactions are usually logged by the system and saved. This can be useful for referencing in the future if confusion arises.

The drawback to the flexibility is actually the flexibility. When employing blended learning a teacher has to be proficient in both e-learning and traditional teaching. In other words, you have to become a jack of all trades. Without strength in both methodologies, it will be difficult to determine what you want to do online and to determine how the online experiences augment or replace in-class learning opportunities.

Another problem is the confusion over what is done in class and what is done online. When learning takes place in two mediums it increases opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication. I have frequently had students confused over what was to be submitted online vs in class no matter how clear I was in the course outline and calendar.

Success in a Blended Learning Context

To have success using blended learning involves doing some of the following.

  • Focus on using the online platform less for learning and more for communication when you initially begin using blended learning. There is a lot for you to learn as the teacher and trying to move everything online will lead to confusion for you and the students.
  • Consider having students submit the final version of assignments online. Final versions of assignments usually require the least amount of feedback because they have already been vetted by you in person. This will allow you to focus on the grade rather than on providing more support.
  • Online activities should support learning and probably not replace it. Blended learning is often more effective if it helps students to understand content in class rather than replace it. This means the blended learning platform is a study tool to scaffold students learning outside of class. If an assignment can be completely done online without having to go to class then perhaps this is no longer blended learning since the in-class part is not needed for support.
  • PLanning is critical to using any web-based resource. Websites are designed in advance before they are set up. Even post a blog requires you to develop a draft or two. Therefore, online activities and expectations must be planned well in advance and not just thrown online at the whim of the teacher throughout the semester. Many teachers fall into the trap of just making stuff up as they go. This is a poor methodology in a traditional classroom and a disaster in a blended learning context.
  • When in doubt go traditional. If you are unsure how to achieve a specific learning goal online it is better to stick to a traditional approach until you can figure it out. In-class teaching is old but it still has a place in the 21st century especially when it is unclear how to do it online.

Conclusion

Blended learning can be a powerful tool for helping students are a major headache that annoys everyone. The secret to success lies with the teacher who understands what they want from the online aspect of the students learning as well as what they want in the classroom. When this is clear is it critical that the teacher determine how to meet these goals through the use of various learning experiences.

Elearning Academic Success

Studying online has become almost an expectation now. Even if you never earn a degree or take a class for credit online there are still many opportunities to train and develop skills over the internet. The role of the teacher is to try and find ways to engage and support their students as they begin their learning experience physically alone with support perhaps thousands of miles away.

In this post, we will look at ways to encourage the academic success of students while studying online. Two ways to support academic success in elearning involve providing feedback and encouraging engagement.

Provide Feedback

Feedback is critical in every aspect of teaching. However, in elearning, it is even more important. This is because the students have no face-to-face communication with you so they have no idea how they are doing beyond a letter grade. In addition, there is no body language to examined or other paralinguistic features that the student can infer meaning from.

Giving feedback requires timeliness. In other words, mark assignments quickly and indicate progress. In addition, if students do not meet expectations it is critical that you point them towards resources that will help them to inderstand. For example, students seem to neglect reading rubrics. When a student gets feedback from a rubric they can see where they were not succesfful.

In terms of a more formative feedback approach, there may be times where it is beneficial to live stream lecture. This allows the students to chime in whenever they do not understand an idea or point. Furthermore, the teacher can ask a question or two of the students and get feedback from them.

Engage Them

Engaging is almost synonymous with active. In other words, students should be doing something in order to learn. Unfortunately, listening is a passive activity which implies that lecturing is not the best way to inspire learning.

In the contest of elearning, one of the ways to inspire active learning is to have the students go out and do something in the real world and report what happens online in the form of a reflection. For example, students studying English will go out and teach English in the real world. They will then come and share their experience. The teacher is then able to provide insights and feedback to improve the students teaching. This provides a connection to the real world as well as a sense of relevance

In a more abstract subject, such as history, music theory, or engineering, students can become active through sharing these insights with laymen or explaining how they are already applying this information at their job or in the home. The goal of using provides the purpose for learning the content.

Conclusion

Feedback and engagement are critical to success in a situation in which the student is primarily learning alone which is found in the context of elearning.

Introducing Google Classroom

Google Classroom is yet another player in the learning management system industry. This platform provides most of the basics that are expected in a lms.  This post is not a critique of Google Classroom. Rather, the focus here is on how to use it. It is better for you to decide for yourself about the quality of Google Classroom.

In this post, we will learn how to set up a class in order to prepare the learning experience.

Before we begin it is assumed that you have a Gmail account as this is needed to access Google Classroom. In addition, this demonstration is from an individual account and not through the institutional account that a school would set up with Google if they adopted tGoogle Classroom.

Creating a Google Class

Once you are logged in to your Gmail account you can access Google Classroom by clicking on the little gray squares in the upper right-hand corner of your browser. Doing so will show the following.

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In the example above, Google Classroom is the icon in the bottom row in the middle. When you click on it you will see the following.

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You might see a screen before this asking if you are a student or teacher. In the screen above, Google tells you where to click to make your first class. Therefore, click on the plus sign and click on “create class” and you will see the following.

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Click on the box which promises Google you will only use your classroom with adults. After this, you will see a dialog box where you can give your class a name as shown below.

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Give your course a name and click “create”. Then you will see the following.

1.pngThere is a lot of information here. The name of the class is at the top followed by the name of the teacher below. In the middle of the page, you have something called the “stream”. This is where most of the action happens in terms of posting assignments, leading discussions, and making announcements. To the left are some options for dealing with the stream, a calendar, and a way to organize information in the stream by topic.

The topic feature is valuable because it allows you to organize information in a way similar to topics in Moodle. When creating an activity just be sure to assign it to a topic so students can see expectations for that week’s work. This will be explained more in the future.

One thing that was not mentioned was the tabs at the very top of the screen.

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We started in the “stream” tab. If you click on the “students” tab you will see the following.

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The “invite students” button allows you to add students by typing their email. To the left, you have the class code. This is the code people need in order to add your course.

If you click on the “about” tab you will see the following.

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Here you can access the drive where all files are saved, the class calendar, your Google calendar, and even invite teachers. In the middle, you can edit the information about the course as well as additional materials that the students will need. This page is useful because it is not dynamic like the stream page. Posted files staying easy to find when using the “about” page.

Conclusion

Google Classroom is not extremely difficult to learn. You can set-up a course with minimal computer knowledge in less than 20 minutes. The process shared hear was simply the development of a course. In a future post, we will look at how setup teaching activities and other components of a balanced learning experience.

Time Mangagement and E-Learning

Time management is a critical component of having success when studying online. However, many people struggle with the discipline to manage their time so that they can complete an online learning experience. In this post, we will look at several strategies that can help a student to complete an online course.

Routine is King

Perhaps the single most valuable piece of advice that can be given is the benefit of routine. Routine is as simple as dedicating a certain time of each day to the class. Routine can also manifest itself through setting aside a designated place for studying as well.  The beauty of a schedule is that you have taken control of what you will do during a given day.

It is important that a student has a dedicated place and time for e-learning studies. Even though e-learning can happen anywhere few people can learn anywhere as they must be in a learning mindset first. Often, the mindset to learn is dependent on the environment which the student needs to control.

One Thing at a Time

Multi-tasking is tempting but does not work. This is an extra special problem for e-learning because a student is on their computer. Being on the computer can allow the student to check emails, chat on facebook, listen to music, while they are also supposed to be learning.

These other activities are only distractions when trying to learning content online. As such, it is important to close these other applications and turn off notifications from various websites when really trying to learn online.

Ask for Help

Elearning can be an isolating experience. A student is all alone trying to maneuver the complexities of a subject. At times, a student may even get stuck and not know what to do.

In such situations, it is important that a student reaches out to a peer or the teacher for support. The feedback that is received can make a difference in completing a course or not.

Something that was alluded to in this section is the benefit of taking an online course with a friend. Having a friend in a course can be a source of encouragement and also a way to share the burden of larger assignments.

Conclusion

The anytime anywhere freedom of e-learning is perhaps the greatest blessing and also the greatest curse of this platform. The flexibility gives people the impression they can study whenever. However, when there is no structure to the learning experience there is usually no progress made either. Therefore, each student must put in constraints in order to function at a high level academically when studying online.

Gamification

The concept of gamification has really picked up steam over the past few years in education. Gamification is the use design elements from traditional games within a curriculum. Examples of gamification include the use of badges, leveling up, progress bars, hit points, etc. As students focus on acquiring the various rewards in the gamification experience they also learn the content. In other words, gamification is primarily behavioral in nature.

The idea of gamification is not completely new. Many adults can remember earning stickers and or points for excellent behavior as a child. Gamification, however, tends to be focused on the online/ technology context. Instead of earning stickers like students in the 1980’s and 90’s today’s students can earn badges online in their schools learning management system as an example.

It may be clear that there are some pros and cons to gamification and these will be addressed below.

Pros

  • Engagement-Nothing motivates a student like playing a game. The badges and points in gamification often heighten engagement at least temporarily for many students.
  • Feedback-Through leveling up and earning badges students are provided with instant feedback. If they are unsuccessful it is readily apparent and there is no need to wait for teacher feedback.
  • Technology exposure-Gamification is focused in a technology domain. As such, it is a great way to help students to develop their technology skills.

Cons

  • Attention span-Games are often fast-paced. However, the real world is not often moving at the same speed. This can lead kids to struggle with everyday tasks that have not been gamified.
  • Assessment-Often the game serves as a platform to master a skill. However, the nuanced nature of grading can be difficult to apply to a gamified learning experience. In addition, the game may not always transfer to actual real-world skill, which further impairs grading. The focus on gaming often makes the learning take a backseat.
  • Cost/logistics-The cost of using software and other materials can be high. Even if you use a free system, such as Moodle, there is the logistics of setting up the badge system in your online platform.
  • Work ethic-A critical skill that students need to acquire is how to do something they don’t like to do. Gamification can make almost anything fun. However, in the actual world, there are a little of boring things that people have to do. Students must develop the discipline to engage in an activity because it needs to be done rather than because it’s fun.

Conclusion

The appropriate use of gamification is dependent on the extent to which it is used. Having a progress bar in a course probably will not influence attention spans detrimentally. However, more complex gamification is probably where you will start to see problems as shared in the con section.

Therefore, an appropriate analogy would be to compare gamification to salt. A little bit of salt makes food taste better. However, too much salt can ruin the food and impact the health of the eater. As such, a little gamification can enrich a learning experience but heavy doses could harm learning and perhaps character development.

Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout is a common problem within education. The statistics vary but you can safely say about 1/3 of teachers suffer from some form of burnout at one point or another during their career. This post will define burnout, explain some of the causes, the stages of burnout, as well as ways to deal with burnout.

Definition

Essentially, teacher burnout is an experience of a person who is overwhelmed by the stress of teaching. The most common victims of this are young teachers as well as female teachers.

Young teachers are often at higher risk because they have not developed coping mechanisms for the rigors of teaching. Women are also more often to fall victim to teacher burnout because of the added burning of maintaining the home as well as difficulties with distancing themselves emotionally from their profession as a teacher.

Causes

Teacher burnout is generally caused by stress. Below are several forms of stress that can plague the teaching profession.

  • Workload-This is especially true for those who can never say “no.” Committees, field trips, student activities, grading, lesson plans, accreditation. All of these important tasks can overwhelm a person
  • Student behavioral problems-Classroom management is always a challenge as families continue to collapse.
  • Issues with leadership
  • Boredom-This stressor is more common with experienced teachers who have taught the same content for years. There are only so many ways to teach content that are appealing to the teacher before there is some repetition. Boredom can also be especially challenging for a teacher who values learning more than personal relationships with students.

Stages of Burnout

The stages of teacher burnout follow the same progression as burnout in other social work like professions. Below are four stages as developed by McMullen

  1. Closed off- The burnout victim stops socializing and is rigid against feedback. Signs include self-neglect.
  2. Irritable-The victim temper shortens. In addition, he begins to complain about everything. Problems are observed everywhere whether they are legitimate or not.
  3. Paranoia-The teacher is worried about everything. Depression is common at this point as well as a loss of motivation.
  4. Exhaustion-THe teacher is emotionally drained. They no longer “care” as they see no way to improve the situation. Compassion fatigue sets in which means that there is no more emotional support to give to students.

Dealing with Burnout

Perhaps the most important step coping with burnout is to prioritize. It is necessary for a sake of sanity to say no to various request at times. Personal time away from any job is critical to being able to return refreshed. Therefore, teaching cannot be the sole driving force of the typical person’s life but should be balanced with other activities and even downtime.

It may also be necessary to consider changing professions. If you are not able to give your best in the classroom perhaps there are other opportunities available. It is impractical to think that someone who becomes a teacher must stay a teacher their entire life as though there is no other way to use the skills developed in the classroom in other professions.

Conclusion

Burnout is a problem but it is not unique to education. What really matters is that people take control and responsibility of their time and not chase every problem that comes into their life. Doing so will help in coping with the rigors of the teaching profession.

Motivating Students

It can be frustrating for a teacher to spend hours in preparation and planning activities only to have to students who have no desire to learn or enjoy the learning experience. There are ways to help students to be more motivated and engaged in their learning. This post will provide some basic ideas.

Types of Motivation

In simple terms, there are two types of motivation. These two types of motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an inner drive to do something or in other words to be self-motivated.

Extrinsic motivation is when the push to do something comes from outside of the person. Due to uncontrollable circumstances, the person is pushed to do something.

Each teacher needs to decide which form of motivation to focus on or whether to try and address both in their classroom. A teacher with more of a cognitivist view of teaching will probably lean towards developing intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, a teacher who has more of a behavioral view of teaching may focus more on influencing extrinsic motivation.

Ways to Motivate

Involvement

Nothing motivates like having to help those around you. Getting students involved in their learning and in the management of the class often affects motivation. When students are called to help they realize that they have a role and that others are depending on them. This brings a naturally social pressure to fulfill their role.

Make it Relevant

Teachers often fall into the trap of knowing what’s best for students and sticking to teaching this. However, the student does not always agrees with what is best for them and thus are not motivated to learn.

To alleviate this problem, a teacher must provide immediate applications of knowledge. If the student can see how they can use the information now rather than several years from now they will probably be more motivated to learn it.

One way to develop relevancy is discovery learning. Instead of teaching everything in advance let the students work until they can go no further. When they realize they need to learn something they will be ready to listen.

Acknowledge Excellence

When students are doing good work, it is important to let them know. This will help them to understand what is acceptable learning behavior. People like positive reinforcement and this needs to come from a person of authority like a teacher.

A slightly different way to acknowledge excellence is simply to expect it. When the standard is set high often students naturally want to reach for it because they often want the approval of the teacher.

Conclusion

We have all faced situation when we were not interested or motivated to learn and study. It is important to remember this when dealing with students. They have the same challenge with motivation as we all do.

Critical Thinking Strategies

Developing critical thinking is a primary goal in many classrooms. However, it is difficult to actually achieve this goal as critical thinking is an elusive concept to understand. This post will provide practical ways to help students develop critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Defined

Critical thinking is the ability to develop support for one’s position on a subject as well as the ability to question the reasons and opinions of another person on a given subject. The ability to support one’s one position is exceedingly difficult as many people are convinced that their feelings can be substituted as evidence for their position.

It is also difficult to question the reasons and opinions of others as it requires the ability to identify weaknesses in the person’s positions while having to think on one’s feet. Again this is why many people stick to their emotions as it requires no thinking and emotions can be felt much faster than thoughts can be processed. Thinking critically involves assessing the strength of another’s thought process through pushing them with challenging questions or counter-arguments.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Debates-Debates provide an opportunity for people to both prepare arguments as well as defend in an extemporaneous manner. The experience of preparation as well as on the feet thinking help to develop critical thinking in many ways. In addition, the time limits of debates really force the participants to be highly engaged.

Reciprocal Teaching-Reciprocal teaching involves students taking turns to teach each other. As such, the must take a much closer look at the content when they are aware that they will have to teach it. In addition, Reciprocal teaching encourages discussion and the answering of questions which further supports critical thinking skills development.

Discussion-Discussion through the use of open-ended question is another classic way to develop critical thinking skills. The key is in the open-ended nature of the question. This means that there is no single answer to the question. Instead, the quality of answers are judged on the support the students provide and their reasoning skills.

Open-ended assignments-Often as teachers, we want to give specific detailed instructions on how to complete an assignment. This reduces confusion and gives each student a similar context in which learning takes place.

However, open-ended assignments provide a general end goal but allow the students to determine how they will complete it. This open-ended nature really forces the students to think about what they will do. In addition, this is similar to work in the real world where often the boss wants something done and doesn’t really care how the workers get it done. The lack of direction can cause less critical workers problems as they do not know what to do but those who are trained to deal with ambiguity will be prepared for this.

Conclusion

Critical thinking requires a context in which free thought is allowed but is supported. It is difficult to develop the skills of thinking with activities that stimulate this skill. The activities mentioned here are just some of the choices available to a teacher.

Teaching Reflective Thinking

Reflective thinking is the ability to look at the past and develop understanding and insights about what happened and using this information to develop a deeper understanding or to choose a course of action.  Many may believe that reflective thinking is a natural part of learning.

However, I have always been surprised at how little reflective thinking my students do. They seem to just do things without ever trying to understand how well they did outside of passing the assignment. Without reflective thinking, it is difficult to learn from past mistakes as no thought was made to avoid them.

This post will examine opportunities and aways of reflective thinking.

Opportunities for Reflective Thinking

Generally, reflective thinking can happen when

  1. When you learn something
  2. When you do something

These are similar but different concepts. Learning can happen without doing anything such as listening to a lecture or discussion. You hear a lot of great stuff but you never implement it.

Doing something means the application of knowledge in a particular setting. An example would be teaching or working at a company. With the application of knowledge comes consequences the indicate how well you did. For example, teaching kids and then seeing either look of understanding or confusion on their face

Strategies for Reflective THinking

For situations in which the student learns something without a lot of action a common model for encouraging reflective thinking is the  Connect, Extend, Challenge model. The model is explained below

  • Connect: Link what you have learned to something you already know
  • Extend: Determine how this new knowledge extends your learning
  • Challenge: Decide what you still do not understanding

Connecting is what makes learning relevant for many students and is also derived from constructivism. Extending is a way for a student to see the benefits of the new knowledge. It goes beyond learning because you were told to learn. Lastly, challenging helps the student to determine what they do not know which is another metacognitive strategy.

When a student does something the reflection process is slightly different below is an extremely common model.

  • what went well
  • what went wrong
  • how to fix what went wrong

In this model, the student identifies what they did right, which requires reflective thinking. The student also identifies the things they did wrong during the experience. Lastly, the student must problem solve and develop strategies to overcome the mistakes they made. Often the solutions in this final part are implemented during the next action sequence to see how well they worked out.

Conclusion

Thinking about the past is one of the strongest ways to prepare for the future. Therefore, teachers must provide their students with opportunities to think reflectively. The strategies included here provide a framework for guiding students in this critical process.

Videoconferencing in Online Course

Videoconferencing is a standard aspect of the professional world. Most large companies have some sort of video conferencing happening in terms of meetings and training. In terms of personal life, video conferencing is common as well. We probably have all used skype or google hangout at one time or another to talk with friends. However, video conferencing is not as common in education.

Video Conferencing Before Video Conferencing

Before video conferencing became common, many educators would upload videos to their online course or post them on youtube. This allowed the student to see the teacher and have more of a traditional classroom experience but real-time interaction was impossible. Instead, the interaction was asynchronous meaning not at the same time. As such communication was jilted at the least because of the lag time between interactions.

Things to Consider Before Video Conferencing

In order to have success with video conferencing you will need some sort of application that allows this. There are many different applications to choose from such as skype, google hangouts, and even Facebook. However, you want some sort of software that allows you to show your screen as well as control the flow of the conversation.

One app that allows this is called Zoom. This software allows you to schedule meetings. In addition, students do not need to download anything. Instead, the students are sent a web link that takes them to the online meeting. You can share your screen as well as monitor the discussion with the added benefit of being able to record the meeting for future use.

Pros and Cons of Video Conferencing

For whatever reason, video conferencing is engaging for students. The same discussion in class would lull them to sleep but through webcams, everyone is awake and stimulated. I am not sure what the difference is but this has been my experience

The biggest enemy to video conferencing is scheduling. This is particularly true if students are spread out all over the world. The challenges of time zones and other commitments make this hard.

This is one reason that recording a video conference is so important. It allows students who are not available to at least have an asynchronous learning experience. It also serves as a resource for students who need to see something again. Keep in mind you have to post the video either on your LMS or on youtube so that students have access to it.

Conclusion

Video conferencing provides a familiar learning experience in a different setting. It is able to give students who are not physically present an opportunity to interact with the instructor in meaningful ways. As such, the instructor must be aware of possibilities in how to use this tool in their online teaching.

Maintaining Student Focus During E-Learniing

Self-motivation is perhaps one of the biggest problems in e-learning. Students who are left to themselves to complete learning experience often just do not successfully finish the learning experiences prepared by the teacher. For whatever reason, often the internal drive to finish something such as an online class is missing for many people.

There are several strategies that an online teacher can use in order to help students who may struggle with self-motivation in an online context. These ideas include…

  • Brief Lessons
  • Frequency Assessment
  • Collaboration

Brief Lessons

Nothing is more discouraging to many students than having to read several pages of text or even several hours of video to complete a single lesson or module in an online course. Therefore, the teacher needs to make sure lessons are short. Completing many small lessons is much more motivating for many students than completing a handful of really large lessons. This is because frequent completion of small lessons is rewarding and indicates progress which the brain rewards.

How long a lesson should depend on many factors such as the age and expertise of the students. Therefore, it is difficult to give a single magic number to aim for. You want to avoid the extreme of lessons too short and lessons to long.

IN my own experience most people make their lessons too long so the majority of us probably need to reduce the content in an individual lesson and spread it over many lessons. All the content can be there it is just chunked differently so that students experience progress.

Frequency Assessment

Along with brief lessons should be frequent assessment. Nothing motivates like knowing something is going to be on the quiz or there is some sort of immediate application. Students need to do something with what they are learning in order to stay engaged. Therefore, constant assessment is not only for grades but also for learning. Besides the stress of a small quiz provides an emotional stimulus that many students need

The assessment also allows for feedback which helps the student to monitor their learning. In addition, the feedback provides more evidence of progress being made in a course which is itself motivating for many.

Collaboration

Nothing motivates the same as working together. Many people love to work in groups and get energy from this. In addition, it’s harder to quit and give a course when you have group members waiting for your contribution. In addition, interacting with students deepens understanding of the course material.

Communicating with other students online to complete assignments is one way of establishing community in an online class. It is similar to traditional classroom where everyone has to discuss and work together to have success.

Conclusion

Motivated students are successful students. IN order for this to happen in an elearning class studnets need to be engaged through brief lessons that inckude frequent assessment tjat includes social interaction.

Tips for Online Studying

Today it is common for students to study online. This has both pros and cons to it. Although e-learning allows students to study anytime and anywhere it also can lead to a sense of disconnection and frustration. This post will provide some suggestions for how to study online successfully.

Make a Schedule

In a traditional classroom, there is a fixed time to come to class. This regulated discipline helps many students to reach a minimum standard of knowledge even if they never study on their own. In e-learning, the student can study whenever they want. Sadly, many choose to never study which leads to academic failure.

Success in online studying requires a disciplined schedule in which the student determines when they will study as well as what they will do during the study time. As such, you will need to set-up some sort of a calendar and to do list that guides you through the learning experience.

It is also important to pace your studying. With flexible courses sometimes the assignments are due at the end of the course. This temptation leads to students who will do all their studying at the last minute. This robs the student of in-depth learning as well as the ability to complete assignment thoroughly. Learning happens best over time and not at the last minute,

Participate

In a traditional class, there are often opportunities to participate in class discussions or question and answer sessions. Such opportunities provide students with a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the ideas and content of the course. Students who actually participate in such two-way dialog usually understand the material of the course better than students who do not.

For the online student participation is also important and can render the same benefits. Participating in forums and chats will deepen understanding. However, I must admit that with the text-heavy nature of online forums reading the comments of peers can in many ways boost understanding without participation. This is because you can read other’s ideas at your own speed which helps with comprehension. This is not possible during an in-class discussion when people may move faster than you can handle.

Communicate with the Instructor

When a student is confused they need to speak up. For some reason, students are often shy to contact the instructor in an online course. However, the teacher is there to help you and expects questions and feedback. As such, reach to them.

Communicating with the instructor also helps to establish a sense of community which is important in online learning. It helps the instructor to establish presence and demonstrates that they are here to help you to succeed.

Conclusion

E-learning is a major component of the future of learning. Therefore, students need to be familiar with what they need to do in order to be successful in their online studies.

Tips for Teaching Online

Teaching online is a unique experience due in part to the platform of instruction. Often, there is no face to face interaction and all communication is in some sort of digital format. Although this can be a rewarding experience there are still several things to consider when teaching in this format. Some tips for successful online teaching include the following.

  • Planning in advance
  • Having a presence
  • Knowing your technology
  • Being consistent

Plan in Advance

All teaching involves advance planning. However, there are those teaching moments in a regular classroom where a teacher can change midstream to hit a particular interest in the class. In addition, more experienced teachers tend to plan less as they are so comfortable with the content and have an intuitive sense of how to support students.

In online teaching, the entire course should be planned and laid out accordingly before the course starts. It is a nightmare to try and develop course material while trying to teach online. This is partially due to the fact that there are so many reminders and due dates sprinkled throughout the course that are inflexible. This means a teacher must know the end from the beginning in terms of what the curriculum covers and what assignments are coming. Changing midstream is really tough.

In addition, the asynchronous nature of online teaching means that instructional material must be thoroughly clear or students will be lost. This again places an emphasis on strong preparation. Online teaching isn’t really for the person who likes to live in the moment but rather for the person who plans ahead.

Have Presence

Having presence means making clear that you are monitoring progress and communicating with students frequently. When students complete assignments they should receive feedback. There should be announcements made in terms of assignments due, general feedback about activities, as well as Q&A with students.

Many people think that teaching online takes less time and can have larger classes. This is far from the case. Online teaching is as time intensive as regular teaching because you must provide feedback and communication or the students will often feel abandon.

Know Your Technology

An online teacher must be familiar and a proponent of technology. This does not mean that you know everything but rather you know how to get stuff done. You don’t need a master in web design but knowing the basics of HTML can really help when communicating with the IT people.

Whatever learning management system you use should actually be familiar with it and not just a consumer. Too many people just upload text for students to read and provide several forums and call that online learning. In many ways, that’s online boredom, especially for younger students.

Consistency

Consistency is about the user experience. The different modules in the course should have the same format with different activities. This way, students focus on learning and not trying to figure out what you want them to do. This applies across classes as well. There needs to be some sense of stability in terms of how content is delivered. There is no single best way but it needs to similar within and across courses for the sake of learning.

Conclusion

These are just some of many ideas to consider when teaching an online course. The main point is the need for preparation and dedication when teaching online.

Blended Learning Defined

E-Learning is commonly used tool at most educational institutions. Often, the e-learning platform is fully online or a traditional model of face-to-face instruction is used. Blended learning is something that is available but not as clear in terms of what to do.

In this post, we will look at what  blended learning is and  what it is not

What Blended Learning is

Blended learning is an instructional environment in which online learning and traditional face-to-face instruction coexist and are employed in a course. There are at least six common models of blended learning.

  • Face-to-face driver – Traditional instruction is supported by online materials
  • Online driver –The entire course is completed online with teacher support made available
  • Rotation – A course in which students cycle back and forth between online and traditional instruction
  • Labs – Content is delivered online but in a specific location such as a computer lab on-campus
  • Flex – Most of the curriculum is delivered is online and the teacher is available for face-to-face consultation.
  • Self-blend – Students choose to augment their traditional learning experience with online coursework.

These models mentioned above can be used in combination with each other and are not mutually exclusive.

For a course to be blended, it is probably necessary for at least some sort of learning to happen online. The challenge is in defining learning. For example, the Moodle platform places an emphasis on constructivism. As such, there are a lot of opportunities for collaboration in the use of the modules available in Moodle. Through discussion and interaction with other students through forums, commenting on videos, etc., students are able to demonstrate learning.

For a more individualistic experience, if the course is blended the students need to do something online. For example, completing a quiz, add material to a wiki or database, etc. are all ways to show that learning is taking place without as much collaboration. However, a teacher chooses to incorporate blended learning the students need to do something online for it to truly be blended.

What Blended Learning is not

Many teachers will post there powerpoints online and have students submit assignments online and call this blended learning. While it is commendable that online tools are being used this is not really blended learning because there is no learning taking place anytime online. Rather this is an excellent example of using cloud sources to upload and download materials.

The powerpoints were seen in class and are available for review.  Uploading assignments are trickier to classify as online learning or not but if it required the students to complete a traditional assignment and simply upload it then there was no real online learning experience. The students neither collaborated nor completed anything online in order to complete this learning experience.

Conclusion

The definition here is not exhaustive. The purpose was to provide a flexible framework in which blended learning is possible. To make it as simple as possible, blended learning is the students actively learning online and actively learning in a traditional format. How much of each component depends on the approach of the teacher.