Tag Archives: Reflection

Defined: “Authentic Applications”, A Reflective Assessment Strategy

Ellis & Denton (2010, p. 47) maintain that “when ideas are not applied they seem to start nowhere and go nowhere.”  This reflective strategy is powerful in its ability to ground the theoretical in the practical, to bring the lofty down to the pedestrian, to get the latex out of the laboratory to where the rubber meets the road.  In the words of the authors

The purpose of the Authentic Applications strategy is to challenge you and your students to become involved in ways that transform the curriculum from one of potential energy to one of applied, functioning energy.  And the key to doing this is to find as many outlets for student work as possible.  (Ellis & Denton, 2010, p. 48)

The procedure is simple, and involves getting student work out into the public square, where it on display for critique, engagement, explanation.  For the mathematics or science curriculum, Ellis & Denton (2010) cite Gainsburg (2006) that modeling or the application of principles to daily problem-solving “was found to be central to and ubiquitous in the engineers’ work, giving rise to some of their greatest intellectual challenges.”  Facilitating the contact between students and real practitioners of the arts that they are learning is key to this strategy.

Outcomes for this strategy are profound throughout the exercise.  Again Ellis & Denton (2010, p. 49)

Knowing that your work will be displayed in some way changes the stage of preparation…. This foreknowledge enables the learner to … focus the work.  The stage in which the event takes place (e.g., science fair, athletic contents, play, concert) offers further opportunity for reflection, judgment, review, and analysis.  And when the performance is over, this final stage represents a time to reflect, to think about meaning, truthfulness, beauty, and effort, and to take the measure of what went right or wrong toward improvement in the future.

Finally this strategy holds much promise for both engaging the student with the content, and engaging the student in the processes that are involved in real world application of that content.


Ellis A.K., & Denton, D.W. (2010) Teaching, learning, and assessment together:  Reflective assessments for middle and high school mathematics and science.  Larchmont, NY:  Eye on Education.  Amazon. Google Books.

Gainsburg, J. (2006). The mathematical modeling of structural engineers.  Mathematical Thinking & Learning. 8(1). 3-36. PDF

John Dewey, “My Pedagogic Creed”, I Can Teach

To outline Dewey’s creed and annotate as needed, so that learners are able to differentiate Dewey from other thinkers in education, and find their own affinities to him.

  1. What Education Is
    1. Participation in social consciousness of the race
    2. Stimulation of child’s powers via social situations
    3. A process that has two sides
      1. Psychological
      2. Social
    4. Demands knowledge of current social conditions
    5. Psychological and social sides are organically related
      1. Psychological alone is barren and formal
      2. Social alone is forced and external
      3. Valid objections if the sides are isolated
    6. Equipping an organic union of social individuals for social service.

With the advent of democracy and modern industrial conditions, it is impossible to foretell definitely just what civilization will be twenty years from now.  Hence it is impossible to prepare the the child for any precise set of conditions.

  1. What the School Is
    1. Primarily a social institution
      1. Education is thus a social process
      2. Education is a process of living not preparation for future living
      3. Representation of real, vital, present life.
        1. If not, education cramps and deadens.
    2. A mode of social life, a simplification of existing social life
      1. Without simplifying student is confused or distracted
        1. Student at danger of being unduly specialized or disintegrated
      2. Simplification should grow out of home life
        1. So that child gradually learns meaning
        2. This is a psychological necessity
        3. This is a social necessity
    3. A form of community life, a form of social life
      1. Present education fails in that it neglects school as a form of community life.
      2. Moral education centers on this conception
      3. Child should be stimulated and controlled in work through life of community.
        1. Too much stimulus and control come from teacher
        2. Teacher should not impose certain idea or habits
        3. Teacher (as member of community) selects influences, and helps with proper responses
        4. Discipline should proceed from life of school not teacher
          1. Teacher helps determine how discipline comes to the child
          2. All grading and promotion decisions should reference same standard

…[Home] is the form of social life in which the child has been nurtured and in connection with which he has had his moral training. It is the business of the school to deepen and extend his sense of values bound up in his home life.

  1. The Subject-Matter of Education
    1. Should mark a gradual differentiation out of the primitive unconscious unity of social life
      1. The social life of the child is the basis of concentration or correlation in all training and growth
      2. The social life gives the unconscious unity and the background of all his attainments
    2. Should not be abruptly too many special studies
      1. this violates childs nature
      2. renders difficult the best ethical results
      3. are often out of relation to the social life
    3. Should center on the child’s own social activities
      1. Not science, literature, history, geography
      2. [incomplete]


  1. The Nature of Method
    1. [incomplete]
    2. asdf
      1. asdf
      2. asf
    3. asdf
    4. asd


  1. The School and Social Progress
    1. Education is social progress and reform
      1. following reforms are transitory and futile
        1. those which rest on enactment of law
        2. those which rest on threatening penalties
        3. those which rest on mechanical changes
        4. those which rest on outward arrangements
      2. is adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness
      3. this conception recognizes
        1. individualistic ideals
        2. socialistic ideals
        3. The ideal school reconciles individualistic and institutional ideas
    2. The community’s duty to education is its paramount moral duty
      1. through education a society
        1. formulates its own purposes
        2. organizes its own means and resources
        3. shapes itself with definiteness
        4. determines its directions
      2. if society recognizes possibilities and obligations here, time, attention, money will be provided the educator
      3. Everyone interested in education should make school primary and work to get equipment to educators
    3. Education thus conceived is perfect union of science and art
      1. Art that gives shape to human powers and adapts them to social service is supreme 
      2. Growth of psychological service all scientific resources can be utilized for education
      3. When science and art join hands
        1. most commanding motive for human action will be reached
        2. most genuine springs of human conduct aroused
        3. best service that human nature is capable of guaranteed.
    4. Teacher is engaged not only in training individuals, but also formation of proper social life
      1. They have dignity in this calling, set apart for
        1. maintenance of proper social order
        2. security the right social growth
      2. And a prophet of the true God and usher of kingdom of God.

Defined: “I Can Teach”, A Reflective Assessment Strategy

Ellis & Denton (2010) describe outcomes for this strategy.

I Can Teach is designed to empower students with the thought that knowledge is something you use, not just something you keep in the storehouse of the mind until examination time.  This strategy asks students to cross a threshold from learning as something only for oneself to learning as something you pass along to others.  Learning is transformed from acquisition to performance.  You know the pleasure of helping people learn.  It is time to share that pleasure with your students.  Use it or lose it. (p. 80)

Practically, the techniques used in this strategy involve getting students as learners to turn around and become teachers to those who do not understand.  Each student can also be asked to share what they have learned in an instructional way with siblings or parents.  The authors even suggest that a broader learning community within the school can develop if I Can Teach is done across grade levels, classrooms, or even outside of normal class times (peer-mentor or mentor-mentee).

Allowing time to reflect on the effectiveness of the “teacher” is a part of this strategy that helps further enhance the impact of this exercise.  Teachers can thus model some of their own openness to improving and refining their own instructional techniques—a virtuous cycle.

Finally the authors warn that getting started on this strategy may be hard, so an exercise brainstorming the similarities and differences for the concepts to be taught may be used.


Ellis A.K., & Denton, D.W. (2010) Teaching, learning, and assessment together:  Reflective assessments for middle and high school mathematics and science.  Larchmont, NY:  Eye on Education.  Amazon. Google Books.

Nouwen on Heidegger on Reflection


Henri Nouwen (1990):”Heidegger [1959] states that the greatest danger of our time is that the calculating way of thinking that is part of the technical revolution will become the dominating and exclusive way of thinking.  Why is this so dangerous?   Heidegger says, ‘Because then we would find, together with the highest and the most successful development of our thinking on the calculating level, an indifference toward reflection and a complete thoughtlessness…then humanity would have renounced and thrown away what is most its own, its ability to reflect.  What is at stake is to save the essence of humanity.  What is at stake is to keep alive our reflective thinking (das Nachdenken).’ “
Heidegger Which begs the question, are we as educators being thoughtless in our metric-centric, calculating, technologically-oriented approaches?  A good dose of reflection might do us and our classes some good.  Or put another way, if education is fundamentally humanizing, and reflection is an essential element of humanity, then education should be reflective.



Heidegger, M. (1959) Gelassenheit.  Pfüllingen: Verlag Günther Neske, 25.

Nouwen, H. (1990) The Road to Daybreak:  A Spiritual Journey.  Image. 133.

Ellis: Educational Challenges

Ellis (n.d.) describes the high calling in which educators find themselves .  I was intrigued to think about the contrast of education in a tribal, non-technological, knowledge-is-static society versus our current modern, fast-paced society.  Ultimately both societies ground their meaning from their shared past and traditions.  The challenge for the teacher in modern society is the increasing and sometimes conflicting demands being put on teachers.

From day-to-day, the teacher has information to impart, against a somewhat ominous background of standardized testing, or cynicism of colleagues.  However, the part that makes it the best use of my time, is the privilege and responsibility that educators have to shape society, one pupil at a time.  Ellis (n.d.) puts it this way:

The purpose of education, the role of the teacher, and society’s challenges all go hand in hand.  To be a teacher is to be a very important person in the process of human and social development.

That shaping of society is a common thread for educators between the tribal culture, and the modern age.  Both had to enculturate youth, both had to socialize youth.  This also means that the measure of success has been virtually the same from that age to this one, namely, do the pupils thus taught become engaged and productive partakers in their community life.

Ellis lists the functions of social education discussing the tensions that may arise between them.

  • transferring skills
  • transmitting values
  • preparation for vocation
  • caretaking of youth
  • peer group interactions

And finally, he discusses briefly the American Experiment, namely the duties and responsibilities of the teacher to relate founding principles of this country, and a notion of its exceptionalism.  That’s a loaded term, of course, but accurately encapsulates what it means to be American, out of the many cultures of the world that make us up, one, unique and different body.  That concept has given meaning to many before, and continues to inspire.


Ellis (n.d.) Educational Challenges.  retrieved from http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-6-ellis-educational-challenges.pd

Defined: “Search For Meaning”, A Reflective Assessment Strategy

Ellis and Denton (2010, p. 67) describe a strategy for classroom reflection, entitled “Search for Meaning”.  They continue:

Meaning, when applied to school experience, especially academic experience, is an elusive quality.  The search for meaning in classroom experience represents one of the most purposeful but difficult quests for teachers and students.  Few pursuits have greater metacognitive potential.  Like most reflective strategies, the Search for Meaning must begin with oneself.  What meaning does the subject matter you are teaching have for you?  Is it required?  Something you mastered long ago and now are bored with?  Just a job to do?  Or do you truly believe that what you are teaching is vitally needed by your students?  You can’t wait to share it with them?  Do you believe that your own learning is extended through your teaching?  No school subject has meaning apart from a desire to teach and learn it.  It is the human connection that makes the difference.  This is exactly why we need you in the classroom and not someone who sees teaching as just a job, one that provides indoor work with no heavy lifting.  (Ellis & Denton, 2010, pp. 67-68)

Procedures and outcomes are then discussed that help students and teachers uncover deeper meaning in the topics being covered.  Some points for differentiating Search for Meaning for learners in science and mathematics are suggested, and a sample experiment is described with a mechanism for getting feedback on what meaning students may have extracted from the activity.

Finally, Bruner’s (1966) learning modes are detailed and contrasted with Gardner’s (2006)  theory of multiple intelligences.  The conclusion of which is that teachers should consider alternate approaches to presentation so as to maximize the meaning a learner takes from the material.


Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ellis, A.K., & Denton, D.W. (2010) Teaching, learning, and assessment together:  Reflective assessments for middle and high school mathematics and science.  Larchmont, NY:  Eye on Education.

Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences:  New horizons. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Luther, Comenius, and Ellis

Luther, in his “Letter in Behalf of Christian Schools” has a key idea which he expresses as follows:

In the same measure that the Gospel is dear to us, should we zealously cherish the languages [i.e. Greek and Latin].

By which I believe he means we should cherish in our education the liberal arts.  He begins his missive by reiterating some of the key ideas of this course, namely that education is the key to producing citizens in a just society, which he puts thusly

But the highest welfare, safety, and power of a city consists in able, learned, wise, upright, cultivated citizens, who can secure, preserve, and utilize every treasure and advantage.

That’s, of course, just another restatement of key ideas we have already covered in this course, but his formulation is interesting that the goal is about preserving and utilizing treasure and advantage.

[To read a copy of Luther’s letter with notes and commentary try: Painter, F. V. N. (1889) Luther on education:  including a historical introduction, and a translation of the reformers two most important educational treatises. Philadelphia, PA:  Lutheran Publication Society. PDF]

Now in Comenius, since he is also coming from a definite Judeo-Christian point of view, we would expect him to also have to put education into its correct priority relative to the pursuit of ultimate knowledge, i.e. religion.  I think his key idea is expressed in the opening sentences of the last chapter of his Didactic (i.e. his “Universal Method”).


Namely, his key idea is that good schools be built after his model, so that the “Christian kingdoms” would be blessed, i.e. have the best quality of life.  It all comes down to that for him, and although his recommendations are not research-based, they deserve a closer look!

[Note:  one topic for further investigation might be the effects reformers had on education. They were primarily reformers in the realm of religion, but their impacts on education should not be ignored.]

[Incidentally you can download a fully digital copy of the Great Didactic PDF here)

Finally a key idea in Ellis, we may have already mentioned in this course, but it bears some repeating.  Namely that you have a personal philosophy (idealism, realism, neo-thomism, experimentalism/pragmatism or existentialism) which impacts your educational philosophy and:

An educational philosophy is not just an abstract discipline to be studied and debated at the highest levels of academia. Rather it is a foundation, a life plan a system of beliefs that we use daily. To work effectively with children and youth in the schools, a teacher must develop a philosophy in order to help students sort out what they believe.

When I try to imagine which philosophy most explains my own view of education, I have to choose from the following shools of educational philosophy:

  • Traditional
    • Perennialism
    • Essentialism
  • Contemporary
    • Progressivism
    • Reconstructivism
    • Existentialism

Stay tuned here, I’m still working on this!  I envision a few blog posts wherein I will discuss not which philosophy I am, but which philosophies I am not, that should be interesting.

Learning Illustrated: Plutarch

Thinking In Pictures - Plutarch - 01

Plutarch goes on to say that it is indeed rare if you are gifted like Pythagoras, Socrates, or Plato, but if not, you can surely work on it!

Thinking In Pictures - Plutarch - 02

And then Plutarch discusses techniques to use with children.

Thinking In Pictures - Plutarch 03

%d bloggers like this: