Thursday, December 30, 2004

Becoming a teacher in midstream

This is a lengthy account of the challenges faced by a career-changer. Why would anyone with a successful career want to go into teaching?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Taking advantage of NCLB

Today's Chicago Tribune portrays the
heroic efforts
of a black child to get a good education. Her neighborhood school is so lousy that she is willing to make many sacrifices to go to a better school. Now wouldn't it be a challenge to turn her neighborhood school around?

Going the extra mile to succeed
Driven student out to make the most of school transfer

By Stephanie Banchero
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 26, 2004

Kesedria Carter stands in the vestibule, her lanky body hunched against the bricks to keep the whipping wind off her face, her hands jammed into her pockets. She pokes her head around the corner, pigtails flapping against her face, and searches down Montrose Avenue for the No. 78 bus.

It's 7:25 in the morning and the 10-year-old is on her way to school with her mom, two hours before the morning bell.

Kesedria's neighborhood school is just two blocks away from her Lincoln Square apartment, but the 5th grader is setting out on a 20-minute journey to a better school in a different neighborhood.

She is one of more than 700 Chicago students using the No Child Left Behind law this year to escape her struggling school and transfer into a better one. Kesedria left a school where fewer than half the students passed state exams and 20 percent of teachers are not properly trained. She enrolled in a school where two-thirds of children met the mark and 95 percent of teachers are fully certified.

Kesedria's story shows that the landmark federal education reform can provide new hope for some students.

But it also demonstrates that making these opportunities work requires a daily, single-minded commitment from all those involved--in this case, from Kesedria, from her mother and from the teachers and administrators at her new school, Stockton Elementary, all of whom go out of their way to pursue success.

Kesedria's mom, Karen Brown, wakes up at 5:30 and drops off her daughter at school by about 7:50. She gets back on the bus and travels about 45 minutes through six neighborhoods to her job as a dental assistant. Brown is supposed to be at work by 7, but her boss allowed the tardiness to let Brown take her daughter to Stockton.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Nifty Google feature

Another nice thing about Google is that you can ask it to define anything by entering define: (x). I did this for constructivism, e.g. define: constructivism, hoping that this deus ex machina (search engine) would finally shed a definitive light on this educational mumbo-jumbo term.

I still want to hear from constructivist what qualifies as "constructivism". Is reading a textbook on physics and learning, say, about Newton's laws a constructivist activity?

In any event, this is what popped up from the search [edited for brevity]:

Definitions of Constructivism on the Web:

A theory of learning and knowing that holds that learning is an active process of knowledge construction in which learners build on prior knowledge and experience to shape meaning and construct new knowledge. (Lambert & Walker, 1995.)

Theory suggesting that students learn by constructing their own knowledge, especially through hands-on exploration. It emphasizes that the context in which an idea is presented, as well as student attitude and behavior, affects learning. Students learn by incorporating new information into what they already know.

A theory about knowledge and learning which asserts that learners construct their own understanding of the world around them. Constructivist teaching is student-centered and attempts to create learning contexts in which students actively grapple with big issues and questions instead of being passive recipients of "teacher knowledge."

a theory wherein learning is seen as an active process of knowledge construction; experience combined with reflection and social interaction allows the learner to build on prior knowledge and create their own understanding of ideas and concepts. For an introduction, with further links, see for example Ryder or Chen.

Learning is what changes your current worldview. It builds on what you already think you know. A teacher who knows where you're coming from has a better shot at positioning new learning to have impact.

The approach to knowledge based on the idea that there is no passive way to obtain knowledge. The observer is always an active participant. Rosen's Modeling Relation captures this very well especially as developed in detail in Anticipatory Systems. Subjectivity is recognized and incorporated in any knowledge seeking activity. The "reality" we can achieved is always a construct, no matter how strongly it is grounded in sensory "data". Data by itself, without interpretation via the modeling relation is useless. [Don Mikulecky, Dec. 20, 2000]

a school of psychology which holds that learning occurs because personal knowledge is constructed by an active and self-regulated learner who solves problems by deriving meaning from experience and the context in which that experience takes place.

The central idea of constructivism is that people construct knowledge (as opposed to knowledge being transmitted into their minds). Most people do not have a problem with this because most agree that students "interpret" their experiences in class and try to make sense of them, particularly when grappling with scientific concepts (as opposed to rote memorization of terms). Thus, the problem or difficulty is not typically with constructivism per se but with: recognizing the difference between when students are "constructing" knowledge vs. simply absorbing and regurgitating, and what constructivism implies about the types of teaching methodologies one should use.

A new-fangled educational theory where "truth" is believed to be a "social construction." Thus, it believes that children should be taught to construct "truth", and they should do so in groups (that's the "social" part). This peculiar philosophy has heavily influenced the new educational system, with it's emphasis on "self-learning" and group-learning, and a heavy reduction in direct classroom instruction.

theory of learning that focuses on allowing students to make meaning for themselves through active learning experiences.

Approach that views knowledge as an active process of subjectively building a system of meanings. Based on "autonomous individuals constructing their own knowledge based on their own experiences." (See Moore & Kearsley (1996) p. 204)

School of human learning which believes in the need to identify current learning prior to constructing new meaning. Knowledge is seen as a mental construct that is built on and added to. Learners create an image of what the world is like and how it operates and they adapt and transform their understanding of new experiences in light of what they already '‘know'’. This theory of learning has consequences for teaching and learning strategies. It means that trainers must recognize how a learner already sees the world, and how that learner believes it to operate. New information presented to the learner will be modified by what the learner already knows and believes. By starting 'where the learner is at’, that is, engaging prior knowledge with present learning, the trainer assists the students to build on her understanding of the world and its workings.

The idea that individuals actively construct their own knowledge, rather than passively absorbing it from others.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Educational lingo explained

This site has helpful explanations of educational phrases encountered frequently. It helps to demistify the obscurantist thoughtworld of educationists.