Bird Droppings August 24, 2011
A continued look at learning
“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rogers
Sitting at home earlier this morning getting my bearing on the day I was finishing reading several essays by Carl Rogers which made for an interesting start to my morning. In our world of No child Left Behind and for me being in Special Education where we do see the ones that tend to get left behind I enjoyed the thought of no tests and no grades. Over the years in one graduate class after another the idea of a portfolio following the student through their school career has always intrigued me. I mentioned this to a new teacher yesterday as an alternative to paper pencil tests as assessments especially for an advanced lit class. As I thought this morning would not some sort of portfolio or culminating project or I should say ongoing project indicate mastery or development of mastery better than a multiple choice test done with a number two pencil on a scantron answer sheet. Of course in chemistry we might have a few explosions if learners were not listening along the way. In my Foxfire understanding, what is now Core Practice eight developed into the Foxfire magazine for Elliot Wiggington’s students at Rabun Nantahochee School in 1967 or so and is now forty five years and running. I find it fascinating how often great teachers follow parallel routes with slightly different wording and yet seem to find the same ideas. Going back to John Dewey and his premise that experience is the best teacher.
“The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.” Foxfire Core Practice eight
“Learning doesn’t stop at 3:15. You can help the teacher do a better job by encouraging your child to show you something he’s working on at school, suggests Ron Martucci, who teaches fourth grade in Pelham, New York. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: ‘Ask him to demonstrate how he does long division or to read his book report out loud,’ says Martucci. ‘Every time your child gets a chance to show off what he knows, it builds confidence.’” Good Housekeeping, Hearst Publications
“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey
Pulling together my first thoughts this morning as I unravel the essential Bird Pedagogy, experience of the learners is a key starting point as I discussed yesterday to a degree. Building on that as the learner progresses trying to find ways that truly show how the learner is developing rather than static limited tests and grades. I like the idea of Rogers about how grades and tests are end points and should be simply points along the line rephrasing a bit as I go. Education is more of a continuum than a finished product. It is sad that so many want to have education be a period at some point. Even as I accumulate degrees I find I am learning constantly not focusing on that end point but where do I go from there. Always thinking back to Steven Tyler’s words of “Life is about the Journey”.
“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” John Dewey
As I was driving to school this morning a smiling moon was sitting over me or more so to the left of me as I drove down the highway. I started thinking about what I was going to write today as a continuation of my effort yesterday. My thoughts took me back to a question on my Doctorate Comprehensive exams offered to me by one of my professors and then how I responded. Out of John Dewey came two streams of thought although intertwined. Experiential constructivist thinking and Art or aesthetic based learning. I answered or should say started to answer using Aldus Huxley who had published a book in 1932, Content and Pretexts.
“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley, Content and Pretexts
As I read this simple line by Huxley I could not help but go back to my readings on John Dewey and his direct influence on educators and education past, present and future. Dewey saw education as the basis for society.
“I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This process begins unconsciously almost at birth and is continuing shaping the individuals powers saturating his consciousness forming his habits training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions.” John Dewey Pedagogic Creed
In my classroom I try and tie to contextual aspects of which we are the content oriented material that students are being taught. An example would be the word taxonomy that came up a few days ago with a young man in his biology class. He had no clue what this word meant and by some prompting he made a comparison of sheep and goats, his family raises goats he learned about taxonomy. He could show differences and similarities which is how we classify living organisms, or do taxonomy in terms of biology. Going back many years to listening to my father explain tying a square knot you learn best when you actually do it rather than simply hear it explained.
As I explore my own pedagogy I am drawn back to my earliest college and work in psychology. Dr. Abram Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs that I have used over the years many times showing an idea of how people relate and understand in this world of ours. Maslow started with five needs and over the years added some additional clarification.
“Maslow’s five needs
Physiological needs are to do with the maintenance of the human body. If we are unwell, then little else matters until we recover. Safety needs are about putting a roof over our heads and keeping us from harm. If we are rich, strong and powerful, or have good friends, we can make ourselves safe. Belonging needs introduce our tribal nature. If we are helpful and kind to others they will want us as friends. Esteem needs are for a higher position within a group. If people respect us, we have greater power. Self-actualization needs are to ‘become what we are capable of becoming’, which would our greatest achievement. Maslow added over the years three more needs. These are the needs that are most commonly discussed and used. In fact Maslow later added three more needs by splitting two of the above five needs. Between esteem and self-actualization two needs were added. Need to know and understand, which explains the cognitive need of the academic. Also added was the need for aesthetic beauty, which is the emotional need of the artist. Self-actualization was divided into, self-actualization, which is realizing one’s own potential, as above and transcendence, which is helping others to achieve their potential.” Maslow and Lowery, 1998
As I move towards a defining point in my essential Bird Pedagogy bits and pieces of Rogers and Dewey along with Foxfire are intertwined with Maslow’s ideas. We need and seek socialization we are a social animal. We seek recognition and want to be secure in our lives. Maslow in adding cognitive which Rogers uses and aesthetic which Rogers alludes to and Dewey as well as Elliot Eisner build’s on. Each day as I sit pondering reflecting on what is my pedagogy my ideas seem to flow a little more freely. I do believe pedagogy is an individual entity and has fluidity to it. There is not an end point or limit or rather there should not be since we need to be ongoing learners and thinkers. Perhaps I will as the week progresses resolve my own ideas and be a bit more definitive in what my personal pedagogy truly is but for today please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.