The content for this page concerns my Master of Education Program started in the Fall of 2019. Important papers and assignments will periodically be posted to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the work I have done for this program.

 

Education
April 22, 2020EducationI am an educator. I have been divinely gifted with the ability to teach students in a myriad of ways. I believe these God-given talents have been bestowed upon me to be a force in the classroom. This is a calling that I cannot ignore, no matter how hard I try to dissuade myself from pursuing them. For these reasons, I long to accomplish a particular mission: to be the best teacher I can be, both in terms of content and by empowering students to not just be statistics of excellence, but to empower them to be functioning and responsible members of society. This means that I will not endeavor to simply enable students to achieve high grades, pass statewide examinations, or learn facts and dates, but rather to concentrate on the whole person and how they can be forces of change in our society. I hope to demonstrate to my students that they not only have the ability to change the world, but that they are the building blocks for the future and as such, they need to be enlightened with the ability to think and not just regurgitate information. Most importantly, I hope that I will shine as a light in the classroom; a light that shines in darkness. As John 1:4-5 says, “In was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” It will be my mission to be an example of Christ’s light in the classroom. I will attempt to “present as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” and to “… not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of mind” (Rom. 12:1, 2) so that my students may see Jesus through me and forever be changed by the renewing of their minds, without compromising the strictures placed on teachers of violating the separation between church and state.  In this, I hope to demonstrate Christ’s love for students. I hope to be a teacher who not only cares about the academics of students, but also their souls. [...]
September 24, 2019Education  The following is a response paper written about the article “Toward a Pedagogy Grounded in Christian Spirituality” by Gini Shmabukuro. This fulfilled part of the requirements for “EDUG 524: Foundations in Teaching for Secondary Teachers,” taught by Dr. Terrelle Sales. Christian Spirituality Response Paper In her brief but powerful article entitled “Toward a Pedagogy Grounded in Christian Spirituality,” Gini Shimabukuro defines Christian pedagogy as “… the nurturance of the spirit of Christ in students in conjunction with their interior and integral formation” (506). While this basic definition would suffice, it leaves the reader wondering: what dimensions comprise the nurturing of the spirit? What elements compose the interior and integral formation; or most importantly, what methods and by what way do teacher’s accomplish this formation? This paper will seek to demonstrate how a pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality can contribute to the instructional practices and methods of educators. This will be executed in three stages: first, a definition will be put forward as to what constitutes Christian spirituality as defined by Shimabukuro; Second, how a Christian pedagogy affects student experiences; and finally, how a Christian pedagogy affects teacher experiences. Christian Spirituality Spirituality is a difficult word to define. This ambiguity is primarily because without being coupled with any particular faith group, people are left to define spiritual however they wish. When connected to a faith group, spirituality takes on a new dimension. For example, Buddhist spirituality is much different than Hindu spirituality, which is different than Christian spirituality. For this reason, Shimabukuro must take space to help reader’s understand what she means by a “pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality.” First, she explains that pedagogy is a derivative of the Greek word παιδευτικός, which simply means “of or for teaching” (Liddell, 1287). This definition obviously fits a most basic picture of what pedagogy actually is, and Shimabukuro clarifies that it means “the art of teaching the young” (Shimabukuro, 506). But this too is insufficient for Shimabukuro aim. She continues with her definition by saying that pedagogy is not simply the transmission of information, but rather addresses the totality of a person. She says pedagogy “would embrace every action inside the classroom, as well as throughout the school, that affects the learner, as well as its effects on the development of the learner.” This holistic view of pedagogy is made complete by the most essential element: Christian spirituality. It is at this point that Shimabukuro introduces her definition of Christian spirituality as mentioned above. It is made clear by the three pedagogical models of Cambron-McCabe and Dutton. Here Shimabukuro introduces the transmission approach (the delivery of information by a teacher) (506); the genitive approach (collaborative and cooperative learning) (507); and the transformative approach (student engagement in both self and social transformation) (507). It is this last point, the transformative approach, that defines a pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality. This is because Christian spirituality is never at rest; it is always seeking to transform the lives of people, both socially and spiritually. Shimabukuro quotes Groome, saying Christian pedagogy “ ‘the very being of… students, to inform, form, and transform their identity and agency… with the meaning and ethic of Christian faith’” (508). This is the complete picture of a pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality. It requires that teachers empower students for change in their lives and their communities; it never rests and is essentially transformative. Thus it has vast implications for student experiences and teacher experiences. Student Experiences   Shimabukuro spends a portion of her article explaining the way that pedagogy has been practiced for the last two hundred years. In this assessment, she explains that students used to be an “assembly-line” of thinking: “…too many schools continue to resemble assembly lines and endorse the ‘transmission’ pedagogical approach discussed earlier” (513). Her main point here is that schools churn out children who may perhaps know the right answers to question, but cannot transform the world or society at large; they are “machines” rather than individuals. A pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality, she argues, should holistically change the student’s entire experience. There are several implications of this. First, education becomes a group experience that requires interaction. Shimabukuro quotes Palmer’s idea of a “community of truth” when she says it is “… the ‘subject’ which represents the ‘great things of life,’ with learners interacting to form a web of relationships among themselves and with the subject matter” (515). Second, when students are involved in a community, they are inevitably involved in “‘meaning-making,’ in which they construct their own knowledge (‘Constructivist”) and understand concepts through higher-order, including metacognitive, thinking…” (518). Thus the student experience changes dramatically when a pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality is present. The student does not become another machine in which a certain intake of knowledge is the line between passing and failure. Rather they are given tools to collaborate with others, which enables them to enact change within their communities. They are not simply, as Freire has famously said, taught as an economic incentive, but rather true life-changing, higher-ordered thinking that forces students to critically think about their world and the problems that inflict it as well as solutions to those problems. Shimabukuro says, “When students actively engage their learning through New Science teaching and learning… they experience opportunities to active the spirit of God dwelling within them” (519). This should be one of the most powerful ways a pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality changes individual students. Teacher Experiences The teacher’s experience also dramatically changes with this refocus. The first is that the learning space changes. Shimabukuro says, “… a learning space is created with students that invites the creative spirit of God into their lives, and, likewise, encourages students’ expressions of the spirit through their learning” (517). The implications of this are that it takes pressure off a teacher to foster an environment of right and wrong answers and instead opens up a world of creative expression through critical thinking. Second, it helps teachers develop students on a holistic level and not merely on curriculum. Shimabukuro says this method “… learners in self-exploration of the spirit dwelling within them… which promote holistic development of students and nurture their spiritual development” (517). Most importantly, the methodologies in which teachers utilize in helping students learn dramatically changes: “Passive ‘drill an kill’ methods deactivate the spirit within the student and create disconnects between learners and their inner lives” (517). Conclusion The difference is stark: in one method, the teacher’s central focus becomes helping the student achieve a certain standard that is determined through what they do and not. In the other, the teacher and student work together to empower and transform the students’ life. This paper has sought to make this abundantly clear by examining Shimabukuro’s definition of pedagogy and Christian spirituality, and by determining how classrooms are transformed, from the perspective of the student and the teacher, by adopting a pedagogy grounded in Christian spirituality. [...]
October 6, 2019EducationThe History of Giftedness and Talent Development There has long been an interest in those in society with what seem to be extraordinary abilities and aptitudes. These individuals are quantified as “gifted” or “talented,” vague nomenclature that helps few discern what characteristics define the terms. And yet the educational world must ask how to provide assistance to all members of society, even those who push the boundaries beyond what “normal” children are required. For this reason, this work will focus on several aspects of giftedness and talent development that will culminate in giving some suggestions to educators on what classroom practices should be employed to best suite this group of individuals. This will be done in several parts: first, a definition of giftedness and talent will be suggested to narrow down which individuals apply to this terminology. Second, a brief history of educating the gifted will be given with special emphasis on government legislation. Third, the current response to and how agencies assess identification of the gifted will be examined. Lastly, there will be a discussion on how everyday teachers can meet the needs of gifted students in their classrooms. Giftedness and Talent Development: Definitions Determining who is included in the category of “gifted” or “talented” is difficult to quantify. This issue is made more convoluted due to the many definitions put forth by psychologists, researchers, and practitioners (McCollin, 296). McCollin states, “The problems associated with the definition of giftedness stems from multiple sources, including the differing theoretical views on giftedness; the wide range of characteristics associated with children having extraordinary skills, abilities, aptitudes, and talents; the varying definitions of giftedness” (McCollin, 296) These illustrate some of difficulties in pinpointing what gifted means. For example, an individual could play a musical instrument beyond their grade level. This may be considered “talented” but does that necessitate “gifted”? While various definitions have been put forth, they all revolve around the qualifications as described by the National Association for Gifted Children: “A gifted person is someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression” (McCollin, 298). This, more or less, encompassing the entire spectrum of federally mandated definitions, such as: “… who by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance…”; or “… you who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity…” (McCollin, 297). All of these coalesce into two distinguishing marks: first, the child demonstrates an extraordinary ability whether intellectual, creative, or physical. Second, these extraordinary abilities allow the child to exceed that of their peers in those same categories.   Giftedness and Talent Development: A Brief History Individuals who display remarkable gifts have always fascinated people. In the United States, this goes back to the founding father Thomas Jefferson. He “… submitted a bill ‘The Diffusion of Education’ in the early 1800s to provide funding for a university education for promising students” (McCollin , 289). However, the needs of the gifted in America would not be fully realized until 1868, when a school for the gifted broke ground in St. Louis (McCollin, 290). One of the early methods of distinguishing the gifted was by way of testing. In France, two psychologists, Alfred Binét and Theodore Simon, conducted an experiment utilizing the “Binet-Simon Scales” (BSS) (McCollin, 290). At its core, the BSS was a test to measure intelligence. The BSS was largely a failure in terms of the experiment because it carried within it implicit bias that shrouded the integrity of the results (McCollin, 290). The BSS was revised in the United States under the guise of the Standford-Binet Intelligence Scale (SBIS) in 1916 by Lewis Terman (McCollin, 290). This test measured “intelligence quotient” (IQ) which “involved a ration of mental age to chronological age” (McCollin, 290). The IQ test would become a staple in determining the gifted in the 20th century and furthermore, would have major implications on the educational world. The beginning of the 20th century did not see any radical departure from the status quo for the education of the gifted despite the research that was being conducted. Terma and Leta Hollingworth, for example, published a research study of over “…1,500 gifted individuals in the 1920s that drew attention to the identification, education, and nurturing of students with gifts and talents” (McCollin, 291). Unfortunately, no sincere application was made by governmental agencies until the Cold War. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched a probe into space called “Sputnik.” The fallout from this event led President Kennedy to launch the so-called “space race.” In the wake of these decisions, the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was proposed and passed in 1958. This allowed federal funding to “… for gifted students; the development of ways to identify students with superior abilities and high academic achievement… and research to identify effective methods for providing quality educational experiences to gifted students” (McCollin, 292). With the onset of NDEA, the United States saw marked improvement in federal education reform with gifted students in mind. This took several steps to achieve: first, the Marland Report (1972) directly assessed modern education practices about gifted students and saw the establishment of the U.S. Office of the Gifted and Talented (McCollin, 292). The Marland Report and others contributed to the passing of the Javits Acts in 1988. This legislation had three major points of emphasis: “research on effective methods of assessment; appropriate identification components; and instructional programming that focused on underrepresented populations of gifted students (McCollin, 293). The act was reauthorized in 1994 and in 2001, the latter under the auspice of No Child Left Behind. Despite the research, reports, and legislation of the federal government, there continues to be a significant need for educating the gifted and talented. McCollin says, “Yet even with this more comprehensive conceptualization of gifted and talented, one can find a range of personal beliefs about the word ‘gifted’ by educators that elicits multiple meanings and much nuance” (294). For this reason, gifted students are still being held back despite the insistence that accelerated programs have distinct advantages.   Giftedness and Talent Development: Identification and Public School Response As mentioned, defining who exactly qualifies as “gifted” can be an imprecise process. In earlier times, a simple test quantified students as either gifted or not. Since then, other methods have become more precise in identifying gifted students. These other methods are not singular but rather multidimensional and take into consideration numerous factors. Instead of a single test, gifted students in the public sector are identified by building a portfolio of evidence. McCollin says, “Collecting and compiling profile data on each student is necessary for the implementation of an effective differentiated program for the gifted student” (303). These include: individual and group intelligence tests; achievement tests; portfolios or demonstrations of student work/talent; teacher nomination; parent nomination; self-nomination; peer nomination; and extracurricular activities (McCollin, 303). Far from being a simple exercise, the identification of gifted students requires time and attention by parents, teachers, and administration. Despite the research, there is still a heavy emphasis on assessments as being one of the most prominent forms of identification of the gifted student. McCollin identifies at least three different kinds of assessments used to place gifted individuals in a specialized academic program: objective-type instruments (e.g., IQ or other standardized tests); performance assessments (e.g., performances in dance or music); and rating scales, interviews (305). Schools must enact specific protocols for effective assessment. McCollin suggests these include: assessment tools must be within the purview of the giftedness of the student; the identification must be from multiple sources; testing environments should allow the student to fully express their talent; and school personnel should be informed of the technical documentation (305).   Giftedness and Talent Development: In the Classroom Teachers need to be cognizant of gifted students that are in their classroom. Teachers can aid gifted students in their classrooms primarily in three facets: differentiated instruction as an integrative model; fostering the relationship between teacher and parent; and utilizing technology in the classroom. Individual students need individual needs. For the gifted student, teachers need to understand that while they may not be categorized as gift, they excel. McCollin says that “Differentiated instruction encourages the learner to construct and produce knowledge in meaningful ways” (301). There are several ways this can take place in the classroom: individual and group summarizing; investigation of divergent perspectives; higher order critical thinking; brainstorming; Socratic dialogue; problem solving processes; and team teaching (McCollin, 302). Some of these classroom-differentiated instructions come in the form of modifications of current lessons. Knowing that a student may have a propensity towards giftedness may encourage teachers to add elements of rigor within lesson plans to intentionally challenge these students who may feel bored or out of place. The inclusion of the family into the learning of the gifted student may be the most important step in ensuring the success of the student. McCollin says, “These family units represent the most important socializing agency in the life of the child and as such have a definitive influence on decisions that impact the life trajectory of the student” (McCollin, 305-306). Since gifted students have an “asynchronous development,” the relationship between teacher and student must collaborate to guarantee their success (McCollin 307). Both teacher and parent must be aware of the unusual cognitive or performance ability of the student and work together to form proper scaffolding for their development. Lastly, teachers need to utilize the whole gamut of technological resources for their gifted students. McCollin says, “Students with gifts and talents characteristically possess skill sets that are aligned with and improved by current technologies, and it is critical that educators incorporate various technologies within their pedagogy and classroom environments” (McCollin, 307-308). As the world becomes smaller because it is becoming more connected, so too will information be more readily available to be utilized via technology by gifted and talented individuals.   References Obiakor, F. E., & Bakken, J. P. (Eds.). (2011). History of special education. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.vanguard.idm.oclc.org [...]

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