GRAD 5114: The Banking Concept of Education

Reading “Banking Concept of Education” by Paulo Freire hit the spot describing our current education system, he refers to as the banking education system. We often criticize some aspects of our education system or list the pros and cons and what can be improved, but I have never read an article before that goes as far as comparing the education system to the slavery system. Although it does indeed give an accurate narration to what , in my opinion, our education system is built on, I think the author goes too far at some instances, ignoring the continuous efforts done by some teachers to change the system. In the following paragraphs, I will share some of the phrases Freire mentions in his article that caught my attention and reflect upon:

“Education is suffering from narration sickness” is one of the most accurate statements describing our current education system. In our classroom, most of the time spent during lectures consist of the professor explaining/narrating, followed by a shy round of whether “anyone has a question” every now and then. I remember in every classroom, and while some gave more space for students to ask and discuss, most of them allocated very limited time for discussions. I always had so many question in my head but I always knew answers would be brief if any,  I wouldn’t be given enough time to reflect on what I thought, and so I ended up nodding my head by no questions. This is one of the reasons I intend to do the opposite in my classrooms. And while I realize I will be constrained by time and material, discussion time will be sacred, because I know from personal experience you learn more during discussion than during explanation.

“The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teacher’s existence-but, unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher. ” Yes, students do educate teachers more than they are given credit for. I remember numerous instances in which the professor didn’t have an answer and ended up searching for it. Good teachers do realize this fact, and are often thrilled and excited by it. And this is how it should be, the interaction between the teacher and the student is a two-way street where both are gaining from this intellectual exchange. Although this is not supposed to happen with equal portions, meaning that the student must learn more from the professor, students still, despite in small portions, educate the teacher.

“The more completely students accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them. ” This statement is one of the most statements I could relate to in terms of our education system, and even life in general. The more limitations imposed on the critical thinking/questioning process students undergo in classrooms, the more they are inclined to take things at face value, accepting reality as it is. And this is reflected in their everyday curiosity to ask questions and doubt facts imposed on them. This even extends to their work life and attitude towards their bosses and colleagues. These 50 mins classrooms have a life time effect that we often seem to forget intentionally, and unintentionally. Curiosity, to a certain extent, is a blessing that should be embraced by teachers.

GRAD 5114: Online Pedagogy

I am discussing the article entitled “Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1: Beyond the LMS” found here by Sean Morris. The article decodes what actually digital pedagogy means and how it is practices, it adds some novel insights that we don’t usually consider.  We often imagine moving our lectures and slides online with the same configurations and setup is digital pedagogy, mixing it up with online teaching. The truth is, taking a classroom content and moving it online can not be considered pedagogical, and might even go as far as contradicting the word itself.

Digital pedagogy is rather an engaging and mindful process. It provides new opportunities and test new practices to create new learning environments for students.   Digital pedagogy urges students  to explore and inquire, bearing in mind that some approaches may fail, and it is a journey of trials that teach us. The article discusses few questions the author find them critical for understanding the essence of online pedagogy. Few of these questions focus on finding new ways and tools for students to learn and improvise; and looking into the best ways to utilize technology in classrooms to extend the learning process beyond the duration of classrooms.

Personally, I believe we are still far from optimizing the use of online pedagogy in our courses. We are either far behind from understanding its real meaning and means of applications or we misuse it in our classroom. I do realize it is a process of learning and experimenting, but in some instances we are not ready to deal with the outcome yet.  Nonetheless, the slow inclusion of technology-based activities is a good starting point into the world of online pedagogy, it is a step forward to allow ourselves to get used to this new learning environment and learn the ups and downs in the process.

The concern is not getting excited to indulge in online pedagogy world, but it is rather getting too excited and making a swift transition that would die in few years. Online courses emerged as a better learning option, especially for working students and parents with full-time jobs. Today, it is reported that more than 90% of people who start MOOC don’t finish and even if they do, they don’t end up taking another course. This raises the need for us to slow down the transition process into new realms.




GRAD 5114: Active learning Strategies

Case-based and problem-based learning are instructional approaches that encourage active learning and promote for a mindful teaching experience to be used in higher education. The motivation behind both methods is to challenge students with open-ended problems or real-life cases  to promote critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. By being exposed to new scenarios, student work in small groups to implement a solution by applying their knowledge to new situations in a team effort. In these pedagogical approaches, teachers often play the role of the facilitator directing the learning process and guiding students rather than providing them with direct knowledge.

Proponents have often stood by this method of teaching due to its positive impact on students’ abilities and motivation to learn. John Foran, one of pro active learning professors, describe in his article at the NEA higher education journal  his journey to achieve this. He describes one of the greatest challenges in classroom “is to make the material come alive for students by making it comprehensible to them and relevant to their lives”. After trying different approaches to overcome the lack of interaction in his classrooms, he implemented the case-based approach. Foran describes the case-based flow he uses in his classrooms by a series of steps that involve: 1) Setting the scene by a series of factual questions; 2) lively role play, where students  “inhabit” the case and debate the case settings, and 3) the analytic section where major assessment of the discussion is highlighted.

An article about problem-bases learning by Stanford University in 2001, found here, describes the need for learning to be “student-centered”, where students lead the class discussion and assess their own work and others. The goal is allow students to become “effective problem-solvers”. To do this however, students must be conscious about what they previously know about the problem, and what more knowledge they need to be able to develop strategies to solve the problem. The challenge comes in teaching students how to do that, and this is the role of the instructor, which becomes a “tutor or “cognitive coach” who models inquiry strategies, guides exploration, and helps students clarify and pursue their research questions”.

Despite all of that, active learning have drawn some criticism, mainly related to the important role the instructor has to do in accounting for the knowledge students must previously know. It is not an easy job for the teacher to play, and it does require a lot of planning outside classroom and a lot of awareness within the classroom. It makes us question how much is it worth it to teach students how to find the solution rather than just giving them the solution?



GRAD 5114: Inclusive Pedagogy

Culturally responsive teaching and inclusion is one of the topics always on table for discussion.  It has been incorporated in teaching strategies and preparations for years, yet there is an urging need to address it every time.

I was watching the video recommended by Homero “Same differences: How microaggressions are like mosquito bites”. I think it accurately compares microaggressions to mosquito bites to allow others, who don’t experience them, feel what it is really like. Some comments have shallow effect that vanishes instantly, while other bites might have a lasting effect that could even destroy other people’s dreams and  hopes. Some people tend to speak freely what is on their mind, with good intentions, yet they fail to recognize the effect of their question or comment on others and how it might be perceived. The lack of consideration is primarily the main reason for all these unfortunate incidents. Now imagine this person is a college professor, who is teaching and inspiring hundreds of students during a critical stage of their lives. It is no exaggeration if we assume that their comments and behaviors in the classrooms have the ability to either build or destroy the future of these students.

There is a lot of articles and videos written and shared about inclusive pedagogy and even some guidelines to follow, discussing the importance to “insert culture into education”. Although this seem under control, it really isn’t. People who are not experiencing the effects of these bites might encounter or hear about this but would not relate or act to face it. This is why I really think discussing such topics in graduate courses, as ours, is very important. Sharing the experience with other students who fall under  this category and learning the implications of such actions/comments on students and how it changes their lives or seeing an example of the effect of simple few words on others’ feelings can make a difference.

This might be a long journey to teach an entire society how to be more inclusive but we should start somewhere. And I think starting to enlighten future professors on the effects and importance of culturally responsive teaching is a very important first step towards changing a society.

GRAD 5114: Discovering your authentic teaching self

Reading about “Discovering your teaching self” highlights the importance of the way or style of teaching. The concept of still learning and writing about this proves that there is really no right or wrong way to teach, or else it would be that simple and taught as a rule in graduate school. This means no specific way prevails in providing information to students, but there are definitely certain ways more effective than others.

As we start our teaching career we all recall the best teachers we had or liked and try to copy their styles, hoping that would yield the same successful results it yielded on us years ago. It turns out that is not how things work exactly. Having a successful teaching experience as a students doesn’t necessarily mean that you, yourself will be able to pull the same successful outcome if you use the same style. If we think about it, the reason is very simple: ” Teaching is also about reflecting your personality in the style you teach rather than copying other styles”. It is about utilizing your best traits to serve your purpose. It is rather a journey you undergo to discover what you are doing right and what doesn’t work. And I think it is not a constant finding that applies to all your classes and students. The general outline of your style will definitely be consistent, if you are  funny by nature then that will always reflect in your all of your teaching styles, but the specifics will differ. The topics you are teaching and the level of students you will be teaching will dictate some peculiarities. This requires continuous adaptation of your style to better serve the purpose of a specific lecture, but that doesn’t mean there is not a certain level of your character reflected even in those specifics.

I think with experience you learn the best scenarios and best mechanisms to cope with specific teaching situations. You learn that every professor must have a unique style which makes him/her special, and this style is certainly related to their beliefs and characters. Personally, in the very brief teaching experience I had during my masters studies I learned to reflect myself while teaching, but up to a certain limit. I learned to read my students and my audience and see what traits of myself are better received by the specific set of students and I acted accordingly. I had two sections with 20 students each and I behaved partially different with each of these sections. My first section had a more loud, easy-going, fun type of students which required me to teach in a more easy going yet quiet way. The second section had more serious and quiet type of students which forced the other side of me to balance the lack of energy and excitement in the room. Although I behaved slightly different in both of these sections, I still managed to keep the basics of my personality and style in both,  changing the volume of the traits I have to better fit the circumstances.

GRAD 5114: Mindful Learning

We often receive information in our classrooms in a mindless state. We are passed most of our knowledge as facts and certain conclusions, leaving no room for our speculations or “what if’s”.  In the paper “Mindful Learning”, Ellen Langer talks about the power in uncertainty, yet most of us as professors and students tend to mistakenly seek for certainty and facts in our fields. We tend to forget the power of the mindful process of thinking we go through if we don’t take facts as pure facts but rather as information that could be right or wrong.

In my field of geotechnical engineering,  a lot of uncertainties are present whether in methods or conclusions we know. Dealing with uncertain things underground is reflected in the uncertain conclusions we reach. I have often compared geotechnical courses to the regular civil engineering courses I took as an undergrad, and I must say the uncertain nature of this field affects the way it is taught, forcing students to account for all possibilities and question all findings. This was not the case for other courses in my undergrad, where subjects being taught sounded more certain and true, with no room for wonder.

Ellen Langer concludes the article questioning the best pathway to follow for our future generations. How healthy would it be to teach our children to question everything presented to them to nourish that “mindful thinking” since early ages? Yet another valid point is raised on whether this is really the optimum way to proceed or should we rather provide a certain stability in our children’s early experiences before they get overwhelmed by mindful learning? The ability to think beyond what is given to you as a fact changes you for the better, but it still has major implications, especially if you are taught to do that since early childhood.  This even raises more questions on where is the limit  we should stop at? What borderline should we teach our children to stop doubting at and trust what we know to be able to move forward? How severe are the consequences that come along with mindful learning and doubting and how may they affect other aspects of our lives?