A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom in the pupils. ~Ever Garrison
Learning is Inquiry
Education to me means teaching students to their fullest capability, while facilitating learners to make their own understanding. I believe as an educator, we are to take a constructivist approach and create a classroom atmosphere that encourages inquiry. Students come into a classroom full of questions and curiosity. Ultimately, it is up to the teacher to assist students in answering their questions by providing meaningful learning experiences that allow students to think beyond the norm. By providing learning experiences that encourage students to make observations, pose questions, and think critically, students become active participants in their education. If as a teacher, one were only to highlight factual knowledge and discourage student involvement, students would not make connections or construct their own understanding. They would simply be able to recall facts. Students should be able to question ideas and create their own understanding (constructivism).
The idea ofConstructivism, comes from the work of Jean Piaget, and his developed theory in the 1930s. His theory aims at proving that learners are creators of their own understanding by changing their schemas in two ways; assimilation and accommodation. Learners are constantly applying prior knowledge to make sense of new information that they encounter in their daily life.
Learning is Social
I believe that in educating students, learning is social. Students learn from one another, and they assist one another in making connections and understanding. In my classroom, I plan to instill the strategy of cooperative learning. This includes placing students in small groups heterogeneously, or placing them in pairs. By allowing my students to work together, I allow them to voice their thoughts, ideas, and feelings with one another. This will allow my students to help one another, but to also experience different perspectives in how they process information.
The benefits of cooperative learning include:
1) Increase of student involvement and learning.
2) Increase of student independence from the teacher 3) Increase of a student’s social skills.
4) Increase of a student's problem-solving skills
Research has shown that the use of cooperative learning groups in a classroom can increase a student’s interest with the content. Compared to whole group instruction, small groups have higher potential for feedback, participation, and construction of meaning among students. Small groups/ pairs encourage students to become active participants rather than passive recipients of information. As a result, students gain knowledge from working together, in that lower achieving students learn from their peer’s explanation and higher achievers benefit from constructing explanations for other students.
Learning is Embracing Diversity
In educating future students, I plan to be the teacher that views cultural differences as strengths and resources for knowledge. I strongly believe that we are to look for ways to incorporate and build on those strengths. By having a culturally responsive classroom, children maintain their cultural identities while learning the school curriculum. In order to achieve my culturally responsive classroom, I plan to become familiar with my students cultural and linguistic characteristics, provide variation in the way my students acquire information (this includes presenting different cultural and gender perspectives), and set high expectations for my students free of bias. By creating a safe environment, students are free to learn without restrictions or fears concerning who they are as a person.
Curriculum scholar Geneva Gay defines culturally responsive teaching as, “Using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them. It teaches to and through the strengths of these students.”
Learning is Making Connections Through Curriculum
In educating students, I believe it is important to build upon ideas previously taught from the curriculum. By building upon ideas and concepts, learners can begin to assimilate and accommodate information. Assimilation ensues when a new concept or idea “fits” with prior knowledge. When this happens, learners begin to extend their ideas and make understanding. When a new idea does not ‘fit” the learner aims at making understanding and changing their preconceptions, this process is known as accommodation. By providing students with engaging learning experiences that build upon their prior knowledge, learners are able to modify their existing ideas that incorporate new ideas. Learners are then able to make connections of what they know to what they learned.
Because each student is a unique learner, learners will differ in the number and nature of connections they will make concerning a new idea and a prior idea. “Though learning is constructed within the self, the classroom culture contributes to learning while the learner contributes to the culture in the classroom (Yackel & Cobb, 1996).
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Learning is Fun!
Ultimately, learning should be fun! By creating a classroom environment that embraces diversity and encourages learning, students will gain a positive outlook. I aspire to be the teacher that inspires her students to expand their horizons in fun, meaningful ways. By creating meaningful learning experiences that engage the students, students are actively creating understanding in fun, educational ways. I believe that when the teacher is excited about learning, the students will quickly follow.
John, Van de walle A. Elementary and middle school mathematics. 7th ed. Print.
Evertson, Carolyn M. Classroom management for elementary teachers. Boston: Pearson/A and B, 2006. Print.
Parker, Walter. Social studies in elementary education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill/Prentice Hall, 2005. Print. John, Van de walle A. Elementary and middle school mathematics. 7th ed. Print.