Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Your Mark Get Set Go! - Retooling For the Classroom

One of my passions is pedagogy, that is, teaching. I am equally keen about learning as well. Recently reviewing some of Mark Hicks essays on transformational education I gleaned the following observations about learning:

*our brains are both storing and processing units
*learning has little meaning unless it produces a sustained and substantial influence on the way people thik, act and feel
*effective learning involves students assessing their efforts and making progress and making appropriate changes
*effective learners usetheir knowledge to deelop techniques for grasping fundamental principles, and organizing concepts that others can use to begin building their own understanding and abilities. They know how to simplify and clarify complex subjects, that is, the abiity to think metacognitively.

Effective teachers do some or all of the following:
*provide tools of analysis and of creativity to allow students to situate their experiences across contexts, to define their intellectual itineraries on their terms, and to find a voice to speak
*Instead of putting emphasis on mere acuisition and accumulation of knowledge in research, an effective teacher stresses the role that knowledge plays in the constitution of self and other, or in the students' daily life and practices that the theory that arises from their own contexts and interactions.
*Effective teaching does not merely transmit knowledge, but introduces a substantial difference in the students relation to knowledge. Furthermore, the teacher breaks the circular relation of supplier and consumer between student and teacher, and to gain theoretical dimensions and scope in the way we conceive of our society and ethical every day.
*good teaching can be learned
*includes a natural critical learning environment. In such an environment students learn by confronting task/problems/experiences that challenge themto grapple with ideas, rethink their assumptions and examine their mental modes of reality
*reflect a strong trust in students
*help learners grapple with ideas and information to construct their understanding and abilities
*teach how individual parts relate tot he whole and kinds of decisions students will be able to make with comprehension developed
*offer non-judgmental feedback
*stress opportunities to improve
*encourage cooperation and collaboration
foster intrinsic motivators (as opposed to external motivators)

In the work that seminarians at Meadville Lombard will do in their sites located in the 20th ward, some of the questions for faculty will include:

what can we do to help students effectively learn in their sites?
How do we make the site the focus of the learning experience?
What key information or concepts can faculty present to students to build their understanding?
what voices do they need to hear esides ours?
How can we create a safe learning environment?
How will we survey students intersts in particular issues or questions?
How can we stimulate students to take charge of their learning exxperience?
How do we build a community of learners?
How do we teach observation, analysis and synthesis?

Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

Use of Questions
The writer contends that questions play an essential role in the process of learning and modifying mental models. Questions help us construct knowledge and point toholes in our memory structures and are critical for indexing information that we attain when we develop an answer for inquiries. If we are not seeking an answer to anything, we pay little attention to random information.

Putting Down Roots

This week I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to retrieve my babies that had been in storage for over a year. In addition, I stopped off at Clark Atlanta University to work on obtaining a copy of my doctoral degree. It has been like pulling teeth. But that is another story for another day. lol

But back to my babies, that is, my books. I sat in the god awful hot storage patiently sorting through books and pictures, realizing that while some folks collect clothes, real estate and shoes - I collect books. I had finally come home to Atlanta to collect those scattered pieces of myself that had felt cut off and banished. And now I could gather all my children and bring them home. Only a writer can understand what I am feeling and talking about. It is a time of gathering so that I can put down roots after being homeless since January, 2007. And while I have been exceptionally good about making home where ever I was and in whatever circumstances I found myself, it has been hard not having my own place/space. But I will soon have a home to call my own.

By the Sweat of My Brow
Hats off to folks that do manual labor for a living. The hours of back breaking labor to pack and transport boxes from storage to the post office have been a grueling reminmder that for some people this is the day to day reality. Each night I am so exhausted that I can barely fall into bed - I am delirious with fatigue. I am aware of my aching body and my need to veg out in front of the tv. What would my life have been like if I were a mover or ditch digger or a farmer required to push my body to the limit each and every day in order to keep a roof over my head and bread on the table? I have had a brief glimpse into what it means to tax the body not for recreational purposes but to pay the bills and keep food on the table.

May I always be mindful of and grateful for the sacrifices that others make that I benefit from.

Question: When was the last time I took note of those around me that are working and performing manual labor, or any kind of labor that benefits me that I do not acknowledge? Have I made efforts to thank them sufficiently?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah