Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Archive for the category “ED 210-2013”

Standardized Testing

A Standardized test is a test that is given in a consistent or “standard” manner. They are designed to have consistent questions, in addition to administration and scoring procedures. As well, when a standardized test is administered, it is done according to certain rules and stipulations so that testing conditions are the same for all students:  governed under controlled conditions that specify where, when, how, and for how long students respond to the questions. These tests range from standardized interviews, questionnaires, or direct intelligence tests. The main goal of standardized tests is to provide some type of standard score, which can help the teacher interpret where a student is at in relation to the average.

In my opinion, standardized tests totally undermine the quality of instruction as teachers feel like they are accountable for raising the bars; thus, as Alfie Kohn puts it, becoming more like drill sergeants than effective facilitators. Teachers feel controlled, ultimately limiting students to “play an active role in making decisions about their own learning.” As a result, the quality of learning is lowered. In addition, standardized tests measure what matters least, so if the scores are publicized there is a new culture created “with public shaming of those with low scores and congratulations of those who take time away from learning to make test scores go up.” On the other hand, meaningful learning, teaching, and assessment become possible when there is no testing.

Teachers feel controlled and pressured, and thus become controlling toward the students. Instead of steering towards a student-centered, inter-disciplinary, and rich curriculum focusing on a project based approach, instruction becomes teacher-centered, disconnected, and separately facilitated with no student input. As a result, many students may feel unsuccessful in their learning or even unsatisfactorily educated; as they have no say or active role in making decisions about their own  learning.

Kohn stated that these tests are implemented by people who do not know anything about learning or how children learn. Thus, teachers should take matters into their own hands by steering away from the goals of standardized testing such that instruction features play, engaged electives, field trips, discussions and critical thinking, all of which enable students to grow and learn in positive and integrative ways.

Chapters 4&5 – Kumashiro Reading

Rewrite our class definition of curriculum [the third slide from the ‘what is curriculum’ powerpoint] so that it better reflects your emerging sense of the idea.

Curriculum is an agreed upon document that can be taught either explicitly or implicitly. These documents include multiple guidelines that are mandated by the Ministry of Education and thus are seen as foundational for teaching.  As well, they are used to provide a framework for what should be taught and therefore what should be learned by students in order to becoming fulfilling and contributing members of contemporary society. However, curriculum also includes the environment and the experiences of students, and therefore, curriculum is shaped by not only what happens within the classroom but the situations outside of the classroom. In curriculum, cultures matters, times matters, and individual thoughts and actions matter. As a result, the curriculum becomes everything and anything that happens within or outside the classroom. Thus, we all contribute to curriculum.

Where is the place for ‘crisis’ and especially ‘learning through crisis’ and troubling knowledge in your definition of curriculum?

I believe the place for ‘crisis’, ‘learning through crisis’ and troubling knowledge in my definition of curriculum is through the process of challenging or questioning knowledge. By bringing in ideas from many different perspectives, both within and outside the classroom, students become encouraged and are able to think critically. They will be able to ask themselves meaningful questions such as, what does curriculum make possible or impossible; which can allow students to become aware of oppression. The more open students and teachers are to the varying opinions and perspectives, the more likely they will see their own opinions and ideas as something other then impartial, which allows for the presence of crisis, learning through crisis and troubling knowledge.

Technology, Social Justice and Anti-Oppressive Education

We live in a world that is constantly changing.  As a result, technology is evolving into a new digital age which ultimately affects schools, curriculum, teachers and students. As well, this change creates a cycle as it also affects how students are interacting, communicating and learning. However, can this or does this contribute to oppressive or anti-oppressive education?

Some people see technology as being hinderances to learning and interaction since it has the potential to interfere with the formation of people skills. On the other hand, some educators promote technology within their classrooms as it can create a more inclusive environment and make things possible for students rather than impossible. However, this needs to be done properly. I see technology as a tool to include all students within a classroom. For instance, those who have certain qualities that limit their abilities to communicate or those students who are shy, introverted and are intimidated to speak within the classroom can be included through the implementation of technology. Those students who are afraid to speak out loud may find comfort in an online space. This was exemplified in the technology that was used in the lecture, as students could anonymously state their opinions on the google doc without being disregarded for their statements.

Technology enables us to connect and collaborate with many people around the world, and through this collaboration, or online space, we have access to unlimited knowledge about varying subjects, people, and events. For one thing, teachers can take this knowledge and encourage students to challenge it which can contribute to the elimination of barriers and stereotypes , as well as create in-depth discussions. Furthermore, being knowledgeable and aware about the things that are occurring in society and the world make it possible for students to break these assumptions.

With technology comes responsibility. It is important that students learn how to use technology safely and responsibly as it can be used as a tool to ultimately oppress other students. Also, teachers need to teach their students how to accurately find information and examine it as either valid or invalid. In the end, I believe technology should be used in the classroom because 1) as our society changes so does what and how we learn, 2) it has the potential to include all students and make things possible, 3) students can collaborate and make connections, 4) students can challenge the knowledge that is provided, and 5) it can encourage and create a socially-just classroom where everyones opinions can be heard. However, for this to be effective, technology needs to be used appropriately.

Chapter 3 – Kumashiro Reading

The concepts of race, gender, sexual orientation, social hierarchy and ethnical heritage all help to define a person and their identity. Overall, these concepts contribute to how we are all perceived and treated in society.  We do not, however, choose to be a certain culture or race, rather we are born into these situations and most of the time they slip into our subconscious. As a result, I did not include the concept of being a middle-class, White, straight, female because 1) I thought it was not necessary, and 2)  I did not even think about it. At the time , when I was writing my autobiography, I assumed that this journey that I was on was not related to how I looked or who I was, rather it was highly influenced by those around me and my experiences. Therefore, those hidden messages remained hidden and under the surface. Now what does this say about me? To be honest I do not know. With some inclination, however, by not addressing the obvious, for example the colour of my skin etc, this could potentially imply that I do not want to flaunt my race to others, as to make to known that my culture is apparently dominant. On the other hand, addressing the obvious creates productive spaces in which everyone can learn and visibly see the commonalities and differences that contribute to our ‘common sense’. Furthermore, sharing these hidden messages can set people apart, and this separation can be either inclusive or exclusive. Thus, it is important that teachers disclose to their student’s facts that are either necessary or educational, but still include information that can be and should be challenged.

Chapter 2-Kumashiro Reading

Kumashiro explains that being a “good” student requires behaving and thinking in only certain ways that contemporary society sees as acceptable. The general public places values on certain kinds of behaviours, knowledge, and skills in which the schools have to emphasize to guide student’s toward becoming successful and contributing members of society. However, Kumashiro states that if schools do not unfold these values then they are putting their student’s at a disadvantage because the teachers are not educating students on what technically matters in school and society. Educated students were” those who ended the school year with more than they began”; however, it is important that educators realize that these certain ways of thinking can actually lead to and reinforce oppression.

Student’s enter school with knowledge that is formed and shaped by family, media, and lived experiences. This knowledge that they already have usually goes unchallenged because the students feel comfortable with what is repeated in their daily lives. Thus, it is important that teachers take what they already know and not necessarily “correct” it but encourage students to learn through there resistances and desires. Through these challenges students can look beyond the standards of the school, as well as their own knowledge, and examine there problematic nature. As a result, they will not only learn the ‘right’ things, but they will also learn what matters in school and society plus how to critically examine what is being learned, how it is being learned and why. Furthermore, those students who do not challenge their knowledge and only think/behave in certain ways are privileged by society because they are seen as potential candidates who can contribute highly and successfully to society. On the other hand, those who do challenge their own knowledge and question why they are learning certain methods or themes usually get left out or oppressed because they are not doing or learning what is considered ‘right’.

Kumashiro states that when students go through emotional discomfort and disorientation they encounter a crisis. As well, these crisis’s encourage students to make changes in their opinions and knowledge. Furthermore, these students are “on the verge of a shift and require the opportunity to work through their emotions and disorientations.” When students enter a crisis, it is important that teachers create experiences that can help students work through it.  However, it is also important that teachers realize that different students experience crisis differently. As a result, I believe teachers should get to know their students, and rather than gloss over the uncomfortable situations teachers need to explore ways that crisis’s can be helpful in teaching students about oppression. In the end, if students are not experiencing crisis than they are likely not learning ways to challenge their existing knowledge; therefore, teachers, including myself, need to find ways to incorporate learning and teaching about crisis into the classroom.

As of right now I don’t really have any suggestions on how to approach this. If any of you have some ideas please share.

Parts 1 and 2: How Stories Shape our Lives

Part 1:

1. ‘Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual’ pg.43 

The main point that is covered in this story is how difficult it can be to be a new teacher. There will be many challenges along the way and mistakes will happen; however, as long as you learn from the situations and carry on in an optimistic manner then everything will be okay. It is important to never take your eye off your intended goal, and thus it becomes equally important to confront these obstacles early on in your career.

 2. ‘The Brown Kids Can’t be in Our Club’ pg.83

This story is revolved around the subject(s) of race and racism. It discusses how students at a very young age are already coming into the classroom with preconceived ideas about race and stereotypes. Thus, it is important for teachers to confront their own biases first before they can integrate the topic of race and racism positively into lessons and activities.

 3. ‘What Can I do When a Student Makes a Racist or Sexist Remark?’ pg.93

The main point in this short story is how the curriculum is “everything that happens,” as well as how to deal with racist or sexist remarks in the classroom. It is important for teachers to address the issues right away and not to dismiss them. Furthermore, teachers need to be sensitive to those who are affected by the comment, as well as to those who said it.  Teachers need to take these incidents as learning opportunities for students as they can promote deep and meaningful classroom discussions.

 4. ‘Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers can be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations’ pg. 95

Family situations and home environments are going to differ for every child and student. Thus, it is important that teachers are sensitive to, and gain knowledge of, their student’s family and home life. This awareness can help teachers educate students, and inform them, on family diversity. Resulting in inclusion and acceptance of “non-traditional” families.

 5. ‘Heather’s Moms got Married’ pg. 103

This story emphasizes the topic of same sex-relationships. It is important that teachers have discussions about these relationships, but remain aware to the variety of viewpoints that student’s may have. Many students in a classroom may feel uncomfortable or uneasy about the topic, and as a result teachers need to highlight what family means, as the author calls it “the circle of people who love you.”

 6. ‘Out Front’ pg. 111

The main point that is highlighted in this story is how teachers need to be allies and supporters for their students, in spite of their own sexual orientation. Homophobia is an increasing issue throughout many schools; therefore, teachers need to establish safe environments in order to facilitate meaningful and deep discussions. Furthermore, teachers need to tie homophobic topics into the curriculum as it can result in a sense of inclusion and understanding. Teachers need to talk positively about homophobia and provide guidance so they can become role models for their students.

 7. ‘Curriculum is Everything That Happens’ pg. 163

It is very important that teachers realize that the curriculum goes way beyond the formal, written documents that they have to teach. The curriculum is “everything that happens” in the classroom, including relationships, attitudes, interactions, and feelings. Furthermore, teachers should be encouraged to think ‘outside the box’ while teaching. During the school year, it is essential that teachers gain knowledge of their students so that they can teach them to their full abilities. As well, a safe environment needs to be set in place so students can get to know each other and create positive relationships in order to feel comfortable and help one another grow. Also, teachers need to create networks with other colleagues so they can grow and learn together.

 8. ‘Working Effectively with English Language Learners’ pg. 183.

English Language Learner’s need teachers that are patient, clear, and concise in their instruction. In order to help ESL students, teachers can’t teach one way. Instead, it is significant for teachers to incorporate a multitude of different teaching methods and strategies such as: using visuals (pictures, PowerPoint’s, photographs, graphs etc.), preparing them for future lessons, encouraging them to work and practice at home, and learning more about their culture, traditions and language. Furthermore, teachers and students need to be aware that even though ESL students need assistance and alternative modes of assessment, they are not students with disabilities or special needs.

 9. ‘Teaching Controversial Content’ pg. 199

If a teacher decides or wants to teach controversial content, they first have to attain the appropriate knowledge on the subject before they can present it to the students. As well, teachers must come to a decision on whether or not they want to advise the parents or administration ahead of time about their instruction. In the end, teachers have the authority to teach what they want to teach.

 10. ‘Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year’ pg. 317

Classrooms are 99% of the time culturally diverse; thus, the differences in holidays can become an issue. To avoid such issues, teachers can teach for social justice by educating their students about different holiday traditions and holiday cultures. However, it is important to start small within your own classroom first, as not to offend the other teachers and administrators. Although, when a teacher does express their opinions to the school staff it is important for them to be clear in what they mean to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. What’s more, colleagues have to be open minded to each others ideas, feelings, concerns and opinions in order to foster growth and mutual understanding.

Part 2:

Story I choose to examine critically and in-depth: ‘Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Student’s Family Situations.’

Other stories I connected to: ‘The Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’ and ‘Heather’s Moms Got Married’

Form of representation: Visual multimedia piece


I gave my written explanation of this piece personally to Michele.

Chapter 1-Kumashiro Reading

In chapter one, Kumashiro provides three images of “good teachers.” Through these images he not only describes the role of the educator, but he also informs the reader how these images can actually hinder our “efforts to challenge oppression.” After completing the chapter I looked over the prompt that was provided in the wiki, and I came to the conclusion that the best image that describes my experience of learning is teachers as learned practitioners. The reason that I choose this image is because I am aware of my own knowledge, I know the knowledge I have yet to gain, and I know the limits of this knowledge. Furthermore, the three things that Kumashiro highlighted for learned practitioners, 1) learn about the students, who they are, how they learn; 2) learn what to teach and demonstrate, know subjects; and 3) learn how to teach and implement classroom management, have been a constant theme in most of my classes. For the most part, they are drilled into us as we progress through this program. I know as a fact that knowing how to teach and what to teach is important to me as future educator. As well, to me, being able to understand my students in all aspects is key to helping me formulate lessons. Therefore, this image best describes my experience of learning.

Professors, other educators, readings, etc.. all highlight the importance of getting to know the students. However, even though I agree that it is essential to know your students there is one point that we need to realize, and Kumashiro touches on this as well. We as educators cannot know everything about our students, and we should not try to know everything. As well, there is much that we can’t even know because student’s themselves may not be aware of it. As a result, teachers need to understand the limits of their knowledge. If they do this then appropriate lessons can be made that result in educational success. Furthermore, knowing the limits of our knowledge can hopefully result in anti-oppressive ways of teaching.

Treaty Education

This past week, there has been great discussion about Treaty Education. The questions that were posed initiated thought, care and consideration, as we were asked how we would incorporate this topic into our curriculum and for what reasons.

I am a math major, and to be honest I am having immense difficultly in trying to figure out how Treaty Education could be incorporated and included into the math curriculum. There are some possibilities like measuring the volume of a tipi or including treaty facts into a word problem; however, none of these are really appropriate and they don’t portray the stories or facts like an English, History or Social Studies class would. So you can see where I am struggling; therefore, it any of you have possible ideas I would like to hear them!

Dance is my minor and I am finding it way easier to include Treaty Education into this subject. Last year even, in my EDAN 301/302 class, we took some time to learn about many historical dancers and dances, and our prof  included some First Nations communal dances. However, teaching Treaty Education through dance might be more difficult than I imagine it to be as it totally depends on the group of students and whether or not they like to dance or want to dance/participate.

In the end, I think it is very important to teach Treaty Education. In my personal experience, I can only recall learning about treaties in Social Studies 30, and many of you could agree.  Thus, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about Treaty Education. As a result, Treaty Education needs to be introduced to students at a young age so that they are able to gain knowledge and end the stereotypical beliefs of First Nations people. Furthermore, I believe Treaty Education should be introduced and approached in a creative way, exemplified by Claire Kreuger, as the students might become more responsive and grasp the topic more.

Since I have little knowledge about treaties I do not feel I am capable to teach about this history. Therefore, connecting with colleagues and other educators would be the first step to finding someone that has experience or knowledge on Treaty Education.

“A History of Education”

What does race mean in this textbook?

In the textbook, the term race is very one-dimensional. Its dependent on a cultures similarities; however, it is seen as something that separates people, as it highlights the differences in physical and cultural attributes. In the first few paragraphs of the text, Painter discusses the Human race as a whole, which makes you think that the rest of the reading is going to be about equality amongst different racial groups. However, this is not the case. He talks about different cultures and races starting with the Orientals than slowing moving into the Western world, however, he begins to place these certain races above others stating that this is the natural order and it should not be questioned. As well, he states that other culture’s education is “too primitive” compared to the Western world’s, and thus not included in the text.

What does it mean that teachers are being taught to think in racial terms? What are the effects of teaching teachers to think in this way?

When teachers are taught to think in racial terms, they are simply limiting the ability of their students to reach their full potential. Some teachers may see race as an excuse to provide the bare minimum to their students, which ultimately results in little, slow or no development. Teachers probably felt like they were improving Canada’s future, as they were teaching certain students, or assimilating them, to think, act and behave in certain ways that they believe would fit in with or better the Canadian society. In other words, the teachers are conforming them to the dominant culture. This has major effects, as students will struggle to be different.

It is important that, as future teachers, we get our students to think critically about racial concepts, ideas and different cultures, and thus question the natural order proposed by Painter. If we do not do this, the younger generations will grow up with a narrow-minded perspective about race and culture. If we take the time to actually question this concept and act on it, there is the potential to stop the stereotyping and biases.

Common Sense and the Curriculum

It became very evident today, after the lecture, that common sense is everywhere. In the school setting, for instance, common sense is correlated with the everyday curriculum; those ideas, subjects and beliefs that are both formally and informally taught.  As teachers, I think that it is important to critically think about and even analyze where common sense shows up in everyday teachings. If teachers do this, there is the potential for anti-oppresive education, as everyone’s opinions, beliefs, and ideas, their overall common sense, would be acknowledged and therefore supported. This in turn would create and foster safe environments for the students, in which positive relationships can be formed resulting then in a curriculum that, hopefully, can be easily translated and grasped by all students.

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