Education Foundations Learning Journal 1

Scenario: Wayne(1)

Wayne teaches at an inner city public high school. While he is really excited about his new job close to the inner city suburb where he lives and went to university, he’s finding that not all the students share his enthusiasm for learning. Wayne really enjoys the subject matter of his senior classes and spends a large proportion of his planning time ensuring he has the depth of content covered. However he is finding that his class is falling into two groups. In one a group a number of apparently highly motivated students are intellectually pushing him. Another group seems to consist of students who don’t really want be there. Both groups are causing Wayne concern as it appears that the ‘motivated’ group don’t engage at a deep level and instead want to know the ‘correct’ answers, while the ‘less motivated’ group are difficult for him to engage.

In finding himself in an inner-city school, Wayne is faced with a school population of changing demographics. Traditionally working class suburbs in the inner city are quickly becoming gentrified as white-collar, university educated workers move to the area to take advantage of short commutes and desirable heritage homes. Within Wayne’s school there are now students and families with differing histories and philosophies of education.

Historically, educating the working classes served two purposes: to create a literate and numerate workforce, and to instill values and habits useful to the governing majority, such as punctuality and obedience (Churchill, 2001, p. 37). However, society has changed greatly over recent years, with the focus no longer on manufacturing of material goods, but on ideas and communications (Megan Poore, 2011). The level of education required to get a ‘good’ job has increased and parent’s expectations of their children have increased. The ‘motivated’ group in the above scenario could be those students of working class parents, who view education as a vehicle to a job. They do not view education as an opportunity for personal growth or societal change, but instead want to know ‘the right answers’ to pass exams and standardised tests in order to reach university and then a job.

The second group of students could come from the recent residents of the area. More affluent and with a family history of participation in tertiary education, these students have developed a different philosophy of education. They may expect to have control over their education, and also demand the ability to choose materials and topics that are relevant to their lives. Confronted by a curriculum lacking in relevance and choice, these students may be disengaging from the learning process.

So where does this place Wayne? Wayne is passionate about his subject and has spent many hours planning lessons. However Wayne’s lessons reflect his depth of knowledge and his passion. Learning is chosen by the teacher and focussed on the subject , not the student, an essentialist philosophy of education (Kaplan & Owings, 2011, p. 169). This raises the provocations Will I be allowed to be the teacher I want to be? and Should we teach students or subjects?

In this scenario Wayne is teaching a subject, not his students. By more deeply reflecting on his teaching, he may discover that he has been engaged in ‘practice as usual’, or acting out of routine and taking for granted information about his students, such as the relevance of the curriculum to their lives (Churchill, 2011, p. 34). Wayne is presuming that the students are entering the classroom with the same values, philosophies and needs as he has. However as has been shown, the students in Wayne’s class come from different backgrounds and have different aims in their education. Wayne’s preference for teaching subject over student is failing to engage students, and so he is not able to be the kind of teacher he wants to be. Wayne could benefit from examining the educational philosophies and theories of progressivism, which places emphasis on making learning and teaching student-centric as well as relevant (Kaplan & Owings, 2011, p. 175). By involving students in inquiry based learning, students will engage in learning more deeply (Kaplan & Owings, 2011, p. 176).

Churchill, R. et al. (2011). Teaching: making a difference. Australia: John Wiley & Sons.

Kaplan, L.S. & Owings, W.A. (2011). American Education: building a common foundation. California, USA: Wadsworth Publishing

Poore, M. (2011) Unit 6705 ELPC G1 Lecture Module B: ICT in Teaching and Learning [Lecture Slides]. Retrieved from http://ucangraddip.wikispaces.com/ELPC+G1+Module+B

 

 

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5 Responses to Education Foundations Learning Journal 1

  1. Phil says:

    Bree, what a great beginning. Exactly the sort of thing I’m after. You have referred to the historical changes well. In addition you may want to consider what each group wants to get out of education from a philosophical perspective, and what Wayne’s ‘purpose’ seems to be.

  2. Pingback: Chris Sturgis, iNACOL: Defining Student-Centric Learning « Douglas Crets

  3. SciKath says:

    Your thoughts on Wayne’s scenario are very interesting. The distinction between the motivated students (wanting working class and looking for social advancement) and the non-motivated students (academically inclined, but probably bored) is quite different to other opinions that I have been reading. The non-motivated group in particular, I have been finding myself asking – what if they are just bored with the subject?

    The point you make about “Wayne’s lessons reflect his depth of knowledge and his passion” is true of many of us that get caught up in our own subjects and interests that we forget that the students are not likely to be interested in the subject material for its own sake.

    While the progressivist approach is good, I think that Wayne needs to adopt a more constructivist approach. He needs to recognise the “prior experiences and understandings” (Churchill, p11) of his students and use this to enhance the relevance of his subject area to all of his students.

  4. Pingback: Responses to Teaching Scenarios [EdFounds Comments Post 1] « didascalic

  5. I find that Wayne has stumbled upon a common conundrum that we will face as teachers. The way he has split his class into two distinct groups (the bored and the over achievers wanting little more than the right answers) makes me think that he is labelling them to help him work out the right techniques for each group as opposed to the whole class. We will definitely categorise our own students but in actual fact I find it unlikely that these groups will be so distinct. While one group may be bored when learning about X, changing the topic (within the subject of the unit) may have an effect that shifts members between the groups. I believe Wayne does need a more progressivist approach whereby the students, within reason, tell him what/how they want to be taught. What he needs to do is talk to his students about these attitudes (as they are a senior class they should know his feelings about them just trying to get the right answers) and maybe he can start using group work theories to bring these two “distinct” groups together to change his mind about the labels he has placed on the students. This as you said would change his attitudes from teaching the subject to teaching the student, or more appropriately student’s’.

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