The role of the student in a Reconstructionist learning environment. The role of the student in the reconstructionist learning environment is to be an active participant. Students are encouraged to think critically about the world in which they live in and how it can be changed for the better. Students learn how to be problem solvers and decision makers. It is common for students to be challenged on their thoughts and feelings regarding topics. Acquisition of strong moral values are also encouraged through teaching.
Reconstructionist encourages social activism among its students. It is not uncommon for students to learn while doing, such as organizing a food drive for the local homeless shelter. Progressivism With the Laboratory School set the stage for the progressive education movement. Based on the view that educators, like scientists, need a place to test their ideas, Dewey’s Laboratory School eventually became the most famous experimental school in the history of U. S. education, a place where thousands observed Dewey’s innovations in school design, methods, and curriculum.
Although the school remained under Dewey’s control for only eight years and never enrolled more than 140 students (ages 3 to 13) in a single year, its influence was enormous. Dewey designed the Lab School with only one classroom but with several facilities for experiential learning: a science laboratory, an . Progressivism organizes schools around the concerns, curiosity, and real-world experiences of students. The progressive teacher facilitates learning by helping students formulate meaningful questions and devise strategies to answer those questions.
Answers are not drawn from lists or even Great Books; they are discovered through real world experience. Progressivism is the educational application of a philosophy called pragmatism. According to pragmatism, the way to determine if an idea has merit is simple: test it. If the idea works in the real world, then it has merit. Both pragmatism and progressivism originated in America, the home of a very practical and pragmatic people. John Dewey refined and applied pragmatism to education, establishing what became known as progressivism.
John Dewey was a reformer with a background in philosophy and psychology who taught that people learn best through social interaction in the real world. Dewey believed that because social learning had meaning, it endured. Book learning, on the other hand, was no substitute for actually doing things. Progressivisms do not believe that the mind can be disciplined through reading Great Books, rather that the mind should be trained to analyse experience thoughtfully and draw conclusions objectively. Dewey saw education as an opportunity to learn how to apply previous experiences in new ways.
Dewey believed that students, facing an ever-changing world, should master the scientific method: (1) Become aware of a problem; (2) define it; (3) propose various hypotheses to solve it; (4) examine the consequences of each hypothesis in the light of previous experience; and (5) test the most likely solution. (For a biography of John Dewey, see the Hall of Fame: Profiles in Education in Chapter 4. ) Dewey regarded democracy and freedom as far superior to the political ideas of earlier times. Dewey saw traditional, autocratic, teacher-cantered schools as the antithesis of democratic ideals.
He viewed progressive schools as a working model of democracy. Dewey wrote: To imposition from above is opposed expression and cultivation of individuality; to external discipline is opposed free activity; to learning from texts and teachers, learning through experience; to acquisition of isolated skills and techniques by drill is opposed acquisition of them as means of attaining ends which make direct vital appeal; to preparation for a more or less remote future is op-posed making the most of the opportunities of present life; to statistics and materials is opposed acquaintance with a changing world.
The Progressive Classroom Walk into a progressivism classroom, and you will not find a teacher standing at the front of the room talking to rows of seated students. Rather, you will likely see children working in small groups, moving about and talking freely. Some children might be discussing a science experiment, while another group works on a model volcano, and a third pre-pares for a presentation. Interest centres would be located throughout the room, filled with books, materials, software, and projects designed to attract student interest on a wide array of topics.
Finally you notice the teacher, walking around the room, bending over to talk with individual students and small groups, asking questions and making suggestions. You sense that the last thing on her mind is the standardized state test scheduled for next week. Progressivisms build the curriculum around the experiences, interests, and abilities of students, and encourage students to work together cooperatively. Teachers feel no compulsion to focus their students’ attention on one discrete discipline at a time, and students integrate several subjects in their studies.
Thought-provoking activities augment reading, and a game like Monopoly might be used to illustrate the principles of capitalism versus socialism. Computer simulations, field trips, and interactive websites on the Internet offer realistic learning challenges for students, and build on students’ multiple intelligences. Progressivism in Action: The Laboratory School In 1896, while a professor at the University of Chicago, Dewey founded the Laboratory School as a testing ground for his educational ideas.
Dewey’s writings and his work art room, a wood-working shop, and a kitchen. Children were likely to make their own weights and measures in the laboratory, illustrate their own stories in the art room, build a boat in the shop, and learn chemistry in the kitchen. They were unlikely to learn through isolated exercises or drills, which, according to Dewey, students consider irrelevant. Since Dewey believed that students learn from social interaction, the school used many group methods such as cooperative model-making, field trips, role playing, and dramatizations.
Dewey maintained that group techniques make the students better citizens, developing, for example, their willingness to share responsibilities. Children in the Laboratory School were not promoted from one grade to another after mastering certain material. Rather, they were grouped according to their individual interests and abilities. For all its child-cantered orientation, however, the Laboratory School remained hierarchical in the sense that the students were never given a role comparable to that of the staff in determining the school’s educational practices. Social Reconstructionism
Social reconstructionism encourages schools, teachers, and students to focus their studies and energies on alleviating pervasive social inequities, and as the name implies, reconstruct society into a new and more just social order. Al-though social reconstructionist agree with progressivists that schools should concentrate on the needs of students, they split from progressivism in the 1920s after growing impatient with the slow pace of change in schools and in society. George Counts, a student of Dewey, published his classic book, Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order? in which he outlined a more ambitious, and clearly more radical, approach to education. Counts’s book, written in 1932, was no doubt influenced by the human cost of the Great Depression. He proposed that schools focus on reforming society, an idea that caught the imagination and sparked the ideals of educators both in this country and abroad. Social challenges and problems provide a natural (and moral) direction for curricular and instructional activities. Racism, sexism, environmental pollution, homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, homophobia, AIDS and violence are rooted in misinformation and thrive in ignorance.
Therefore, social reconstructionists believe that school is the ideal place to begin ameliorating social problems. The teacher’s role is to explore social problems, suggest alternate perspectives, and facilitate student analysis of these problems. While convincing, cajoling, or moralizing about the importance of addressing human tragedy would be a natural teacher response, such adult-led decision-making flies in the face of reconstructionist philosophy. A social reconstructionist teacher must model democratic principles.
Students and teachers are expected to live and learn in a democratic culture; the students themselves must select educational objectives and social priorities. The Social Reconstructionist Classroom A social reconstructionist teacher creates lessons that both intellectually inform and emotionally stir students about the inequities that surround them. A class might read a book and visit a photojournalist’s exhibit portraying violent acts of racism. If the book, exhibit and the class discussion that follows move the students, the class might choose to pursue a long-term project to investigate the problem.
One group of students might analyse news coverage of racial and ethnic groups in the community. Another student group might conduct a survey analysing community perceptions of racial groups and race relations. Students might visit city hall and examine arrest and trial records in order to determine the role race plays in differential application of the law. Students might examine government records for information about housing patterns, income levels, graduation rates and other relevant statistics.
The teacher’s role would be as facilitator: assisting students in focusing their questions, developing a strategy, helping to organize visits, and ensuring that the data collected and analysed meet standards of objectivity. Throughout, the teacher would be instructing students on research techniques, statistical evaluation, writing skills, and public communications. In a social reconstructionist class, a research project is more than an academic exercise; the class is engaged in a genuine effort to improve society.
In this case, the class might arrange to meet with political leaders, encouraging them to create programs or legislation to respond to issues the students uncovered. The students might seek a pro bono attorney to initiate legal action to remedy a social injustice they unmasked. Or perhaps the students might take their findings directly to the media by holding a press conference. They might also create a Web page to share their findings and research methods with students in other parts of the country, or other parts of the world.
How would the teacher decide if the students have met the educational goals? In this example, an objective, well-prepared report would be one criterion, and reducing or eliminating a racist community practice would he a second measure of success. Social Reconstructionism in Action: Paulo Freire Paulo Freire believed that schools were just another institution perpetuating social inequities while serving the interests of the dominant group. Like social reconstructionism itself, Freire’s beliefs grew during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when he experienced hunger and poverty first-hand.
Influenced by Marxist and neo-Marxist ideas, Freire accused schools of perpetuating the status quo views of the rich and powerful “for the purpose of keeping the masses submerged and content in a culture of silence. ” Schools were endorsing social Darwinism, the idea that society is an ingenious “sorting” system, one in which the more talented rise to the top, while those less deserving find themselves at the bottom of the social and economic pecking order. The conclusion: Those with money de-serve it, those without money deserve their lot in life, and poverty is a normal, preordained part of reality.
Freire rejected this conclusion. He did not believe that schools should be viewed as “banks,” where the privileged deposit ideas like social Darwinism to he spoon fed into the limited minds of the dispossessed. He envisioned schools as a place where the poor can acquire the skills to regain control of their lives and influence the social and economic forces that locked them in poverty in the first place. Freire engaged the poor as equal partners in dialogues that explored their economic and social problems and possible solutions.
Freire believed in praxis, the doctrine that when actions are based on sound theory and values, they can make a real difference in the world. (It is no accident that the term praxis is also the name given to the teacher competency tests required by many states. ) Freire’s ideas took hold not only in his native Brazil, but in poor areas around the globe. As poor farm workers became literate and aware, they organized for their self-improvement, and began to work for change. It is not surprising that the autocratic leaders of his country eventually forced him into exile, for he had turned schooling into a liberating force.
For a biography of Paulo Freire, see the Hall of Fame: Profiles in Education in Chapter 4. ) How Can Education Reduce Crime? A major proposition for solving the crime epidemic has always been a call for more education: however does a more educated society mean a lawful society? Schools as institutions are merely a microcosm of society and as such must inherently reflect the attitudes and behavior of the public, including stealing from each other beating up on each other, dealing in contraband and sexually violating each other.
Students flout school regulations and/or national laws. One can now ponder which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does the deviant student become the criminal? Or does the criminal modeling within society create the deviant student? Students however are not the only perpetrators of crime in schools. Teachers represent authority figures in the system, and like in wider society, they may abuse their power and break school rules as well. These unfortunate events again raise questions. What causes a teacher to give unfair advantages to his favorite students?
What causes the politician/policeman to pardon his criminal friend or allow him unfair advantages? What causes authority figures to victimize members of a certain groups? In the end, we need to view the issues of crime in school and crime in society as interlinked. Viewed in this context, the solution of increased education on its own to mitigate crime, seems less feasible. A favorable learning environment, coupled with specialized teaching techniques can lower deviance and increase the rule of law. Students are more likely to succeed when they feel connected to the school and the learning process.
This connection reflects students’ belief that school administrations care about them as individuals. Teachers are central to creating a clear classroom structure. They must build connectedness in the classroom and encourage team-learning exercises to break down social isolation by integrating student teams across gender, academic ability, and ethnicity. A supportive school administration must not allow a young person to ‘fail’, or students will inadvertently believe in’ winners and losers’. This assumption sets up a dysfunctional dichotomy: the ‘winners’ or the academically proficient become ‘nerds’ and ‘losers’.
A positive, nurturing school culture with students experiencing connectedness to their school will create a positive, nurturing society with citizens experiencing connectedness to their communities and by extension, their country. Studies show a high proportion of students positively connected to their school are likely to increase academic performance and school competition rates and decrease incidents of fighting, bullying, vandalism and absenteeism. There is strong evidence, applicable across racial, ethnic and income groups that students who feel connect to school are less likely to exhibit disruptive behavior.
Implementing civic education, particularly education about the rule of law into school curricula is used in Latin America and Asia as a predominant technique to foster knowledge and attitudes that prevent crime and corruption, protect human rights and enrich and enhance formal democracy. In Trinidad and Tobago, the education system has consistently separated schools and students into vocation and university tracks and as such, avoided providing all students with the same core curriculum and setting inclusive academic standards.
This form of ‘informed prejudice’ has created, over the past decades, a society of confident and ‘inferior’ citizens, professionals and dropouts, favored ‘old-boy’ graduates and ‘neglected strugglers. ’ Without a significant paradigm shift in the education system, the levels of crime in schools and society will increase or remain constant, students will always steal and teachers will always create as many or more problems than they solve.
Higher levels of education do not guarantee less crime in society, but indeed a more effective education system that caters to both the students and teacher’s mental and psychological health, while fostering a greater understanding and appreciation for civic duty and the rule of law, is key for crime reduction. Advocates: Early education key to reducing crime The key to eradicating crime and violent behaviour, say organizers with the non-profit Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania, is to invest more resources in early care and child education.
That was the theme earlier this week as Fight Crime visited the Penn Alexander School to unveil its findings in the multi-point plan, “High-Quality Early Care and Education: a Key To Reducing Crime in Pennsylvania. ” The plan points to numerous nationwide studies which found that in Michigan, at-risk children not enrolled in high-quality programs were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by the age of 27; another report, this one based on Chicago, found that at-risk kids not participating in the city’s child-parent centre programs are 70 per cent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by the age of 19.
And since the School District of Philadelphia’s enrolment of at-risk/economically disadvantaged children currently sits at 80. 6 per cent – or 117,749 students – it only made sense for Philadelphia to be the first stop in a state-wide mission, said Fight Crime Pennsylvania State Director Bruce Clash. “Philadelphia is obviously important because it’s a big city, and important because so many kids here have unmet needs,” Clash said. “And that’s a travesty for them, their families and the community at large. Clashed praised the efforts of District Attorney Seth Williams in embracing the findings and for attending the unveiling, along with district superintendent Dr. William Hite Sr. and other elected and appointed officials. Williams and Hite were both unavailable for comment as of Tribune press time. The report illustrates in great detail the correlation between the lack of education and criminality and the positive effects reaped when limited resources are properly utilized, vital when only 17. 6 per cent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds have access to high-quality publicly funded pre-K programs throughout the commonwealth.
The report also shows that Pennsylvania spends more than $2. 3 billion on incarceration, but only $340 million on early childhood education. “Law enforcement leaders across Pennsylvania want to make sure more Pennsylvania children receive high-quality care and education in their early years – the help they need to succeed in life and avoid later crime and violence,” read a portion of the findings. “Despite strong evidence that high-quality early education can reduce future corrections costs in Pennsylvania and nationally, spending on corrections far surpasses spending on early education. The report further shows that, of criminals labelled chronic offenders by the age of 2, 35 per cent of them did not attend or participate in preschool programs; conversely, only 7 per cent of those that did attend such a program went on to be considered chronic offenders.
The report suggests several ways to cut off young criminal pipeline, including increasing the number of quality teachers, better funding for federal early care, Pre-K and head start programs, better implementation of the Child Care and Development Block grant and more school districts taking part in the federal “Race To The Top” program. The thing most criminals have in common is the lack of a high school education. Not everyone who doesn’t get a diploma commits a crime, but there are more likely to commit a crime and be incarcerated,” Clash said. “So we targeted early childhood, with 40 years of research showing us that if you reach at-risk and economically disadvantaged children, 44 per cent more were likely to graduate because they have a foundation to build on, develop, grow from and attain the skills they need in life. Clash said inroads are being made, citing the recent, multi-million dollar funding of the state’s “Pre-K Counts” program and the various Head start initiatives.
Those two programs are funded through a series of line items in the state budget. “Both of these funding streams are used by the School District of Philadelphia and by hundreds of school districts throughout the state, and many other districts use their own money for these programs,” Clash said. Momentum continues to grow, but the problem is that only 17 per cent of all Pennsylvanian three- and four-year-olds receive publicly-funded, high-quality Pre-K programming. “And in Philadelphia, it’s a huge, unmet need, since 3,100 kids are at the poverty line do not have access to pre-K programs because they are on a wait list,” Clash continued. “So this report makes the case of why law enforcement is so concerned about getting access to pre-K young kids. Long-term arrests come down, and behaviourally, the data shows a reduction in early aggressive behaviour. ”
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