The purpose of the final project is to put pedagogical shape to the theories that have been explored in the course. Any instructional practice that is not rooted in theory is nothing more than a bag of tricks. Any theory without practices that grow out if it is a lot of talk. There needs to be a dialectical relationship between the two.
What do I mean by “theories?” First, the I, Thou, and It/Context framework is not a theory. It is a framework on which many theories might be hung. It would be interesting, for example, to look at the shape that the framework might take in describing Dewey’s theory as opposed to Paolo Freire’s. What would your own theory of practice look like if you were to map it onto the I, Thou and It/context framework? Some of the theories you have seen so far are, for example:
* That there exists a “grammar of schooling” that resists reform.
* That there is an untold story of the experience of black teachers in this country and that integration has in many ways hurt the experience of black students as much as helped it.
* That historically, teaching is a “shadowed” profession that is both worshipped and simultaneously dismissed and derided.
* That the purposes of education have shifted to a market model that focuses more on product than on process, and more on a growing economy than a thinking democracy.
* That the relational aspects of teaching are essential to learning, but also built around the content/subject matter that is being taught.
* That teaching is a moral enterprise in which the person (self and identity) of the teacher is of paramount importance.
* That without being a good diagnostician a teacher will be a poor teacher.
* That teaching is a political act.
These and other small and large theories that we have not read about all realize themselves in practices that align with them in different ways. Practices will align with multiple theories as well. What is dangerous is when one begins with practice and then makes up a theory to go with it. Asking teachers, “Why did you do such-and-such a practice?” often leaves teachers at a loss. This assignment asks that you begin with a set of beliefs about and purposes of teaching, learning, and school (which may or may not be your own) and build outward (or, perhaps, inward) from there.
Below are several suggestions for theories and practices that you might want to explore. This is hardly an exhaustive list and you may well find others that you wish to explore, particularly ones that are pertinent to your field of teaching, your country, or your individual research interest.
Using the “I, Thou, It / Context” framework to guide your research, explore the affordances and limitations of a practice (for example, The Silent Way of Language Teaching or Friere’s Problem Posing) (what does the research have to say about it?) as well as the actual procedures for it. As you explore your topic, identify the theory/ies that permeate the practice. What do they say about the teacher, the learner, the nature of subject matter, the interactions among all of these, the purposes of school, and the contexts within which these all happen?
Alternatively, taking a particular theory, like Kegan’s theory of adolescent and adult development, what practices (both classroom based and professional development) suggest themselves?
You may work alone or with one or two other people. More than one person may choose the same theory or practice even if they choose not to work in the same group.
Once you have chosen a topic to explore, you will need to determine how you will present it to your peers. You will want to address the following questions (not necessarily in this order):
* What are its philosophical roots and characteristics? What are the practices? Who are the important voices that have elucidated this theory/practice?
* What are its views of the teacher? The learner? Subject matter? The purpose of education? The relationships among all these? How does it map itself onto the I, Thou, It/Context framework?
* What does the practice look and feel like? Let us experience it in some way.
* What are its possibilities, strengths, gaps, and limitations? You may engage us in forming these with you.
* How can you see adapting it in your own practice or in schools or programs or curricula generally?
You will have 15 minutes per person to present, plus 5 minutes for discussion and questions. If two of you present you will have 30 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion and questions. If three of you present, you will have 45 minutes plus 15 minutes for discussion and questions.
The purpose of the presentations is to give you a forum for input and feedback from your peers and me. I don’t need a polished presentation, but your ideas do need to be presented in a clear enough way for us to have the ability to add to them.
The final paper will describe the topic you have chosen, why you have chosen it, both personally and from the point of view of the field (why does it matter beyond your personal interest?), the theory that undergirds the practice, how the I, Thou, and It/ Contexts framework is in play. You must draw upon the readings, including any extra readings you do.
For an individual, the paper should be between 2500 and 3000 words long. If you worked in a group you must still write your own paper.
I will not be using a rubric for the paper (unless you would like to collaboratively propose one…) In general, I look for the following, as adapted from the course description:
To merit an “A,” written work should be superior in both content and form. This means that the work should be well-organized, with a logical flow of ideas and construction of arguments. The paper should be typed, neat, error-free (in terms of spelling and grammar), and easy to follow. In terms of content, I need to see evidence of rigorous and original thinking, that is, that you have understood the material you have researched, or are making a serious and coherent effort to do so, and that you are connecting that material to your own ideas, experience, and practice. I want to hear your voice! I also need to see evidence of analytical thinking that does more than list what the practice is about and describe the research says about it. What, together, does it all mean to you as a thinker and practitioner, drawing upon what you heave learned this semester in 720? I, of course, need to see evidence of your having read the texts of the course. Use quotes to illustrate your ideas, and be sure to cite them properly, using APA format. Do not use quotes without an explanation of why they are appearing in your paper.
Papers will be due May 4th by midnight. Please send to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org
POSSIBLE TOPICS TO PURSUE
1. What you have learned in the course. You can write about your own practice or instruction theory and practice in more general terms. Please do not use the word “should” in your paper, nor the royal “we.” The paper needs to deal with real issues, not ideals. You might consider the structure of this course, what you learned and how, and what significance your learning will have going forward. Or you might want to explore your own teaching practice and what you have learned about it through the course. Consider interviewing your students, if you like, to get their input.
2. A particular teaching practice, from those listed below, or another that interests you:
Language teaching practices: See Earl Stevick’s book What’s at Stake?
* The Silent Way – Caleb Gattegno
* Community Language Learning – Charles Curran; Reardon, etc.
* Audiolingual Method (ALM) – Behaviorism
* Suggestopedia – Lazanov
* Total Physical Response – Krashen
* Exhibitions & The Tuning Protocol – Coalition for Essential Schools; David Allen & Tina Blythe, Ted Sizer, etc.
* Expeditionary learning practices and schools – Ron Berger, etc. There are several schools in the Northeast you could visit.
* Montessori methods – there are numerous Montessori schools in the area that you could visit
* Critical Exploration – Eleanor Duckworth
* The Project Method – Kilpatrick (early 1900s)
* Math and Cuisinaire rods – Gattegno, etc.
* Words in Color (reading) – Caleb Gattegno
* The Dewey Lab School – Mayhew and Edwards (early 1900s)
* Knowledge Building – Scardamalia et al
* Problem posing – Paulo Freire, etc.
* Place Based Learning – David Greenwood, etc.
* Contemplative practices in education – See special issue of Teachers College Record
* Facing History and Ourselves®
* Courageous Conversations®
* Literacy practices in Cuba
* The Responsive Classroom®
* B.F. Skinner’s box
* Teaching for Understanding – Martha Stone Wiske; Understanding by Design and Backwards Design – Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe
* Introversion and extroversion in education – see Susan Cain’s (2013) excellent book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York: Broadway Books.
Theories in Education
* Teacher self-efficacy
* Mindfulness in education
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