|2. Teaching Students Based on their Individual
We understand that every child is different. Each child has individual
needs and personal factors that drive their motivation. No two students
are motivated by the same learning activity to the same degree but we
must expect all students to be successful learners. We must present
materials to students that are within their capacity to learn yet is
challenging and connected to prior knowledge. Children learn best if
they are immersed in their experiences and are given opportunities to
actively process what they have learned. The best learning takes place
when necessary facts and skills are embedded in experiences that
relate to real life. This is truly a child-centered educational system.
Some outcomes of this model are that students feel safe and
involved in their education and acquire a sense of self-worth and
acceptance. There is a mutual trust between teachers and students
with a sense of community and family. There is genuine caring among
individuals and a sense of responsibility for the student success.
Teachers demonstrate an understanding of their subject matter and
continuously strive to better themselves and students value themselves
and others. No one can disagree that children learn better in smaller
classes than in larger ones. In smaller classes, children do not get “lost
in the crowd”. There is a large cost that is incurred but in order to
realize the benefits of child-centered classrooms this is a small cost to
pay. The bottom line is that every change to public education requires
an investment of funds. Creating small learning communities does incur
additional costs notwithstanding that the positive effect of smaller
classes becomes very cost effective in the long run.
Many teachers have been known to adopt various new strategies in
order to teach more effectively. One promising strategy involves using
adaptive learning to tailor instruction to each individual student.
Teachers are moving away from the traditional classroom model where
one teacher works with an entire class having all students doing the
same things at the same time to a classroom where teachers give more
focused attention to small groups while other groups work
In the traditional education model, each teacher works alone, isolated
in their own classroom without communication from the school or from
peers. This is a factory-style model. Teachers need to work with other
educators sharing information about their curriculum and how it can be
related to other subject so it becomes interdisciplinary. There also must
be ongoing conversations among the teachers about the students they
teach in common, sharing observations and coordinating efforts to
monitor how the students are performing throughout the day.
By schools restructuring to support small learning communities,
teacher effectiveness multiplies. Second, schools should identify who
their best, most effective teachers are and then empower them to lead
and help train other teachers. Teacher mentors and teacher advisories
have been proven to help solve the problem of retention and it helps to
reduce isolation, allowing teachers to problem-solve together.
By reducing the size of a school by creating mini-schools, we are
rethinking the role of teachers and their place in the educational
structure. In this model, teachers will become critical thinkers and
problem-solvers adjusting the educational process to effectively meet
the ever-changing needs of their students.
There are many social advantages in creating mini-schools. When
students are in a large school it is very easy for them get “lost in the
crowd”. While in small learning environments, everyone is needed to be
part of the learning experience. Shy students who would never be part
of teams, clubs, or other educational activities will be encouraged to
participate and will be supported by teachers. Attendance and dropout
rates fall, and social disruptions such as behavioral problems which are
disruptive to the learning process in large schools seem to be
diminished to a level that can be handled by the staff of the mini-school.
One of the reasons why students “do not get lost in the crowd” is that
not only is every student known by an adult, but in smaller learning
environments the students build closer relationships with peers, where
students tend to know one another and thus care for each other.
Everyone has a place where they can feel safe to be themselves
without fear of the embarrassment of failure. It is this environment which
allows all students to develop the self-esteem needed for success in
Educational research has made great strides in outlining what works
to improve educational outcomes for students. Yet nothing is more
important than a developmentally responsive education. These reforms
must lead to changes in the way educators look at curriculum,
instruction and assessment. If it is our goal to promote intellectual
development, then we must understand how the differences in the
family and social circumstances of all students affect them and their
readiness to master a rigorous curriculum.
|1. Integrated Curriculum and Its Effects on
How Children Learn.
Educational leaders have the responsibility to ensure that
curriculum is integrated through all subjects and nothing is taught
in isolation. Curriculum needs to be aligned to the real world with a
school climate of respect and discipline. There needs to be a
school culture which will have everyone working together where all
students can achieve.
We can all agree that effective teachers must also find ways to
personalize this learning process so it is both relevant and
challenging for each of our students. By moving the process from
a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom,
we will foster the student’s ability to become a lifelong learner.
This occurs when we educate them through their learning styles,
nurturing their individual talents, rather than the mass production
approach we currently apply to teacher-centered classrooms.
Student-centered classrooms make teaching exciting. Teachers
no longer work in isolation and begin to work in a team
environment. Subjects are integrated throughout the curriculum
and relate to the student environment. Skills and knowledge are
developed in the subjects of language arts, science, mathematics,
social studies, music and art. Team teaching ties together the
subjects where all of the student’s teachers plan together to give
greater meaning to learning.
This shared learning environment motivates teachers and
learners to see life problems in a broad sense of creating
meaningful associations to the learning process. Creating these
associations in the curriculum allows teachers to develop a sense
of ownership to the learning process. When teachers develop this
sense of purpose and they feel that they can make a difference,
their willingness to remain in this educational setting will be
Teachers who also work in teams are able to recognize and
confront problems which developed in the learning environment.
Teachers also appreciate the social support of fellow workers
when they work together to solve issues in their classrooms.
The benefits of this integrated curriculum approach also include
elevated student results. When what is learned in one area of the
curriculum is applied to skills learned in another area of the
curriculum, then students see relationships between the different
subject areas. As soon as this happens, learning takes on new
meaning. Learning in isolation is just facts that deal with abstract
ideas. But, by integrating the curriculum, students see
relationships, concepts and underlying ideas of the core
curriculum where meaningful concepts and connections can be
discussed to develop sense to what the students are learning.
When we make education more meaningful, concerns about
achievement diminishes and we begin to understand that learning
experiences are retained and remembered much more easily than
memorization of facts. Learning takes place when meaningful ideas
and concepts are tied to the learning styles of individual students.
The concept of student-centered learning is enhanced when
teachers demonstrate the skills to customize learning for students
with a large range of individual differences. Students come from
many different cultures bringing varied experiences, abilities, and
family values to the classroom and teachers must deliver
education to these students.
Assessments are important to improve instruction and support
student successes. Teachers need to have greater knowledge and
skill around how to develop lessons that lead to student mastery.
In addition, teachers need to be prepared to make data-informed
decisions at varied levels of assessment, from once a year state
testing to ongoing assessments at the classroom level. This
information will then be used to deliver rigorous, relevant and
personalize learning for individual students.
Creating an environment where teachers continue to improve their
effectiveness is enhanced by collaboration. Teachers collaborating
with each other to create environments that support learning and
self-motivation is an outcome all teachers need to strive for and
In contrast the performance standards movement is less
concerned about what students learn and more fixated on how
they learn and what they know. Howard Gardner’s, “theory of
multiple intelligences” is seen as the opposite to the core
knowledge movement. Gardner sees the core knowledge
movement as “One Size Fits Few” and a perfect example of
American style education.
Many educational leaders and teacher unions feel that there are
so many unanswered questions on implementing the Common
Core that the whole process is flawed and thus, it is being revised
on a federal level. When we look at educational policy across the
country, many states are creating exams based on the standards.
Educators and parents have just finished a decade-long
experiment in standards-based, test-driven school reform called
No Child Left Behind. NCLB required states to adopt rigorous
curriculum standards and test students annually to gauge
progress towards reaching these standards. Under No Child Left
Behind, all 50 states revised their standards and began testing
every student in grades 3 to 8 and in high school. But NCLB was a
failure. Most schools did not raise their academic performance or
the performance of their students.
Failure was looked at as a failure of the schools themselves.
And in an attempt to fix these failed schools, blame fell on those
individuals who worked in the schools. Consequently, when we
look at a list of our schools in our nation, more than half the
schools in the nation were on the list of failing schools and the list
was growing every day.
When we look a student-centered learning, teachers need the
skills to customize learning for students accounting for various
individual differences. Students come from many different cultures
bringing their varied experiences, abilities, and family values to the
classroom and teachers must deliver an effective education to all
High quality instruction must include methods to teach to student
differences in interests, readiness and learning profiles. Students
must learn by doing, being involved in what they are learning.
Collaborative learning by working in small groups encourage social
behavior which speaks volumes on how students grow and mature.
This learning must be supported by making counseling, health-
care and social services available on site. Every successful school
realizes that having an excellent rigorous curriculum with effective
teachers will fail if delivered to students who have severe
emotional or health problems. These issues will always inhibit the
student’s ability to function at a high level in school. Therefore, we
must be prepared to look at the whole child, meeting their physical,
emotional and social needs as well as their educational needs.
| Educational Issues Facing Our Schools……………………
Anyone who looks at our schools can see many issues that need to be clarified as to their importance
in improving our schools. By focusing on these issues or the deeper things that make a successful
school we will have a greater understanding of how these elements work together to create a school
culture that provides positive outcomes for all children.