For my new class - differentiated instruction, I was to write about how I feel children have changed and what we now know about learning that was not known in previous generations. This is my discussion:
I believe that children have changed because they are no longer expected to adhere to God's Word. The unfortunate fact is that human nature is still human nature - sinful. Children, however, are no longer taught the Golden Rule. They only know how to think of themselves. This does affect a child's learning ability. I have noticed in my childcare that all too many times, children do not think about how their behavior toward others affects the other people. Children that are excluded from "cliques" lose confidence in their own abilities.
I do believe, however, that our understanding about how humans learn has greatly increased not only in the twentieth century, but even prior to that - beginning with Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau, with his emphasis upon the developmental stages of children, led the way in teaching children rather than teaching information. Prior to Rousseau's work, educators believed that children were miniature adults who needed to be exorcised of their playfulness. Later, Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey paved the way in understanding how children learn. They realized that children will learn best when they are interested in the information being presented. Learning styles are important in education. Unfortunately, however, Christians are all-too-apprehensive to adopt constructivist or progressive ideas, citing these philosophies as atheistic. What Christians all too often fail to realize is that just because these philsophers were non-Christian does not mean their ideas were anti-God. In fact, many of their ideas correspond well with Christ's own teaching methods.
Unfortunately, most Christian schools (and many homeschools) today are traditional in nature - relying on a drill-and-test method. Children are expected to learn from textbooks and worksheets. Teachers rely on rote memorization for students to pass the test. Differentiated classrooms, on the other hand, do not rely strictly on testing. Teachers in differentiated classrooms understand that all children are individuals - created by God with individual interests and talents. These educators rely on these talents and interests to lead students into learning. Learning is more student-centered. Christian teachers who use differentiated approaches also model and expect respect from students. They are willing to answer children's questions and respect children's similarities and differences. This encourages children to also respect the teacher and the other students.
I believe that traditional methods dominate classrooms because, in all honesty, they are easier for the teacher. It is much easier to teach a subject than it is to teach students. It is much easier to rely on good grades to keep students motivated than it is to meet students where they are at and teach in ways that cater to all different learning styles.
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