Albert Einstein once said that “the supreme art of the teacher is to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” a quote that I heard years ago and is still with me today. As I begin to form my instructional practices, I am finding that awakening joy in students can be both very challenging and also very rewarding. As a future elementary teacher, it is especially important that I foster a comfortable and encouraging classroom that is connected to communities within and without the classroom. HOPE standard H3 deals with this, stating that teacher candidates “honor the classroom and school community as a milieu for learning”. Part of this standard is ensuring students have the knowledge and skills for working with others. In a world of such rapid change, students need to have the skills to gather as much information as possible, sort through it, and make inferences with others who share the same goal. During this quarter, we discussed several strategy families that might influence my teaching. I believe that the social family of models of teaching as described in Models of Teaching (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015) will help me formulate a teaching style that encourages citizenship and values as well as learning to work together in groups. Social learning can foster student wellbeing as well as academic achievement, two concepts that are linked in the classroom despite seeming to be individual.”Social learning can enhance academic learning” (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015) and also create an environment conducive to productivity, engagement in the lesson, motivation, positive attitudes toward school, and positive interactions with peers (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone, 2012). Forming this environment will help me to bring joy into learning, and involve all students in a positive learning experience that will serve them throughout their lives.
Social knowledge can be constructed through the use of cooperative learning and group investigation in the classroom. By allowing students to work together on lessons and projects, I will be able to introduce important concepts such as citizenship and collaboration. There is a real need for graduating students to understand the fundamentals of both of these concepts, which we should be laying the foundations for at an early age. Students need to be able to coexist and collaborate with others to succeed both in school and in the world once they have graduated, and have the skills for working in a global society. In our current system, students are reduced to a number, and it becomes difficult to educate them in a way that will be beneficial to both themselves and society. We aren’t preparing students to take an input and produce an output. In the modern industry, “we assess our workforce on knowledge, skills, and dispositions. We test them on outcomes. We assess them on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and their ability to creatively solve problems” (Turnipseed, 2015), and I believe using the cooperative learning model will help me to teach all of these things. In order to employ this strategy and offer students an opportunity to interact with the content at a deeper level, it will require careful planning and preparation. I will not simply be able to ask students to “work together on this project”, as I have seen many teachers do. Instead, I will need to “establish a classroom culture that supports cooperative learning by being clear with students about the norms and parameters within which cooperative learning will take place” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone, 2012). In other words, provide opportunities for various roles that each partner may take, teach students the process for working in groups, and provide feedback on students’ social skills. By using cooperative learning, I can “lay the foundation for student success in a world that depends on collaboration and cooperation” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone, 2012). Major corporations want creative problem solvers who can come up with innovative, new solutions to issues, and they want them to be able to work as a team to do so (Turnipseed, 2015). John Dewey was one of the first thinkers to propose the idea of “group investigation” in a classroom (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015). In this model, students are “organized into problem-solving groups that attack academic problems and are taught democratic procedures and scientific methods of inquiry as they proceed” (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015). His ideas gave birth to the democratic method, in which groups of students develop a democratic social system, utilize the scientific method in scientific investigation, “use inquiry to solve a social or interpersonal problem”, and work through experience-based learning problems (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015). Though there is much criticism and fear that this method is not as quick to teach students academically, I don’t believe it should be discounted. When I am teaching elementary students, I consider it a part of my job to prepare students to become participating members of society in a way that is more interesting to them.
Despite being in a classroom of twenty to thirty students, often children spend their school hours working on assignments independently. I do believe that independent work has its place in the classroom. However, I also believe that having students consistently working on their own can make certain aspects of my job more difficult. Personalizing education to meet the needs of each individual student can be more challenging when every student is working on their own. But “cooperative learning structures provide students with opportunities to be a viable part of a collaborative group, where they must work together with roles and deadlines as well as personalities and preferences” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone, 2012). By working together, they can divide up roles to suit the skills and abilities of one another. In Classroom Instruction that Works, Dean et al. (2012) describe a classroom where the teacher, Mr. Washington, engages his students in a discussion about the American Revolution and the events leading up to it. He gives students three roles to choose from; note taking, recording questions, and the reader. This gives each student in the group the opportunity to choose which role suits them best, and also lets students process their learning better as they discuss answers and notes, reflect upon their new knowledge, and listen to their peers (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone, 2012). They are also using principles of democracy to work with each other to problem-solve or think critically about their responses. I like this example in particular because it demonstrates clearly the effectiveness of such a method, and it is also a fairly simple one to employ. In my future classroom, I believe it will be beneficial for my students to transform some boring reading and note taking activities into a creative and interesting discussion among peers. Not only will they enjoy the activity more, but they will also be doing some deeper information processing and learning that will influence both wellbeing and academic success.
To reference John Dewey (1897) once again, he believed that “the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself.” I disagree that this is the only true education, however Dewey makes an important point; when students are working in social situations, they are forced to “emerge from [their] original narrowness of action and feeling,” and realize that they belong to a group and so must act to benefit everyone (Dewey, 1897). Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone (2012) call this a “sink-or-swim-together” attitude, or positive interdependence. They develop this attitude, along with increased academic engagement and self-esteem, greater achievement, more motivation in class, and positive social attitudes, by talking through class material together and processing what they learn as a group (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone, 2012). As an elementary teacher, this will be especially important as I form my own teaching practices, as I will be laying the foundation for lifelong learning and collaborating. My teaching should include using the classroom as a set of communities which can work amongst themselves and each other. They should also be able to reach outside their classroom to other communities within the school and the district; with the right resources, it is possible for students to collaborate with schools around the world, giving them the basis for which to form their global citizenship. When students engage with one another, they “build [their] own insight into what’s being discussed. Someone else’s understanding complements [theirs], and together [they] start to weave an informed interpretation” (Conner, 2010). I want students in my classroom to have as many opportunities to engage with one another and feel comfortable in doing so. To do this, I will need to foster a warm, welcoming environment with explicit instruction and much practice in working cooperatively.
For my students to “successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges, and a globally competitive workforce” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2015), I will need to align my classroom environment with communication, collaboration, and citizenship. As in HOPE standard H3, it will be important for me to implement classroom and school centered instruction, including connecting instruction to communities in and out of the classroom. I hope to introduce my students to cooperative learning early on, to help develop them into “ideal citizens who could live in and enhance their society, who could fulfill themselves in and through it, and who could even be able to help create and revise it” (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015). There is much research and support for cooperative and group learning. Albert Bandura’s (1971) social learning theory describes people learning from one another through modeling, imitation, and observation. Sir Ken Robinson (2010), social activist for creativity in schools argued that “the future for [innovation and creativity] is in a greater degree of dialogue and conversation. Collaboration isn’t just an idea for conference. It’s a key operating principle for the next phase of development in the 21st century.” As a teacher, I can choose to train my students to produce a given output, or I can choose to provide them with the tools they will need to become active, supportive members of a global community. I believe that by choosing the latter, I will not only be setting the foundation for a lifetime of collaboration and learning, I will also be providing an environment where students can find a joy in learning that stays with them throughout their lives. Albert Einstein was also known to have said that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learned in school.” While students may forget that the Civil War started in 1861, or the exact variables for the quadratic formula, they will remember how they learned and how they found answers. They will know that by working collaboratively, they can form deeper understanding of knowledge, and they will have the skills they need to be able to work in a team. By teaching students collaboratively, I believe I will be helping to produce the imaginative and global citizens of the future.
Bandura, A. (1971). Social learning theory. New York, NY: General Learning Press.
Connor, M. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. The School Journal. Retrieved from https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1025157-dt-content-rid-2034500_1/courses/EDU6526_27922201452/SIS%20Session%205%20Reading%20%28Dewey%29.pdf
Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills Organization. (2015). Communication and collaboration. Retrieved from: http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework/261
Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: Learning to be creative. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Capstone.
Turnipseed, S. (2015 March 2). A student’s creativity is everyone’s business. P21 Blog (2)3, 1. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/news-events/p21blog/1605-a-students-creativity-is-everyones-business