Reflecting On American Education

As I reflect on my personal growth throughout this course, I begin by looking at my previous understanding when I first began this online class. I decided to pursue a teaching career after receiving my BA in Communications Cinema/Digital from Vanguard University in southern California. My undergrad contributed a great deal of knowledge to the visual arts skills that I use in my video production and graphic design classes. However, this gave me no knowledge of the world of education. Through this process I have learned concepts and educational facts that were new to me but probably not to most teachers who have been in this field for a while. With all that said, it was very useful to learn about the history of education because it gave me a better understanding of how and why our educational system in America functions today.

In my first reflection, I talked about the difficulties that existed in pre-colonial America when efforts were first being made to create an educational system for children. I was encouraged to see the lengths that people went to for the opportunity to have access to education. This made me consider the people and resources in schools today that we take for granted. Urban and Wagoner (2009) state, “If some elements of education continued to tie new generations to those of the past, other lessons were being pressed to the fore as new challenges forced both old and new inhabitants to adjust to the demands of two worlds undergoing the process of cultural transfer and transformation” (p. 11). The inception of education in America came about from the clashing of worlds, cultures and societies. Through this process, many sacrifices had to be made, some good and some bad.

As we continued to learn about the history of education, I saw the following pattern: It was the people who had the power that were able to make decisions that dramatically affected education today. These leaders developed different viewpoints and discussed their differences, weighing the pros and cons of their approaches to teaching. In the end, I saw a great deal of effort put forward to create a system that supported student learning and personal growth, giving children the foundation to one day become a part of greater American society.



Meta-Reflection: What Have I Learned?

I came into the Survey of Instructional Strategies course with past knowledge of popular teaching strategies but I did not realize how extensive these strategies could be. This course helped me to not only understand these approaches, but to be able to implement them in my classroom. The examples that we were provided with throughout this course gave me clearer vision on the best ways to use these tools with my students, meeting the standards of “E1-Exemplify professionally informed, growth-centered practice”. In our first module, we were asked to think about how to design instruction to meet the needs of all students. In the article, “Closing Opportunity Gaps in Washington’s Public Education System”, the authors write, “All students can succeed, but they need highly effective teachers, exemplary curriculum and materials, and appropriate academic and social support” (2010). These thoughts have stayed with me throughout this class because I feel that every piece of this quote is necessary to help students succeed.

In the beginning of the class we read through “Classroom Instruction that Works” and this gave me a chance to think about some of the strategies that were new to me as I considered how I could utilize them in the future. This was also a chance for me to look at strategies that I was already using and evaluate what changes could be made that would make them more effective. An example would be this LESSON PLAN Artifact where I implemented the strategy of “Non-linguistic Representations” and “Assigning Homework and Providing Practice”. In this lesson, the strategies were productive but as I reflect on what I now know I realize that I could have used these approaches to take the students deeper into their learning. The strategies are not meant to simply convey knowledge, they are rather a means to get students to evaluate, question and discover the content material in a manner that will stick with them. Concerning Nonlinguistic Representations, Dean et al (2012) states, “Imagery is expressed as mental pictures or physical sensations, such as smell, taste, touch, kinesthetic association, and sound” (p. 63).  In the future, I plan on using this short video about TROUBLESHOOTING TECHNOLOGY that I made as a Non-linguistic Representation to introduce students to problem solving with technological materials.

As we continued through each module in this course, we were given the opportunity to role-play the strategies that we were learning about. In MY VIDEO PROJECT, I learned a great deal about Cooperative Learning and discovered new ways to implement this strategy in future Video Production classes. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) state, “Cooperative learning is an approach to instruction that provides both the opportunity and the organization for balanced, successful, and satisfying group learning experiences” (p. 246). This is a fantastic approach that puts students in the driver’s seat rather than me with a white board. Bruner’s approach to teaching points the students to self-discovery of the content material. The author (1966) writes, “Discovery teaching involves not so much the process of leading students to discover what is ‘out there,’ but, rather, their discovering what is in their own heads” (p. 1). This is where I learned that teaching is not all up front; it is instead walking beside students and helping them discover the world around them.

I enjoyed the hands-on based approaches throughout this course because they work so well in my technology classes where students are constantly working with cameras, computers and software programs. Strategies such as Cooperative Learning, Concept Attainment, Advance Organizers and Role Playing all allow significant visual components to their implementation. An example of the Role Playing approach can be viewed in artifact 1 and 2 (see below) from a graphic design class that I taught. In this class, I had students create a personal business complete with a purpose, vision statement, and an extensive brand identity by using Office Word and Adobe Photoshop. Through the strategy of Role Playing, students were completely invested into the project because they got to play the role of a marketer in the business world.

As I reflect on my progress throughout this course, I realize that my approach to teaching has grown. I am not simply thinking about making a curriculum to meet the end goal of delivering knowledge to my students. Instead, I am delicately crafting a curriculum that utilizes an array of instructional strategies to meet the needs of a diverse room of learners. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) bring up this example of my paradigm shift through the use of the Inductive Model by stating, “…the teacher is to continue asking students questions to facilitate their thinking, as opposed to providing praise for the ‘right’ answers” (p.160). As a result of my learning throughout this course, I will be not only a better teacher but also a better learner. I discovered that there are a multitude of instructional strategies and I need to continue to test these approaches in my classroom, evaluate the outcomes, make any necessary changes and then continue to implement.


Artifact 1:


Artifact 2:


Blog 7: Teaching Morals?

In this week’s module we discussed the role that virtues and values play in the classroom. As teachers, it is our role not only to lead young people to knowledge but to also teach them how to be a citizen of the greater society. In our discussion, a lot of great ideas and concepts were discussed. My point of view is that we as teachers need to be examples of moral character for our students. However, one of my colleagues brought up the fact that he does not feel comfortable in that role and would rather see those expectations stay inside family walls. I see both sides of this point of view. In the article, “Can Virtue Be Taught?”, Kirk proposes, “It would be vain for us to pretend that schools and colleges somehow could make amends for all the neglect of character resulting from the inadequacies of the American family” (p. 1). It is true that teachers cannot replace the lessons that children learn on a daily basis from their families. However, I think that teachers can try to partner with families to best support the students. For example, I know that I can better utilize parent-teacher conferences compared to past experiences. In my first year of teaching, I used this time to usually discuss behavioral issues in hopes that parents would then work with me in these problems. However, this could have also been a time to get to know parents and see what they are teaching their child. I could encourage them in their efforts to raise their child because parenting is hard and I’m sure it is nice to hear some positive feedback. Even though parents are hopefully teaching their children to be people of character, it is still something that we teach in the classroom whether we mean to or not. Since students are taking note of our actions, I think that it is an opportunity to be an example of moral character and maybe even make a lesson of it.

I enjoyed the following quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel that Prof Williams shared with us, “It is not better textbooks we most need to improve education but text-people. A teacher’s life is the book that students read with more care than anything on paper, and will far more significantly shape their lives.” Teachers are constantly watched not only by students, but by the surrounding community. We are leaders because of the profession that we chose and I believe that is an important authority that should not be wasted.


Module 6 Reflection: How Do Students Learn Best?

Throughout this module, we studied some learner-centered approaches. In our discussion we talked about how to make sure that we as teachers are taking the time in building relationships with our students to know how they learn best. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) describe the humanist movement by stating, “Rather than focus solely on students’ mastery of academic content, humanism advocates that schools educate ‘the whole child,’ the affective, physical, and cognitive lives of students” (p. 307). I believe that this was an important concept to be introduced to education because students are all different and learn in unique ways. Before this movement in education, the system catered to a specific type of learner while ignoring the needs of others. This is why approaches such as multiple intelligence strategies can be important tools in the classroom.

In our small group discussion, we talked about how it is almost impossible to cater to every student, every single day in a class of 30. However, that does not mean that we should give up applying multiple intelligences altogether. Instead, we can have opportunities for students to engage in multiple intelligences activities such as giving them a project with multiple paths to completing it. For example, in my video production classes when we learn about the history of cinematography, students could have the option of writing a research paper, making a video, creating a Powerpoint and giving a presentation to the class, etc. This would give students the opportunity to learn the content material in the context that best fits how they process knowledge. Gardner (1993) explains his two assumptions about learning today by stating, “The first is that not all people have the same interests and abilities; not all of us learn in the same way. The second assumption is one that hurts: it is the assumption that nowadays no one person can learn everything there is to learn (p. 3). It is true that we cannot learn everything there is to learn, but we can give students the tools they need to grow, learn and succeed in society.


Reflection: The Coleman Report

The Coleman report was an effort to study how a poorer economic status affected students’ educational opportunities in 1966. James S. Coleman was in charge of this endeavor and led a research group in this study; their findings were complied in the Coleman Report. In my review of the Coleman Report, I found that the importance which was placed on having quality teachers to be quite encouraging. Coleman (1966) states, “The quality of teachers shows a stronger relationship to pupil achievement” (p. 1).  I know that this could seem obvious, but it is a factor that I feel every teacher asks when in a low moment. Am I making a difference? Good teachers care deeply about their students and hope that their instruction is helping students succeed in education. When students have lost motivation and it seems that nothing is getting through to them, it is good for teachers to remind themselves that their instruction makes a great deal of difference.

I was also very interested to see that a majority of Coleman’s findings were based on students’ attitudes rather than access to resources (or lack there of). Coleman (1966) explains the “pupil attitude factor” by stating that it, “…appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the “school” factors together…” (p. 2). This is an important concept that we should take away from this report because it reminds teachers that the students’ perception of the world around them is a huge factor in their learning. Even though each student absorbs the attitudes of their social groups, teachers can use their influence to speak truth into students’ lives.

I don’t think that the Coleman Report hindered educational reform because it brought up important questions that educators needed to think about. Urban and Wagoner (2009) explained “Although the Coleman Report offered no definitive answer to the problem it addressed, underachievement of poor students, its greatest contribution was to bring into mainstream social scientific inquiry the question of the links among economic class, race, and school achievement” (p. 360). This report was not a catalyst for educational reform but it did open the doors for educators to see important factors that affect student learning and achievement that they might not have otherwise considered.


Reflection #1: The Beginnings of American Education

Throughout this module we studied pre-colonial and colonial education and the many changes that it underwent as settlers tried to establish a system in America. This helped me better understand the history that is embedded deep into the educational model that I function in today. One of the things that struck me was how difficult it was to create an educational system that could reach all children. I have had many times where I have complained about having too many students in my video classes to adequately meet their needs or the wrong equipment. However, I can’t even comprehend the obstacles that the settlers faced such as the massacre at Henrico City (Urban and Wagoner, 2009, p. 22). These humbling thoughts have encouraged me to let go of excuses and work to overcome the obstacles, which we as teachers face on a daily basis.

In the discussion, I compared the educational goals of pre-colonial America with the objectives of our educational system today. Urban and Wagoner write that education “…served to unite the generations and to define one’s place among the ‘the people’” (2009, p. 10). Educators today attempt to reach these goals by teaching students how to process and evaluate information rather than just simple memorizing it. I do believe that education today is trying to help students grow as individuals so that they can find their place in greater society (H5 – Honoring student potential for roles in the greater society). Another student in my discussion, Kim Hamilton, made a truthful rebuttal to my thoughts because she said that a lot more could be done in schools to “unite the generations”, such as inviting the elderly to volunteer in classrooms. I agree and am contemplating ways to connect students not only with students from other grades, but also to people much older who could shed wisdom on their lives.

To conclude my thoughts, it was interesting to learn about the methods of teaching that first developed in the colonies and the people and institutions that were involved in that process. Urban and Wagoner propose that, “…Colonial America fostered educational institutions and arrangements that were essentially hierarchical, class bound, and markedly uneven in terms of opportunity” (2009, p. 63). They go on to say that a driving force of education was to enforce religious beliefs and political powers and institutions. I find it interesting that although this was a completely separate time in history with different needs for society, that same driving force can still be found interlaced through education today.


Urban, W.J. and Wagoner, J.L. (2009). American education, a history (4th ed.) New York, NY:Routledge.

Personal Business Pitch

In my visual art classes, I encourage students to explore their gifts and passions. It is important for students to think about who they want to be right now, and also who they want to be in the future. This concept was supported in a Powerpoint art project that my high school students completed where they were asked to create a personal business and then pitch it to the class. The project first began in Publisher where students had to design a brand identity for their business, and then they had to use their brand identity to create their Powerpoint pitch. I had a student record some of the presentations and below are two examples: