SMART EDUCATION: BLENDING SUBJECT
EXPERTISE WITH THE CONCEPT OF CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM
This manuscript explores some ideas for developing enduring higher-order
cognitive thinking skills in our classrooms. Narrating personal experiences
from teaching and learning in and outside classrooms for 25 years, and observing
numerous overlaps among existing models in PER, CD, & CM, the manuscript
solicits feedback from members in the ITFORUM, the august learning community,
to address some challenges mentioned here.
Current trends in physics education research (PER), career development
(CD), and classroom management (CM), and how they might promote smart education
are outlined in this draft. Developing epistemic games to foster a
constructivist learning environment appears to be a distinct possibility for
blending subject expertise with CD and CM. The expertise of instructional
designers in the development of such games (computer based and online), which
could be tested by practitioners subsequently in the different disciplines
(physicists, linguists, historians, and so on), will go a long way in establishing
their meaningful instructional use.
I shall outline briefly my story, describing my teaching and learning experiences,
in high schools for almost 25 years. The stimulus for this historical
approach, vital to understanding the rest of the manuscript, came from Malcolm’s
educational research (Wells, Hestenes, & Swackhamer, 1995). As a
student in high school, I was inspired by a professor tutoring chemistry,
and consequently wrote a chemistry lab manual (unpublished) for high school
students. In my freshman year, a chemical engineer stimulated my interest
in industrial and engineering chemistry. Beyond these two instructors,
and more recently my doctoral advisor, most of my school and university faculty
(no offence and with due apologies), were largely uninspiring and relied more
on reading or copying off “notes” for their lecture-based instruction.
A metacognitive approach that I narrate below describing how I learned physics
and table tennis, is responsible for my passion to understand self-directed
learning and self-organizing systems. Metacognition (Reigeluth &
Moore, 1999) is the ability to think about one’s own thinking. It is
a process of learning about one’s own learning, which encompasses “reflective
thinking” (Dewey, 1933), “critical thinking” (APA Delphi Report, 1990) and
“breakthrough thinking” (Perkins, 2000). A definition of these three
terms and their implications for learning will be discussed later on in a
section titled “principles of self organization.” According to Reigeluth
(1999), the different types of learning might be conceived as an overlapping
continuum between four categories: memorizing information, understanding relationships,
applying skills, and applying generic skills. In this manuscript, I
illustrate some of these concepts, pertaining to knowledge, behavior, and
abilities, in an attempt to articulate my three core ideas: concept-based
physics education (CBPE), career development (CD) and classroom management
(CM). My current thinking, influenced by the deductive (or funnel)
approach, positions CD, CBPE, and CM, as illustrated:
Career development relates to self-development of students and could help
them relate learning to real-life experiences. Physics might be replaced
by any other subject (where students typically learn skills, techniques and
strategies useful for life), and teacher-student learning takes place typically
in classroom settings.
Interestingly, it was my 14-year classroom experience teaching physics that
led me to consider the importance of career development in the first instance.
The process was evidently more inductive in its development. I
elaborate on the interrelatedness between the three ideas in the sections
that follow. Each idea has three broad headings: narrative, challenges
and needs, and issues. Narratives provide a historical introduction
to the ideas. Challenges and needs details insights from literature
on these ideas. Issues will deliberate on my thoughts on these ideas.
Although my thinking passed through several iterations within the first semester
of the doctoral program, these ideas reflect my personal philosophy and long-term
Having just commenced my doctoral program, I look forward to studying theoretical
frameworks that might help address some challenges outlined in the various
sections above. Nevertheless, two theories that had its origins in the
1940s caught my attention. They are field theory and game theory.
I considered human motivation and relationships as important aspects of student
learning and developed an appreciation for the humanistic vision of Carl Rogers.
Studying Rogers’ work over five decades led me to Kurt Lewin’s field theory.
I will list some characteristics that made me gravitate towards these theories
and it is beyond the scope of this manuscript to tie them individually to
the challenges described before.
When I expressed an interest in studying field theory, a professor remarked
that he “never understood field theory.” In my teaching experience,
I saw a parallel, because adults often articulate their value judgments in
front of their children, “I never understood math or physics”, but not commonly
“I never understood history or whatever”. These negative perceptions
reinforce a poor work ethic in children early on and often made my task as
physics teacher difficult. Fortunately, the American Psychological Association’s
reprint of Lewin in 1997 “to stimulate renewed interest among contemporary
scholars in Lewin’s work” helped me easily access his writings.
Kurt Lewin (1942) describes six characteristics of field theory, and
the latter four characteristics particularly makes this theory unique.
Constructive rather than classificatory method
Unlike a classificatory method that grouped systems based on similarities,
a constructive method groups systems “according to the way they can be produced
or derived from each other (Lewin, 1942, p. 212).” Consequently,
“an infinite number of constellations” might be constructed in accordance
with general laws of psychology so that “each of those constellations corresponds
to an individual case at a given time (ibid, p. 213).”
Dynamic here refers to “an interpretation of changes as the result of psychological
force.” This theory attempts to use “scientific constructs and methods “ to
deal with “underlying forces of behavior. . . in a methodologically sound
manner (ibid, p. 213).”
Field theory is “behavioristic” in the sense, it has a tendency to provide
“operational definitions (testable symptoms) for the concepts used.”
Lewin argues that “a teacher will never succeed in giving proper guidance
to a child if he does not learn to understand the psychological world in which
the individual child lives (ibid, p. 213)”
Analysis beginning with the situation as a whole
Field theory seeks to analyze situations this way because it recognizes
that the importance of isolated elements within a situation “cannot be judged
without consideration of the situation as a whole.” Lewin observes,
“every child is sensitive, even to small changes in social atmosphere, such
as the degree of friendliness or security. The teacher knows that success
in teaching French, or any other subject, depends largely on the atmosphere
he is able to create (ibid, p. 214).”
Behavior as a function of the field at the time it
According to Lewin, all behavior (including action, thinking, wishing, striving,
valuing, achieving, etc) can be conceived of as a change of some state of
a field in a given unit of time within the “life space” of individuals (ibid.
pp. 161-162). Recognizing the limited influence of an individual’s past,
field theory demands a much sharper analytical treatment of historical and
developmental problems that is customary, particularly in the theory of associationism
Mathematical representation of psychological situations
Lewin argues that to allow for scientific derivations, “psychology must
use a language which is logically strict and at the same time in line with
constructive methods (ibid, p. 215).”
Game Theory and Epistemic Games
While discussing a possible focus on career development interests with my
doctoral advisor Professor Brent Wilson and mathematics professor Burt Simon
at the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD), the use of epistemic games
and principles of game theory for these investigations arose. My interest
in game theory led me to read contributions of two Nobel prize winners in
economics: A 1994 recipient, John Nash “for his pioneering analysis
of equilibria in the theory of non-competitive games,” and a 2002 recipient
Daniel Kahneman “for having integrated insights from psychological research
into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making
under uncertainty.” Brandenburger and Nalebuff (1996, p. 7) list several
advantages that game theory has to offer including:
My hunch currently is: epistemic games and game theory would be a front end
for large-scale data collection, while field theory might be the background
theoretical framework for addressing challenges in CBPE, CD and CM for the
- “Game theory focuses directly on the most pressing issue of all: finding
the right strategies and making the right decisions.
- Game theory is particularly effective when there are many interdependent
factors and no decisions can be made in isolation from a host of other decisions.
- Game theory is an especially valuable tool to share with others in
- Game theory is an approach you can expand and build on.”
Collins and Ferguson (1993) and Morrison and Collins (1995) published seminal
ideas about epistemic games. Epistemic games are general-purpose
strategies (that includes setting goals, playing within the rules or constraints,
making different moves and transfers to different games), for analyzing everyday
phenomena and guiding inquiry. Epistemic forms are target structures
(or models) that humans use to construct knowledge. The purpose of playing
epistemic games is to develop or complete an epistemic form that satisfies
an inquiry. The missives that I developed for learning and teaching
physics, described in the next section, might be considered an example of
an epistemic form. Using technology and our expertise in various
subject areas, we could design epistemic games that encourage reflection,
understanding, and excitement rather than impulses, rote-learning, and boredom.
Science teachers, who are familiar with the 5E model, described in the section
“show not tell–develop games not facts,” could use this model to design epistemic
games that are computer-based. The terms epistemic games and epistemic
forms were derived from workshops organized by David Perkins and Allan Collins.
- Current educational reform initiatives call for data-driven assessment
strategies for standards- and outcomes-based curriculum.
- There seems to be a tremendous learning opportunity, and possibilities
for productive use in education with greater students’ buy-in, on the emerging
multi-billion dollar games software industry (BECTa, 2001) for games such
as Sims, SimCity, Championship Manager, Age of Empires, City Trader and other
Brain Teasing Games.
- Instructional games could foster collaborative and/or personalized
learning among stakeholders in education (particularly students and teachers).
- Various technological (graphics, sound and interactivity), narrative
(story line, curiosity, and complexity), and personal (logic, memory, mathematical
skills, challenge, problem solving and visualization) aspects of games support
various cognitive strategies for learning (BECTa, 2001).
- Instructional games need not be confined to specific learning disciplines
or domains, because the structural aspect of a game motivates players.
- Once certain concepts are identified, for instance in CBPE, CD, or
CM, it might be possible to design appropriate games, which would suitably
transmit these concepts to learners.
Epistemic games are entirely language-based. Morrison and Collins
(1995) describe three ways in which technology might play a significant part
in the development of epistemic fluency, “the ability to recognize and practice
a culture’s epistemic games” (p. 43). They are: “(1) as communication
environments, (2) as tools for constructing theories, and (3) as simulation
environments to play epistemic games” (p. 43). Collins and Ferguson
(1993, pp. 29-39) describe several games, from list games to trend and cyclical
analysis games, much like the 17 TIPERs mentioned in the section “productive
and active.” Designing and playing epistemic games might help
students develop their epistemological beliefs and achieve mastery of concepts
in different subjects in schools.
One of my challenges while attempting to use game theory and epistemic games
will be reconciling my traditional style with an unconventional style.
Epistemic games will be unconventional because teachers might seemingly give
up control over learning outcomes and students would largely arrive at various
epistemic forms (knowledge structures) based on their prior knowledge, needs
and experience. A teacher will be merely a facilitator and in the words
of Jones (2002, p. ix):
. . . who is in charge of the
mechanics of the event but has no role in trying to
nudge the participants into making sensible decisions
or finding the ‘right’
answers. A game or simulation in which participants
make mistakes and
errors of judgment is not a failed event; it is probably
a highly successful
event in terms of learning from experience.
Teachers, however, can bring a closure to learning by actively soliciting
what students learned after playing the different epistemic games.
My personal preference is to have students and teachers play such games online
to record large-scale data on a database, to inform further modifications
and developments. Elby (2001) argues that isolated pieces of epistemologically
focused curriculum will not be enough. Teachers around the world
are faced with the dilemma of “covering syllabus content” versus “facilitating
student understanding.” Curriculum designers and policy makers
might question the trade-offs when teachers give up instructional time to
activities away from the 3Rs. Interestingly, Elby (2001) observed that
students exposed to such curricular reconstruction would perform well in exams
that test conceptual matter in core topics rather than just content information.
Almost 75 years ago, Whitehead (1929) coined a maxim “what you teach, teach
thoroughly,” and this cannot be more relevant today.
It is ironical, as Reiber (1995) mentions that gaming, a basic component
of human interaction, has received scant interest among instructional design
researchers. In my view, studying and using epistemic games and game
theory in education is not envisioned as a magic wand that will guarantee
success in developing higher-order cognitive skills in students. However,
it appears to be an attractive framework that complements characteristics
of Lewin’s field theory. Moreover, continued research by a professional
learning community would help uncover student difficulties and perceptions
about reality. Researchers (Kafai, 1995; Reiber, 1996) have observed
that by combining technology with instructional games, students learn subject
CONCEPT-BASED PHYSICS EDUCATION
In the beginning of my freshman year in Loyola College, Madras, India, I
acquired a syllabus book for the entire undergraduate program. The
book also detailed recommended texts for each course. I sought past
examination papers to help me become familiar with the various topics in
the syllabus. Equipped with past papers from 1960, I organized them according
to topics. Then, I read several recommended texts to find answers and
developed my own missives for learning. This helped me become confident
and paved the way for my success in examinations, semester after semester.
For convenience, I will call this style of learning, self-directed learning.
I sustained this learning style diligently throughout my undergraduate course
and continued with it when I started teaching science 14 years ago in middle
and high schools. Rather that a “teach to the test,” the approach helped
me identify and explain fundamental concepts to students. Further, I
understood the efficacy of this approach (using past examination papers for
guiding instruction) by repeatedly seeing students’ success.
In addition, when I taught physics for six years in high schools in India,
I used ideas liberally from four primary sources: Nuffield O-level Physics
(UK), PSSC Physics, Harvard Project Physics, and the American
Journal of Physics, to excite my students. Reading the acceptance
speeches by Oersted medallists–recipients of the American Association
of Physics Teachers (AAPT) most prestigious awards for notable contributions
to physics teaching, was always interesting and provided several ideas for
classroom use. Some examples I used from the four sources include:
experiments with equilibrium, electric circuits and graphs, Newton’s third
law, using Nobel laureates’ work to commence my lessons, using humorous physics
anecdotes in the classroom, and highlighting physics’ historical development.
Consequently, most students participated willingly in the classroom activities
and discussions. Some students made presentations in class using “The
Amateur Scientist” column of the Scientific American, and other journals,
while others participated actively in annual inter-school physics fairs.
During eight years that I taught science and physics at Emirates International
School (representing over 87 nationalities) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates,
I learned that student difficulties with physics, and mathematical challenges
with fractions, linear equations, ratios, and graphs, seemed universal and
not unique to specific cultures. Student difficulties with problem
solving in physics, often transferred by teacher’s lack of subject competence
(Hestenes, 1998), and difficulties with ratios (Arons, 1990), have been widely
studied and well documented. Hake (1998) found compelling evidence
and an increasing correlation between problem solving and conceptual understanding
in physics. Dewey (1933), while articulating the significance of conceptualizing
ideas, observes that concepts should be viewed as “known points of reference
by which to get our bearings when we are plunged into the strange unknown”
(p. 153). The renowned educationist argues that at every stage of development
of young children, each lesson must lead up to “conceptualizing of impressions
and ideas” (p. 158). Echoing similar ideas in The Aims of Education,
the famous mathematician Whitehead (1929) cautioned that by loading the curriculum
with inert ideas, ideas that cannot be assimilated or applied in new situations,
the intellectual development and self-development of individuals is stifled.
To sustain students’ attention and also motivate them to understand concepts,
I often challenged the class with a “hunch” based on my experience, before
I explained a physics concept. The “hunch” would be my guess about
how many students might give a “wrong” answer to my question. I then
explained a concept in detail with all its nuances and posed a simple question
to test their understanding. Based on the number attending class, I
mentally worked out an approximate number of anticipated “wrong” answers
and shared the number with the students. To verify my “hunch”, sometimes
I went around checking the answers and at other times, I asked the students
to exchange their notebooks, or report their answers honestly. I found
that often, the “hunch” had been right and most students were fascinated
with this game. This “game” also helped me provide instant feedback
to students on their learning.
To summarize this unit, in physics education, my doctoral research will focus
on studying common conceptual difficulties encountered by students and teachers,
and examine intervention strategies that might help alleviate common difficulties
in learning and enjoying physics.
Challenges and Needs
As a student of physics for 10 years, and a subsequent practitioner teaching
and internalizing physics concepts for 14 years, these experiences have convinced
me of the importance of maintaining baseline-learning standards, both for
reducing student achievement-gaps and increasing teacher accountability.
Common past roadblocks (Berridge, 1998; Hunt, 2000; Lerner, 1992) with several
initiatives in physics during the 1970s such as the Harvard Physics Project,
Physical Sciences Study Committee, and the Nuffield Physics include:
- Modeling curriculum initiatives to cater to more able at the expense
of disadvantaged students,
- “Dumbing down” physics by diluting physics content, due to inadequate
subject competence and pedagogy.
- Lack of coordination between physics and mathematics departments to
tackle fundamental student difficulties with linear equations, algebra and
- Overemphasizing heuristic and problem-solving techniques by playing
down conceptual understanding,
- Pursuing an almost rigid linear progression of topics, starting with
“mechanics” and ending in “modern physics”,
- Expecting most learners to be comfortable with symbolic representation
and the stage of formal operations before they move out of concrete operations,
- Not providing enough time within existing school structure to integrate
historical approaches to CBPE,
- Not supporting students and teachers by offering them sufficient resources
and training with concepts and strategies based on theories in cognitive
development (few initiatives such as Thinking Science, Adey, Shayer, &
- Not raising student awareness of the significance and exciting career
opportunities open with a physics background.
Productive and Active
Physics is often perceived as a “difficult” subject. The staggering
statistics quoted in a briefing paper (Miller, Streveler, & Olds, 2002)
reinforces this perception. The researchers state that although 3600
published papers in their database relate to misconceptions in science and
engineering education, two-thirds of them related to physics education. Other
researchers have commented on the amateurish state of physics teaching (Griffiths,
1997; Hestenes, 1998). A popular instrument used to examine students’
conceptual understanding of mechanics is the Force Concept Inventory (Hestenes,
Wells and Swackhammer, 1992). The force concept inventory (FCI) is currently
the most widely used assessment instrument of student understanding of mechanics
(Henderson, 2002). In the findings of the Modeling Workshop Project
(Hestenes, 2000), high school physics instruction is evaluated with the FCI.
Two of the 15 findings are interesting:
The report states that the most important factor in student learning by
the Modeling Method is a teacher’s skill in managing classroom discourse.
Even with experienced teachers, the report continues, it will take participants
several years to achieve high levels of proficiency. Evidently this
underscores a crisis in physics education and calls for sustained efforts
to remedy deficiencies. Traditional methods of instruction
during pre-service training alone will not be sufficient.
- Students who score below a Newtonian threshold of 60% on the FCI do
not have a sufficient grasp of principles to use them reliably in reasoning
and problem solving. Moreover, they do not score well on any other
measures of physics understanding even outside mechanics.
- Only a third of the 212 teachers who have completed the full two-summer
program of Modeling Workshops can be described as expert modelers, meaning
that they have adopted and fully implemented the Modeling Method of Instruction
with evident understanding.
For over a decade now, physicists O’Kuma, Maloney, and Hieggelke (2000)
have been presenting TIPERs (Tasks Inspired by Physics Education Research)
workshops. In a recent workshop at the 125th AAPT meeting in Austin,
Texas their TIPERs workshop listed 17 types of TIPERs from ranking tasks
to concept oriented simulations tasks. These TIPERs are designed to
dispel student difficulties with physics concepts. Like the FCI, a
conceptual survey on electricity and magnetism (CSEM) was developed to promote
student understanding of concepts in electromagnetism. These physicists warn
that it is often difficult to modify students’ beliefs about ways in which
our physical world behaves. Nevertheless, gains of TIPERs workshops
participants’ students on the FCI have been excellent (2000, p. ix).
The physics education group (PEG) at the University of Washington, directed
by Lillian McDermott has also been conducting research to identify students’
conceptual difficulties in physics for several years. Tutorials
in introductory physics developed by McDermott, Shaffer, & PEG (2003),
which uses a system of pretests, worksheets, homework assignments, and post-tests,
is a “research-based iterative process” (p. iii). It seeks to direct
instructional strategies to mentally engage students while learning physics.
Their research has found that students’ problem-solving competencies improves
with qualitative understanding of physics concepts.
Wolfgang Christain at Davidson College, North Carolina developed physlets,
physics applets, which are small flexible Java applets designed for science
Physlets are becoming popular with physics teachers around the country for
classroom demonstrations, peer instruction, and media-focused homework, and
just-in-time teaching (JiTT). Using web-based assignments to provide
prior preparatory material for students , JiTT is a pedagogical strategy
used widely in several institutions nationwide to create active classroom
experiences for students.
Epistemological studies that seek answers to question about the relationship
between knower and the known are becoming popular in physics. These
studies too, in my opinion, highlight the importance of career development
elaborated on in the next section. According to Elby (2001), several
research-based physics curricula “fail to spur significant epistemological
development,” (p. S54) although they obtain measurable significant conceptual
understanding. Citing previous studies, which show that epistemological
competence correlates with students’ “academic performance and conceptual
understanding in math and science” (p. S54), Elby describes how he taught
students by starting with “real-life examples and commonsense intuitions”
(p. S62), to change their “epistemological beliefs–their views about the nature
of knowledge and learning” (p. S64) physics. Elby discusses how
his students performed in the epistemological beliefs assessment for physical
science, EBAPS, (http://www2.physics.umd.edu/~elby/EBAPS/home.htm)
and Maryland physics expectations survey (MPEX). His study reports that
students in two high school courses showed “favorable changes,” (p. S64)
in EBAPS and MPEX after his teaching.
Although the purpose of my research is not to focus on any particular assessment
measure, the Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP) can help quantify how
well students are meeting both the content and performance standards in the
State. In my opinion, such a standards-based curricular design is worth
school-wide (P-12) implementation, because the standards might facilitate
the achievement of aims and objectives in a practical manner. The Colorado
Model Content Standards for Science outlines what all students should
achieve in schools. To define something operationally, we have to describe
in detail how to observe or measure something. Although the various
standards help us clarify what students should learn, they do not guide teachers
with “how” to help students learn. To operationalize conceptual thinking
in physics, I believe that developing epistemic games and using principles
of game theory might be a solution worth examining. They actively
promote standards 1, 2, 5, and 6.
Show Not Tell – Develop Games Not Facts
I often use analogies with my students to facilitate understanding and help
achieve examination success. Winning a game of FreeCell on the computer
is one of them! When one starts a new game, the screen appears daunting, much
like a 2-3 hour examination, because 52 cards have to be moved to the home
cell to win. However, with two traits, confidence and persistence, most games
can be won with relative ease. Over the years, I used Gagne’s (1985)
theory of learning, as a framework to produce lesson plans, like several
other instructors. This might be considered a traditional approach to deliver
instruction. Gagne’s theory used nine instructional events along with their
corresponding cognitive processes:
(1) gaining attention (reception)
(2) informing learners of the aims and objective (expectancy)
(3) stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)
(4) presenting the stimulus (selective perception)
(5) guiding the learning (semantic encoding)
(6) eliciting performance (responding)
(7) providing feedback (reinforcement)
(8) assessing performance (retrieval)
(9) enhancing retention and transfer (generalization)
For example, I utilized these nine instructional events to write a sample
lesson plan, available online at http://www.innathansworld.com/physics/p6heat.htm
for a unit titled ‘Transferring energy by heating’ targeted at students in
high school. It is important that students understand the concept of
specific heat capacity in this unit because they are expected to apply their
knowledge in various real-life situations. Again, while there are numerous
links on the web, I could not find any practical application on specific
Another model based on constructivist philosophy of learning (where students
build on prior experiences) developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum
Study (http://www.bscs.org/), is called
the 5E instructional model. The 5E model, representing the words
engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate (http://www.bscs.org/faq.html#6)
seeks to develop critical thinking skills and students’ understanding of
science concepts that are enduring.
An interesting program developed by Educational Equity Concepts in 1986
called Playtime in Science incorporates a series of inquiry-based activities
that involve children in higher order thinking skills–problem-solving, creative
thinking, and decision-making (Sprung and Froschl, 1997, p. 2). The
activities in the book seeks to increase involvement of all stakeholders in
education in “a process where children are encouraged to wonder, question,
and experiment-in short, to start thinking like scientists every day”
(p. 2). These observations reinforce Dewey’s (1933) observations about
children’s innate scientific mind quoted in the next section.
Educational reconstruction must be based on the development of innovative
curriculum resources (Dewey, 1916). Hestenes’ findings (2000), cited
earlier, reports that although a vast majority of in-service high school physics
teachers are eager to be excellent teachers, most of them are seriously under-prepared
in pedagogy, physics, and technology. The previous section detailed
current physics education research initiatives that might inform and guide
my research. I articulated my interest to reconcile these with
existing Colorado content standards for science in the State. In this
section, I briefly discussed two widely used instructional design models.
At the moment, students in the State are only assessed at the end of Grade
8 in science. The States’ statistics for the 8th grade science results
in CSAP is summarized in Table 1.
Table 1: CSAP 2000-2002 Grade 8 Science State Summary
Using these statistics, I would like to identify schools and school districts
in which students’ performances have increased significantly between 2000
and 2002. Along with experiences from my own practice, I would
like to incorporate data from classroom observations of teachers and students
in these high performing schools for designing epistemic games. Several
questions come to my mind and I will list them elsewhere as my first research
proposal based on this reflection manuscript.
What is the relationship between physics concepts and career development
of students? Unless students are helped in seeing benefits of studying
physics or any other discipline in terms of their long-term career goals,
they will continue to be indifferent. Earlier, I quoted studies mentioned
by Elby (2001) that show high correlations between students’ epistemological
beliefs, conceptual understanding, and academic performance. In the preface
to the first edition of How We Think (Dewey, 1933), the educationist
compares the uncanny resemblance of children’s, curiosity, imagination, and
love for experimental inquiry with an innate scientific mind. These
same children when they move into middle and high school often seem to occlude
this “scientific mind” and become less inquisitive. Dewey (1933) observed
that this might be because “concepts were often presented that were so remote
from the understanding and experience of students” (p. 154). Career
development provides an opportunity for teachers to provide a contextual
framework for learning. Dewey (1933) argues that, when students study
subjects that are removed from their own experience they become “intellectually
irresponsible” (p. 33).
As teachers, we are often confronted with the question: “why should I study
physics?” or other specific subjects, from students. On several occasions,
I have found this to be a strategy for work avoidance by some teenagers.
Only one student in my experience asked me “why should I study physical education?”
and that too because he had to satisfy external examiners from the UK to secure
a passing grade in the course. Students generally seem to consider games
and sports “fun” activities, although some professionals in sports have begun
speaking about losing this focus. Delving into educational research
during my years in Dubai and looking back at my own experience, I have come
to believe that a deliberate inclusion of career development in the mainstream
curriculum could form part of a school’s curriculum in preparing students
for adult life. According to McCormac (1991) career development (CD)
refers to a lifelong learning process that empowers students in the exploration
of occupational and educational opportunities and planning their career.
Some reflections on this are articulated in the section “low stress high
challenge.” Students often start thinking about their future professions
or careers when they are teenagers. It is therefore important to help them
understand issues related to career development better so that they can plan
forward and make informed educational and occupational choices during and
after school. Doty and Stanley (1985, p. 4) quote several researches
to conclude, “the sooner students are able to see themselves in a career
development process, the sooner their present education will have more meaning.”
Other researchers (Avent, 1988; Bandura, 1997; Dewey, 1933; Harris, 1999;
Herring, 1998; Rogers, 1942; Whitehead, 1929; Zunker, 1994) have articulated
similar concerns and called for a need for career development to raise student
awareness on the importance of self-reflection. Bandura (1997) observes
that: “the choices people make during the formative periods of development
shape the course of their lives” (p. 422). Whitehead (1929) observes
that in order to produce well-rounded learners, we should seek to produce
men and women who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special
direction. Dewey (1933, p. 34) argues for a need to weave the “moral
qualities of character” with “abstract principles of logic.” By helping
students achieve creditable results (unique to each student) in various academic
subjects, teachers might reinforce these ideas in the minds of students.
To summarize, in career development, my doctoral research will focus on
identifying key factors (such as self-efficacy, responsibility, and relationships)
that might facilitate the development of self-organizing qualities in small-groups
of self-directed learners (who demonstrate traits such as motivation, discipline,
Challenges and Needs
Although career developoment has been widely researched, there has been
a dearth of material that reflects perspectives of students. In the
introduction to her book, Harris (1999) notes that a separate book will be
required to present the views of students who are at the receiving end of
CD. Eccles (1993, as cited in Herring, 1998) reports that adolescence
represents a period of change frequently confounded by confusion and uncertainty.
Other researchers, like Harris and Grede (1977, as cited in Doty and Stanley,
1985), have pointed out very serious problems in students’ career choices
– the mismatch between student aspirations and ability. With this background,
it is evident why Hargreaves, Earl and Ryan (1996) predict that young adolescents
are likely to change their career, on an average, at least five times in their
Clearly, students and adults wish they would receive more help from their
schools. The important role of their institution becomes apparent when
we recognize that several students can expect little help from outside.
Miller, Goodman & Collison (1991) observed in 1990 in their study to foster
career development: almost 65% of those surveyed said that if they had to
start their careers anew, they would get more information about their strengths,
preferences, and goals in relation to work and potential career choices.
This study prompted the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee
to develop the National Career Development Guidelines (NCDG) to foster career
development at all levels from kindergarten to adulthood. Handy (1990)
observes that the harsher realities of competition have resulted in the following
situation: “No longer is there the feeling that somewhere someone is thinking
about your life, watching your development, planning your next steps. It
probably always was an illusion, now few ever pretend” (p. 159).
I believe that, by offering a comprehensive CD program that integrates with
subject teaching and learning, teachers and schools can devise strategies
that will help them demonstrate how their roles integrate with the overall
goals of education. Dewey (1916) affirms that when schools actively
include career development in their curriculum, they enrich the school life
of students and make it “more active, full of immediate meaning and connected
with out-of-school experience” (p. 369). Relying on interest inventories
to help students plan their careers has not been very successful. Ghiselli
(1966 as cited in Zunker 1994, p. 137) pointed out that “predicting success
in occupational training programs on the basis of test results is only moderately
Other key debates identified by Feller and Davies (1999, pp. 120-121) for
leadership champions who seek to further school-to-career (STC) initiatives
are relevant here.
The authors (Feller and Davies, 1999) raise several other debates in their
paper. I proposed a need to include CD in the mainstream curriculum
during my Masters thesis (Sheffield, UK) based on student perceptions without
being aware of these debates. Although a novice to career development initiatives
in the United States, my arguments for including STC initiatives are based
on my personal reflections and experience, after teaching and observing students
from over 87 nationalities.
- Is STC the latest staff-developmental fad, repackaged vocational education,
or a corporate effort to fortify economic productivity and social-class advantages?
- Is it an effort to embrace technology and business partnerships in
the fight against educational and socioeconomic inequality?
- Can it provide access to the best educational strategies for all students
without threatening those now receiving an elite advanced placement education?
- Does it turn accountability to the business community’s doorsteps
by demanding sustained local partnerships?
Principles of self-organization
Students are provided a context for learning when teachers relate real-life
examples and applications with classroom instruction. Developing CD
skills helps teachers provide effective instructional strategies (that includes
advancing students’ readiness, contiguity, goal-setting, problem solving,
and decision-making skills), and facilitates contextual learning. Three
types of thinking: reflective thinking, critical thinking and breakthrough
thinking are worth examining because of their importance to self-organized
learning. Dewey (1933, p. 3) observed: “no one can tell another person in
any definite way how he should think.” Reflective thinking is a “kind
of thinking that consists in turning a subject over in the mind and giving
it serious and consecutive consideration” (p. 3). Although it seems
to be disagreeable to several individuals, teachers could encourage students
to think reflectively because, “one can think reflectively only when one is
willing to endure suspense and to undergo the trouble of searching (ibid,
One of the most popular and sought after clichéd thinking skill is
“critical thinking.” A clear definition of this term is provided in
the American Philosophical Association Delphi Report (1990): “Critical thinking
is the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation,
analysis, evaluation, and interference, as well as an explanation of the evidential,
conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations
upon which that judgment is based.” It is an essential tool of inquiry
for students and teachers. It is a pervasive and self-rectifying
human phenomenon. Educating good critical thinkers means working towards
Perkins (2000) discusses a third type of thinking called “breakthrough thinking”,
which is “a kind of thinking that has helped much of the world’s population
toward exceptional levels of comfort, health and understanding (ibid, p. 5).
Using historical examples, he describes a tentative fivefold structure for
breakthrough thinking: “long search, little apparent progress, precipitating
event, cognitive snap, and transformation (ibid, pp. 9-10).” I believe
that an awareness of a historical evolution of concepts and solutions outlined
in Perkins’ book will be valuable for teachers and students.
When I spoke of my interest in self-directed learning, Prof. Steven Zucker
at the University of Colorado at Denver shared with me (unpublished) research
his colleagues and he carried out over three years with ClassMaps.
ClassMaps is a whole-class mental health consultation model that makes
the social and emotional elements of classrooms “visible” so that educators
can assess the impact of affective supports they provide and demonstrate
relationships between these and core academic tasks of schooling. Their
study reports that this classroom-centered approach has demonstrated considerably
significant changes in student attitudes and influenced student learning
through appropriate interventions in middle school.
Other researchers have proposed alternate models like relational ontology
grounded in recent developments in our understanding of self-organizing systems.
In this model, instruction involves establishing the appropriate field conditions
or connecting the learner into a system (a set of relations) through participation
(e.g., as part of a community of practice) in the service of an intention.
Barab et al (1999, p. 350) observe that the type of learning that they advocate
“cannot be handed to the learner whole cloth but develops itself through dynamic
activity (participation) as part of a system as a whole.” These
ideas are similar to the ideas that Lewin (1942) articulated earlier and
outlined in the theoretical framework section.
Even as I examine these models, explore how CD would facilitate contextual
learning, and understand relationships between various types of thinking vital
for self-organized learning, a four component model proposed by Naparstek
(2002) to understand children’s learning problems lends additional support
to my thesis. It also blends well with Reigeluth’s (1999) continuum
mentioned earlier. Extending Klatzky’s (1980) component model for memory to
learning in schools, and his research on information processing and prosocial
behavior, Naparstek argues that students must be successful in four interconnected
components: paying attention, ability, effort and organization to realize
their fullest academic potential. In my view, current efforts to raise
achievement standards of students seem to focus on just two factors listed
under “ability:” intelligence and academic skills, identified by Naparstek
(2002, p. 4) in his model. The other 20 factors listed under the other three
components are equally important. The importance of some of these factors:
interest, poor curriculum match, self-esteem, confidence, relevance, persistence,
work habits, routine and planning listed by Naparstek have been mentioned
in this manuscript. The rationale for CD proposed in this study addresses
these very factors.
Low Stress and High Challenge
How do individuals learn? To illustrate a personal example would be relevant
here. I will narrate now my reflections on how I learned to play table
tennis (TT) when I was 13. For several months, as a teenager, I observed
periodically how experts in a local club played the game. I consciously
resisted taking a swing at the ball for almost three months. After
internalizing the various processes observed, I finally “decided” to hit
the ball “flat” and generated incredible force. I never attended a
coaching camp (unfortunately?), to help me develop a conventional “top spin”
style, but created this indigenous style to play competitively against my
opponents. Simon (2001, p. 207) observes “at least 90% of what we have
in our heads is acquired by social processes, including watching others, listening
to them, and reading their writings.” The example of learning to play
TT illustrates that even physical abilities could be learned by observation.
Further, participating in several tournaments, I learned how winning often
starts with a mental conception. A common joke about golf being 95%
mental and 5% physical (or in the mind) illustrates this too. In professional
counseling, the term used for this process is called intentionality.
According to Hockaday, Purkey, & Davis (2001) “it is the ability of individuals
to link their inner consciousness and perceptions with their purposes and
actions” (p. 219). Their study found that “the clearer and more specific the
mental process is, the more likely it is to be acted on (ibid, p. 224).”
Along with helping students develop positive perceptions about learning
in the classroom, how can teachers practically address CD issues? While discussing
these concerns with Professor Rich Feller at Colorado State University, he
mentioned a Canadian model called BLUEPRINT, accessible online at http://www.blueprint4life.ca
Built on research over a decade and modifying the CD competency framework
in the NCDG, this model not only maps career development competencies for
students and adults, but also complements these with performance indicators
to elaborate on these competencies. These aspects tie the BLUEPRINT
model neatly with my passion for CBPE too.
Professor Feller also introduced me to The Real Game Series (http://www.realgame.com) that “incorporates
interactive learning strategies that enhance and accelerate the acquisition
of knowledge and skills. The game format brings fun, stimulation and
excitement to career development activities that have traditionally been
didactic, tedious and at times boringfor both students and teachers (Partnership
Development, National Life/Work Centre).” I do not believe in reinventing
the wheel and will seek to develop my ideas based on existing frameworks
provided by some of these past initiatives. An “open source” concept
that is now becoming popular to share content and ideas through the web is
truly fascinating, and will enhance the quality of my research.
How do CBPE and CD relate to CM? While instructing teacher candidates
on a course in classroom management, I found a list of eight “student needs
and wants” that Topper et al (as cited in Jones & Jones, 2001, p. 47)
compiled from research and student interviews. I asked my students to
rate these eight factors based on their own personal experiences.
Although our discussions in class led us to believe that the exact ranking
might be different for different groups of individuals, we had a consensus
on three interdependent themes that emerged. Students’ self-development
was the primary theme (the top three factors in our class ranking were; unconditional
love, someone who will always be your advocate; friends who care for you and
you for them; and physical well-being). The second theme related directly
to career development (the next three factors were; having choices and learning
how to make choices; fun and challenging things to do; and a chance to master
skills needed to pursue a dream, for self-advocacy, and cultural interdependence).
The third theme was helping others (the final two factors were; status and
a “cool” reputation; and chance to make a difference in someone’s life).
In my view, the primary responsibility of a teacher in a classroom is to
demonstrate leadership by providing effective instruction, which is intellectually
stimulating to students. Some desired outcomes achievable by engaging
students might be developing students’ confidence, competencies, knowledge
and skills, self-esteem, intellectual equity, and conceptual thinking in a
specific subject. The challenge for us as educators is to have
both students and teachers step out of their comfort zones to actively pursue
such desirable outcomes. Within the framework of a standards based educational
reform, teachers could motivate students to achieve beyond students’ previous
To achieve this, teachers must have a strategy for efficient management
of class time to provide students with challenging learning environments.
They must display a wide variety of teaching strategies to meet individual
student needs and abilities. Dewey (1933, p. 36) observes that by being
aware of students’ past experiences, their hopes, desires, and chief interests,
teachers can augment their teaching and facilitate student learning.
Several studies have shown that up to 50% of class time is spent on management
(Martin & Sugarman, 1993), activities other than providing instruction.
Jones and Jones (2001, p. 14) observe: “numerous authors have written about
the lack of meaningful academic engagement students experience at school.”
Students benefit more when teachers assume greater leadership roles (as defined
above) within a classroom.
Martin & Sugarman (1993) define classroom management as “those activities
of classroom teachers that create a positive classroom climate within which
effective teaching and learning can occur” (p. 9). CM is also influenced
by student behavior, school policies, and other contextual factors.
In addition to instructional and environmental management competencies mentioned
earlier, research (Jones & Jones, 2001) shows that positive teacher-student
and peer relationships enhance teaching effectiveness significantly.
Jones and Jones (2001) observe that by creating a safe and caring community
of learners, we could enrich the learning experience of all our students.
To conclude, in classroom management, my doctoral research will focus on
understanding how individuals who can cope with change commonly develop strategies
in day-to-day decision-making. Understanding these strategies might help me
raise performance levels of students and teachers.
Challenges and Needs
In earlier sections, I described why it was necessary for teachers to plan
their lessons around students’ needs and experiences. Over the years,
I learned the art of transferring some responsibility for learning to students.
My colleagues often remarked that when I walked out of the classroom, students
have continued to remain engaged and worked silently on their assigned tasks.
I had not carried out any empirical study to investigate why students remaining
focused. According to some researchers (Clark, Davis, Rhodes, &
Baker, 1996) the “classroom functions as a social system and instruction succeeds
or fails according to the quality of student engagement.” These researchers
found that, three teachers in their study, selected from 40 fourth grade
teachers, articulated clear and high expectations, constantly mediated student-centered
activities, and sustained a challenging learning environment, using the momentum
developed in the classroom. Through the unconditional positive regard
demonstrated in their relationships with students, these teachers helped
students with their identity development. In their study with high school
physics instruction, (Wells et al., 1995) found that “laboratory-based, computer-enhanced,
student-centered and activity oriented” teaching enhanced student participation,
enthusiasm and nurtured long-term retention. Jones & Jones (2001,
p. 242) comment “educators have become increasingly aware of the relationship
between motivation and behavior,” and examine key factors that influence
student motivation (ibid, pp. 185-242). Other challenges in classroom management
The fourth question surfaced while examining students’ assessment results
using Box Whiskers plots of three Grade nine classes in Spring 2002.
The third quartile (representing the 75th percentile) scores of two of my
classes were better than the first quartile (25th percentile) of my third
class. With holidays intervening and my move to the United States in
Summer 2002, I could not continue with this study (accessible online at http://www.innathansworld.com/coollinks/ttt2002.htm).
However, some questions still remain. Is technology a factor that significantly
affects student performance?
- How can teachers make subject matter relevant to students needs? (Dewey,
1933; Goodlad, 1984)?
- How might teachers help students in setting their own goals? (Goodlad,
1984; Martin & Sugarman, 1993)?
- How could teachers vary and facilitate ways of learning using approaches
that employ all of the senses (Goodlad, 1984)?
- Would competent and confident use of media and technology by teachers
in the classroom enhance student motivation and achievement, particularly
As teachers, there is another challenge: where do we pitch our lessons for
a diverse group of learners? Vygotsky (1978, as cited in Doolittle,
1997) has provided us with an answer, and suggested that teachers should focus
on the zone of proximal development. That’s a region (including
both knowledge and skills) that students are not capable of handling on their
own, but can cope with, if they have help from their teachers.
By providing appropriate scaffolding for students, a low stress but high challenge
classroom environment can be maintained. According to Doolittle (1997, pp.
84-85), Vygotsky also underscored the process of internalization, and
this does not “involve merely the transferring of reality from teacher to
student. Vygotsky states, that scientific or school-based concepts are
not absorbed ready made. . . (ibid, p. 84).” Students must be helped
with processing their classroom experience and their understanding is “actively
constructed as the result of social experience (ibid, p. 85).”
- Does the median score change appreciably with such intervention?
- How is the inter quartile range affected with the introduction of technology?
- Are the outliers affected by changes in instructional strategies?
Leadership And Non-Zero Sum Game
Martin & Sugarman list six common CM models. Although I believe
in developing eclectic models for CM, I will briefly outline the social learning
and cognitive approaches (SLaCA) model because of its relevance to this study.
The SLaCA model outlined by Martin & Sugarman (1993, p. 97) operates on
the belief that “learners construct their own conception of things”.
This constructivist model, by stressing on cognition and not behavior, requires
teachers to influence “the conceptions and thinking strategies that learners
use to guide their behavior”, so that students might apply these principles
to “solve their own problems” (Martin & Sugarman, 1993, p. 98).
The question here is can CBPE principles be applied to addressing CD issues?
My hunch at the moment is, CBPE will help students develop enough confidence
to apply some principles to address more generic situations, not only with
physics problems but also CD issues. This seems to be an extension of Hake’s
(1998) finding mentioned earlier. Another criticism that Martin &
Sugarman discuss (1993) is: “learners are presumed to have the cognitive resources
and skills that enable them to construct knowledge, to determine appropriate
courses of action, and to adapt effectively to the demands of classroom life”
(p. 115). I believe that this is the primary agenda for developing
an effective CD program in schools.
While I grapple with the SLaCa model, a related aspect about the curriculum
nags me constantly. This corresponds to ideas that challenge my thinking
and behavior on three popular paradigms: “technical,” “practical,” and “critical”
(Authors, 1997). The “technical” paradigm put forth by Tyler (1949)
viewed teachers as technicians who instruct according to pre-set patterns
and goals. This “Tyler Rationale” helped establish the objectives approach
to the curriculum based on the behavioral psychological principles of his
time, what Senge et al (2000, pp. 27-52) call the “industrial-age system
of schools and assumptions about learning.” During my teaching
career, I tended to favor the “technical” paradigm to deliver content and
this reflects my positivistic scientific background. To a large
extent, this approach has helped me address a problem, “I understand all
the theory, but it is only the problems that I find difficult to solve,”
often articulated by students studying physics. The technical paradigm
eventually delivers, when the “ends” are known. It brings out best results
and provides for clarity, precision and evaluation. Jon Donne
said: “No man is an island, complete unto himself.” Likewise, no system
is so straightjacket that it does not allow for a little admixture of other
means and methods.
Developing an appreciation for the humanistic vision of Maslow (1970) and
Rogers (1969) helped me align with the “practical” paradigm developed in the
1970s by Schwab, Stenhouse, and others. These came to the fore during
my interactions with people in schools, and I could appreciate the value
of the “process” model for the curriculum. To motivate students
in the classroom, I used various strategies as outlined in section 1.1.
The “critical” paradigm advocated by Freire and others during the 1970s sought
to transcend the achievements and limitations of the technical and the practical
paradigm by encouraging teachers to examine their everyday practice from
a broader historical and social perspective. Reflecting on my own practice
as a teacher, I could relate to Freire’s (1970) idea in Psychology of
the Oppressed, that individuals who authentically commit themselves to
the people must re-examine themselves constantly. For instance, the
challenges in CBPE, CD, and CM has set me reflecting on the purpose of education
and Handal and Lauvås’s (1987, p. 22) observation provides an eloquent
description: “It is important to have people working who are aware of the
background of what they are doing, and who are able to change and adjust
both their ‘theory’ and their practice in the light of new evidence, and
reflect upon what really happens around them in the classroom, the school
Leadership is essentially a non-zero sum game, because the intent is not
to have some individuals win at the expense of other individuals (Barth, 1990).
Furthermore, using prisoner’s dilemma-type problem in game theory, teachers
could be helped with identifying numerous short-term students’ individual
and collective perceptions and decision-making. The consequences of
this will be addressed in the next section.
Looking Forward And Reasoning Back – Developing Instructional
Fully functioning persons according to Rogers (Brazier, 1993) are those
who can focus on intentional change and active learning. Referring
to such behavioral change, Boyatzis (2001) argues that these intentional
changes take place spontaneously among groups of self-directed learners.
Building on earlier models developed by Kolb, Berlew and himself, Boyatzis
describes how his current theory, through a five-stage discovery process
of self-directed learning, starts off finding “my ideal self” and ends in
“trusting relationships that help, support, and encourage each step in the
process”. My first impression, with a perfunctory look at his model,
transported me 15 years in time, and reminded me of Ptolemy’s geocentric
theory of the solar system and Hipparchus’ system of epicycles, outlined
in the Harvard Physics Project. Humor apart, I see tremendous value
in exploring Boyatzis’ theory and plan to seriously examine the value of
this model during my doctoral study.
Referring to classroom management as actions that teachers might consider
for planning, implementing and maintaining a learning environment in their
classrooms, Jere Brophy (1999) highlights three aspects that are conducive
for creating such learning environments. They are “arranging the physical
environment of the classroom, establishing rules and procedures, maintaining
attention to lessons and engagement in academic activities” (p. 43).
By focusing on instructional strategies and engaging students in academic
activities teachers can become teacher-leaders. Freiberg’s (1999) challenge
to “go beyond compliance and move into the realm of student involvement and
self-discipline” (p. 17), might be realized by implementing smart education
approach’s in classrooms, which utilize instructional strategies that combine
career development skills with teachers subject expertise.
Teaching might be eventually rewarding but is certainly not easy when one
begins practice. While observing several teacher candidates (TCs) and clinical
teachers (CTs) in classrooms, I found that the TCs were primarily focused
on delivering their planned lessons. It was the experienced CTs
who constantly bring closure to learning for students by relating the lessons
of the day with the activity that is to follow. For instance,
on one occasion, a TC had just finished a 75-minute lesson on fractions in
Grade 4. At the end of the lesson (since the students were going
to line up for their break), the CT asked the students sitting in groups to
stand up by fractions that she called out. Only the fractions could
stand and line up in the front. The students and TC caught on and the
lesson quickly translated into a meaningful activity for students.
My current interest also includes a desire to identify existing short-term
perceptions and decision-making of students and teachers in their classrooms.
By devising methods that collect reciprocal feedback on institutional learning
environments (from teachers and students) on a regular basis, leaders can
slowly shift the emphasis from the current summative evaluations to periodic
formative evaluations. Leaders could also use such feedback to guide long-term
institutional strategies and policymaking. In my view, the focus of
a leader must be on the growth and personal development of individuals involved
in the process of education, through a collaborative endeavor based on “humane”
values of congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. According
to Rogers (1969), these three personal attitudes are the necessary and sufficient
conditions to facilitate learning. The relationship inventories designed
by Barrett-Lennard (1962, as cited in Rogers, 1969) have found that individuals
who possess a high degree of these traits score high on these inventories
and are able to bring out the best in people they interact with, including
classrooms. Clark’s (1996) study, quoted earlier, illustrates how one
aspect, unconditional positive regard, has helped students with their identity
development. Jones and Jones (2000) observations quoted before also
reflects the importance of these personal attitudes of teachers.
Other researchers (Aspy, Aspy et al, 2000) state that little objective data
supports Rogers’ contentions. However, Aspy et al (2000) state that
using their systematic approach to help relationships in classroom teaching,
“educators discovered that when they responded interchangeably and appropriately
to their students, the learners had fewer discipline problems, attended schools
more frequently, and earned higher gains on cognitive tests (p. 33).”
Notwithstanding these conflicting viewpoints, research highlights continued
deficiencies in relationship-oriented studies in learning. “The
impact of relational approaches to schooling is relatively unstudied, and
there are few tools available to assess empathic connectedness among students
and teachers” (Zucker, 2001).
While sharing these concerns for exploring effective teaching strategies
with faculty at the Equity Assistance Center of Colorado State University,
Jan Perry Evenstad, shared with me the GESA (Generating Expectations for Student
Achievement) model for classroom management. GESA consists of
five units, each with three strands. The five units are: instructional
contact, grouping and organization, classroom management/discipline, enhancing
self-esteem, and evaluation of student performance. The three strands correspond
to: areas of classroom disparity, interactions that depend on teacher perceptions
and expectations of student’s characteristics and behavior, and finally curriculum
related issues that relate to increasing teachers’ awareness of equity issues
in instructional material and resources. Grayson (1997, p. 6), reports
that GESA was conceived in 1976 and the “research findings referenced in the
manual span more than seven decades. . .to remind us that this work is part
of a continuum of effort (ibid, p. 9).” This is an exciting model to
explore too, but I think we need CM models that consciously shy away from
discipline (third area), to reflect the broader scope of CM to include instructional
strategies and subject expertise.
To conclude, I reiterate that in this era of information overload, educational
organizations demand leaders who not only understand current trends in management,
but also are also flexible enough to engage colleagues and institutions with
policies crafted by the State and society. To achieve this, relationships
in leadership are critical. Relationships help leaders provide people
with appropriate resources, experiences, and information that are needed to
perform better in their jobs. In practical terms, this means actively
soliciting the opinions of all stakeholders in education and channeling their
participation. Within a classroom context, this would imply teachers
should constantly try to empower their students to learn and develop their
(reflective, critical and breakthrough) thinking skills to, in the words of
Carkhuff (2001, p. 248): “place the power of civilization―its freedom, its
productivity, its processing―inside each individual.” Consequently,
this empowerment might promote learning communities in educational organizations,
where members can truly share a conviction that their collective knowledge
of the world will be enriched when both individuals and different members
within the group share their expertise.
This manuscript briefly described similarities between Reigeluth’s continuum
(1999) for learning, Kurt Lewin’s field theory (1942), Collins’ epistemic
games (1993), physics education researches and epistemological studies, BSCS’s
5E instructional model for science education, relational ontology and higher
order thinking skills for self organization, and the social learning and cognitive
approaches for classroom management.
My research on three core ideas discussed in this manuscript will help me
investigate them from a vantage point of an experienced practitioner passionate
about CBPE, CD, and CM. My extensive experience with physics education
will help me address challenges in CBPE. The metacognitive approach
has helped me articulate my ideas on CD. Traditionally CD has been accorded
a lower status from mainstream subjects. However, by seeking to integrate
CD with classroom physics teaching, I believe I am exploring new ways to
contribute to research in the social learning and cognitive approaches model
of CM. Some existing models that interest me in these three core
areas have been briefly described in this manuscript.
Even as I continue investigating problems in CBPE, CD, and CM, it might
appear to some readers that this researcher has already embraced a solution,
but to those skeptics I say: “Deciding upon a design solution and making
decisions within that framework is a highly situated activity” (Wilson, 1995).
In this case, having a community of professionals research and develop “epistemic
games” seems to be holding out a lot of promise. As long as teachers
and students find meaning in these activities, and work diligently toward
achieving consensually agreed outcomes to learning, there is every reason
to believe that engaging in this study will be productive and intellectually
stimulating for all.
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ITFORUM PAPER #73 - SMART EDUCATION: BLENDING SUBJECT EXPERTISE WITH THE CONCEPT
OF CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT by Nathan
Balasubramanian. Posted on ITFORUM on May 14, 2003. The author retains all
copyrights of this work. Used on ITFORUM by permission of the author. Visit
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