Education in Motion

Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an an object at rest will remain at rest unless an external force, which results to an imbalance in the forces, will cause the object move. An object in motion will stay in motion, in the same velocity, unless an external force causes it to stop. 

 The sciences almost has it easier than philosophers. Scientists can rest easy at night knowing that there is a certain exactness to their definitions, measurements, and theories. If there is a problem, they can define its parameters and test plausible solutions based on logical analysis.  On the other hand, philosophers deal with questions that have multiple answers, or in some cases, no answers. Whether ideas are right or wrong is based on logical proof that people discuss centuries later. Educational philosophers, however, have the worst of it all. They attempt to provide answers to impossible questions (ex. What is the aim of education?) that will directly and indirectly affect humanity. 

 Because these questions require convoluted answers which are not provable by logic or experiments, it can cause someone to stay at rest. After all, what is the point of trying to answer a question if there is no certainty of a correct answer? Yet, natural selection tells humanity that those who try and learn survive. Those who remain ignorant and still perish. As a result, people try to listen and learn from teachers. But what should we know? Why should we know? How should we know? 

 
To answer these impossible questions, philosophers–those who know–provide humanity with ideas. These theories or ideas represent the ideal based on the philosopher’s reflections about life. For example, Maritain (1943) writes about man being man, with man defined based on his thoughts and experiences. Meanwhile, Levy (1996) writes about finding the genius in each child and building a good learning environment around that. 
 

Newton’s second law of motion states that acceleration is produced when an external force acts on a mass. 

 Because these ideas have worked in a context, people study it, internalize it, and analyze how it can be applied to other environments. In other words, movement occurs. How fast this is accomplished is determined by [1] how well it was proved to work in a context; and [2] how logically sound it is. If a translator has both, then funds are easier to obtain, which contributes to an idea’s status and reputation.  

 
As a result, translators ready the idea’s application through real implementations of an idea to the extreme.  Schools of thought are built, followed by actual schools. Students and faculties of schools of education study and analyze it. Aims, methods, and assessments are concretized into curriculums, environments, and into the student themselves. Research, experiments, reflections, and analyses also contribute to the knowledge of whether or not an idea works. Assessments and quantifiable measures show school and government officials where the students are compared to state and national standards. The more an idea works, the more people invest time, money, and resources on it.

However, soon, translators, educational philosophers, students, and teachers realize that there are errors to this application. Reasons for this include [1] the impurity of the translator’s interpretation of the aim; [2] differences in context; and [3] the extreme magnitude in which the idea was applied. 

 Apparently, there is a large gap between theories that work logically and its application in real life. Extremes simply do not work. The reason is because nature tells humanity it cannot work. If nature cannot survive extreme and harsh conditions, what makes humans think that they can survive extremes? If what is proper for nature is “just right” (like the temperature of earth compared to other planets), then what is appropriate for man (who is part of that nature) cannot be an extreme. 

 

To complicate things further, the questions that educational philosophers are trying to answer are directly related to man and life–things that humans cannot seem to define. Life is too complicated to simplify into mere variables (but philosophers try anyway). As ideas are translated to reality, reality differentiates the contexts and proposed variables based on available resources. People (including translators) are too unpredictable, biased, unique, and imperfect to summarize. 

 

Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal, opposite reaction. 

As a result, people change their minds about an idea. Funds and prestige are moved to support another (often opposing) idea. Other times, people consider a radically different aim; or translate the original aim into something alike, but not exactly the same. This swing in aims, translation, and application describes how people react to the effectivity and affectivity of an idea. 

Whether or not this change works is a risk that humans, translators, and educational philosophers have to take. The reason is because movement is crucial for improvement. If schools and governments are too afraid to make mistakes and become stagnant, humanity cannot grow. After all, doing the wrong thing can sometimes lead to the right thing, just as Thomas Edison’s lightbulb knowledge base included one way of making it, and hundreds of ways of making the wrong one. 

As long as education is moving somewhere, even if the goal is unclear, there is hope that the movement can bring us to the right thing–to the mean between extremes (Aristotle, 1925); or something better than the mean (Dewey, 1916). This hope of finding what is right is the reason why educational philosophers keep on trying to define humanity even if it is impossible. It is also the reason why people need to keep on learning and reflecting. 

As long as people are coming up with new ideas, curriculum and teaching, aims, and methods will always evolve. Modifications will always be made to better define humanity, to learn from past mistakes, and to improve teaching. Though educational philosophers sleep at night not having exact definitions and measurements, the fact is, education is moving. As long as this is happening, as long as we are making mistakes and coming up with better ideas, the field of education will be all right.

Image 

References

Aristotle. (1925). Nicomachean ethics (D. Ross, trans.; pp.3-4, 24-27, 137-158, 269-276).

Dewey, J. (1916). Thinking in education. In Democracy and education (pp.152-163). New York: Free Press.

Levy, S. (1996). Starting from scratch: One classroom builds its own curriculum (pp.xi-39). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Maritain, J. (1943). Education at the crossroads (pp.1-4, 7-14, 29-38). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

 

 
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Similarities in Child Development and Teacher Education

Developmental psychologists have been studying the complexities of how humans learn from birth to adulthood. Research has repeatedly shown that children learn about the world through exposure and experience that adjusts their zone of proximal development. By relating new knowledge to past experiences, children naturally learn by accommodating new information to their schemas or mental frameworks.

It was then very surprising that current research show the same findings. After all, children and adults belong to the same species. Should the process of a child learning something new be so different from a novice teacher learning how to teach? Teachers know that teaching students effectively involves the investigation and analysis of variables that affect student learning. They look at factors such as temperament, attachments, family relationships, socioeconomic status, culture, and community to be able to form relationships that support learning. If we are given all these information about learning, why is it so difficult to teach teachers?

If novice teachers were thought of as students, the learning process should be similar. In their articles, Darling-Hammond (2010) and Huling-Austin (1992) provide recommendations for mentoring programs. Common themes between both articles imply that novice teachers need [1] experiences or opportunities to learn; [2] good mentors; [3] good teacher education; and [4] professional development.

Therefore, just as parents do not expect their children to immediately warm up to a new environment, teachers cannot be expected to immediately adapt to school cultures, accept new responsibilities, and face independence. This applies not only to novice teachers but to everyone who has to work for the first time. As soon as someone works, the psychology of being responsible for himself or herself competes with the requirements of the job or profession. As Huling-Austin (1992) writes, “beginning teachers should not be given multiple assignments because of the stress such assignments are likely to induce” (p. 173).

What would help novice teachers lessen the stress is the actual teaching experience. More than theorists and principles, feedback from mentors and experience in the field are what novice teachers will remember. Hence, exposure plays an integral role because it prepares novice teachers to learn. It enables them to observe and model after an expert teacher, and experiment on theories that were known only through textbooks and stories given by professors.

Just as goodness of fit and temperament is considered for establishing parent and child attachments, it would likewise be beneficial for the student if the mentor and the student are compatible. After all, good relationships provide a stable environment for learning.

Nevertheless, despite what we know about learning, I do not think there is just one correct way of training teachers. If we can acknowledge the individuality of each child, should we not also acknowledge the genius of each adult? Every year, freshmen enter the doors of schools of education with different identities, personalities, talents, and abilities. Can one curriculum truly answer to such diversity? Building a solid curriculum based on what we know about learning does not necessarily guarantee good teachers. This might be because some things cannot be taught, such as values; or, that sometimes, we learn best through mistakes.

The main difference, however, between parenting and mentoring is that parents are present for most of the child’s life. Mentors, on the other hand, are present only in the short-term. There will come a point in a novice teacher’s career when he or she has to learn independently. It is precisely that reflective learning that mentors and schools of education should impose on their students.

When children are born, parents strive to expose them to experiences. As they grow, schemas and mental frameworks form that constantly adjust their zone of proximal development. There are many theories about child development that can be utilized in the curriculum for aspiring and novice teachers simply because [1] we are from the same species; hence, the way adults and children learn should be similar; [2] mentors function like parents; and [3] exposure precedes learning.

References

Darling-Hammong, L. (2010). The flat world and education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. Columbia University: Teachers College Press.

Huling-Austin, L. (1992). Research on learning to teach: Implications for teacher induction and mentoring programs. Journal of Teacher Education, 43, 173-180.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

“Education is n…

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment