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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration

Freedom to Learn

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I was painfully bored during my K-12 education. I looked forward to college anticipating that it would be different – more engaging, more interesting, more innovative. I was wrong. My undergraduate education, except for a few bright spots, was just an extension of my K-12 education including more grill and drill with sages on the stages (literally since I went to such a large university); taking notes and taking lots of multiple choice tests. During my freshman year, I thought that if I had one wish, it would be to change the educational system (which has stayed with me ever since). One of those bright spots was being asked to read Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn, which was published 1969 in an upper level Educational Psychology course. The big aha for me was that school systems should be focused on helping learners develop the skills for how to learn not what to learn, one that was sorely lacking in most of my K-graduate-level education and a concept and goal that as an educator I’ve held onto ever since.

So now when I read about new “pedagogies” and instructional strategies based on self-directed learning, learning how to learn, self-determined learning, I kind of laugh to myself. Solid, valid, and student-focused pedagogy has been proposed ever since the beginnings of institutionalized education – think John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Kurt Hahn, and in this case, Carl Rogers.

The following text provides a summary of Rogers’ major themes  about learning and education from Freedom to Learn and comes from Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved from https://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com.

freedom to learn

Rogers (1969) listed five defining elements of significant or experiential learning:

  1. It has a quality of personal involvement – Significant learning has a quality of personal involvement in which “the whole person in both his feeling and cognitive aspects [is] in the learning event” (p. 5).
  2. It is self-initiated – “Even when the impetus or stimulus comes from the outside, the sense of discovery, of reaching out, of grasping and comprehending, comes from within” (p. 5).
  3. It is pervasive – Significant learning “makes a difference in the behavior, the attitudes, perhaps even the personality of the learner” (p. 5).
  4. It is evaluated by the learner – The learner knows “whether it is meeting his need, whether it leads toward what he wants to know, whether it illuminates the dark area of ignorance he is experiencing” (p. 5).
  5. Its essence is meaning – “When such learning takes place, the element of meaning to the learner is built into the whole experience” (p. 5).

As an example of significant learning—the kind that illustrates his theory of freedom to learn—Rogers cited the informal notes kept by Barbara J. Shiel, a teacher, who out of despair and frustration decided to try a drastic experiment in promoting experiential learning in her sixth grade class. In the experiment Mrs. Shiel introduced the concept of work contracts. These were ditto sheets that contained a list of all of the subjects the class was to study, along with a list of suggestions for study under each, and a space for students to write their plans in each area.

“Because I was not free to discard the state-devised curriculum time schedule, I explained the weekly time-subject blocks to the children—this was to be a consideration in their planning. We also discussed sequential learning, especially in math, mastering a skill before proceeding to the next level of learning. They discovered the text provided an introduction to a skill, demonstrated the skill, and provided exercises to master it and tests to check achievement. When they felt they were ready to go on, they were free to do so. They set their own pace, began at their own level, and went as far as they were able or self-motivated to go.” (Rogers, 1969, pp. 17-18)

Since evaluation was self-initiated and respected by the teacher, there was no need for cheating to achieve success. “We discovered that “failure” is only a word, that there is a difference between “failure” and making a mistake, and that mistakes are a part of the learning process.” (Rogers, 1969, p. 18)

One cannot measure the difference in attitude, the increased interest, the growing pride in self-improvement, but one is aware that they exist. (Rogers, 1969, p. 19)

The experience of Mrs. Shiel’s experiment is illustrative of the principles of learning that Rogers (1969, pp. 157-164) abstracted from his own experience:

Human beings have a natural potentiality for learning. “They are curious about their world, until and unless this curiosity is blunted by their experience in our educational system” (p. 157).

Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is perceived by the student as having relevance for his or her own purposes. “A somewhat more formal way of stating this is that a person learns significantly only those things which he perceives as being involved in the maintenance of or the enhancement of his own self” (p. 158).

When threat to the self is low, experience can be perceived in differentiated fashion and learning can proceed. When [the learner] is in an environment in which he is assured of personal security and when he becomes convinced that there is no threat to his ego, he is once more free to…move forward in the process of learning. (p. 161)

Much significant learning is acquired through doing. “Placing the student in direct experiential confrontation with practical problems, social problems, ethical and philosophical problems, personal issues, and research problems, is one of the most effective modes of promoting learning” (p. 162).

Learning is facilitated when the student participates responsibly in the learning process. “When he chooses his own directions, helps to discover his own learning resources, formulates his own problems, decides his own course of action, lives with the consequences of these choices, then significant learning is maximized” (p. 162).

Self-initiated learning which involves the whole person of the learner—feelings as wells as intellect—is the most lasting and pervasive. This is not the learning which takes place “only from the neck up.” It is a “gut level” type of learning which is profound and pervasive. It can also occur in the tentative discovery of a new self-generated idea or in the learning of a difficult skill, or in the act of artistic creation—a painting, a poem, a sculpture. It is the whole person who “let’s himself go” in these creative learnings. An important element in these situations is that the learner knows it is his own learning and thus can hold to it or relinquish it in the face of a more profound learning without having to turn to some authority for corroboration of his judgment. (pp. 162-163)

Independence, creativity, and self-reliance are all facilitated when self-criticism and self-evaluation are basic and evaluation by others is of secondary importance. If a child is to grow up to be independent and self reliant he must be given opportunities at an early age not only to make his own judgments and his own mistakes but to evaluate the consequences of these judgments and choices. (p. 163).

The most socially useful learning in the modern world is the learning of the process of learning, a continuing openness to experience and incorporation into oneself of the process of change. If our present culture survives, it will be because we have been able to develop individuals for whom change is the central fact of life and who have been able to live comfortably with this central fact. They will instead have the comfortable expectation that it will be continuously necessary to incorporate new and challenging learnings about ever-changing situations. (pp. 163-164)

Rogers’ theory of learning also included principles that define the role of the teacher as a facilitator of learning. Rogers (1983) summarized this role by stating that “the primary task of the teacher is to permit the student to learn, to feed his or her own curiosity” (p. 18). Rogers’ principles of facilitation are complementary to his ten principles of learning. Together they form a human learning theory that emphasizes learner agency, growth, and affect. These ten principles are as follows (summarized from Rogers, 1969, pp. 164-166)):

  1. The educator has much to do with setting the initial mood or climate of the class experience. “If his own basic philosophy is one of trust in the group and in the individuals who compose the group, then this point of view will be communicated in many subtle ways” (p. 164).
  2. The educator helps to elicit and clarify the purposes of the individuals in the class.
  3. The educator relies upon the desire of each student to implement those purposes which have meaning for him or her, as the motivational force behind significant learning.
  4. The educator endeavors to organize and make easily available the widest possible range of resources for learning.
  5. The educator regards him/herself as a flexible resource to be utilized by the group.
  6. In responding to expressions in the classroom group, the educator accepts both the intellectual content and the emotionalized attitudes, endeavoring to give each aspect the approximate degree of emphasis which it has for the individual or group.
  7. As the acceptant classroom climate becomes established, the educator is able increasingly to become a participant learner, a member of the group, expressing his views as those of one individual only.
  8. The educator takes the initiative in sharing him/herself with the group—his/her feelings as well as thoughts—in ways which do not demand nor impose but represent simply a personal sharing which students may take or leave.
  9. As a facilitator of learning, the educator endeavors to recognize and accept his/her own limitations. “S/he realizes that s/he can only grant freedom to his/her students to the extent that s/he is comfortable in giving such freedom” (p. 166).

(For this final section, I took the liberty to change “facilitator” to “educator.”)

The following graphic developed by the Freedom to Learn Project, is based on Rogers’ ideas and exemplifies their manifesto.

2017-08-12_0958

http://www.freedomtolearnproject.com/new/manifesto/

So the push towards self-directed learning – helping learners develop skills for directing their own learning really isn’t new BUT the Internet, social media, and open-source content just make it easier for the educator actually implement these practices especially when working with groups of students.

Online learning opportunities, pedagogical shifts and easy accessibility of Internet through multiple devices offer attractive opportunities for learners to assume greater responsibility and initiative in their own learning. In fact, it may not be hyperbole to state that self-directed learning is now a mandatory skill rather than optional in order to impart both work readiness and the development of global citizenry (diversified, culturally sensitive and fully contributing social citizens) among the growing generation of digital [savvy learners]. (Is Learning Increasingly Self-Directed in the Digital Era?)

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 12, 2017 at 5:15 pm

What are the characteristics of high performing schools?

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I am in the unique position of having several types of education jobs. I teach online graduate courses in educational technology to in-service teachers. I am a cohort facilitator for student teachers; and I am a part-time gifted teacher of elementary students at two different elementary schools that serve Kindergarten through 6th grade students. Out of the 16 elementary schools in my town, these two schools have some of the lowest end-of-year standardized test scores in the entire district; are composed of 85% to 90% Hispanic students; have a high percentage of English Language Learners; and all students on free or reduced lunch. These statistics present a dire picture, don’t they?

I tell my student teachers that when they enter new schools for possible employment, they should be able to see and feel the culture of the school almost immediately upon entering the front doors. Because of this belief, I decided to do a photo essay of the artifacts found on the hallway walls at the schools where I teach:

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Because of the variety of my jobs as well as being an active reader and contributor to social media, I do a lot of thinking and reading about the qualities of high performing schools. Again, the data shows that I work at very low performing schools, but how are intangibles measured? How are the following characteristics, which I see, hear, and feel at both of my schools, measured and quantified?

  • A positive school climate
  • A safe school climate
  • Dedicated teachers who love teaching and their students
  • Creative teachers
  • Students enjoyment of being at school and in learning
  • Student creativity and imagination
  • Lots of laughing and smiling students
  • The arts naturally integrated into content area learning
  • School walls filled with beautiful student artifacts

I wholeheartedly believe I am teaching in high performing schools.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 17, 2016 at 1:24 am

Best Education-Related Videos of 2013

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I love end of year “best of” lists.  My own list is what I found to be the most powerful education related videos of 2013. They all, in some way, address the mind, heart, and spirit of education.  Each touched me in some way to help illuminate the purpose and core of education.  They are in no particular order expect for the first one which is my number one choice and one that I believe all educators should be required to watch.

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Favorite Quote:

Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Favorite Quote:

Governments decide they know best and they’re going to tell you what to do. The trouble is that education doesn’t go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools, and the people who do it are the teachers and the students. And if you remove their discretion, it stops working.

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Favorite Quote:

We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children can talk, share and use the Internet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children’s innate quest for information and understanding.

Malala Yousafzai United Nations Speech 2013

Favorite Quote:

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.  Because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Hackschooling makes me happy

Favorite Quote:

We don’t seem to make how to be healthy and happy a priority in our schools; it’s separate from schools, and for some kids it doesn’t exist at all, but what if we didn’t make it separate? What if we based our education on the practice of being happy and healthy because that’s what it is: a practice, and a simple practice at that. … Education is important, but why is being happy and healthy not considered education? I just don’t get it.

If students designed their own schools…

Favorite Quote:

It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth there is no voice from the youth at all.

I think the more options we have in our schools, the more students we will help develop into the kind of citizens that we need and that it’s okay for you to need a little bit of a different approach from mine.

“To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful

Favorite Quote:

Why else would we still be here?
we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
because we see ourselves in them
we stem from a root planted in the belief
that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
and if in some way we are
don’t worry
we only got out to walk and get gas
we are graduating members from the class of
f–k off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data

Quote:

I stand before you because I care about education, but also because I want to support my teachers, and just as they fought for my academic achievement, so I want to fight for their ability to teach. This relationship is at the heart of instruction, yet there will never be a system by which it is accurately measured.

Middle school football players execute life-changing play

Favorite Quote:

I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

So this one is for my generation.  The ones that found what they were looking for on Google, the ones who followed their dreams on Twitter, pictured their future on Instagram, accepted destiny on Facebook.This ones for my “failures” and “dropouts”  For my unemployed graduates. My shop assistants, cleaners and cashiers with bigger dreams!! My world changers and dream chasers!!
Because purpose of “Why I hate school, but love education” was not to initiate a world wide debate, but to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44 or 68.  We will not let an exam results decide our fate. Peace.

My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech

Favorite Quote:

You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living… You can either sit in your basement and wait, or you can get out there and do some crazy stuff… Life is just a bunch of beautiful moments, one right after the other…

A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

Favorite Quote:

This is your time. This is my time. It’s our time, if we can make everyday better for each other, if we’re all in the same team lets start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it. We were made to be awesome. Lets get out there.

Landfill Harmonic Amazing and Inspirational

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Important Endings

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Tonight was the last night of our student teacher seminar.  We met once a week every Tuesday night for the past three months while they were student teaching. The seminars were virtual and synchronous with most students choosing to use webcams.  As such, we were able to share laughs and tears . . .

. . . see each others’ homes and children . . .

. . . and even enjoy one student’s new baby boy.

A sense of community was built.

Endings

I have blogged before about the importance of beginnings in Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections Not Content.  I also believe in the importance of endings, that it should be a celebration of community and providing inspiration for the future.  As such, the student teachers were asked to bring virtual treats to share during our last seminar.  These treats could take the form of an inspirational quote, video, picture, thought or final wishes.  What follows are some of the treats shared.

Videos Shared

I started off the seminar by sharing Jeremy K. Macdonald’s Soiree of Slides at the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference  . . . a beautiful five minutes. Read more at Becoming an Unteacher: Do the Unexpected

Student watching the video . . .


There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. …


Teachers have one of the greatest responsibilities and because of that, one of the greatest gifts.

– Abraham Lincoln


Imagine being born without arms. No arms to wrap around a friend ; no hands to hold the ones you love; no fingers to experience touch ; no way to lift or carry things. How much more difficult would life be if you were living without arms and hands? Or what about legs? Imagine if instead of no arms, you had no legs. No ability to dance, walk, run, or even stand. Now put both of those scenarios together… no arms and no legs. What would you do? How would that affect your everyday life?


The underlying point of this video is behavior and the discouraging factors dealing with our present-day behavioral situation.


A short video based on the Starfish story, with an inspirational message for all teachers to “Never give up”.


Quotes and Passages Shared

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework. – Lily Tomlin

A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations. – Patricia Neal

Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot. –  Eleanor Roosevelt

What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand. – Chinese Proverb

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go… – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

To teach is to touch lives forever. –  Anonymous

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another. – John Dewey

A teacher affects eternity; he or she can never tell where his or her influence stops. – Henry B. Adams

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. – Gail Godwin

The people best qualified to run the world are to busy teaching school.

Nine tenths of education is encouragement. – Anatole Frank

I Am a Teacher – by Phillip Done

I read Charlotte’s Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every year, and every year when Charlie finds the golden ticket and Charlotte dies, I cry.

I take slivers out of fingers and bad sports out of steal the bacon.  I know when a child has gum in his mouth even when he is not chewing.  I have sung “Happy Birthday” 657 times.

I hand over scissors with the handles up. My copies of The Velveteen Rabbit and Treasure Island are falling apart.  I can listen to one child talk about his birthday party and another talk about her sleepover and another talk about getting his stomach pumped last night – all at the same time.

I fix staplers that won’t staple and zippers that won’t zip, and I poke pins in the orange caps of glue bottles that will not pour.  I had out papers and pencils and stickers and envelopes for newly pulled teeth.  I know the difference between Austria and Australia.

I plan lessons while shaving, showering, driving, eating, and sleeping.  I plan lessons five minutes before the bell rings.  I know what time it is when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the nine.  I say the r in library.  I do not say the w in sword.

I put on Band-Aids and winter coats and school plays.  I know they will not understand the difference between your and you’re.  I know they will write to when it should be too.  I say “Cover your mouth,” after they have coughed on me.

I am a teacher.

(http://www.phillipdone.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=4)

Books Shared

http://www.amazon.com/Third-Graders-Class-Bunny-ebook/dp/B002MC067G/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Class-Transform-Students-Always/dp/1889236330

http://www.lightafire.com/quotations/authors/harry-k-wong/

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 28, 2012 at 3:08 am

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