Musings on: Bruner and The Culture of Education

 

 

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In his book, The Culture of Education (1996) Bruner, in Chapter 2 of his Folk Pedagogy holds that there are four dominant models of pedagogy. He describes in detail the following main educational approaches: Imitative learning where teachers model what the students should learn. Didactic learning where teachers and elders pass on the knowledge and children are recipients of this predetermined, structured knowledge base. Collaborative Learning, seeing children as thinkers dealing with certain intersubjective interchanges and finding value in discussion and collaboration. This approach is the center stone of the Harkness Method a relationally centered approach concerned and focused on questions of trust. Finally, Bruner details the concept of children as “knowers” and “managers” of their education,and facts of life, also termed “objective” knowledge.

 

As an ESL teacher to international students, I taught in varied school environments stipulating though their school culture the what’s and how’s of my educational delivery. Personally, my preference is the experiential learning model with a focus on the collaborative process – the Harkness Method. Harkness encourages verbalization, discussion, sharing, and trust. It enables students through a collaborative approach to come to that higher level thinking as per Bloom’s Taxonomy. The Harkness method encourages analysis, synthesis and evaluation through which students engender “judgments about the value of material and methods for given purposes.” Also, as an ESL teacher, I believe students must drive their own learning, especially adult learners entering College or University. The individual student’s management of “objective knowledge” bestows ownership to their educational process and trajectory.

One of the cornerstones of my teaching is ‘the flipped classroom.’ In the article “Flipping the college classroom for enhanced student learning”, Barkley, (NACTA Journal) states that the major attribute of a flipped classroom is more teacher time in class. “A teacher can spend more individualized attention on each student and provide more interactive experiences for enrolled students. This often translates into better student-teacher rapport and relationships. When students are placed in teams, students teach each other, a powerful way of learning new material, since students can often explain the concepts to each other in a style more conducive to learning.” Horn summarizes one of the major adjustments for the teacher; “Classroom time is no longer spent taking in raw content, a largely passive process. The classroom becomes an interactive environment that engages students more directly in their education.”
Berrett (2012) reports that a flipped class, “…demands that faculty members be good at answering students’ questions on the spot, even when their misconceptions are not yet clear because they are still processing the information.” Wilson (2013) defines a flipped classroom as “… moving the typical ‘transmission of knowledge’ component of a class (i.e. lectures) to outside of the classroom and move the ‘application of knowledge’ (i.e. homework) into the classroom,” but in order to successfully transmit knowledge outside of class, students need to be prepared, trained and guided in using the technology.

I see my role as an ESL teacher in the University Pathway Program to address my international ESL students cultural biases and belief systems – Bruner calls this “How people make sense of the world; How they deal with beliefs, values and symbols of the culture at large; and How they construct “realities” in their minds and share their ideas. In other words, how the single person’s sense of reality is cultivated or harmed through such as skilled and unskilled, and sound and unsound social interactions.” Through collaborative teaching, the Harkness Method, and giving students ownership to their individual learning preferences I have watched my students address their cultural expectations of teachers and their cultural knowledge transfer preferences. Their growth not only as learners but as citizens of the world was achieved through confronting, analyzing, wrestling and evaluating their own cultural biases and expectations giving way to self-directed, individual trajectories reflecting their passions, intelligences (Gardener), and personal authenticity.

Author: drcowinj

Dr. Cowin is a visionary with executive and education experience who believes transformative leadership happens through cooperation plus collaboration resulting in personal and institutional transformation. Her values of integrity, ethics, innovation, empowerment of those less fortunate, diversity, and growth are encapsulated in her belief of “Service above Self.” She holds impeccable academic credentials as a Fulbright Scholar with two Masters Degrees and a Doctor of Education from Teachers College/Columbia University As the President of the Rotary Club of New York, Chief Marketing Officer of PeopleMovers® and former faculty, she brings over 25 five years of experience as an educator, tech innovator, entrepreneur and institutional leader in the areas of financial stewardship, governance, marketing, teaching and implementation of strategic partnerships. The principles of growth, differentiation, and adaptation guide her professional life. She believes in high ethical standards in her personal life and business, the recognition of the worthiness of all productive occupations, and the dignifying of each person's occupation as an opportunity to serve society. As a connector, she displays stamina, the ability to listen and reflect, diplomacy and a lifelong passion for education as the path to personal empowerment. Her extensive background in education, administration, not-for-profit leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to institutional success, technology innovation, and demonstrated ability to work with others provide her with unique skills and vertical networks locally and globally.

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