Inclusion of Students with Special Needs

American federal laws and society values have contributed to an increase in students with special needs working alongside their peers in general education classrooms. When students with special needs are included in the general education classroom, all students learn that everyone has special abilities and some people need more help than others. I think inclusion of students who receive special education services leads to a more accepting school culture and other students strive to assist anyone who needs help. After reading more about this topic, it is evident some people worry about accommodations being fair for everyone and whether or not inclusion is beneficial.

Byrnes (2008) explains that an accommodation is a modification to an activity or setting to remove the barrier preventing the person with a disability from achievement and access. Byrnes analyzes how appropriate adjustments do not make an assignment or lesson easier for students, but rather provides equal access that other students experience in a learning environment (Evans, 2008, p. 319). I thought Byrnes provided thorough support for accommodating students with special needs since the purpose to them when it is needed and does not interfere with what is being tested.

Kauffman, McGee, and Brigham (2008) argue that inclusion often prevents students with disabilities from being properly challenged or enabling the students to rely on the accommodations. Further, there is concern over whether students with special needs are receiving an appropriate education that aligns with their disability (Evans, 2008, p. 329). I think these are valid arguments, but instead of implying all students with special needs should not be included, it is better to remind teachers to think about individual student’s situations. Making generalizations about how special education inclusion is applied erroneously across the country adds to any negative connotation. It is also ignoring the school’s that have implemented a good approach. People who oppose the inclusion should ask successful schools about their program to learn what is recommended to ensure all students are being properly assessed and accommodated.

I think it is often difficult for people who have not needed an accommodation in life to understand that the purpose is to make the task equitable, not easier. I support the inclusion of students with special needs working in the general education classroom when the resource team makes that recommendation. I think when children work with a diversity of students then it is an opportunity for life lessons that might not occur otherwise. As long as everyone is achieving what they are capable of doing, the inclusion of students with disabilities should not be considered a distraction in the general education classroom. Instead, inclusion should be viewed as an asset because everyone is learning material and lessons they might not have been exposed to in another environment.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

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Character Education

Should character education be taught in schools?

As I have learned about character education over the past year, I have been very adamant that I would introduce some sort of focus on practicing positive character traits and values in my classroom. I was aware that there might be issues with deciding on which traits to concentrate on and I did not want to create any specific lessons about the characteristics. My philosophy has been that it is best to discuss the values with my students. Another advantage of character education is to help unite my students to work toward a common goal of operating as a caring, functional classroom. It did not occur to me that some parents or community members might view character education programs as a conservative, religious agenda until reading Cornwall’s perspective that value-focused programs reinforce the majority’s social and cultural values (Evans, 2008, p. 343). Cornwall opposes character education programs for multiple reasons. A few of arguments against character education include 1) programs do not explain to children the reason for promoting certain values, 2) there is no way to track the success of programs, and 3) a better alternative is to transform how the classroom operates rather than focusing on the faults of people (Evans, 2008, pp. 343-347).

Cornwall’s first argument is not persuasive because it is nearly impossible to teach children anything without explaining why. If a teacher forgot, or purposefully did not explain the reason, then a student will likely ask. Cornwall assumes teachers or parents will respond to a child’s inquiry by stating, “because I say so.” If that is an adult’s response, then most children’s interest will decrease in learning whatever they are being taught. It is difficult to convince children of anything without providing ample reasoning. Children always have questions and (thankfully) are not satisfied until understanding why. Cornwall’s second argument is more convincing. There should absolutely be a method to track the success of character education programs. Of particular interest to me is what is the best method that students learn the values and what values are most worth teaching? Cornwall’s last point is thought provoking. I agree the system in place should not force people to make the better, responsible decision, but creating a better environment begins with people having values and morals. Additionally, this argument contradicts another argument that character education does not reflect the true complexity of choices in the real world (Evans, 20098, p. 344). If teachers and parents provide the most ideal system possible, then how will children learn decision-making skills to use once they are adults in society? Not everyone will be trying to protect them when they are adults.

Cornwall addresses important questions to consider, yet I still believe teaching values and character is beneficial for students. Character education helps teach students how to live by their values, even when there might be a hard decision to make. They have to analyze the benefits and consequences and decide on the option they think is best. Parents, teachers, and caregivers have the responsibility to guide children to learn why values and character traits are important and how these values help everyone live in a more harmonious society.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Socially Constructed Knowledge

There are different types of knowledge students learn throughout their K-12 education. A few of specific types of knowledge student acquire are subject-related knowledge, academic skills, social skills, and collaboration abilities. Prior to grade school, children often experience life primarily at their home, at a preschool, or in a childcare center. These places tend to be very small populations and children interact with familiar people. Elementary school changes this learning and knowledge dynamic. Students are exposed to new learning content, social procedures, and a diverse set of perspectives and approaches to life. Children start learning new and different knowledge as they work with others. The cooperative learning approach supports students as they learn how to respectfully interact with each other while building vital social skills for adult life.

The cooperative learning strategy recognizes that students have diverse interests and the class acquires knowledge together based on those interests. The process of cooperative learning includes creating an environment where students can explore new knowledge by discussing the information with peers, and developing an understanding with classmates about the information (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 37).

EDU6526Week4
Image 1 (Retrieved from collaborativegrouplearning.com)

Image 1 on the right summarizes the cooperative learning process as students interact in a community and share ideas. The teacher’s responsibility during this process is to facilitate the groups, intervene when necessary, and act as a consultant (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 252). When students participate in a cooperating learning environment, knowledge is constructed based on the group interests rather than knowledge the teacher believes students should learn.

I have participated in numerous group-learning projects throughout my education and in the work setting. Naturally, group work is challenging at times, but the value of working with different people and learning about their perspectives or approaches outweighs the difficulties. As a teacher, one of the best benefits of utilizing a cooperative learning strategy is so students have the opportunity to talk and exchange ideas. Humans are social creatures. I do not expect my students to sit silently for the majority of the school day. Instead, I want students to learn how to exchange ideas and reflect on their knowledge through discussions and collaboration. Another advantage of group learning is that students realize working together is easier when they properly utilize each other’s strength and knowledge. Every individual has a unique ability or thought that should be shared with group. When everyone participates, the result is a better solution to a problem or a stronger final product. A cooperative learning approach advocates the notion that students learn more when working together because they are simultaneously teaching each other. This type of education and knowledge cannot by preplanned by a teacher, so teachers should encourage students to learn from each other through group activities and discussions.

References

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., & Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching (9th ed.). Upper Sadle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

EDU 6120: Final Foundations

Question: Many of the authors we study contend that the most important goals of education are to improve the moral and social fabric of student and to raise academic achievement. Explain what this means to you and provide illustrations showing how these goals might be best attained. 

The American public education system serves multiple purposes. When parents send their children to school, it assumed the primary reason is so children learn academic skills to prepare them for the future. While academics do consume the majority of a student’s day, students also learn social skills and societal values during the school day. It is important for teachers to identify opportunities to teach social and moral character while preparing academic lessons.

Arthur Foshay identifies four learning areas that teachers are obligated to recognize as part of a student’s education. The four areas are: 1) academic coping skills; 2) character development skills; 3) citizenship skills; and 4) self-realization skills (Ellis, Session 6, p. 3). These four skill areas align with purpose of education: academic, social, and moral lessons. For example, academic achievement is influenced by academic coping skills, characters development skills, and self-realization skills. Acquiring academic coping skills helps students since they learn the foundations of certain subjects and how to effective study habits. Character development and self-realization relate to academics because these skills teach students perseverance when schoolwork becomes challenging.

Similarly, values and morals are taught when students learn character development skills, citizenship skills, and self-realization skills. Part of developing one’s character is deciding certain values to live by and self-realization occurs in situations when students have to follow their values. If a student believes cheating on tests is wrong and discovers their friend cheated, then this situation becomes a personal dilemma. That student must decide to either inform the teacher or talk to their friend first. These types of situations test a person’s morals and character. Lastly, morals are learned through citizenship in the classroom. Teachers expect students to follow certain procedures as part of class management during the school day, just as citizens are expected to follow societies rules which function to maintain a sense of order. Morals are an underlying component of any classroom or society rule. Rules are created based on the belief that people should practice respect, not harm others, and make positive contributions to the community.

Since part of a teacher’s responsibility is to teach academic, social, and moral skills, how do teachers effectively incorporate these skills into the classroom? Richard Hersh proposes that the academic and social climates of the school contribute to effective teaching and effective learning (Ellis, Session 4, p. 10). According to Hersh, effective teachers promote a positive academic climate by using a variety of teaching techniques, ensuring students stay on task to increase instruction time, monitoring student progress, and evaluating assigned homework. (Ellis, Session 4, p. 10). Hersh also provides suggestions for how teachers cultivate a positive social environment. Recommendations include that teachers explain expectations and goals to their students, have high expectations of students, demonstrate a caring disposition toward students, and publically recognize positive student behavior (Ellis, Session 4, p. 10). With this advice, teachers can ensure students are learning academic, social, and moral skills in the classroom and during other interactions in the school community.

When teachers are aware of the responsibility to teach a variety of skills and know how to effectively teach these skills, then teachers can keep these goals in mind during lesson planning and instruction. To successfully teach academic skills, teachers should use grading rubrics to ensure students are accomplishing learning objectives and have students track their own learning goals on individual assessment forms. A thorough grading rubric guarantees students and teachers understand instructional goals and that everyone also knows the performance that is required to reach that level of understanding (Marzano, 2007, p. 23). A rubric is an efficient method for teachers to outline and describe the academic skills that are the purpose of a specific lesson. Teachers should also distribute Student Progress Charts so students monitor their progress after deciding on a learning goal in a particular subject. The Student Progress Chart requires students to choose a goal score to attain at the end of a unit and then student’s track their progress in graph form. (Marzano, 2007, pg. 25-26). This self-assessment is very helpful for students as they learn academic skills because it is a visual guide for them to see what areas they are struggling in compared to areas where progress has been made. Rubrics and student self-assessments are valuable tools for teachers to monitor if academic skills are being learned.

Teaching moral and character skills might not involve such explicit techniques. Instead, to teach these skills, teachers should create a sense of community within the classroom and find opportunities to praise students when their behavior reflects community values. One of the first lesson plans a teacher should include in the beginning of the school year is collaborating with students to create a list of classroom rules. Involving students in the process is critical because it helps students think about why rules are important and how they can demonstrate the behavior described in the rules. Another way teachers may incorporate learning about character and morals is while reading literature or during history lessons. In these examples, teachers should initiate class discussions about character personality traits. If a character in a story did something that negatively impacted themselves or their community, then students might discuss what that character could have done differently. Similarly, when studying history, the class might talk about the character traits or morals of an individual who had a positive impact in history. These discussions help students connect school lessons with the real world. A goal of these lessons is for students to think about the impact of their behavior inside and outside the classroom. When students know their core values then it is easier for students to practice those morals.

It is evident that a student’s education must include lessons that teaching academic skills, along with social and moral skills. When a teacher considers all three skills to be a priority while teaching, then students will likely be better prepared to handle the diverse challenges that occur in every day life. Academic skills are critical for a child to be a successful student, but building character helps students persevere throughout difficult subjects while knowing core values guides student through complicated life situations. Teachers must include the three skill areas for a student to receive a meaningful education.

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Question: Of all the individuals and philosophies we have discussed during this course, select one or two whose ideas have influenced you the most. What are those ideas, and what relevance to they have to your own philosophy?

For thousands of years people from around the world have been interested in figuring out the best method to educate others. Philosophers, educators, and scholars have written countless articles, essays, journals, reflections, and performed studies that scrutinize the most effective educational approaches. These resources have provided modern educators with a plethora of information to study, examine, and analyze in the context of present day education and philosophy. When studying these historical methodologies, it is essential to remember that several ideas were likely written for a particular audience and during a time when students tended to be from a similar group. Yet many of the contributions are still relevant in modern society and can be applied in the classroom. Throughout this course, I have been primarily influenced by principles of the Progressive philosophy and the educational contributions of Horace Mann.

Progressivism is an educational approach that centers on the manner in which information should be taught. A progressive philosophy is the belief that students should be taught how to think rather than what to think (Ellis, Session 5, p. 6). Progressivism does not teach students that the purpose of education is to memorize information in order to pass examinations. Instead, when a teacher practices a progressive approach, he or she strives for students to be independent thinkers and learn how to analyze the information they are being taught. The goal is to provide students with the skills necessary to adapt to environments that are constantly changing (Ellis, Session 5, p. 6). This philosophy aligns with one of my teaching goals. I believe students should think about why they are taught certain information and to consider how that information might apply to future situations.

John Dewey, an American educational philosopher, contributed to many of the main principles of progressivism. A few of Dewey’s principles include the belief that education is a lifelong process through active involvement, that students’ interests should guide lessons, and that students require different teaching styles (Scheuerman, Session 8, p. 1). These principles support my teaching philosophy because I want students to develop a passion to continually learn throughout their lifetime. This idea is supported when teachers make lessons relevant to a student’s interests. If a lesson is about a subject a student is interested in, she or he will show more focus, comprehension, retention, and examination about that topic. Teaching lessons relevant to students’ interests persuades them to explore learning opportunities outside the classroom and hopefully become lifelong learners. Teachers can further support lifelong learning when it is recognized that students have different interests and learning styles. These factors should be taken into consideration when teachers are planning lessons. A variety of lessons, activities, and teaching techniques help make learning more relevant to a diverse audience of students.

Horace Mann, who was the first director of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, is influential because he understood the complexities of providing a public education for all students and valued various subjects being taught in school. Mann lived until 1859, yet he envisioned a public school system that is quite comparable to present day. He believed students benefitted from instruction in a range of subjects. In one of Mann’s Annual Reports, he wrote about the importance of lessons in music, health, and physical fitness (Scheuerman, Session 7, p. 1). In modern society, these subjects are included in students’ school schedules, but these classes are often the first to either be eliminated or have reduced instruction time because of budget constraints. While the specific classes might be removed from my students’ schedules, I can still find ways to include these subjects into the general classroom. For example, I can incorporate music into the classroom by reciting lyrics during literature readings or plan for activities that allow students opportunity to move around the classroom. Creativity while lesson planning will help students continue to be exposed to a variety of subjects.

Mann also acknowledged the numerous benefits of living in an educated society. In 1848, in his Twelfth Annual Report, Mann emphasized several community-related advantages of all citizens attending school including that education provides independence, prevents poverty, decreases the class system, and teaches logical thinking, innovation, and socialization (Scheuerman, Session 7, p. 2). This report is influential because Mann’s analysis was written over 160 years ago and it helped provide all children access to an education. These societal advantages continue to be discussed today as the American education system struggles to balance providing an equal education for all students. It is also remarkable that Mann devoted his career to education yet began his professional career as a successful lawyer (Scheuerman, Session 7, p. 1). I think this decision is very inspiring because I strongly believe teaching is my calling in life. Becoming a teacher is a career change for me after working in typical office environment for about five years. I believe that my work experience outside the field of education will help me empathize with parents when figuring out scheduling conflicts and trying to determine the best communication method. My prior experience offers a unique perspective, yet I have a lot to learn from teachers who have always worked in education. Mann’s story has encouraged me that following one’s life calling will lead to success.

The progressive philosophy and the work of Horace Mann have greatly influenced my preparation to become a teacher. One of the greatest lessons is that I must acknowledge how the principles will impact my work. If I am cognizant of why I plan lessons a certain way or practice certain teaching methods, then it helps ensure my students are receiving the benefits of those principles. The progressive approach encourages lifelong learning and this belief is applicable to my personal growth and development. I am open to learning about additional philosophies and instructional techniques to enhance my knowledge Furthermore, when I continue researching educational philosophies and applying new concepts in my lessons and teaching activities, then I am modeling the behavior that I hope my students will develop. My instructional approach will continually change as I gain experience working as a teacher, learn additional educational principles, and observe how my students respond after applying certain techniques. Just like learning is a lifelong process, teaching is a lifelong process of adapting and evolving.