Analysis of Pre-School In Three Cultures

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.



Horace Mann: A Man of Ideas Beyond his Time

Currently, is very difficult to imagine a society where education is not offered to everyone or is not available in every sector of the country. Nevertheless, during Horace Mann’s time, free education was far from been a public matter much less a widely accepted thought; however, courage and dedication from this man was the key to what we are able to enjoy now: a Public Education for all. In the United States we have a vision of educating everyone, is yet to prove if we are doing a good job, but it is certain that no one under any circumstances is denied of an education sometimes even tailored to their individual needs.

Horace Mann was a person with ideals that symbolized equality and opportunities for all. He envisioned a place where people were able to be free, where women worked, mental patients were treated humanely and information was not censored. Thanks to thinkers like Mann, we are now able to enjoy these benefits and have been moving forward from a general society in fear of divulging their thoughts to one more open; a society where we work wherever we want, study anywhere we please and interact with people of all races, nationalities, socio-economic status, backgrounds and even with different theological and philosophical views.

During Horace Mann’s twelve years as part of the Massachusetts Board of Education, he wrote yearly reports that were meant to improve the educational system and conditions of the students. In his First Report he wrote about the importance of having an intelligent local board and public commitment towards education and if you think about it is not like they aren’t current common concerns. I think that perhaps if our Miami-Dade District was more interested in fulfilling its obligation to our students then there wouldn’t be such a hole in the school budget, isn’t it interesting how there is never money for teachers but they are always hiring more administrators?. Continue reading

John Dewey and his Plan To Put Children As The Center of Education

Is hard to believe that what we now consider as a “regular” educational system is far from what it was common before the 1900’s. Among those who helped carve the path for or current school system was John Dewey: a man whose point of view on education, differed greatly from that of the rest of his fellow citizens.

In a society where discipline, strict curriculum, enforced course studies and no feedback from students was the rule, Dewey was able to see beyond what society considered acceptable and provide an improved methodology for education. Despite the fact that he was a philosopher not an educator, Dewey gave great importance to the way schools were being run and thought that a reform was needed in order for them to fulfill their true purpose: encourage students to learn and understand at the same time. Before Dewey, all schools imposed their curriculum, teachers were the leaders and only their opinion mattered, students were to be in complete silence and obey to every order without refuting and learning consisted of memorization and repetition never comprehension.

To John Dewey, ideas and learning were tools that people could use to change or improve their circumstances. Dewey considered schools to be the link between the child and the man and thought they should play the role of facilitator of discovery and provider of experiences to which children hold on to find their true interests. Dewey was against the uniformity of students because to him it takes away the chance for them to develop as different people each one from the other; in addition, he argued textbooks were only current and objective as man would wanted them to be and left little room for individual perspectives. Continue reading

Analyzing the Effects of FCAT Explorer Usage on FCAT Results

Society changes with time and circumstances; nevertheless, some things always remain a priority as well as a necessity. Education is among the steady factors influencing peoples’ environments and conditions; however, there are newcomers such as technology who have become just as important as those traditional values. Advancements made in the technological field have given people different possibilities and opportunities to learn and communicate which have eventually change the way educational tools are used.

As a result of the No Child Left behind Act, states and schools have become obliged to follow students’ progress, as well as to measure their learning gains and performance, in comparison to those of other students. Education is no longer about individual results nor is only important to teachers, it has turn into an issue of great deal to government agencies, businesses, researches, and law makers which puts pressure on academic achievement and literacy levels. Each state has to evaluate their students according to a set of standards that indicate what has to be learnt and accomplished, the standards also have to be taught within the curriculum and represent the grade level.

In Florida, the test given to all students and that it evaluates their academic achievement of the Sunshine State Standards, is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT. The importance the FCAT has in schools not only refers to the educational reason behind this test but also the financial consequences its results may have over a school or district; in addition, in certain grade levels the promotion or retention of a student happens according to the grade received on the test. Florida has used computer and web based programs such as FCAT Explorer, TeenBiz and Reading Plus to provide additional support to students for the FCAT; also, through this tool students are able to practice and improve their skills in reading, mathematics, science and other subjects.

In a study made by Trey Martindale, Carolyn Pearson, L.K Curda and Janet Pilcher, the effects of FCAT Explorer usage in grades fourth, fifth, eight and tenth were evaluated and analyzed for both reading and mathematics FCAT scores. The purpose was to examine if there was any significant difference among the results achieved by students who used the program and those who did not, as well as to observe the impact technology has over high stake standardized tests in public elementary and high schools.

The schools that participated in the study shared same characteristics like being part of same district, school size and performance grade assigned by state; they were also selected according to the usage or non-usage of FACT Explorer and basing on their scores on the FCAT in 2001 and 2002 for reading and mathematics. In the experiment, only students who showed or did not show data for FCAT Explorer in both 2001 and 2002 were included; in addition, the study included fourth grade reading and fifth, eight and tenth grade mathematics.

The research showed that students in the Elementary schools who used FCAT Explorer had significantly higher scores than those who did not use the program, especially for Fourth grade Reading and Fifth grade mathematics; however, the eight and tenth grade results showed no significant difference among those students who used and those who did not use FCAT Explorer. These findings conclude that there is an impact on FCAT Explorer usage in the Elementary level but no significant weight on Secondary grades. However, many would agree that the research does not include the instructional time given to FCAT Explorer use, as well as the quantity time assigned for each task or practiced items, which can have an influence on the results obtained by Elementary grade students.

Differences among results obtained in secondary and elementary levels could be due to different reasons. Availability of computers in the classrooms, ratio of student to computer and students’ individual level could be some of the causes for results; another explanation could be the diversity among students including those with disabilities, LEP or minorities and the importance a particular teacher places on the use of the program, which can be a huge influence in academic outcomes. Students’ value of FCAT Explorer could be different in both Elementary and Secondary levels, in addition to the diverse level of parental involvement there could be in each grade.

Many would agree that computer or web based programs and educational software could be a great support for students to practice their skills and abilities, in addition to the fact that technology seems appealing and interesting to children, and is becoming more everyday as part of society. Programs like FCAT Explorer offer another perspective and different way of acquiring knowledge and improving understanding of certain topics, and since is align with the benchmarks from the Sunshine State Standards and classroom curriculum, is not only useful for practicing FCAT but everyday material and strategies. Furthermore, web programs allow communication from administrators, parents and students to be easier; moreover, various learning styles could be accommodated and that way students could be reached from other perspectives, also it gives space for feedback, practice, pacing, space for research and individualization.

Some of the conclusions drawn from this study are: FCAT Explorer usage as an educational tool may considerably benefit students and give them opportunity to practice and improve their learning skills; it also provides room for teachers to use their material in a different way and target FCAT strategies outside of the classroom instructional time; it has showed to be more used by Elementary schools nevertheless it does not mean that it could be less useful for Secondary grades; it gives ample chances for various learning styles to be supported and students with disabilities find other ways to practice their abilities. However, difficulty accessing computers, low socioeconomic status, lack of school resources, little parental involvement and students disabilities may make more difficult the students to enjoy this opportunity to develop their capabilities.