Curriculum Ideologies and Personal Philosophy

The Scholar Academic Ideology aligns most closely with the classrooms in the majority of public school settings that I have observed. These observations of mine include a classroom full of students of similar age, learning skills in the same fashion that the experts of that skill would practice in. For example, the text described what a classroom using the Scholar Academic Ideology might look like by describing a teacher in the front of the room lecturing to the class on a math problem.

This math problem would be the same type of problem that a real mathematician would solve and should not be watered down, even in a young fourth grade classroom.

More specifically, the Scholar Academic Ideology can be defined as “teaching children ‘ the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world’ as a culturally literate adult. Because a child’s future can not be predicted, this line of thinking allows for the child to be exposed to many disciplines which will help identify the students’ strengths that will lead the child to pursue specific career options based upon what interests the student may have discovered during the exposure to all of the different content areas.

I would say this is a fairly appropriate philosophy of education for my instructional setting. I am a special education teacher (intervention specialist) working in an inclusion setting, where my students identified with learning disabilities are included in the general education classrooms for all subjects. This way of thinking is appropriate to my instructional setting because it allows my students to learn about all academic areas (reading, math, science, social studies and more).

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All students, special education or not, have preferences for some subjects over others as well as strong vs. weak subjects. If my students were only exposed to one discipline, unlike the Scholar Academic Ideology suggests, s/he could very well be discouraged by his/her ability based on one subject area alone. For example, I have several students who struggle with reading fluency and comprehension. In other philosophies, one might think these students should spend most or all of their time in reading intervention. This would indeed cause a high frustration level, if the only interaction they had with learning was with a subject they struggled with. On the other hand, if the student could also have exposure to math, science and social studies, s/he may find that they are accelerated in math and therefore have a greater desire for knowledge overall, simply because they have now experienced success in an academic setting.

I frequently find this to be the case with my own students. I can also see that in some situations, any exposure to the “weak” subject area will be a cause of frustration and some might argue that it would not be appropriate because of that. I would tend to disagree and say that exposing students to subject areas that are not easy for him/her is still appropriate because these skills are necessary in many different careers, and the student might end up picking a career that does require certain skills that do not come easy to him/her. This exposure will help with that. The Social Efficiency Ideology is different than the previously mentioned ideology because it does not just aim to expose the students to all content areas, but there is a specific, task that the student will be taught to do. This task will be measurable and observable, much like a goal I may write for my student’s Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.).

The tasks that students will be taught to do are decided upon by the teachers who go out and find out what tasks are needed for humans to complete everyday life. The teachers come back and spend a lot of time planning for opportunities for students to learn and practice these tasks. The teacher is not the center of attention in this ideology, like in the first one I discussed. The teacher creates opportunities through programmed curriculum, which could look like a simulation on a computer (Schiro 52). The student must observe and then try to replicate the task. This way of learning is individualized because a student can not go on until the task has been completed successfully without mistakes in the process. The biggest piece that I notice about this ideology is that, the teacher does not appear to be leading the learning, at least not from the student perspective. However, the teacher must spend a great deal of time to implement each piece of the learning process in order to successfully use this ideology.

The teacher must find out what task is important to society and then turn it into an educational purpose that can be observed and measured in an action. Next, the teacher has to discover experiences that will teacher the desired action (education purpose). The order in which the student learns this action is crucial and must be carefully thought out. Lastly, the assessment piece is vital so that the teacher knows exactly whether or not the purpose was fulfilled. I find the Social Efficiency Ideology to be appropriate for my instructional setting as an Intervention Specialist in many ways. I think the way that a task must be observably measured within the Social Efficiency Ideology aligns verbatim with the requirements of an IEP goal.

As a teacher who also works with the general education population that have been given an “at risk” label, I appreciate the repeated action this ideology requires before allowing to move on. The best term I can relate to this would be “mastery of the standards.” It is not just important to know the information so you can pass a test, but it is important to master that task with 100% accuracy. I am seeing so many students come to 7th and 8th grade without the ability to do things they should have mastered in 3rd & 4th grade. Now we have gaps in the student’s skill base, making it difficult to build on to what they already know since there are “holes” that need filled. I find teaching for mastery to be an appropriate practice as an Intervention Specialist.

The Learner Centered Ideology reminds me of the virtual school I used to work for (ECOT: Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) based on the coined term by John Dewey the text used to describe the ideology, “a school of tomorrow,” (Schiro 91). While I do not feel the virtual school I taught for was completely a learner centered ideology, it was similar. The Learner Centered School is somewhat self explanatory in that it means the school revolves around the child, depending in the needs and interests of each specific learner and not those of the teacher, principal, parents, or politicians. Students learning under this ideology are learning first hand how to do things in a hands on environment. Students are learning things that they want and choose to learn. The text says that students should not have to stay burdened with “adult expectancies.”

This may mean that quite a bit of content is not reviewed with the student as early as it would be in other schools, but on the other hand, another student maybe able to be taught the information earlier. This is a customized educational experience, different for every child, with not set standards needing to be taught per age group. While I like this idea of learning in the preschool setting, it does not seem completely appropriate for my instructional group of students with identified learning disabilities. My students seem to thrive with set schedules and clear expectations or guidelines. Many of my students have A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. which would make the hands on learning style appreciated, but it would also create an environment that could be potentially distracting to the majority of my students. The idea of self discipline and taking an active part in their own learning is not something my junior high students have a knack for just yet. Without redirection, teacher prompting and checklists created by myself or another teacher, my students have been known to day dream and not do any work during what they perceive as a downtime.

For these reasons, I do not find the Learner Centered Ideology to be the best choice for my instructional group. The Social Reconstruction Ideology indicates that our society is in trouble with things like racism, war, sexism, poverty, pollution, worker exploitation, global warming and many more. The curriculum within this ideology is a way to reconstruct society and solve these issues mentioned and more. Teachers under this way of thinking are to act as leaders in these public issues. Social Reconstructionists believe that our society is unhealthy and that education is the way to solve the problems our society faces. A classroom that aligns with the social reconstruction ideology would educate students on the problems currently happening in the neighborhood or even the nation. An example of an activity the text discussed was saving a local park from a developer building condos. The text also mentions students analyzing data and forming opinions by looking at things like world wealth distribution, random traffic stops (racial profiling), environmental hazards.

For my own personal educational philosophy, I feel that there are several pieces from each ideology that I like or agree with and that I would use in my classroom for teaching different concepts. For my own philosophy, I feel that the goal is to provide the child with the skills necessary to hold a job of his/her interest, live independently, and have healthy relationships. I believe these are core goals in my mind because of the population of students I teach (learning disabilities). This probably aligns most closely with the social efficiency ideology.

In my instructional setting, I have 8 students identified with learning disabilities and they each have an individualized education plan (IEP). Each of my students struggle in math and reading (one more than the other usually). I have 2 students with a significant deficit in writing. Many of my students do not plan to go to college and will need to have a trade taught to them in order to give them a way to provide money for their livelihoods. This would be the specific, measurable, observable action that the social efficiency ideology speaks of. This trade could be assembly line/factory type of work, truck driving, welding, auto mechanics, or any hands on skill.

The teacher’s goal in my philosophy is to discover what interests the student(s) have and then provide the opportunities to practice this skill until they have mastered it. The student’s role would require active participation in his/her learning to all the teacher to plan for all areas of potential confusion. The teacher would also need to plan for opportunities that allow the student to work through those struggles. The students would need to be exposed to many of the same basics such as reading comprehension, math, and writing. Once a certain level of mastery was obtained, the students would then need more of an individualized learning path that would appeal to the specific interests of the student and allow for a deeper understanding of the student’s interests. This would be aligned with the learner centered ideology.

For the basic curriculum of reading, writing and math students would be assessed using performance based assessments that s/he could complete either using pencil/paper, verbalizing the answers, or in some sort of activity that would prove the student was capable of reading/writing/or doing basic math at a proficient level. Once the students “graduated” their fundamentals, they could move on to learning the skills needed to prepare them for the workforce, such as manual labor, administrative work, retail, assembly line production, or whatever best fit the needs and interests of that student. These assessments would also be performance based, but would likely never be pencil/paper. These assessments would need to observed by the teacher, or an expert in the field to determine the level of proficiency the student could show.

Instructional strategies that would be used under my own personal educational philosophy would be differentiated instruction. Again, everything I believe always goes back to being an intervention teacher. I have a multitude of abilities in my classroom and I never want to just teach to the lowest/highest/middle, but I try to create lessons or curriculum that can best serve all of my learners and help each of them to be pushed to achieve, but not overly frustrate. When learning both academic content areas and when learning a skill for the workforce, modeling would be a key instructional strategy. Students would need to know what exactly is a good example of reading, writing, working a math problem, changing a tire, or any skill being taught. Scaffolding would be included in many lessons to help my students build on simple tasks until they are able to complete the most complex ones.

Modeling would be an effective strategy because without knowing the end goal of an assignment, students may have a hard time understanding the WHY part to the task. Some students need to work “backwards,” which reminds me of my undergraduate days when they told us to do our lesson planning “with the end in mind.” Students don’t know what a good reader sounds like, unless they’ve heard a good reader. Students may not know what a correctly installed tire on a car looks like, so they should be shown each step so they can refer back to it in their minds as they are learning the process. Scaffolding is a way to make sure no steps are skipped during the learning of a task. Any unclear thinking can be more easily identified as a student works when you are teaching them things one step at a time, building on the last skill and preparing them for the next skill. Scaffolding would be an effective strategy.

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