11B: Reflection on Readings

Our reading this week focused on a unique way to re-evaluate our approach to education. If you asked me before reading this week what makes good teaching, I would have said that it is when a teacher recognizes that students learn in different ways and finds a way to address each student’s individual needs. For instance, the example of the third graders learning about apples for two weeks through a variety of interdisciplinary activities would have gotten my approval. This activity-oriented approach, in my previous opinion, would be excellent. Additionally, it would be far preferable to some experience I have had, even in my undergraduate education.

I had many classes in my undergraduate degree where the professor wrote a textbook, assigned readings from that book, and then lectured for hours on the same material I had just read. The entire syllabus simply showed what readings from that one textbook, we would do each week. In essence, the textbook was the syllabus. This is basically an example the Understanding-based education concept would use as a bad example. In their view, “the textbook should serve as a resource, but not as the syllabus” (Wiggins and McTighe 41). While these opinions are primarily expressed in relation to elementary and high schools, I believe that they are just as salient in post-secondary education. From my personal experience, I can tell you that I memorized a bunch of facts in classes like the one mentioned above and today I couldn’t tell you the professor’s name, let alone actual contextual facts.

Additionally, I dislike the idea that all information in a class is coming from one point of view. Whether that be a single textbook, a single author, or a single professor who also is the single author, it is difficult to achieve understanding when you are only exposed to a single voice. This seems like a reflection on the current state of teaching. Instead of ensuring that students reach a understanding of the subject through purposeful design of courses with overall goals in mind, they simply throw everything that they know at you and hope for the best. In the alternate reality where understanding is the priority, I believe that textbooks would be used supplementally with additional articles that expose students to a variety of viewpoints.

Where I never believed that textbooks should be the key to the curriculum, I no longer believe that activity oriented teaching is the best option. In this particular case, apples could just as easily be dogs or muffins or theoretical physics. There is no purpose to the choice beyond that it occurs in fall. Without a purpose behind the activities, it is unclear what the educator hopes her students will understand by preforming these activities. This is where the backwards is best idea is so essential. If you start by establishing clear educational goals and refer back to those goals at every step, you will end up with activities that have true value and will hopefully yield true understanding.

On all levels it seems like educators are losing sight of their goals. Instead of keeping in mind that they want to arm students with information they can use in the future, they simply inundate them with tons of information about a certain subject that fails to fulfill that goal. I would love to see what a classroom actually fulfilling these goals looks like in reality. No matter if they are practicing this understanding method or some other option, it would be great to see student’s engaged and applying their knowledge.

 

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6 thoughts on “11B: Reflection on Readings

  1. I think you might give educators short shrift here by suggesting that they are “losing sight of their goals.” I know many very frustrated educators who struggle daily to bring the spark of life and understanding to their classrooms within a labyrinthine mess of federal and state education policy and tangled administrative agendas and metrics which change like a weathervane. These are pretty fraught circumstances within which to bring about transformative educational experiences. I know you are speaking casually here so I am not seeking an argument, just offering my two cents!

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    • Thank you so much for pointing this out 🙂 Remind me not to write when I am tired and slightly cranky, it seems turn my tone entirely to accusatory. In essence, I don’t want anyone to think I do not respect educators. On the whole, they are very truly the most wonderfully altruistic people that I know. A more nuanced discussion would have taken that into account and further discussed the issues of funding, government pressure, and society.

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    • Remind me not to write when I am tired and slightly cranky, it seems turn my tone entirely to accusatory. In essence, I don’t want anyone to think I do not respect educators. On the whole, they are very truly the most wonderfully altruistic people that I know. A more nuanced discussion would have taken that into account and further discussed the issues of funding, government pressure, and society. Thank you both very much for pointing this out🙂

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  2. Your reflection on how your university professor(s) essentially taught the textbook they wrote in a class lecture is precisely one of the reasons I chose to attend a liberal arts college. Besides rarely having lecture-based courses, the discussions I had in my classes often considered multiple points of views and certain authors we read were directly in contention with each other. Even when we read something that the professor wrote themselves, we would read their piece alongside readings that either agreed or disagreed with their main argument. Keeping in mind this multiplicity of knowledge is key to implementing meaningful instruction. Librarians especially should heed to this multiplicity when attempting to teach information literacy! If we don’t understand the different arguments on how information literacy can be achieved, how can we be productive in its application?

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  3. I too thought the apple assignment was good for the age of the kids and I know I would have enjoyed it. But the book made a great point about how the kids weren’t really learning anything. It surprised me that I didn’t even think about it, then I tried to think of something valuable out of the event, and I couldn’t come up with anything. It also reminded me of how everything you learn in high school is just parroting information back, but once you get to college, it’s a whole other ball game. Throughout school I had always wondered how was I supposed to analyze history. These are the facts and that’s that, but nope. My eyes were really opened up once I got to college. But it provided an enjoyable learning experience.

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