Guiding the Pursuit of Knowledge.
By Brian Lee
Posted from Fayetteville, Arkansas
E D I T O R ' S N O T E :
Mr. Lee is a secondary education major in English in the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University of Arkansas. His essay for Planet Gnosis is an excerpt from a mid-term assignment in Classroom Management Concepts. The assignment called for a “Classroom Environment Plan (CEP)” encompassing the physical environment, classroom procedures, and management of student work. Part of the assignment included an explanation of how one's educational philosophy influences their CEP.
It is both a difficult and dangerous task for a teacher to work from a definitive education philosophy. In being too staunch a proponent for one particular philosophy, a teacher risks failing to educate many students. The challenge for the teacher is to select an educational philosophy that provides the versatility to meet the needs of the wide variety of learning styles present in the classroom.
A Wide Variety of Methods,
An Even Wider Variety of Truths.
In order to address this obstacle, I find that I function from the philosophical platform of postmodernism. Philosophically, I define postmodernism as the acceptance of a wide variety of methods for
attaining an even wider variety of truths. In this way, postmodernism is effective in promoting the growth of both the student’s knowledge and their emotional compass. Additionally, it suggests a number of different conceptions concerning curriculum. It also allows for differentiation to meet the needs of a diverse learning population.
Postmodernism seeks to use knowledge as an empowering force for all humans. In this way, the philosophy is driven by the goal to attain knowledge; however, there is no set technique for any one person to achieve knowledge.
The teacher is responsible for working with students to guide them through their individual pursuits of wisdom. For example, after presenting new information to a class, the teacher might inquire for a personal response from the students to determine where each student’s interests fit in with the lesson. This kind of feedback would then allow the teacher to determine the best way for the group to find intellectual ownership and empowerment from the unit.
Multiple Learning Styles
Are Best Met through Differentiation.
Postmodernism presents students and teachers with a unique learning platform so that every class will want to approach information in different ways. It is the teacher’s
duty to know their students in order for the teacher to effectively personalize their methods to comply with multiple learning styles.
Just as students seek knowledge in a variety of different ways, they also require a significant amount of differentiation in classroom procedures, rules, and environment. Under the postmodernist philosophy, students are given the opportunity to give input on the procedures, rules, and environment. Each classroom is different, and each student is shaped by a spectrum of varying experiences. The postmodernist environment encourages freedom of expression and individualism, allowing the teacher to create custom-tailored plans uniquely suited to the needs of each class.
The level of personalization in the learning environment, implied by postmodernism, is also beneficial for the emotional development of students.
Looking at Self, Society, and Culture
In a Spirit of Equality and Freedom.
The postmodern perspective asks students to be analytical and inquisitive of social norms. It forces students to question why they hold the beliefs they do. By encouraging philosophical analysis of self, postmodernism opens students’ eyes to their inner workings and thought processes. This creates an environment of significant emotional growth and self-actualization.
Additionally, postmodernism pushes students to be active social critics by encouraging individuals to question why their culture holds certain beliefs. This is extremely
beneficial, not only from an educational standpoint, but also from a cultural viewpoint. If a student is able to analyze the community’s beliefs and values, it becomes easier for that individual to determine the validity of their community’s standards. This type of inquisition leads to an individual drive for knowledge acquisition and emotional growth. It also is connected to “culturally relevant pedagogy.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of post-modernism in the classroom revolves around the versatility of curriculum under the philosophy. While many dogmatic views of education hold that certain concepts of curriculum are more valid than others, postmodernism takes into account the relative value of every style of curriculum.
For example, students may better understand some lessons if the class is student-centered. Other lessons may be better understood if they are teacher-centered. Postmodernism does not play favorites in curriculum design — every style is considered equal. This allows both students and teachers more freedom in determining the best ways to pursue knowledge. In this way, the student defines what materials they will need, whether a computer will be used, how long assignments should be, and so on.
Postmodernism's Paradigm of Inclusion
Encourages Cooperative Learning.
My philosophy of education and classroom environment was initially a reaction to the stuffy, ineffective teaching environments I have seen throughout my career as a student. When I entered the MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching), my ideas on classroom management resided more in the realm of what not to do than on what to do. Seldom did I have a teacher who pushed me to
work with every student in the classroom — let alone work with a student who was not as academically proficient.
For this reason, my ideas of classroom environment have been constructed by a variety of different educational experiences. In searching for a paradigm to create an effective classroom environment, I wanted the freedom to adjust and be as inclusive of all students as possible. Postmodernism fits these criteria perfectly.
Additionally, the extreme delicacy surrounding what teachers can and cannot discuss in their classrooms has compromised education in many respects. In order to get around this barrier of acceptability, I will use a postmodernist environment plan to encourage cooperative learning. This style of instruction allows students to drive their exploration of current issues and content-relevant topics, which allows me, as their teacher, to guide students through the difficult issues of their choosing.
Brian Lee is a graduate student in the University of Arkansas’ Masters of Arts and Teaching program (MAT). He holds a baccalaureate degree from the University of Arkansas in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Currently, Mr. Lee is finishing work on his MA research project, exploring the use of technology in public high school English classrooms. Additionally, he is in the process of completing a yearlong internship teaching English in Northwest Arkansas’ Rogers and Bentonville school districts.
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