“What lessons do we want for our children? What are we teaching? What world will we create by the education we provide?”. Mara Sapon-Shevin (2007) poses these questions in her book “Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classrooms” which help guide my educational teaching philosophy. I teach, because I believe children have the capacity to change the world for the better. I believe fostering, nurturing and supporting learners in childhood will ultimately impact the world in a positive ripple effect. Learners who are guided in critical thinking, creativity and empathy can make informed choices, question and take action when they see injustices and innovate better ways of doing to help others. Thus, I strive to support the following holistic pedagogical methods within my classroom:
Supporting a child’s individual curiosity is key to creating engaging and meaningful experiences. Stager & Martinez (2013) pose this question regarding what qualifies as a good project: “Who does the project satisfy?” and contend “Great projects benefit the learner more than the teacher” (p. 60). In a recent synthesis of studies K-12 science studies, Minner, Levy & Century (2010) found a clear and positive trend supporting inquiry-based instructional practices and strategies which support active thinking and drawing conclusions from data. Please see an example of integrating Inquiry within my classroom here.
Design Thinking for Innovation. If I dig down to my ultimate belief of the purpose of education, Education is to help support learners who can make critically informed decisions for themselves and their community. I also feel learners need opportunities be able to apply their gained knowledge. New and better and ways of doing are possible and you can make them happen if you choose to try. I hope that by attending to the whole child, through the creation of inclusion in all aspects of learning, I see the formation of a safe environment where children learn to accept everyone, and better yet, have a desire to help others and to appreciate we are all interconnected. When we are able to take this empathetic stance, we can join together to make the world a better place through innovation. Please see examples of Design Thinking used as a tool within my classroom here.
The Arts as a tool for learning & expression. I believe the Arts…
- Foster a sense of interconnectedness with others. Art is often created for “an audience”. Thus fostering, what Wolf (1998) calls an exchange & response. Art can often open dialogue between peers, community and home which increases a sharing of perspectives (Greene, 2003; Jensen, 2003; Glass, Meyer & Rose, 2013).
- Helps a learner create a “product” representing the conceptual structure of knowledge (Alberta Regional Consortia, 2014; Jensen, 2003) as part of UDL and DI learning strategies.
- Encourages imagination & exploration of ideas through materials (play & purpose).
- Fosters cross-curricular integration if a learner has access to multiple means of representing their ideas (CAST, 2014) in any subject and fosters increased understanding in other domains (Fiske, 1999). For example, a learner can create a painting to express their feelings and ideas regarding studying the Holocaust in Social Studies (Wolf, 2008).
- Promotes learner choice (Mason, Steedly & Thorman, 2008; Wolf, 2008). “There are not so many “right” answers as there are multiple, effective, powerful, or stunning ones. Think of all the ways there are to create a portrait […] But to realize a powerful solution or new version means making choices about what to say and how to say it.” (Wolf, 2008, p.7).
- Inspires a democratic learning environment where students are active participants in personal expression, choice and voice (Mason, Steedly & Thorman, 2008).
My other thoughts on Education:
During year one of my Master of Education program, I collaborated with three educators to develop a research based Grade 4 cross-curricular unit shown here on this group created website: Grade 4 Learning through STEAM
Video Clip of “Rocky Talks” Visual Arts Community of Practice
Alberta Regional Consortia. (n.d). Visual Thinking Tools. Learning Technologies: Information for Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.learningtechnologiesab.com/learn-more4.html
Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST). (2013). What is Universal Design for Learning? About UDL. Wakefield, MA. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html
Fiske, E. B. (1999). Champions of change: The impact of the arts on learning. Retrieved from http://artsedge.kennedycenter.org/champions/pdfs/ChampsReport.pdf
Glass, Don & Meyer, Anne & Rose, David H. (2013). Universal Design for Learning and the Arts. Harvard Educational Review, 83(1), 98-120.
Greene, Maxine. (1995). Chapter 2: Imagination, Breakthroughs, and the Unexpected. Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change (pp. 17-31). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Jensen, Eric. (2003). Chapter 3: Visual Arts. Arts with the brain in mind (pp. 49-70). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Mason, C. Y., Steedly, K. M., & Thormann, M. S. (2008). Impact of arts integration on voice, choice, and access. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 31(1), 36-46.
Minner, D. D., Levy, A. J., & Century, J. (2010). Inquiry‐based science instruction—what is it and does it matter? Results from a research synthesis years 1984 to 2002. Journal of research in science teaching, 47(4), 474-496.
Sapon-Shevin, M. (2007). Widening the circle: The power of inclusive classrooms. Beacon Press.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann & McTighe, Jay. (2006). Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.
Wolf, Dennie Palmer. (2008). Building and Evaluating “Freedom Machines”: When Is Arts Education a Setting for Equitable Learning? The Contours of Inclusion: Frameworks and Tools for Evaluating Arts in Education (pp. 4-15). Washington, DC: VSA Arts. Retrieved from http://www.kennedycenter.org/education/vsa/resources/VSA_evaluation_pub.pdf