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Class Review

This class was definitely not what I had expected, at the beginning of all this I was expecting a boring class where I would just stress about my work and question why I signed up for it, especially when i learnt we had to be writing weekly blogs because i thought it was going to be like my other classes where i had to write papers, but it turned out to be the complete opposite! I enjoyed every second of this class and I find myself wishing there was more time to discuss and explore more topics and for once i enjoyed writing.

I enjoyed all the discussions and reading the different blog posts. I got to learn knew things about the science of learning and how the educational system isn’t really there to favor us students but more of a business institution. It was so nice getting to experience a different type of class setting instead of the same boring lecture. Understanding certain things from other student’s point of view was really fascinating which made me realize how much we students can learn from each other and also enjoy doing research . It was a lot of work I won’t lie about that, but It was work that I enjoyed. Giving us the freedom to choose our own topic made it really exciting to write a new blog post every week.

I really did learn a lot and it opened my eyes to many things in the education system. This class has made me reflect on how I can motivate myself and take as much control as I can in my own learning and gain knowledge. Overall, i think everyone should have the chance to take this class and understand the science of learning. Thanks for a wonderful class.

Science of Learning

In the topic blogs i talked about learning environment, the immense cost of conformity and getting out of the comfort zone. In this blog i’m going to shine light on how these three topics are related to each other.

I’ll like to begin with learning environment. Learning environment refers to the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn. (A. W. Tony Bates). The learning environment of every student is crucial because students are able to comprehend by using different teaching practices, such as lecture, hands-on activities,   cooperative learning groups and plenty of small group and individual practice. The standard classroom setting in schools discourages interaction between students rather promotes individual work only which prevents social interaction between students. Learning should not be an individual act. It is quite pivotal for teachers to make sure their students interact with each other as it paves the way for them to learn from each other. It has been psychologically proven that, “Classroom environments are extremely important for students and for teachers. Everything from the color of the walls to the arrangement of the desks sends impressions to students and can affect the way a student learns.”

Also, comfort zone is a situation in which you feel comfortable and in which your ability and determination are not being tested. As a student going out of your comfort zone and being determined to do beyond the ordinary is the prerequisite of excellence. Some students get comfortable in the fact that they are able to pass their classes that there’s no  effort to gain extra knowledge which is not part of the course syllabus.

Conformity refers to the process in which, under collective pressure from a group, individuals tend to join the majority of society and follow their opinions, with the fear of becoming isolated in society (7). In my opinion, conformity has a major role to play in our learning environments and also is part of the reason why students feel the need to put in just enough work to pass a class. In regards to learning environment, i believe lots of teachers can go the extra mile to implement certain methods in our learning environments like in-class discussions about topics among students and the teacher to help to better understand the materials being taught. Also in regards to comfort zone, most students will just conform to what everyone is doing or how the majority of the class is performing just so they don’t get left out. There are many students that have the potential to do better but they’ll much rather be in their comfort zones and put in just enough to put them in the category the majority of students find themselves which is most likely average.

In conclusion, conformity which affects our learning environment and our ability to stand out or go the extra mile in gaining knowledge, creates a society of less innovative and creative people, who cannot think outside the box due to conformity in the educational system. It’s high time we come to the realization that doing things differently does not make it wrong and also the fact that everyone is doing a particular thing a certain way does not necessarily mean it’ll work for everybody.

References:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10209-016-0456-1

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/kids-and-classrooms-why-environment-matters

http://www.education.gov.gy/web/index.php/teachers/tips-for-teaching/item/2074-importance-of-environment-in-the-classroom

Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.Ballantine Books.6

 

Learning Environment

The learning of environment of every student is crucial because students are able to comprehend by using different teaching practices, such as lecture, hands-on activities,   cooperative learning groups and plenty of small group and individual practice. The standard classrooms in today’s world consists of desk aligned in rows within the classroom. This order of arrangement disrupts students as it does not encourage interaction between students but rather promotes individual completion of work which shouldn’t be the case as humans are social being who do better when they work with others or interact with fellow beings.  Also, learning should not be an individual act. It is quite pivotal for teachers to make sure their students interact with each other as it paves the way for them to learn from each other.

It has been psychologically proven that, “Classroom environments are extremely important for students and for teachers. Everything from the color of the walls to the arrangement of the desks sends impressions to students and can affect the way a student learns. The emotional environment also will affect the learning environment and how well a student receives instruction.”  These are examples of ways to enhance the wellbeing of a student and their learning.  An article I came across suggests the three aspects of the classroom that should be looked at to help students learn or succeed.               Emotional Environment
Creating a positive learning environment is essential for success in the classroom. Teachers should create a welcoming atmosphere where student feel safe and willing to share. Classrooms should represent the students equally and everyone should know each other’s name. Teachers who use humor in the classroom also create more positive environments.

Physical Environments
Structuring the physical environment of a classroom means strategically placing desks, students, decorations, and playing music. Desks arranged in a circle give the impression of sharing, while coupled desks work well as workstations. The color of the walls and the decorations on the walls also send impressions. Light colors open up spaces and warm colors are welcoming. Trudie Lawrence from Envoplan supports this ideology as he states, “A successful classroom design needs to strike the balance between the teaching methods and learning styles that take place in class. Combining learning and teaching helps to create a space that facilitates both the student and the teacher and creates a much more fulfilling learning experience.   A 2006 study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Landscape Architecture identified that windowless classrooms are linked to lower test scores for high school students. The researchers found that high school students perform better on tests if the classroom has a view of a green landscape, rather than a windowless room, or a room with a view of another building or a parking lot. Students with a green view outside a classroom window performed better on tests requiring focused attention, had less mental fatigue, and recovered better from stress. This is the first study to establish a causal relationship between exposure to a green view and students’ performance. there is growing science-based evidence that external environments deeply impact someone’s ability to learn and to score well on standardized tests.

Respectful Environments
Classrooms should be a place where students feel respected and feel their contributions matters. No student should be singled out or secluded in the classroom. Every student should feel accepted, wanted and respected.

 

References: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/kids-and-classrooms-why-environment-matters         http://www.education.gov.gy/web/index.php/teachers/tips-for-teaching/item/2074-importance-of-environment-in-the-classroom

EDUCATION – THE IMMENSE COST OF CONFORMITY

Conformity refers to the process in which, under collective pressure from a group, individuals tend to join the majority of society and follow their opinions, with the fear of becoming isolated in society (7). Conformism can be defined as the change in thinking, feeling or acting following pressure, real or imaginary, exercised by the group (Moghaddam, 1998). It is considered, a social norm generally an accepted way of thinking, feeling or acting, emphasized and expected by members of a particular community or social group since it is considered the right thing (Turner, 1991).

In our schools students are being made to conform in different ways and are considered rebellious or a misfit is they do not. The major negative to conformity is that it can force a person to be someone who they are not. In today’s society there are those among millions of people that enjoy standing out. These people feel comfortable with expressing themselves in their own unique ways. (1)  Conformity could be good in ways that keep our society intact. Intact in the sense that people know the good things to do in different situations and people know the things they have to avoid (2). Conformity erases individuality. Conformity just inhibits us to speak out the necessary things that could actually improve a situation or a decision. (2) Conformity is an expectation within every society. It is expected that each member of society will do their part to live in harmony with the other members.(3)

Conformists that follow every rule of society without question are actually setting themselves up for failure. A blind belief in any system without question is a dangerous way to move through life. Some laws are meant to be broken. (3). Noam Chomsky said, the school system is designed to teach obedience and conformity and prevent the child’s natural capacities from developing. The interesting thing is that in today’s world, businesses demand creativity and innovation.  The last thing they want is standardization because they are seeing graduates who are not able to “think outside of the box.” (4) The world is all about innovation and keeping up with the changing waves that sweep through (4). Education is a personal journey.  It’s not about conformity, it’s about discovery and passion. The gift of humanity is in its diversity.  We need to remember this.  Value it.  Treasure it.  Safe guard it. (4)

There seems to be a growing consensus that contemporary higher education institutions (HEIs) are trapped in conformity. (5) The greatest cost that society bears as a result of the enforced conformity from the youngest to the oldest students in education is a personal tragedy borne by, literally, millions of students and former students. (6) Prolonged conformity would likely be a good environmental trigger to bring on serious mental health problems. (6) The idea that the education system is somehow responsible for causing real pain and suffering in our society is horrible. However, the pain and suffering of the individuals concerned is many times more horrifying. And the cost of such suffering to our society is beyond imagination (6). We are richer and more prosperous than ever before in history. We can come up with better solutions for educating our people. We just have to decide that we must, and then make it happen. (6)

In conclusion, conformity in education creates a society of less innovative and creative people, who cannot think outside the box due to conformity in the educational system. Conformity inhibits people from speaking up and encourages them to follow the rules without questioning them. Though conformity has implications on the society it is seen to have a much more negative effect on the individual, it could cause, mental breakdown, lack of confidence, lack of creativity and the inability to maximize ones full potential or use ones talent. The educational system should encourage creativity and should not consider students who do not conform as misfits. The educational system should encourage uniqueness.

 

References;

  1. https://www.kibin.com/essay-examples/advantages- and-disadvantages- of-conformity-
    ZLOrmnQh
  2.  https://medium.com/@rickster95_/conformity-and- its-disadvantages- d78e97c0f9fc
  3. http://healthresearchfunding.org/13-pros- and-cons- of-conformity- in-society/
  4. https://cherraolthof.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/549/
  5. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03075079.2016.1242566?journalCode=cshe20
  6. https://hethoughts.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/conformity-and- education/
  7. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10209-016- 0456-1
  8. Conformity, Obedience, Disobedience: The Power of the Situation by Piero Bocchiaro and Adriano Zamperini

 

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.. STAND OUT!

So there has been a lot of fuzz about mindsets of people and the relation to individual learning capabilities. Let us begin this journey of making headways with this topic by throwing more light on it.

“Mindset” is defined in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English as someone’s general attitude, and the way in which they think about things and make decisions. It sounds like a mouthful I think!

What has this got to do with learning and ability to comprehend information pertaining to academic discourse communities? Permit me to make allusions to Dweck’s assertions on the said topic taking into account ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets (Dweck, 2007).

I strongly believe that inherent capabilities do exist and one way or the other result in positives or negatives. The former is more related to bringing out the best in an individual with very little effort whereas the latter breeds complacency. The problem here lies within the latter- complacency!

Should your roundedness in an area warrant laziness? Others may beg to differ and would respond by “I’d rather capitalize on my strengths.” It is astonishing how success eats into the heads of people such that their feat turns to failure. Enhancing effective mentee-mentor relationships have over time, proven to help alleviate this occurrence. Having someone who is where you aspire to be and having walked the path you are on, may serve as a major boost to keep a person on his or her toes.

Furthermore, instead of being rather too critical and quite judgmental on the various learning styles people claim work for them, how about we allow people to carry out self-assessments to so as to capitalize on their strengths. This is where the role of the teacher comes into the picture- to develop potential. This could be through tailoring teaching to suit every individual need. A critical outlook would be to reduce teacher-to-student ratios to the barest minimum such that the allocations per teacher favour adequate grooming.

It could be true learning styles could be a myth or maybe not. However, a point worth considering is that we do not expect someone residing in a penthouse and another in the slums to satisfy their learning needs using the same techniques. This is an indication that environment would definitely influence the approach employed and hence the birth of a ‘learning style,’ for “It is possible to fly without motors but not without knowledge and skill”- Wilbur Wright.

The way forward in learning would be emphasis on focus and dealing with distractions under the tutelage of ardent mentors who have the development of the full potential of their mentees at heart. C.S. Lewis once said, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad”

In conclusion, going out of your comfort zone and being determined to do beyond the ordinary is the prerequisite of excellence. For when there is a will, there will always be a way!

It is all in your head, decide to win!

Reference

Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.6

Attentive Thinking

Higher order thinking is when students use complex ways to think about what they are learning. It takes thinking to a whole new level. Students using it are understanding higher levels rather than just memorizing facts. They would have to understand the facts, infer them, and connect them to other concepts. (1)

Attentive thinking is required during higher order thoughts processing. Attentive thinking is also known as focused mode thinking. Focused mode is just what it sounds like, a concentrated, focused form of thinking. (5)

Focused thinking is a highly attentive state of mind where the brain uses its best concentration abilities in the prefrontal cortex to ignore all extraneous information. (2)

The focused mode of thinking is a mode where the brain is “focused” and is directly able to solve problems it is familiar with. (3) It is using our focused attention to think solely about the information we are trying to learn.  During focused thinking, we are sitting down and deliberately practicing something or trying to solve a problem, without distracting ourselves with anything else. (4)

This mode of thinking is usually explained with the “the pinball analogy” If you image the brain like a pinball machine, focused thinking would be your standard difficulty machine with nobs tightly packed and your thoughts bouncing off of those nobs randomly and rapidly. Only through practice do those random paths become ingrained. (the nobs are likened to neurons and neural synapses the pinball) in diffused mode the pinball game is an easier version, the nobs are more widely spaced and the thoughts are freer to take their own path. (5)

When we are in our focused mode of thinking, it’s like we have a one-track mind for the matter at hand. Distractions don’t exist. Whether we are practicing a specific skill like free-throws or slogging through a specific problem, focused thinking allows us to zoom directly in on the most pertinent information. (2)

Focused mode is centered in and around the prefrontal cortex, the area right behind the forehead.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for much of our executive functions that has to do with decision-making and problem-solving, in addition to controlling our attention and memory. (4) With focused thinking, your brain processes very specific information deeply. (2)

Once students have planned where they want their thoughts to go, started their task or problem solving, persisted at getting the work started, they must focus. Focusing attention and concentrating on thinking is a difficult thing to do. Because of the energy requirements for higher order thinking, as I wrote in the persistence article, the brain will attempt to conserve energy in any way that it can. One of the ways the brain can conserve energy would be considered the opposite of persistence. The brain will shift into neutral mode. Although there are benefits to relaxing and letting your mind wander, engaging in neutral tasks, and daydreaming, these activities do not constitute higher order thinking. (8)

Although focused mode is a required and important element of first learning the material, being in focused mode too long can detract from learning. (4) In fact, too much focus really can be a bad thing when it comes to problem-solving. The longer we keep our brains in focused mode, the more we experience tunnel vision—outside the box thinking becomes impossible. (2)

By focusing on a problem too long, we begin to work within an arbitrary set of parameters and assumptions/premises. Staying in focused mode too long can be detrimental to learning. (4)

Additionally, when stressed, we begin to lose the ability to connect pertinent ideas that is so innate to focused mode.  A little bit of stress allows us to perform at our peak, but too much stress inhibits our ability to think clearly.  This is why the brain doesn’t work quite right when we are angry or afraid. (4)

In order to learn, you might think that you need to spend hours of focused mental energy pouring over study material. However, it turns out that your brain utilizes two types of thinking to most effectively learn. (6) Cognitive scientists suggest that the best way to master new material is to start out dedicating about 20-25 minutes reading and understanding the material in an intensely focused manner without distraction. Then switch to diffuse mode for at least 15 minutes by taking a break and letting the mind wander. (6)

Diffused Mode of thinking is a more relaxed thinking state, one the brain settles into at resting. (5) The Diffuse mode on the other hand, is useful when you are working on a problem you have never seen before, or are having trouble understanding. When you are using the diffuse mode of thinking your brain can jump from idea to idea, concept to concept. (7)

To conclude, the focus or attentive mode of thinking is very important in learning but it is important that this mode of thinking is used alongside the diffuse mode of thinking. Our brain possibly have the two modes for good reasons. We need them both in order to really process information that comes our way. So take advantage of them both when you’re learning to see better results.

References;

  1. com
  2. https://www.brainscape.com/blog/2016/08/better-learning-focused-vs-diffuse-thinking/
  3. http://conceptsoflearninghowtolearn.weebly.com/modes-of-thinking.html
  4. https://examinedexistence.com/focused-mode-versus-diffused-mode-of-thinking-why-you-need-both/
  5. https://staciechoice1010.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/focused-vs-diffused-mode/
  6. https://blog.inkydeals.com/science-learning-focused-diffuse-thinking/
  7. http://www.instructables.com/id/Learning-How-to-Learn/
  8. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/science-learning-attentive-thinking-jesse-martin

 

Conformity

Conformity is a social phenomenon that individual readily conforms one’s attitudes, beliefs, perception, and behaviors to group norms under the influence of group members. (Pu Liu, 2016).
Conformity is the most common and pervasive form of social influence. It is informally defined as the tendency to act or think like members of a group. In psychology, conformity is defined as the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms. (5) Conformity basically, refers to the compliance with standards or adherence to the rules or laws.

Education is all about conformity. At various levels of education students are made to conform to one thing or the other like school uniforms, the bell and also in higher education students are made to kowtow too. Obediently, with their heads down, students are taught to become successful executives and agreeable members of society. (2)

The ‘marketization’ of higher education implies that higher education institutions are increasingly embedded in competitive national and international markets. higher education institutions are increasingly pressured to compete with one another to attract consumers and users such as students and private investors. Hence, this forces higher education institutions to differentiate their missions from competitors to reduce competition. That being said, the field of higher education continues to be a strongly institutionalized environment. Contemporary higher education institutions are strongly pressured to comply with widely endorsed, institutionalized values. For instance, higher education institutions face pressures to comply with dominant values of the academic profession such as academic excellence, socio-demographic diversity and internationalization.(Jelle Mampaey, October 2016). (7)

According to (Grendar, 2015), there are two types of conformity – informational and normative conformity. He explained that, Normative conformity is an act of public compliance without private acceptance of the group’s norm (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955). Regardless of who is actually correct, some individuals are convinced that the group is wrong, but in an effort to belong to the group or avoid conflict, they publicly deny their real opinion and conform to the group. He continued by saying, alternatively, sometimes individuals are not completely sure about the correct answer or correct behavior. In these situations, they may assume that the group has more accurate information and will display more appropriate behavior. The group norm is then internalized. This type of conformity is more pronounced in ambiguous situations or in situations with very strong implications. It is called informational conformity (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955; Kelman, 1958) and can result in both public compliance and private acceptance. (2)
Schools need good leadership, and each school leader needs to understand that school is only the beginning of the journey of lifelong learning. Get it wrong in school, and young people can be turned off from the joy of learning for a life time. Get it right, and children grow into informed, responsible adults whose innate curiosity and creativity are perpetuated for a life time. (3)

Education; schools should be encouraged to motivate students to be creative. Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. (6) Creative learning produces growth in both cognitive and affective dimensions and leads to the production of outcomes that are rich and complex, original and expressive. There is a harmonious development of body, mind and spirit. (4) Assessments that nurture creativity are built for intrinsic motivation and enable growth on one’s unique path. They encourage students to raise questions, probe, create possibilities and give play to imagination. (4) Students should be encouraged to be creative since it helps bring about innovation. Creativity is a discipline and a crucial part of the innovation equation. There is no innovation without creativity. (6)

In conclusion, though conformity is neither entirely a bad thing nor absolutely a good thing students should be encouraged to be creative, to use their imagination and come up with original ideas instead of always conforming to things. Education should create more room for creativity in order to build innovation and unique ideas.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Experiences of Conformity in Postgraduate Medical Education by Jan Grendar, 2015
  2. https://www.secureteen.com/types-of-schooling/is-individuality-to-be-contained-or-nurtured-in-schools/
  3. http://www.steve-wheeler.co.uk/2013/08/diversity-or-conformity.html
  4. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/for-creativity-over-conformity-in-classrooms/article8241436.ece
  5. https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/social-psychology-20/social-influence-104/conformity-394-12929/
  6. http://www.creativityatwork.com/2014/02/17/what-is-creativity/
  7. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03075079.2016.1242566