Tag Archives: SearchForMeaning

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.

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