Welcome to Ms. Waugh's Class Blog

Welcome students, parents, and colleagues. Thank you for visiting my blog. This blog I have designed to introduce myself and inform you about what is going on in my classes. Currently, I teach ELD inclusion for grades 6.

Let's get ready to learn!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Paradox of 21st Century Education


The unfortunate predicament about implementing the best practices in 21st Century education theories is that they are theory. We are still too young within the 21st century to see the effects. Each generation, experts in pedagogy present new theories which improve upon or rework the education system in the United States. In the 1950's they called it the "Life Adjustment Movement" and in the 1980's it was coined "Outcome-Based Education" and today we call it "21st Century Education." Each movement after another "devalued academic subject matter while making schooling relevant, hands-on, and attuned to the real interests and needs of young people." (Ravitch, 2009) Today's progressive education movement focuses on instating critical thinking skills and media literacy from kindergarten through graduate school.

Our era is filled with paradoxes. 21st century learning demands critical thinking and proficiency on standardized assessments. Kids have to learn how to be independent. 21st Century teachers must teach content and skills. Unfortunately, 21st century skills and technology cause as many problems as they solve. 
 
One topic not addressed in 21st Century commentaries is the necessity of students to have knowledge of the past, but also knowledge of the present. In a not-so-recent study conducted by the National Geographic Society (1988), school-age students were asked to find their country on a map and students from the United States ranked in the bottom third. (Hunter, 2004.) How can we entertain the idea that we are preparing our students to compete academically on a global scale, when they can't even find their own country on a map?

The paradox of 21st century learning is that we cannot teach students to think critically without teaching them the content they need to think about. Diane Ravitch, in an editorial to the Boston Globe stated, "We have neglected to teach them that one cannot think critically without quite a lot of knowledge to think about. Thinking critically involves comparing and contrasting and synthesizing what one has learned. And a great deal of knowledge is necessary before one can begin to reflect on its meaning and look for alternative explanations." (Ravitch, 2009)

Innovations in education swing like a pendulum. Core knowledge is necessary for a good education, yet "our kids need world-class skills and world-class content." (Toppo, 2009) Successful 21st Century teachers must teach content and skills. In order for students to succeed in today's job market, they need to not only be able to problem solve, but also need to be knowledgeable of the past, present and future. "Kay notes that virtually all of the industrialized countries the USA is competing with "are pursuing both content and skills." (Toppo, 2009)

But how do we teach students to think critically? According to Toppo, “research shows that many teachers find it difficult to actually teach children to think creatively or collaborate. In the end, they rarely get better at the very skills that P21 advocates.” (Toppo, 2009)

The Longfield School in the UK, featured by the Learning Alliance is a success story where 21st century skills have been incorporated and have thus enhanced the learning experience of students and positively affected their abilities. Once failing, the school morphed by fostering dialogue between students, teachers and administration about how to improve the school and student learning, which “led to a curriculum that meets the needs of more learners more of the time and with measurable consequences for improved behavior, increased engagement in lessons and a significant reduction in exclusion.” (Learning Alliance) The school has online learning spaces, a school year that begins in June and the school is open late, so students can be found staying to study or doing extra-curricular activities. There is a strong emphasis on managing time effectively and
flexibility is inbuilt to enable any variety of teaching and learning opportunities whether it’s external visits, catch-up sessions, activities for gifted and talented students, extension work, enrichment activities, or teaching and learning for additional qualifications.” (Learning Alliance)

The question facing 21st century educators is: "Do kids learn to think by reading great literature, doing difficult math and learning history, philosophy and science or can they tackle those subjects on their own if schools simply teach them to problem-solve, communicate, use technology and think creatively?" (Toppo, 2009) The goal of 21st century teaching is to prepare the students with skills that will help them compete in today's job market and world. The most important lesson to instill in students is to be lifelong learners. Students need skills and content. They need to be independent thinkers, yet work well with others. They must think critically while being assessed standardly. The role of a 21st century students is not easy because they encounter many academic demands, but with a delicate balance of content from both the past and present, coupled with experiences which cultivate skills like problem solving and media literacy, they can be prepared for the 21st century market.




Sources:


Hunter, William D. “Got Global Competency?” International Educator Spring 2004 p.6-12

Learning Journey: Longfield School” The 21st Century Learning Alliance

Ravitch, Diane. “Critical thinking? You need knowledge” Boston Globe September 15, 2009. A. 15

Toppo, Greg. “What to learn: 'core knowledge' or '21st-century skills'?” USA Today Updated 3/5/2009 12:06 PM

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Internationalization Strategies Translated to the Elementary Arena


Internationalization at home is a buzzword in higher-education publications and studies. It is a push to develop globalized citizens among our college graduates. It is true that college campuses service a significant amount of international students, but I counter, the necessity to service international students does not just lie at the university level. In fact, there should be internationalization of education beginning at the primary levels, especially in metropolitan areas such as Boston. In Boston Public Schools, as of January 2011, 28% of students were English language learners. (ELL Changes, p.1) This means more than one-quarter of students in Boston are immigrants or children of immigrants to the United States. This in itself is internationalization at home. Often referred to as the melting pot, the United States continues to be a homeland inundated with differing cultures.
The studies cited in this analysis are all based from university-level studies, however their findings can be incorporated across educational grade levels. What these authors propose are ways to integrate international students with national students, methods of develop curriculum that is more culturally responsive and globally minded and ways to assist teachers into becoming internationalized, so that their classrooms can become a microcosm of international education. 
 
According to Betty Leask, author of “Using Formal and Informal Curricula to Improve Interactions Between Home and International Students,” Internationalization of the curriculum is the “incorporation of an international and intercultural dimension into the content of the curriculum as well as the teaching and learning processes and support services of a program of study. An internationalized curriculum will engage students with internationally informed research and cultural and linguistic diversity. It will purposefully develop their international and intercultural perspectives as global professionals and citizens.” (Leask, p.209)

Though many college students participate in study abroad, they are not necessarily receiving an internationalized education. “Building Bridges” by Josef A. Mestenhauser proposes the idea of learning in context, the concept that experiences like study abroad may be considered international education, but the lessons are not integrating existing knowledge and processing of the dissimilar. “While we are 'doing' international education, we may not know why, when the learning is completed, and what we do with it in the end,” he wrote. (Mestenhauser, p. 10.) He believed a disconnect between the cognitive categories was not allowing the transfer to occur “often because it was assumed to develop by osmosis and was not intended or planned—or learning and knowledge was not part of the objectives of the programs.” (Mestenhauser, p. 10.)

This article elicits the need to set some frameworks about internationalization at home standards. What would that look like in an elementary school? The United States now has “Common Core Standards” for English Language Arts and Mathematics, but what about the incorporation of national standards for Internationalization at Home? Internationalization is not procedural knowledge, but it is conceptual knowledge that is imperative for all students of the 21st century with which to be familiar.
In setting standards for learning, we set a purpose for learning. Mestenhauser proposes etic v. emic learning, with the etic perspective meaning that we see other cultures through the lens of our own knowledge and experience. (Mestenhauser, p.10.) Emic thinking allows the observer of another culture to see it through its own internal logic. Ultimately, Mestenhauser calls upon the students to be metacognitive and not engage in international experiences just for the experience, but through reflection after and during the experience to actually gain an awareness of global citizenship and his own global citizenry. 
 
While at the elementary level we cannot easily enter our students into study abroad programs, we can create ways in which our students can partake in scenarios which have real-world applications. Mestenhauser suggests “real world laboratories” in which students “would actually work on projects that resemble the real work culture outside of the universities.” (Mestenhauser, p.11.) This is a concept we could instate at the pre-collegiate level, such as developing project-based learning in which the essential questions explore other cultures, or by developing a Model UN unit in which the students could take part. 
 
Leask's article also presents strategies to build relationships among students and introduces mentors as a key component of building an internationalized student body. According to Leask,“development of intercultural competencies... requires a campus environment and culture that obviously motivates and rewards interaction between international and home students in and out of the classroom.”(Leask, p.205) Her use of the word “campus” could easily be replaced with “district” or “school,” as her idea is transferable to primary education. 
 
In designing a curriculum that is internationalized, instructors must “explicitly include relevant intercultural learning objectives” and “structure assessment activities so that it is clear what intercultural competencies are being measured.”(Leask, p. 210.) It is also important to ensure both international and home students understand the purpose of the interaction, are assisted to develop the skills needed to engage and are provided with the environment in which to be able to engage effectively. (Leask, p.210.) According to Leask, instructors can facilitate interaction by requiring students to work on tasks throughout their study that are structured so that the students cannot complete the activities without a meaningful cultural exchange. 
 
Even after recommendations on how to get students interacting within the classroom, the study found that it was not transcending the classroom door. International students felt their domestic counterparts avoided them and domestic students reported language and cultural differences made it hard to interact. “Both home and international students clearly recognized the value of interacting with each other, but for entirely different reasons both were clearly dissatisfied with the levels and types of interaction they had with each other.” (Leask, p.215)

This is where integration at the elementary level can impact future internationalism within students. If students are taught to integrate as children, they will not face the same problems faced above at the university level. Introducing students to other cultures and people as children can lead the way to a much more culturally-sensitive and responsive collegiate body.

Leak presents the great idea of a mentoring program called Business Mates that gets second year or higher students building relationships with new students. We use this strategy at the elementary level often with arrival of new students when we provide them with a classroom buddy (if possible one who is fluent in English and the new student's native language.) Leask found positive results indicating, “culturally diverse paired mentors and their mentees were more likely than the general student population to feel part of the university community and to be happy with the levels of interaction they had with other students.” (Leask, p.217.)

Both Mestenhauser and Leask present strategies to incorporate internationalization into the classroom, but how can teachers teach internationalism if they are not internationalized themselves? Irma Olmedo and Lesley Harbonb in “Broadening our sights: internationalizing teacher education for a global arena” discuss the necessity of globalized teachers. While this article addresses higher education, it's message can transcend into the elementary arena. This article talks about teachers studying abroad and learning cultures, but also learning from other teachers. An experience like this could have an impact not only on the teachers’ cultural sensitivities and internationalism, but also their ability to instruct. The authors suggests study abroad for student teachers, especially for language teachers. “If we aim to produce educators with a global perspective, we ourselves as teacher educators have to explore that global arena to see what we can learn and what we can share,” the article states. (Olmedo, p. 77.)
The challenge is to get teachers to “think globally” and then to “work locally.” (Olmedo, p.81.) International education means broadening the knowledge base of teachers and sensitizing them to different perspectives on issues that can affect children from all over the world, particularly when these teachers will be teaching students from all over the world. 
 
These authors propose placing teacher candidates in study abroad contexts, particularly ones that bring the future teachers into context their future students may experience. “Not only can those experiences help improve foreign language proficiency but they can also sensitize teachers to the frustrations that their own students face when in classrooms taught in a national language that they do not understand.” (Olmedo, p.87.) It is important for teachers to have the opportunity to travel and be immerse in other cultures, to know what students are experiencing. 
 
Similarity, Sabine Schuerholz-Lehr in “Higher Education: How Prepared Are the Educators?” looks as studies which linked educator's backgrounds and life experiences to their pedagogical approaches and examining their mind-sets and classroom pratices as they related to global awareness. She hypothesized “that the ability of higher education instructors to teach for intercultural competence and world-mindedness within their professional knowledge landscape is positively related with the extent to which they have acquired a world-minded identity both on and off the professional landscape.” (Schuerholz-Lehr, p.188). Schuerholz-Lehr investigated the relationship between faculty member's personal/professional background and life experiences and their pedagogies related to global awareness and world-mindedness. The data suggest a willingness among many faculties to diversity and multiculturalism, but many faculties struggle with strategies to incorporate those attitudes into their teaching. (Schuerholz-Lehr, p.188).

Her research indicated coursework and immersion in other cultures by living in another country had the greatest impact on the development of intercultural competence during graduate professional preparation. Additionally, she found advanced proficiency in a language other than English and substantive experience abroad were positively correlated with global competence and intercultural sensitivity indices. (Schuerholz-Lehr, p.195) However, one study by Halse (1999) she sited, found intercultural encounters do not automatically lead to an increase in intercultural understanding. (Schuerholz-Lehr, p.196) Overall, the information she collected suggests just traveling to another country did not translate automatically into more globally-aware teaching practices. Instead, the depth of the experience had the greatest impact on the strengthening of intercultural and cross-cultural competencies. 
 
What these studies demonstrate is teaching internationalization is like teaching any other concept or construct—it must be meaningful. Teachers can talk to students, create lesson plans, develop activities or send students abroad and yet these activities have no meaning for the student, they will not have lasting affects upon their education, if the learning does not have a purpose. There needs to be standards and objectives, both clearly communicated to the students and student motivation. With those three components, internationalization in education can be achieved at the university and elementary level. 
 

Bibliography



Boston Public Schools, “ELL Changes” Implementing the Acceleration Agenda: Helping English Language Learners acquire language mastery and fluency Produced by the Boston Public Schools Communications Office 6/11/11 http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/files/bps/ELL%20changes.pdf

Leask, Betty. “Using Formal and Informal Curricula to Improve Interactions Between Home and International Students”Journal of Studies in International Education Volume 13 Number 2 Summer 2009 205-221

Mestenhauser, Josef A. “Building Bridges”International Educator Summer 2003 p.6-11

Olmedo, Irma; Harbonb, Lesley. “Broadening our sights: internationalizing teacher education for a global arena”Teaching Education Vol. 21, No. 1, March 2010, 75–88


Schuerholz-Lehr, Sabine “Teaching for Global Literacy in Higher Education: How Prepared
Are the Educators?”Journal of Studies in International Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, Summer 2007 180-204