Recent Issue Education

September 15th, 2011


The reasons behind education were varied and diverse throughout history.  That makes sense, considering the varied and diverse needs of different groups. The preliterate cultures needed education to teach survival skills and preserve their group’s stories. The cultures of the Renaissance and Enlightenment focused on self reflection, mathematics, and Christian morals; things that weren’t needed in the skill group of the preliterate society. The elite schools of early colonial America focused on Latin, a skill needed by only specific professionals today. As times, skills, and technologies change, so does the preparation. Therefore, it can be said that purpose of education can be changed to fit the needs of the society it is operating in.

For my purposes, in modern America, Martin Luther King Jr. (1947) says it best, “It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture.” (1) The first part of that quote speaks to utility; education should give the learner the skills he or she needs to be a successful, productive member of society.  In preliterate culture the skills needed to be successful were the ones that provided food, shelter, and heat. In current schools, those skills may be the ability to write or read, perform mathematics, or operate a computer.  Also, education provides the ability to maintain our rights. As Thomas Jefferson (1820) said, “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but inform their discretion.”  A democracy only works if the members are able to understand, consider, and respond to the choices that have to be made.

The second part mentions culture. Martin Luther King Jr. (1947) continues in his article, “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.” (1). I believe this is true; though the idea of teaching ‘morals’ in schools raises serious concern. What morals do we want to pass on? Without a religious doctrine providing a framework for American schools, we are left without a universal doctrine on behavior and values. However, schools still, almost universally, operate with no cheating policies, a no bullying rule, no tolerance for physical violence, and an expectation for hard work and responsibility.  Are these not values? Perhaps we no longer teach prayers or preach the Ten Commandments, but we seem to have developed a secular set of character expectations that are being passed on. Taking the initiative to create thoughtful, considerate and tolerant students only benefits society.

 Just for fun: the whole article by Martin Luther King Jr. is an interesting and short read…

    However, to understand the way education needs to work today, and where it is headed, it is useful to look back on the similarities and differences throughout education’s history.

(This “chart” I have compiled from class discussion and from Foundations of Education (2011))


Transmission of Culture (spreading of beliefs, history, traditions)

  • Preliterate societies used education to communicate the important stories and histories of their groups.
  • Hebraic schools were used to preserve the understanding of the ‘special place’ of the Hebrew people.
  • Christian schools used education to train students in biblical history and codes.
  • Arabic schools used education to train in religious traditions.

Skill Training (education used to provide skilled labor)

  • Preliterate society placed great importance on survival education; how to hunt, make shelter, find food.
  • Egyptian schools were primarily used to train scribes and other skilled workers.
  • Though not in the schools of formal education, medieval peasants were trained in skills and trades.
  • Medieval and later schools trained priests and other religious figures

Moral Training (promoting a certain frame of behavior)

 Schools from many times and cultures (Egyptian, Chinese, Arabic, Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and up through certain schools today) had a job of training students in an appropriate moral code. They used educational institutions to teach their religious and political stances. They also introduced proper behavior and social interactions.

 Leaders (educators as respected leaders and figures)

  • Preliterate societies had important leaders, both tribal and religious lead their education. Storytellers were respected keepers of oral histories.
  • Chinese and Egyptians
  • Greek
  • Arabian
  • Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment used important religious clergy.

 Access to education (who was able to attend schools)

  • The vast majority of historic schools only accepted wealthy boys.  Early schools saw only boys who families had enough wealth and power to spare them from work.  Eventually education became a way to maintain political and social control. Education separated the socially dominate, the literate, from the labor. Even further, education separated skilled trade workers from the lower workers of society


  • Gender issues were prevalent throughout. Most time periods saw very little involvement in formal education with girls. Certain times and cultures saw small amount of wealthy women in school, though the vast majority were either religiously or domestically trained.


Just as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, schools throughout time have been places where the student is educated by skill and culture. Each different society took the elements that were important for their members; or at least the members they were interested in educating. Of course, there were differences; who attended the schools, the subjects they found important, the struggle between the importance of the teacher or student, and the techniques they used to impart knowledge.

                Today, evidence of many different historical schools of thought is seen in the classroom. The early Roman orators, like Quintilian, can be seen in debate programs, English, and drama class, where students are encouraged to create compelling arguments and be able to express themselves.  The ideas of hands-on learning, or experience learning, by educators like Dewey and Pestalozzi, are particularly prevalent in science labs or on field trips. Spencer’s theories on the competitive classroom are seen, not only on standardized test as mentioned in the text (pg. 111), but also in the rewards systems of many teachers, college admission, or even in specialized ‘schools-in-schools’. Froebel’s ‘kindergarten’ classes are all but universal in the American school system and children are being educated earlier and earlier with the Head Start program or private instruction.  In fact, one study done through Harvard (2007) reported, “The group agreed that early experiences can influence learning, and that quality preschool can mean immediate as well as long-term benefits.” (Walsh, pg. 1).  The work of Jane Addams and her peers influenced the treatment of women and other ethnicities. Many ‘education pioneers’ worked to increase the training for teachers and the evolution of student inquiry based teaching as opposed to didactic recitation.

                Education should continue to evolve with the changing needs of society. It should reflect the skills needed in the workforce and the skills required to become a conscientious member of a democracy.  Education should include training to interface with the technology of the day, to keep students current and connected to the possibilities, despite their economical or social position. It should also select skills that have developed throughout history; skills like literacy, critical thought, reflection, mathematical reasoning, and logic. Schools should also operate with the duty of producing students of strong character.


King, Jr., M. (1947). The Purpose of education. The Maroon Tiger. Retrieved from :


Jefferson, T. (1820). Letter to William Jarvis. Retrieved from :


Walsh, C. (2007). The importance of early education. Harvard News Office. Retrieved from :


Ornstein, A., Levine, D., Gutek, G. (2011). Foundation of education (11th Ed.). Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth.

A School Experience: Lower East Side, NY; 1900

September 12th, 2011


My Teaching Philosophy

September 11th, 2011


When I was in school I always found I learned best when I was able to “see” the information. Writing notes was helpful, but I did much better if I was able to graph out the information in a way that made sense to me, preferably with pictures. Judging by the number of “graphic organizers” I see used at work each day; I am not the only person who learns well this way. When researching how to identify the different ways students learn; there is no shortage of models. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assesses people by using scales from Jung’s Theory of Psychological Types and addresses people as “extroverts” or “introverts”, amongst other indicators. Another popular model is the Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model where they evaluate how people take knowledge in and how they process it.  In a test adapted from Instructor Magazine these models, and others, are simplified into three main types of learners; the visual, the auditory, and the kinesthetic.

Take the test here :

The visual learner learns best when they see in the information; in notes, in written form, or in graphic examples. The auditory learns by hearing and verbalizing what they learn. The kinesthetic learns by doing experiments or other hands-on activities (Instructor Magazine, 2009). The problem is, in a class of twenty-five plus, the chances that you have students that all learn the same way is almost impossible. In fact, R.M. Felder (2005) states, “the problem is that no two students are alike. They have different backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses, interests, ambitions, senses of responsibility, levels of motivation, and approaches to studying.” (52). This is certainly true and, with just one instructor, it would be difficult to accommodate each “style of learning” fully. Therefore Felder continues, “It follows that if completely individualized instruction is impractical and one-size-fits-all is ineffective for most students, a more balanced approach that attempts to accommodate the diverse needs of the students some of the time is the best an instructor can do.” (52)

With this balance in mind, a diverse approach to classroom activities is needed. In my personal philosophy as a teacher, I seek to provide a balance in the ways I present my material (a combination of lectures, student led research, media, etc.), the ways I provide students to process this information (debates, notes, research, projects, ect.), the way I assess my students knowledge (tests, projects, small groups, ect.),  and the way I interact with my students.

A few personal beliefs that translate into my teaching style;

  •  Everyone has the right to their own point of view.
  • I believe in the importance of debate, acceptance, and the ability to disagree intelligently and peacefully.
  • I believe in the importance of understanding other cultures, genders, lifestyles, and backgrounds.
  • I believe comprehension comes in many different forms.
  • Regurgitation of information is not an adequate judge of mastery of material.
  • While not all students consistently seek to succeed, all students seek someone to believe in them.
  • I believe students will rise to a challenge.
  • The natural curiosity of children should be preserved.

Presenting material is an incredibly important part of teaching. Oftentimes, I’ve noticed that students consider themselves “dumb” or “smart” and believe they will continue to be that way. Bacanu and colleagues (2000) stated that, “genetics account for almost half of all student learning and intelligence.” (33). However, though genetics play a large role in intelligence, that leaves the other half of student intelligence and learning open for influence and growth in the classroom. To begin with, I would include in my teaching style the use of a variety of media and tools. Lectures have a place as part of material presentation. However, lectures can benefit greatly from tools other than spoken word. Technology, when resources are available, enables teachers to bring to life their subjects. Tileston (2003) lists these reasons for technology in the classroom,

  •   Technology is not limited by the classroom walls.
  •  Technology does not know or care what the student’s socioeconomic status may be, and thus helps to level the playing field for these students.
  •  Technology provides an equal opportunity for everyone to learn.
  •  Technology is more in tune with the way our students learn today.
  •  Technology is so much a part of the real world that to limit its use in the classroom is to limit our students’ ability to compete in the world.

History and Dramatic Arts are the subjects I most want to teach, and nothing brings these subjects to life more than pictures, film, or sound. The description of Pearl Harbor is enhanced by the visual of the actual bombing.

Students also have a place in presentation. The old adage is that you learn better when you teach something to someone else; so let students research and present material in addition to teacher led classes.

Secondly, I would include several means of processing the information presented. Notes, in the traditional sense of translating a lecture, can be varied by the use of graphic organizers. In a study by Meyen, Vergason, andWhelan (1996) graphic organizers are “visual displays teachers use to organize information in a manner that makes information easier to understand and learn” (p.132). In addition, comprehension can be demonstrated by using different assessments; instead of a worksheet, have  student-made powerpoints or small group debate.

Along with processing the material, I am a believer in meaningful repetition. It has been a long-held belief that repeating something makes it ‘more engrained’ into our minds. Seth Brotherson (2005), in a NDSU study, states,  “Provide lots of time and opportunities for practice and repetition. Few things build a child’s brain and open opportunities for learning more than consistent repetition of healthy activities or experiences.” (611). However, as I perform on stage for my “other career”, I can attest that even repeating the same lines over and over for months, I cannot remember them now.  Huitt (2003) collaborates, “Repetition or rote rehearsal is a technique we all use to try to “learn” something. However, in order to be effective this must be done after forgetting begins. Researchers advise that the learner should not  repeat immediately the content (or skill), but wait a few minutes and  then repeat.” (1).  In his study, Svinicki (1991) also states,“During learning, learners act on information in ways that make it more meaningful.
Implication: Both instructor and student should use examples, images, elaborations, and connections to prior knowledge to increase the meaningfulness of information.” (27). Therefore, I would include repetition of the material in class by using different activities over an extended period of time with several opportunities for review as we continue through the material.

While presenting and processing the material, I am also a believer in “teachable moments”. In a sixth-grade history class I observed, the teacher would go on small tangents to answer a student question. Some teachers  might consider this a waste of instructional time, but my personal feeling is that it encouraged the students to make their own connections to the subject matter, to express curiosity, and find relevance to their own lives. According to a study done by McKeachie and colleagues (1990), “Both groups also stressed the importance of teachers being intellectually expansive and intelligent and open to students’ questions, class discussions and for the course material to be valuable, useful and relevant.” (p. 103). If a student finds an interest in a topic, they may be more likely to remember it or look further.

I also believe in student accountability.  Providing a challenge, expecting their best effort, and accepting the job of holding them to the rules is an important, and difficult, aspect of teaching. In my experiences in the classroom it is often difficult to be proactive in student accountability. It is often easier, and less time consuming, to let small behavior go. However,  messy handwriting, low effort, lost papers, or frequent distractions all add up over time. Staying firm on the student’s need to stay on top of their work and to be responsible for their actions builds stronger, more successful individuals. Deborah Stipek states,

“Being a caring and supportive teacher does not mean coddling;  rather, if means holding students accountable while providing the  support they need to succeed. One adolescent in a low-income, high crime community in California told me he liked his high school because the teachers “sit on your face”. He explained that when the teacher’s weren’t sure that students really understood something, they stuck  with them, got them help, or gave them some material to help them  figure it out.” (47)

Along those same lines, I believe in being involved with student issues and interests. Davidson and Phelan (1999) explain “Adolescents report that they work harder for teachers who treat them as individuals and express interest in their personal lives outside school. Caring teachers, they report, are also honest, fair, and trusting.” (233).

In seeking to provide a diverse, supportive, and creative learning environment by varying presentation, material processing, and assessment I have developed the following goals for my students and myself.

  • Students become responsible for asking their own questions and becoming proactive in seeking their answers.
  • Students make connections with subject material that they can use in a practical sense.
  • Students understand the importance of representing themselves to the best of their ability at all times.
  • Students are accountable for their own actions.
  • Students learn to become organized, effective learners.
  • As a teacher I take responsibility to encourage and stimulate student creativity and curiosity.
  • I accept the responsibility of holding students accountable for rules and their actions.
  • I provide divergent points of view; seeking to encourage a personal debate in the student that requires them to critically think and evaluate their opinions.
  • I seek to understand the students varied levels of achievement and provide them with conditions to achieve success and progress at their own pace.
  • I allow students to provide input for their assessments and provide them a variety of ways to express what they have learned.


To judge my effectiveness in meeting my goals, the following are preliminary criteria of student success.


  •   Students will ask questions and make connections between subject material.
  •   Students will perform well on assessments.
  •   Students will be able to summarize material.
  •   Students can answer a critical question on presented material, one that requires forming an educated opinion.
  •   Students are able to take opposing sides of an argument and create defense for both.
  •   Students are able to understand and implement an ever-increasing level of vocabulary.
  •  Students are able to research and provide relevant information, media, and references.


Huitt, W. (2003). The information processing approach to cognition. Educational Psychology Interactive. Retrieved from,

Brotherson, S.(2005). Keys to enhancing brain development in young children. NSDU Extension Service. Retrieved from:

M. Svinicki, (1991).  College teaching: From theory to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Davidson, A., & Phelan, P. (1999). Students’ multiple worlds. In Advances in motivation and achievement: Role of context, Vol. 2 (pp. 233-283). Stamford, CT: JAI Press.

Stipek, D. (2006). Relationships matter. Educational Leadership, 64, 46.

R.M. Felder and R. Brent. (2005). Understanding Student Differences. Education, 94, 57.

2009. Three Different Learning Styles. Instructor Magazine. Retrieved from:

McKeachie W., Pintrich P., Yi-Guang, L., Smith, D., & Sharma, R. (Eds.), (1990). Teaching and learning in the college classroom: A review of the literature. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan.

Meyen E. L., Vergason, G.A. & Whelan. R. J. (1996). Strategies for teaching exceptional children in inclusive settings. Denver, CO: Love.

Tileston. (2003). The Importance of media in the classroom. Retrieved from:

Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Does Good Teaching Matter?

September 9th, 2011

I would hope be hard pressed to find someone who truly believed that ‘good’ teaching didn’t matter in today’s schools. If that were the case, none of us would be taking this course, and certifications would be given out to anyone who displayed basic interest and passed a background check. The rigorous training for prospective teachers, both in the traditional academic and alternative routes, contradicts this possibility. The hours and work being logged by experts around the country to improve teachers’ professional growth and accountability with PLCs, Professional Development Plans, and continued education courses prove that America cares who is teaching our children. However, what qualifies as good teaching may cause a much larger debate. More and more, having consistent, widespread high scores on standardized tests is the hard and fast sign of a good teacher. Without a doubt, those teachers do matter in the school system, as they well should. However, does the teacher who excels academically, who has a steel grip on and passion for their subject, matter? What about the teacher who makes students care, who challenges them to grow, even if they don’t achieve the same scores as others? Finally, what about those who work against the most challenging factors, inclusion, ESL, or low income, when it comes to standardized tests?
Standardized testing is, without a doubt, a useful and important tool. It provides,

“…. quantifiable information (scores, proficiency levels, and so forth), results can be used in screening programs (e.g., identifying those students in need of further assessment). Second, standardized test results provide information regarding an examinee’s areas of strength and weakness. Third, standardized test results allow a student to be compared to age- or grade-peers. Finally, standardized tests can be used to assess students’ progress over time.” (Flanagan, 2003)

These tests provide not only a quantified evaluation, but also a way to hold teachers accountable for what they teach. In theory, a teacher with widespread, consistent high scores prepares their class with the knowledge deemed important to learn at their academic level on a state or national scale. Certainly, this teacher could be considered a ‘good’ teacher; one that is considered to matter very much to education. However, that kind of ‘good teaching’ should not be the only one that matters. As Clair Berube states, “Although multiple choice standardized tests claim to measure every level of learning, they really only test knowledge recall…” (2004, p. 264). Simple knowledge for knowledge’s sake isn’t enough. The increasing pressure to exceed pass rates each year places many teachers in fear for continued employment. My current school must achieve a perfect pass rate by 2014 to continue in AYP. This goal, which of course we strive to meet, is changing the classroom. Therefore, it is important to remember that other kinds of ‘good teaching’ need to stay in our schools. Part of teaching, in my opinion, should be creating inquisitive, life-long learners. Simply ‘teaching to a test’, hitting the dates, places, grammatical rules, mathematical formulas, or science facts without encouraging critical thought, creative problem solving, or individual evaluation and opinion would fail students.
What then are the other qualities that need to matter in teaching? One my favorite summaries of what makes a good teacher cmes from Marie Hassett, Phd.,
“Good teachers:
• have a sense of purpose;
• have expectations of success for all students;
• tolerate ambiguity;
• demonstrate a willingness to adapt and change to meet student needs;
• are comfortable with not knowing;
• reflect on their work;
• learn from a variety of models;
• enjoy their work and their students.” (2000)
Many of the best teachers I’ve worked with excel because of their passion. Not only for their subject but also for whom they teach. They understand where their students are coming from and provide the support they need. Children come from a variety of homes, situations, and conditions that the teacher can only guess at until they take the time to ask. These conditions aren’t left at the door but affect attention, behavior, attitude, and work. A good teacher seeks the underlying causes and works to help.
A good teacher realizes they can’t judge their success on scores alone but also on the successes of their students and the connections they make with them. Many of our students in inclusion didn’t pass their SOLs last year but they increased their scores so much, we were as proud of them as if they had.
A good teacher knows that no matter how good a plan looks it may have to change. No two students learn exactly alike. Taking the time to evaluate strategies, explore creative options, and engage student input into their own education is the mark of an excellent teacher.
A good teacher also believes in their students. They listen to their concerns, provide a safe learning environment, give encouragement, and challenge their doubts in their own abilities.
All of these qualities; achieving high scores, supporting the personal and educational concerns of students, setting individualized measures of success, being flexible and dynamic in lessons, and continuing to push towards deeper knowledge themselves, are all qualities of a good teacher and they should all matter.


Berube, C.T. (2004). Are Good Standards Preventing Good Teaching? The Clearing House, Volume 77, 264.

Hassett, M. F. (2000). What Makes a Good Teacher? World Education, 12.

Flanagan, D., Mascolo, J., Hardy-Braz, S. (2003-2009) The Gale Group, Retrieved from

Hello world!

September 9th, 2011

Welcome to UMW Blogs. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging! If you need some help getting started with UMW Blogs please refer to the support documentation here.

  • About

    This is an area on your website where you can add text. This will serve as an informative location on your website, where you can talk about your site.

  • Blogroll
  • Admin