My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

Bird Droppings March 29, 2022
My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

“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 reading several essays by Carl Rogers made for an exciting start to my morning just after picking up stuffed animals and fun stuff from a couple of days with grandkids. In our world of No Child Left Behind and whatever other acronym the federal government and state education departments throw out, teaching Special Education for me, I see the ones that tend to get left behind. As I read this thought from Rodgers, 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 have done much in my resource room while in that resource setting.

I thought this morning would not be some portfolio or culminating or an ongoing project that indicates mastery or development of learning better than a multiple-choice test done with a number two pencil on a scantron answer sheet. Of course, we might have a few explosions in chemistry if learners were not listening along the way. In my understanding of the Dewey-based Foxfire program, Core Practice eight developed into the Foxfire magazine for Elliot Wiggington’s students at Rabun Nantahochee School in 1966. I find it fascinating how often great teachers follow parallel routes, albeit with different wording, 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 read his book report aloud,’ 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, previous or past experiences of the learners is a crucial starting point, as I discussed yesterday to a degree. Building on that as the learner progresses, trying to find ways to 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 endpoints and should be simply points along the line, rephrasing a bit as I go. Education is more of a continuum than a finished product. Sadly, so many want to have education be a period. Even as I accumulate degrees, I am constantly learning, not focusing on that end point but on where I go from there.

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” John Dewey

“The potential choice of a man at any time, therefore, represents all the final choices of his past life. Each link in the chain of violations, from the present back to his first exercise of choice, has involved these elements.” Dr. James Mark Baldwin, Professor University of Toronto, Handbook of Psychology, 1894

I am sitting in my writing nook at home this morning on a quiet day, visitors have headed home, and I can my time pondering with spring break ahead. As I think ahead of this week of driving back up to visit Foxfire, I hope to see some spring in the mountains. I started thinking about what I was going to write today to continue my previous efforts. 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 intertwined streams of thought: experiential, constructivist thinking, and/or art and aesthetic-based learning. I answered or should say started to answer yesterday 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 where we are in the content-oriented material that students are being taught. An example would be the word taxonomy that came up the last semester in our biology class. Most students had no clue what this word meant, and by some prompting, we compared sheep and goats; one of the student’s families raises goats, and we learned about taxonomy. We could show differences and similarities, which is how we classify living organisms or do taxonomy in terms of biology. One of my favorite examples of context and content is going back many years to listening to my father explain tying a square knot; you learn best when you do it rather than hear it explained.

As I explore my 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 many times over the years, showing an idea of how people relate and understand in this world of ours. Maslow started with five needs and added some additional clarification over the years.

“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 be our most outstanding 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, and Foxfire are intertwined with Maslow’s ideas. We need and seek socialization, and we are social animals. We seek recognition and want to be secure in our lives. Maslow adds cognitive, which Rogers uses, and aesthetic, which Rogers alludes to, and Dewey and Elliot Eisner build on this. Each day as I sit pondering, reflecting on my pedagogy, my ideas seem to flow a little more freely. I believe pedagogy is an individual entity and has fluidity to it. There is no endpoint or limit, or there should not be since we need to be ongoing learners and thinkers. Perhaps I will, as the week progresses, resolve my ideas and be a bit more definitive in my pedagogy, but for today, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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