Reconceptualizing the Reconceptualist

Some people believe that if something ain’t broke then it doesn’t need to be fixed. I also believe in this concept, but only in particular instances. Such as using the same fridge my grandparents had on their farm for my entire life.

Picture of an old fridge
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Does the fridge keep things cold?

Yes.

Does it have an ice machine and all the buttons that nobody ever uses?

No.

The same can be said for the schooling system. Many argue that change to the curriculum is not worth the effort, but with an ever-changing society the things we learn in school should prepare students for the lifestyle after graduation.

This brings us to reconceptualism, something I had never heard of before. I learned that reconceptualism is a belief that counters everything I had spent the first five weeks of class driving into my brain. It challenges the narrow worldview that the likes of Bronfenbrenner and Piaget share – the view of an old white guy. The challenges that reconceptualists pose aren’t backed with hostility. They are only suggestions for a different way to think.

I then went on to learn of the three broad focuses that reconceptualists adhere to:

1) They challenge grand narratives. I immediately connected this to Vygotsky who thought differently from what every other white, male, child psychologist believed at the time and began examining the classroom in its entirety instead of examining individuals..

2) They recognize and embrace diversity. This can be done by keeping an open mind and perspective as well as willing to ask the difficult questions. I was able to connect this to my very first school placement in ECS 100. I was placed in Albert Community School where the entire structure of the day was different from any other school I had known of. This was done in the best interest of the surrounding community because the staff at Albert Community were able to ask the tough questions.

3) Lastly, they acknowledge social and historical context. This is done by considering the many possibilities for transformation to eradicating issues around poverty, colonialism, gender, and many more social and historical issues.

In learning all of this, I aim to build a mindset of reconceptualism. But I am not sure I will be successful at the patience that goes along with this belief. How do patience and reconceptualism go hand in hand?

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Culture and Diversity in the Classroom

Culture is like an iceberg. This analogy may be overused and predictable, but I found the use for this purpose very fitting. I learned that we only see the top third of this iceberg, Image result for different coloured children armswhich is comprised of the food, dress, and language of a culture. These are all visual indicators of culture. Whereas child-rearing beliefs, cleanliness, and roles in relation to age, gender, and class which are found below the surface of the water are not visually seen. Culture is complex and textbook definitions are vague, so describing culture as an iceberg is a great way to explain the confusing concept.

When you can only see a small part of someone’s culture, attaching stereotypes and assumptions will not only lead to incorrect expectations, but also hurt the student in the long run. I learned that oftentimes stereotypes, even ones that seem positive, have heavily negative effects on students. For instance, the seemingly positive belief that Asian-American students are smart puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on student.

In education the words ‘achievement gap’ become a hot topic. I had never seen the study as problematic. Then I learned that when non-white ethnic students are compared to white students it sets the white students as normal, and everyone else as different.

When it comes to teaching in an ever changing society, I feel that I have a lot to learn to successfully teach multicultural education. I connected to the use of the social divide ‘us’ and ‘them’. These terms were used regularly in my Education Core Studies 110 class to dismantle the many binaries and biases we covered in the curriculum. I also connected to the use of gender bias in teaching. I often find myself affirming the statistic that high achieving males are given the most attention and high achieving females are given the least. It is easy to assume that females have their bearings together and that my attention can be focused on more problem areas, but I must try to stop this way of thinking as it is not fair.

Image result for gender separate schools

My question for this reading is what effect does having single-sex classroom have on social development after school is over? Also, how does the school system approach children who do not identify with either gender? This so-called solution does not seem to be in favour of the child’s social development.

Grit and Determination – The Tell-Tale Signs of Success

Albert Bandura is a psychologist who has created a theory, known as the Social Cognitive Theory, that basically analyzes grit and determination. Having heard very little other than that simple explanation, I was surprised to learn that the social cognitive theory is comprised of two elements – observational learning and self-efficacy. This then had me reflecting on my own life, specifically in regards to self-efficacy, which is your belief that you can succeed in specific situations. I had high self-confidence for in school performance, but I had low self-efficacy in regards to math. I walked myself back mentally to my junior year of high school in and created the following mental picture for myself.

My confusion over this math lesson has forgone any state of help and my feelings wane into hopelessness. My brain just wasn’t built for math. The teacher asks for any last questions. I can’t even describe what I don’t know. I shrug to myself and hold back my frustration at the size of the homework assignment that I needed to complete for tomorrow. I won’t be able to do the assignment, why bother trying?

via GIPHY

I can see that my low self-efficacy caused my grades to suffer because I had no belief that I was capable of completing the assignment.

I also learned that teachers need to work with their self-efficacy. It is hard to picture an adult learning well into their careers, but I learned and now believe that in all stages of life we are constantly learning – especially for educators who are embedded in an academic lifestyle. I was also able to connect because as a teacher in training it is easy to assume that self-regulation and organization will come naturally the day I enter the classroom in the role of a teacher. As I am now learning, that is not the case. I will need to keep learning.

Lastly I learned how to successfully encourage self-efficacy in the classroom. On the list, I connected to the suggestion that I feel will work best with my teaching personality, and that is to set learning goals for the students and model a mastery orientation for them. This will not only encourage the students to learn self-efficacy, but it will drive me to continue refining my own self-efficacy.

One question I still have: At what point does high self-efficacy lead to burnout?

The Self, Social, and Moral Development

From birth to death our self, social, and moral development are constantly growing and adapting to the world around us. This is especially true throughout childhood and adolescence where they go through many trial and errors to become their most authentic or desired person.

This development comes in many forms. The first form that greatly affects adolescent self-esteem is physical development. While many people understand that children and teens develop at drastically rates than their peers, It is a difficult concept for young people to understand, and thus results in teasing and bullying. Angela oswalt says it best in her article Early Childhood Emotional and Social Development: Identity and Self-Esteem, External factors, such as messages from other people, also color how children view themselves.” Her article goes on to expand on how emotional and social development affects the later development of identity and overall self-esteem. My question from this new piece of information I have learned is what is more important and/or realistic – attempting to put a stop to bullying or building up the resiliency in the victims of bullying?

Two paths in the woods
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The next development comes in the form of identity and self-concept. This is where I learned of Erik Erikson’s eight Stages of Psychosocial Development, and that even for those in the same age range they could be at different stages. Upon evaluating each of the stages, I reflected on myself. I was able to connect to Erikson’s research on social development by identifying where I felt that I was at, which happened to be Identity v. Role Confusion. For myself, I found it difficult enough to choose a career path and focused much of my energy on planning and applying for post secondary. I have not yet explored the world of politics nor chosen an identity that would stick with me for the rest of my life.

One of my personal criticisms that I can’t seem to stop thinking about in regards to Erikson’s stages would be the importance of completing a stage before moving to the next one. I don’t feel particularly drawn to keeping the same identity and persona forever, and feel that time will change my orientation on life.

Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is one I had yet to learn about. His three stages split into two parts made sense and weren’t exclusive for different age groups; meaning that the idea that everyone develops at different rates is applicable. I enjoyed watching the video demonstrations of the children presented with moral dilemmas so much that I decided to present the same scenarios to the the children that I look after at work. Although I did not have a large test group, many of them fit into the categories that Kohlberg had predicted, while the youngest ones couldn’t comprehend the multi-part story. Something about watching the gears turn so fast inside the young childrens’ heads was very cute!

Whether a theory has flaws on the surface or seem near perfect, learning about each one will aid in my future as an educator. Being able to take parts of multiple theories and blend them together to make personal beliefs and theories that fit the schemas of the classroom environment is very important. I will be able to apply my learning from this week’s topic on self, social and moral development to improve the learning experience of my future students by presenting curricula ideas at a level that matches their developmental understanding.

Cognitive Development in the Classroom

Cognitive Development in educational psychology is key in all aspects of education. Everything from curriculum creating, lesson planning, and classroom implementation is devised with cognitive development in mind. Woolfolk Winne Perry in the book Educational Psychology defines cognitive development as, “orderly, adaptive changes that humans (or animals) go through from conception to death.” Upon first hearing this formal definition my mind raced with the many possibilities of what this could all include, as it appears to be very vague with only surface level understanding. I have come to understand cognitive development as a process that all minds partake in order to revise and expand their field of knowledge. This conclusion is simplistic and has only resulted in days of reflection, and I am sure that my understanding will grow and change throughout my experience in education.

I was also able to learn about the importance of orientation. This concept is quiet abstract to me, but I have come to understand it as a my position in this world in relation to other people and my surroundings. The paths I have taken and the ways in which I have developed have all come together to orient myself and my views in a specific way. My orientation influences the ways I interact with the many theories of cognitive development. Such theories I have learned and are in the processes of internalizing include Piaget’s individualistic stages of cognitive development, Vygotsky’s theory on environmental relationships in relation to cognitive development, and Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory of the many ecological layers of a person interplaying to influence cognitive development.

As a future educator I connect to the different theories of cognitive development. In order for me to effectively teach the future students in my classroom I must thoroughly understand the many theories of cognitive development to blend into a teaching style that works for all types of learners. Another connection I made was much more personal. I found myself reflecting on my orientation this week. I found myself asking where I currently fit in relation to my surroundings, as well as where I would like to be situated in relation to the identities and labels around me?

Throughout this course, and into the rest of my existence as a lifelong learner I will continue to question my orientation and continue to change my relations for the better.

 

Paper Source Reference

Perry Winne, Woolfolk. Educational Psychology. 6th ed., Pearson, 2016.