Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Week 11 - Equity

1.         One incident that I have seen in the classroom was a definite difference between the abilities of some of the students. Even though they are only in kindergarten, the ability levels between students is sometimes a very large gap. In one instance that I noticed in particular, the teacher was reading a book and sometimes she would pause and ask the students questions, to make sure they were actually comprehending the reading. Sometimes she would ask them about a certain word and then have the students think of other words that rhyme with it. She would then call on various students who were raising their hands, and occasionally call on students who hadn't answered yet. Some of the students had no issues with rhyming and finding new words, whereas others struggled to even find simple rhyming words, such as cat and hat. The levels that each student are at differ incredibly in certain areas.

         This issue can definitely affect the motivation of the students. The teacher needs to make sure that they avoid evaluative praise, because this can affect the motivation of those students that are at a lower level than some of their peers. They want to avoid showing favoritism to students who do well. It causes the other students to question their abilities and may make a student develop a performance avoidance behavior. It may also cause those students being praised for having the answers right to develop a performance-approach behavior. The teacher must do their best to reduce the competitiveness of the activity, and use different types of praise to benefit all of the students.

2.       Delpit believes that one way to combat educational equity is to realize that many parents just want their students to be able to have success in larger societies, not just whatever the culture of power is. Teachers shouldn't be teaching students how to exist in  white culture, but should know how to succeed in any type of culture and environment. This means that they need to teach children content from all areas, and from all different types of cultures, not just the dominant cultures in that area. Teachers also need to realize that not one teaching approach will work for all students, and that they need to listen to their students and respond to them in order to give them the best education possible.

        Gay makes the suggestion that we should create culturally relevant curricula by first developing culturally diverse knowledge bases. Once a teacher has that knowledge, they can create formal plans, symbolic curriculum, and societal curriculum. Formal plans are usually lessons that are based off of the standards, and teachers can make changes to their lesson plans to create a more diverse lesson. It is ok to teach about various controversies that are generally avoided in classroom settings. Symbolic curriculum are when images, icons, symbols, and other similar modes are used to teach knowledge, morals, skills, and values. To create culturally relevant curriculum, teachers should use these symbols to educate their students. One example would be showing authority in the symbols of both men and women, of all cultural identities. Teachers should also create culturally relevant lessons through what is known as societal curriculum. Societal curriculum is how mass media portrays ethnic groups and the knowledge and impressions people gain from this. Culturally relevant teachers will attempt to reverse what popular culture has taught and show students critical analyses of different cultures and ethnic groups to educate their students.


In my field experience I have noticed an equity issue with ability level.  It has become very apparent to me as the weeks have gone by which students are above level, at level and below level.  One day the teacher had me take two students who needed extra time working on their math worksheet.  These two children were very far behind in comparison to the other kids.  They were really struggling with addition and I realized how far behind they were compared to the kids who had already finished the work sheet.  After school I talked to Mrs. Whaley (teacher) and told her how surprised I was that they were struggling so much.  She agreed and said they were two of the kids who were two of her lowest level kids.  The next week it became apparent to me that the way she grouped their desks was by ability level or academic level.  There are two groups of desks in the classroom with kids who are above level.  They are the kids that always finish first and are ahead when working on group activities.  Then there are two groups of desks that are normal academic level and two groups of desks with children farther behind.  I found it shocking as to why she would group them together by ability level.  I would think putting a mixture at each group would work better for the kids that are farther behind because they were be pushed and helped by kids ahead of them.  I believe the issue of equity in ability level can impact the motivation of students.  These students in groups that struggled had to be taken out of class and helped.  They might feel embarrassed or “slow”.  This might not only hurt their confidence and self-esteem but also cause the students to feel less motivated.  By putting the slower students in groups with higher level students may not only help them when they have questions but motivate them to work harder. 
Gay believes “the academic achievement of ethnically diverse children will improve when they are taught through their own culture and experiential filters”.  Basically teachers need to educate themselves on different cultures so they can better teach students of different ethnic backgrounds and include different cultures into the classroom.  Delpit suggests that as teachers we allow ourselves to be open and really listen to other perspectives because people of other cultures are “experts” in their culture and know what they are talking about.   By doing this, it will allow us to better speak across cultures to our students of different backgrounds. 
Gay proposes that one way to design culturally relevant curriculum is by designing bulletin boards to promote symbolic curriculum that talk about different ethnic groups and positive characteristics.  For example, doing a bulletin board on leadership and include different ethnic groups.  Then Gay also talks about societal curriculum and kind of changing the mental stereotypes that students believe because of the mass media they are exposed to. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Equity in the Classroom

In my second grade classroom at Shawswick Elementary in Bedford, IN, I have noticed an equity issue of gender.  My teacher is a big supporter of a quiet learning environment, and anyone who makes noise during quiet work time gets called out on it.   Second grade boys tend to have a difficult time sitting still, so this expectation the teacher sets is already a challenge for them to meet.  One morning, I get to my classroom and I notice that a few desks have been separated from the normal rows of desks.  I do not think much of it at first, and then I notice that the only desks that were moved away from the group were boys’ desks.  I ask the teacher about it, and the teacher told me they were not able to concentrate on their work because they were moving around too much.  I then pay closer attention to these boys the rest of the day and I notice that they are still moving around and not much has really changed.  My teacher seems to have this set idea that a classroom needs to be a quiet, still environment, but that is not a conducive learning environment for 7-year-old boys.  She was not being equitable between the girls personalities of being quieter and more still to boys more rambunctious personalities.  This affected the boys’ motivation because I could tell that they were embarrassed for being separated from their peers.  They stopped participating and did not seem to be enjoying their work, or at least appeared to enjoy it less than normal.  If a child feels they are not being treated equally, they will most likely not want to participate or not feel comfortable in a classroom that should feel like a community. 

There is a very real problem with equity in schools, and Delpit (1988) and Gay (2002) have given some suggestions to help lesson this very real problem.  Delpit believes that “students must be taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life…within the context of meaningful communicative endeavors” (296).  Delpit also suggests that people in minorities and members of poor communities “must be allowed to participate fully in the discussion of what kind of instruction is in their children’s best interest” (296).  She feels very strongly that people learn differently based on their cultural background and that communication across different cultures can be very difficult for people who are unaware that people from different cultures communicate differently.

Gay suggests that teachers should design culturally relevant curricula in order to give support to children from different cultures.  One thing that Gay suggests is that, as teachers, we should deal “directly with controversy” (108).  Gay talks about how a lot of teachers try to avoid talking about very controversial issues, most of which have everything to do with culturally relevant issues.  If teachers are not afraid of talking about cultural topics, the students should begin to feel comfortable expressing their culture in their classroom. Another way Gay suggests giving support to children from different cultures is through symbolic curriculum and understand the power that it holds “as an instrument of teaching and use it to help convey important information, values, and actions about ethnic and cultural diversity” (108).   Overall, Gay wants teachers to not only teach about the White culture, but to talk about all cultures.  Culture is all around us in the United States, and it is part of the teacher’s role to make sure that their students are aware of the different cultures represented in the immigrant country of the United State of America.  

Equity, Delpit's Article

Reflection: My big idea was that learning is not done by listening to a teacher and taking in everything he/she says.  This type of stereotype is a problem described in Delpit's article. It seems that the teacher is always the authority figure and the students are supposed to listen and obey. However, this is not how equity and learning is established. Children must learn to think for themselves and realize they are knowledgeable people as well. They are capable of learning and knowing things perhaps even the teacher doesn't know. However, when there is a power relationship in the classroom, students seem to believe everything a teacher says and never question anything. No knowledge is gained this way. However, when a teacher does not play such an authority figure role, students start to ask questions about the material learned. When they ask questions, they are confirming the knowledge and must understand it to do so. In addition to this, they are able to realize things beyond the material given to them and could even perhaps teach the teacher and the rest of the class something others didn't realize before. Teachers should create opportunities for students to learn and think for themselves, not provide one dimensional ways of thinking they believe is right. 

Activity: My activity is simple: The teacher sits down and does work with the students. If students were doing a math sheet, for example, I think it is important for the teacher to sit down with them and do it rather than stand at the front of the classroom as an authority figure. When the teacher comes and sits at a desk and does the work with students, it gives the teacher more of a friend and less of a power role. When students see teachers doing things like this they can still look to a teacher as a good role model to do their work, but also less of a person who "knows all." This gives students more responsibility and feeling more capable to do their work by thinking for themselves.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Behavior Theory of Motivation

The behavioral theory of motivation is closely related to operant conditioning. This idea uses reinforcement as a way to motivate students. If a  behavior is associated with good consequences (reinforcement), the students will be more likely to perform the behavior again under similar circumstances. Through this theory, motivation can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation would cause a student to perform a behavior a certain because of the reward at the end. They are doing the task solely because of the outcome. This can be rewarded with things such as trophies, candy, stickers, attention, praise, etc. Intrinsic motivation does not involve an external incentive. Instead, it allows students to engage in activities that is a part of the activity itself. Examples of this would be free play with blocks, coloring, reading time, etc. Teachers often try to use extrinsic motivators to help motivate them intrinsically by giving them stickers, extra recess time, no homework, and other external rewards. It is important to effectively use rewards so that the students aren't completely the take only because of the reward at the end. To do so, you must consider these factors:
  • purpose of reward
  • how student perceive the award
  • context in which reward is given
 A few guidelines that can be used for rewards that are not detrimental to intrinsic motivation are:
  • Occasionally use unexpected rewards such as showing a movie
  • Use unexpected tangible awards sparingly such as stickers, candy, or trophies
  • Withdraw rewards as soon as possible so that students are not engaging solely to get the reward
  • Use the most modest reward possible
  • Make the reward contingent on quality of work
  • Minimize the use of authoritarian style such as closely monitoring, threats, or controlling language

In my classroom I could use the behavioral theory of motivation by allowing students to participate in activities that are intrinsically motivational. In a first grade classroom, If a student finishes their work early, I will allow them to read. They can read one of the books they checked out from the library or one of the ones in the classroom. I will also have an "I'm Finished" bin that will have different activities they can do if they don't want to read. These activities will range from reading a science magazine, doing extra math problems, creating a story, etc.  My field experience teacher has one of these and the student love to pick activities that are in this bin. If a student is doing great academically, I would use tangible measure to reward them. Each test that a student receives a 100% on, I will put their name in a raffle. At the end of the month I will draw 2 names from the box and they will get to pick from a goody box which would contain a variety of rewards.

Behavior Theory of Motivation

             Behavioral Theory of Motivation defined in simplest form would be to reward students for  learning. One's behavior is due to either external factors such as the factors that are outside the learners control. (which is the key focus of behavioral theory) whereas internal factors are under control of the learner.
         Rewards given out in this theory are given on a basis of participating or completing an activity or achieving a certain level of performance for getting an A+.
         The factors that affect perception of rewards: - Purpose of the reward
                                                                                - How students perceive the reward
                                                                                - The context in which the reward is given.

          A few guidelines to follow to meet the need of the students level of intrinsic rewards would be too :
             1.) Close monitoring by the teacher
             2.) Having deadlines and imposed goals
             3.)  Threats and directives and so on

         An activity you could do using the behaviorist learning theory for example if a goal at the end of the lesson is a “certificate of completion”, then the student and teacher have tangible proof of their success. They can also add speed and accuracy on the form along with a grade. They receive immediate feedback and in order for the students to receive positive feedback and a correct answer, they just need to focus on the instruction and put forth better effort and attention.