The development and availability of technology, as well as other resources, has made the world a smaller place. We can live in different cities, countries, even continents, and still be able to interact and communicate with each other. All of this has created an awareness about the differences that as citizen of the world we have. Now, we are more informed about other cultures, languages, living styles, traditions and social interactions that may differ from our own; also, we are more interested in understanding how other people think and by which standards do they abide for their everyday issues.
In the video “Pre-School In Three Cultures”, we see a regular day in the life of infants and preschoolers attending three different daycares and schools. The pre-schools are located in Japan, China and The United States. All three have their own educational approach and vision of behavioral interventions, and as we see in the video they are respectful with their cultural background as well as the current political situation they live in. In the video, we see behaviorists and constructivist techniques, a variety of teaching methods and diverse learning topics that are linked to the culture that surrounds them.
Constructivism is a theory that has its roots in Jean Piaget’s developmental and cognitive stage approach and Lev Vygotsky’s socio-cultural perspective. Is a theory that holds as a foundation the importance of children being able to learn and play according to their abilities as well as their cultural background and environment. In this theory, the role of the teacher is that of a facilitator, where through guidance and support students will go from learning to transferring of the knowledge. Constructivists teachers encourage students to build and reflect on their own learning; they also use techniques where students are able to be active and involved in the subject, and use their prior knowledge to understand new topics better. Teachers like to place students in groups so they can learn from each other, receive additional support from their own peers, see other perspectives and points of view, and put in different contexts the things learnt.
In the video “Pre-School In Three Cultures” we see two schools that have some constructivist techniques: Komatsudani in Kyoto, Japan and St. Timothy in Hawaii, USA. Personally, I believe St. Timothy is the most constructivist of the schools presented in the video; although at Komatsudani students are allowed to be independent and responsible for their actions, the unstructured and without guidance activities reflect little of the practices that constructivism stands for. St. Timothy is a pre-school that cares for children ages 2 to elementary, from 8 am to 6 pm; it has a student ratio of 12 to 1 and a broad ethnic diversity because of its location and military bases surroundings. Due to the many kidnappings and terrorists attacks, the school places importance on security and parents are asked to sign an attendance as well as a visitation log; additionally, they have gates around the school and people checking on students when they are in the playground area.
One of the reasons why I chose St. Timothy is because they encouraged students to put their actions and thoughts into words, as well as explain and describe what they see and want; these constructivist practices help students to develop their own thinking and improve their linguistic abilities. In the video, we see many moments where the teacher asks a particular student to use words to communicate what they think in a better way; in addition, during activities the teacher uses this practice when students are unable to fully explain what they mean or do not give enough details when responding to a question. Using this technique, allows students to correct themselves and think about how to express their ideas and opinions.
Another reason why I chose St. Timothy was the way the classroom was set up. At St. Timothy, students are able to pick from a variety of sections and activities during what they call “Learning Center Time”; also, they are responsible for their own learning during this period and challenged to practice their artistic, logical-mathematical and writing abilities. Through guided discovery, teachers are able to be a support for the students at the same time that they provide tools for them to be independent and selective with the activities they choose; all of which boosts the students’ confidence, helps them become more aware about their interests and enhance their abilities. As a constructivist technique, students not only have fun by doing what they like but they are also able to explore different options and place knowledge into settings; this ultimately, enables them to transfer concepts easier and go from the classroom to the practice in a much faster and accurate manner.
At St. Timothy there are a lot of constructivist techniques. Cooperative learning activities are one of those and also another reason why I chose this school as the most constructivist one. Some of the group activities include pretend play which is used not only as a way to relate the topics but also to put in context the things learnt; nevertheless, this mechanism is far more useful that only in the educational setting. In the video a clear example is “The Home” section, where students choose a role like being the father, mother or baby; there we see how kids perceive many of the decisions taken at their home and the responses their parents have to their positive or negative behavior.
Since children between ages 2 and 6 use pretend play as a mechanism to cope with family issues and work on their social interaction, teachers use it to provide a space and opportunity for the students who need to deal with discipline, peer and cultural situations. Through cooperative learning, students are able to develop a broader sense of the world and the differences among people, they are also exposed to different perspectives and even opposite points of view which enables them to be more objective and respectful of other people’s opinions and cultural background.
Behaviorism is another learning theory. This theory is based on the importance of behavior and the actions that change it. To behaviorists there is no learning unless there is a change in behavior, meaning change in the actions and responses the students give; in addition, they firmly believe the role of the teacher is that of a leader, who instructs students and clearly states what they need to learn. In a behaviorist classroom, most of the activities students do revolve around practice and memorization; furthermore, the importance of discipline and attention as well as to keep focus on the teacher throughout the lessons. Some of the common behaviorists strategies to memorize the material are the use of mnemonics, repetition and rehearsal. Another behaviorist approach is the use of toys, points or candy as a reward method to keep students motivated as well as the use of reinforces and punishers when it comes to discipline and learning issues.
In the video “Pre-School In Three Cultures” we see another school who showed a more behaviorist style that the ones mentioned before. The name of the school is Dong-Feng and is located in South West, China and to my opinion is the most behaviorist of the three pre-schools showed in the video. Dong-Feng is a boarding school for children ages 3 to 6, these kids get the chance to go home on Wednesday and on the weekends; nevertheless, Dong-Feng also offers day school from 8 am to 6 pm to children who are picked up by their parents. Due to China’s high birth rate, parents are asked to have not more than one child, so most students do not have brothers or sisters to share with. The children at Dong-Feng are health inspected when arriving to school, they are also asked to go to the bathroom at the same time than the other classmates, and expected to maintain everything very neat and organized on their desks.
The main reason why I chose Dong-Feng as the behaviorist school it was because of the structured activities done during school time. In the video we see the students working with wooden blocks. In this activity, the children are asked to follow the instructions give in the box as well as to use the example shown when placing the blocks on the right spaces; moreover, they are reminded of the need for the materials to be aligned and in complete order, as well as kept on one side of the desk when not utilizing them. All of these, demonstrates the discipline and structure typical of a behaviorist classroom where the teacher’s instructions are the main focus of the students and the activities leave little room for independent thinking. An activity, such as wooden blocks, may have not more than one correct answer; this shows how the teacher holds the control over the work done by the students and how they are not given space for creativeness during it.
Another reason why I chose Dong-Feng was because of the reward system they demonstrated; for example, when the students finished their activities the teachers rewarded them by letting them to go outside and play. Rewards are use by behaviorists to reinforce an action or response from students; this behaviorist practice concentrates on the student’s motivation only increasing by external sources, such as praise, items, points, or in this case the opportunity to do something fun like playing. To behaviorists the use of reinforces as well as punishers allows desired or undesired responses to increase and decrease as necessary; also, they help teachers be able to predict future student’s behavior and have some control over it.
At Dong-Feng, activities such as lunch and play are closely monitored by teachers. Students are told not to talk when eating as this does not let them concentrate on what their doing; also, when playing, students have to follow the teacher’s lead, and instead of having some independent play, they are grouped with other kids and taught songs that they have to sing along to. Another activity where students have to follow exact instructions is when going to the bathroom; the children are taken by groups to a common restroom where they do their necessities at the same time than the other classmates, which according to administrators at Dong-Feng, helps students regulate their body to those of their classmates. As we can see the behaviorists theory is intrinsically linked to the curriculum and practices of the school, and students are encouraged to be disciplined, obedient, follow instructions and be at the same level to their other classmates.
I would personally apply many of the strategies seeing in the video, specially those used in the schools in Japan and United States. My content area will be foreign languages and I can see myself in a culturally and linguistically diverse classroom where students coming from different backgrounds work together in an effective learning environment. I think that encouraging students to be respectful and discipline as they do at Dong-Feng is a good thing; nevertheless, children need to understand the reasons of why appropriate behavior is necessary in the environment they are in; personally, I think that talking to students help them to become aware of their own thoughts and more responsible for their actions. I felt that at Dong-Feng, teachers lacked explaining and advising the students about the learning activities as well as about their behavior, which takes from children the opportunity to be independent and curious learners.
I strongly agree with some of the strategies demonstrated by the teachers at St. Timothy and Komatsudani. For instance, when the teacher at St. Timothy asked a misbehaving child to organize his play area and he refused to, she took him aside and placed in time out; this practice allowed the student to have a space to reflect and think about his actions, and correct them by his own means; more importantly, we saw how there is no need of yelling or mistreatment in order to have a child behave properly and follow instructions. At Komatsudani, a teacher encouraged a child to help another one who was misbehaving; even thought I believe teacher interventions are necessary, I also think that this method gives students space to become more empathic to other people’s feelings and situations as well as to form their own opinion about the world and about how people’s actions can affect one another.
One of things that I was impressed with, was the teaching method used at St. Timothy. I really liked the idea of introducing a topic with a story, showing pictures and using vocabulary related to the theme like he teacher did with the vegetable soup topic. Another thing they did was going from the learning to the practice; when choosing, chopping and mixing the actual ingredients for the soup, students were given a chance to practice their knowledge and transfer the concepts from the classroom to the kitchen, which allowed students to apply what they had learnt. I would use this very frequently because in order to learn a language students most be able to me immerse in it, they should also be given the opportunity to put things to practice and use different settings to practice what they learn; moreover, this will help those students who come from different countries and are not fluent in English yet, because they will use their senses to understand the concepts taught.
I can honestly say that this video was very insightful. It gave me the opportunity to observe other cultures and their way of teaching as well as the way of handling behavioral issues; in addition, I saw some techniques that were of my liking as well as others that I do not agree with but still gave me a broader view of how other methods work. In overall, I take with me many of the teaching strategies such as using prior knowledge, putting things in context, provide different settings for students to apply the knowledge and give students enough tools and examples to take topics outside of the classroom; furthermore, I saw first hand how important it is to handle behavioral issues calmly but firmly and how always we should explain to students what we want them to learn along with how we expect them to behave.