(Infographic) Is My Language Classroom Student, Community, Knowledge or Assessment-Centered?
Definition of Learning
My first definition of learning focused on the application of knowledge to our realities. I asked if the filing away of information truly constituted learning or whether it occurs only when applied directly to life. Schunk’s threefold definition of learning helped me make my definition more comprehensive. “Learning involves change. Learning endures over time. Learning occurs through experience” (Schunk, 2000, p.4).
With my aversion to the traditional ideas that learning can only be measured by memorization and formal assessments, I did not fully take into account that “learning must endure.” Creating my portfolio visual for this week helped me realize that learning includes prioritizing: memorizing the essential, retaining the useful, and knowing where to turn when other information is needed. (One of the many reasons standardized tests have little value; what information is essential, useful, or trivial varies by student.)
Learning comes most readily, not only through experience, but when students are “saturate[d] with the spirit of service” and use what they learn to enact positive change (Dewey, 1899). Research shows that “when students actually teach the content of a lesson, they develop a deeper and longer-lasting understanding of the material than students who do not teach it” (Stock, 2019).
My teaching philosophy approximates students-centered, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered, and community-centered learning environments in the following ways:
My first priority is to create a safe learning environment for my students where they can learn in ways conducive to their neurodiversity, try and make mistakes, and thus navigate minimal mental and emotional barriers. (Afterall, who can learn when one is in fight, flight, or freeze mode?)
My curriculum is flexible enough to embrace different learning methods, students’ interests and hobbies, and can be applied to all of my students’ varying backgrounds.
Vital skills, such as writing, reading, and presenting, are learned through the students’ passions and enthusiasms.
New information and ideas are introduced in fun and experiential ways, not demotivating and mind-numbing homework assignments.
My students’ relationship with knowledge deepens when they use it to help others. They walk out of class each day, excited to take part in positive change.
Connecting students with mentors who are leaders in the community or in their respective industries bridges the vast gap between school and community.
I measure learning in a variety of non-formal ways: a student’s enthusiasm to explore beyond an assignment, their application of the curriculum to their own lives, and their desire to do good in their spheres of influence.
When more formal measures are needed, I use project-based assessments as “authentic measures of assessment” (Armstrong, 2018, p.129). Inherently inclusive, students from a variety of backgrounds and learning preferences are able to excel. These assessments do not compare students to others or to an abstract set of standards, but recognize any and all effort and progress (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000, p.24).
Examples to Justify
In my effort to provide a more balanced learning environment to my students, two examples stand above the rest.
First, to combat the finality of the high stakes exams held at BYU, Jae Ballif allowed his students to retake modified exams if they were unsatisfied with their test scores. As long as they were willing to study hard and try again, he nurtured their grit and resilience. Ballif “wanted to be on the same side as the students” without lowering his standards. His students felt safe enough in his courses “to keep trying - to consider failure as a tutor, not as a tragedy…” (Robbins, 2018). He created a student-centered environment and made his assessments more formative to “provide students with opportunities to revise and improve their thinking” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p.25).
Second, my middle school band teacher Mr. Sprague knew that in a small town like ours very few students would go on to become professional musicians. Instead of wasting time on music theory, he taught only what was essential for us to play our instruments as soon as possible. Fun songs like “Born to be Wild” and “Twist and Shout” allowed us to create positive relationships with what we were learning. His student-centered curriculum let go of the traditional methods for teaching music, the “acquisition of pre-determined skills,” to focus on nurturing a life-long love for music (Talebi, 2015). As a result, a high number of us small-town kids went on to become proficient or professional musicians.
Armstrong, T. (2018). Multiple intelligences in the classroom (4th ed.). ASCD.
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. National Academy Press. https://www.nap.edu/download/9853
Dewey, J. (1899). The School and Society. The University of Chicago Press. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/53910/53910-h/53910-h.htm
Robbins, Lynn G. (2018, April). Until Seventy Times Seven. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/until-seventy-times-seven?lang=eng
Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: an educational perspective (6th ed.). Pearson. https://www.researchgate.net/file.PostFileLoader.html?id=53ad2847cf57d75c068b45c5&assetKey=AS%3A273549456019456%401442230680395
Stock, E. 2019, January 24. Want Students to Remember What They Learn? Have Them Teach It. EdSurge. www.edsurge.com/news/2019-01-24-want-students-to-remember-what-they-learn-have-them-teach-it
Talebi, K. (2015). John Dewey - Philosopher and Educational Reformer. European Journal of Education Studies, 1(1). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED564712.pdf