Looking at habitats

Saw a hornbill at Botanic Gardens

One of the more interesting aspects of a strong program is when we can’t go out and have to really rethink the learning that is happening. I finally had some time to meet with my colleague from the other campus yesterday and we had some talks about what we were going to do for the rest of the year.

Our next two units’ central ideas are “Survival of living things is connected to the environment in which they live” and “Plants are central to sustaining life on Earth”. We’ve been looking at how to do this without going to our national gardens and zoo. It’s been alright so far, but these next two units really need us to be outside.

Right now, I’m wondering about our ethical responsibility to other living things. We’re going to be checking water ecosystems near our school and look at how different living things are connected to their environments, and then how we can maybe create an environment that can sustain a living thing (and then maybe put that thing in the environment). What is our responsibility to these other living things. Is something dying worth the learning experience?

Hopefully we can see more things outside, more hornbills, more birds, more living things, and hopefully learn more about our place.

Engaging the senses

Mudskippers in the wild

I’ve been rereading all the articles, trying to add a critique and look more meaningfully at the research methods and purpose of the study. While doing this I’ve really come to rethink some of what I’ve taken from each article. It’s been a great ride so far, only 50 more articles to reread.

Anyway, Semken and Freeman (2008) have this interesting article about how science teachers and sense of place are connected. They talk about the importance of bringing sense back into the classroom and we have to start with connecting the teacher’s sense to increase the opportunity for students to access their senses.

One of the things that always causes tension for me when reading these articles is the desire to quantify a sense of place. Scientists love numbers right? So these two have used a scale to try to understand how a teacher’s attachment to place has grown. I wonder about this for my own work. I wonder how important it is to study a sense of place through a quantitative measure. Is it important to know how much it grows, or is it more important to know how the people feel about their attachment.

Anyway, since I’ve been taking the kids out to more local places I’m hoping that both teachers and students get more connected to places as we start to engage their emotions and physical senses.

Semken, S., & Freeman, C. B. (2008). Sense of Place in the Practice and Assessment of Place-Based Science Teaching. Science Education, 92(6), 1042-1057.

Place and immigrant teachers

I’ve been reading over some more papers. And this paper by Elbaz-Luwisch has really intrigued me, she draws on Casey (1994), Orr (1992) and Clandinin and Connelly often, which may be why she intrigues me, but she wants to know more about immigrant teachers and their relationship with place. Not many people are exploring this, and while the teachers she has studied do not work at international schools, I feel they may experience the same sorts of tensions.

Teachers are often asked to represent cultures, or be an active (re) creator of the cultures we live in. However, when people are not “locals” I wonder how we can really focus on, or think about developing a culture we aren’t really a part of? Casey (1994) talks about about the tensions most people feel about not really feeling secure in a space, I wonder more about how people who are transient by nature can really feel at home. If we don’t feel at home, how can we work at developing the culture of the place?

It seems as though this paper suggests by spending more time in a place, any by co-culturing a place we can change it from a location to something more meaningful. I wonder how we can work with teachers to work on this co-construction. We have to remember though that the people in the community also co-construct place, and how they interact with a new person can also shape a person’s sense of place.

There’s a lot going on in this paper, but I really wonder about how we can work with teachers to make more of a sense of place, how do we help new comers feel welcome and share in our stories, how do we make global citizens and teachers more local?

Casey, E. (1993) Getting back into place: toward a renewed understanding of the place-world (Bloom- ington, Indiana University Press).

Elbaz‐Luwisch, F. (2004) Immigrant teachers: stories of self and place, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17:3, 387-414, DOI: 10.1080/0951839042000204634

Orr, David (1992) Place and pedagogy, in: Ecological literacy: education and the transition to a post-modern world (Albany, SUNY Press), 125–131.

Do you think place matters?

This guy wanted the path.

Where we are matters. The places we live influence our identity and our work.
How do we make sense of our places? How do we understand them and our role in them?
In our current globalised world, we may often think of places as interchangeable or
relatively similar; however, each place may be unique and contribute significantly to how
we see ourselves. As we try to make sense of our mobility, how we think about where we
have been, how we think about what we have done, and how we try to rationalize what
we are doing we make connection to who we are, how we do things and the multiple
ways we can make sense of these processes, we may realize everything is happening in a
place. Tuan (1977) understood people to be spatial being, and we developed our ideas of
ourselves as we constructed the meaning of our social and spatial lives. While we try to
understand ourselves we may be able to turn to our place to help us find solutions to both
local and global issues (Relph 2008). A sense of place describes the interactions between
a place and people within a location to bring forth an understanding of reality for an
individual who is in that place (Relph 2008, Tuan 1977). Places teach us how to be in the
world and how the world works, moreover, places make us by shaping our identity and
culture (Gruenewald 2003, 2008). If we understand more about the places we live, we
may be able to make a significant impact on how we live.
According to ISC research, the October 2019 data shows there are 11, 321
international schools, with 559, 000 teachers serving over 5.7 million students with about
51.8 billion dollars involved (www.iscresearch.com). Many of these teachers are from a
place that is different from where they work. If where we are matters than what impact
does this mass migration of teachers have on education? Can students develop a sense of place if teachers are displaced? With so much money going into an international
education, and so many students involved should we be thinking about how teachers feel
in a place and how that influences their identity?

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). Foundations of Place: A Multidisciplinary Framework for
Place-Conscious Education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 619-
654

Gruenewald, D. A. (2008). The best of both worlds: a critical pedagogy of place.
Environmental Education Research, 14(3), 308-324.

Relph, E. (2008). A pragmatic sense of place. In F. Vanclay (Ed.), Making Sense of
Place. Canberra: National Museum of Australia

Tuan, Y.F. (1977). Space and place: The perspective of experience. Minnesota:
University of Minnesota Press.

Wondering about sense of place at the museum

I took this photo at the NUS museum.

I’ve been in the museum this week, and in the back of my mind is my paper. The links I can see in the paintings, make sense to my understanding of chapter one, but it is so difficult to clearly articulate my thoughts. Below is an attempt at my opening paragraph.

The places where we reside and work influence our professional and personal lives. Where we live can shape how we live. A sense of place describes the interactions and feelings shared between a place, people and a community to bring forth an understanding of reality for an individual who is in that place. Places teach us how to be in the world and how the world works, moreover, places make us by shaping our identity and culture (Gruenewald 2003). Tuan (1977) was instrumental in shaping how we think about sense of place. Over the years other thinkers (Relph, Massey, Greenwood, and many others) have continued to develop this idea and our understanding of this complex concept is continuing to develop. We know that place impacts our identity in multiple ways, but little research is being conducted into how expatriate international school teachers understand.

I guess I’m wondering how to really put it all together, I wonder how to make it clear to others what I want to study, and how I plan to go about it, I’m worried no one really cares or it won’t matter (but I’ll put those thoughts aside for now).

So I guess, how is this connected to the learning going on in the museum? I’m trying to share stories of place, which I read is important. But in this specific museum is a painting of samui women working. Not many people know of the samsui women, not many people know how important they are for shaping our place (and our identity as a nation). So I’m just trying to help our teachers and students learn a little more about where we live.

What part(s) do I play in learning?

Ramona is as confused as I am

I can’t fathom learning being static. Learning can not be acquired and then finished, it is a process, a way of being, not something that can end. From a phenomenological perspective I’ve always (well as far as I can remember, or as I’ve always thought that I) corrected my thinking and changed what I believed to be true. For instance, when confronted with a new idea that fills me with tension, or that I want to explore, others have told me I can be argumentative. This is not my desire, but I want to deconstruct that idea, and sometimes I ask questions a little passionately, in order to make sure I fully understand their ideas. During my Master’s courses one of my fellow learners suggest I paid more attention to my “dark side”. She argued that by understanding the ideas I didn’t want to explore I would be able to more effectively argue what I believed. We had a passionate conversation where I tried to deconstruct her thought process in order to understand the benefits. After hearing her arguments, I decided that her way of thinking could be very beneficial to my work. When we talked about it afterwards she thought I was being far too aggressive in my arguments, so after that day I tried to change both my thinking and my practice. Just because I have a way of being now, my ontology is one that can change (and should change) in order for me to continue learning and growing. As this example illustrates, I believe I may be a constructivist with my thinking. When working with others, or on my own I reflect on my beliefs and why I believe something. After thought and conversations I am able to rebuild or remodel my thinking in order to become a (hopefully) more effective learner and person.

Going through this course has been an eye-opener for a number of reasons. While I’ve always considered myself more of a dynamic learner and a teacher, it was interesting for me to see what aspects of behaviourism, situated cognition and expert knowledge resonated with me. Certain aspects of constructivism have also irked me in some way, and as a result, I’ve been feeling this tension to be better able to describe my own epistemology and ontology as well as inquire into how this relates to my dissertation. 

As mentioned, Vygotsky’s ideas surrounding socio-constructivism have always resonated with me. I don’t believe (and I find it hard to understand that others believe) things are isolated.  As an environmental educator, I believe things are connected. I look for systems and wonder how they work. My undergraduate degree was in anthropology and history and from his perspective it is hard for me to understand how things can be constructed in a silo. 

In particular the “outside – in” (Lourenço 2012, p. 287) model is one I can relate to. As both an environmental educator, and someone who believes in God I see most knowledge being situated outside of myself. I try to pay close attention to the things going around me and work with others to create an understanding of what may be happening and what truths can be understood through our observations. Since the knowledge was and is never really mine, I don’t believe I can transmit it to someone else. I believe I can share my thinking and that may resonate with other people, or perhaps their thinking can influence or change mine. When I think of where most things are (physical, knowledge-based or meta-physical) I can’t see them as residing in me, or being at home in me. If this is true then, most knowledge must come from the outside and (briefly?) rest with me as I continue to wonder and wander.

Like both Piaget and Vygotsky I believe knowing is a way of organising your thinking and understanding the world around you. I do not believe that we can reduce knowledge to simple facts, or break learning down into specific chunks that we can transfer to others. We make sense of the world by understanding how things are working in a moment, we react differently to a variety of teaching styles, content and people. If learning were just items of knowledge to be delivered and we could find an optimal delivery method, then it would make sense if we were all able to learn most things. However our understandings of the world change how we approach the world. This means although we are all capable of learning, we don’t all learn the same way, or express our knowledge in the same fashion.  As teachers we need to make sure we are understanding what the students are expressing and providing opportunities to change how the classroom is working in order to meet the needs of all learners.

One of the tensions that I am exploring in this course is I can believe that knowledge comes from outside in, but real construction comes from the meaning making I do internally. If I really believed in social constructivism, I wonder if I would never have left Canada. What gave me the ability to walk away from my society and culture if I really am a product of the things around me? What developed my questioning ability if the people I grew up with seemed satisfied in my hometown? Exploring this difference in social construction is one aspect I need to explore. More than this I wonder what else is involved in social constructivism. I mean, where does motivation play a part, what about the content, how are more than humans involved? While I thought I believed fully in constructivism, I can’t figure out where these things play a part. 

I need to focus a little more on these tensions, the more I understand about my ontological view regarding these aspects, the more I am able to grow as a learner (and hopefully teacher and researcher).

Digging through our past.

Creating the dig

For our fifth grade Open Minds we are looking at how artefacts help us understand civilisations. So we go out on a dig. I have to get up early (almost too early) to go and dig a huge trench, then I place artefacts in the trench and then the kids come and dig them up.

It’s a pretty great process for them, when they find things they absolutely love it. We work the rest of the afternoon on looking at the form and possible function of the artefacts and start seeing how we can place them in a story. It’s all pretty interesting and the kids learn a lot.

For me one of the take aways is how we can socially construct our understanding of the world around us. When encountering new artefacts people draw on previous experiences and we’re not always sure how they get to certain conclusions. It’s always interesting to see what they think and why they think the way they do.

Toa Payoh and looking into community

This week we have been exploring Toa Payoh. I feel like I have more time (although I’m sure I’m missing something), so I’ve been more able to work on telling stories.

Toa Payoh is a really interesting place, and the history is worth looking into. The old Kampong was a tightly knit community (even the secret society gangs) and the people seemed to put pressure on the government to not close down their home. The government really wanted to develop the country and Toa Payoh was the one of the starting communities. There was some tension, and I thought the story of Sang Kancil and the Tiger king was a good way to illustrate how folk tales have showed us different ways to overcome some problems.

Sometimes with hard leaders we can show them a different problem to focus on, by giving them a different, “bigger” problem. If we are being (re)located then how can we deal with that? What do we have to do to keep our communities tight (and maybe make them tighter)?

Anyway, this was the first one where parents have really came up to me afterwards and said thanks. They learned a lot and didn’t know a lot about the places they were. So this has been my best outing so far.

Why aren’t they getting this?

pxhere.com/en/photo/602020

I was reflecting on where we were in the dissertation process, and more specifically about my epistemology this week. While reading Davis and Sumara’s article. “Why aren’t they getting this”. So far in my studies, Place, being and resonance was one of my favourite reads. I’ve talked about it before, and I’ve read it more than once. I just find the ideas really resonate with me.  

“Ecohermeneutics means imploying language and attentive disciplines in education to remediate our “hyperseparation” from nourishing interconnections with the rest of life on the planet” (Derby, location 563). 

I’ve thought more about the importance of words, and the importance of communication more than anything during this doctoral journey so far. Some things from Davis and Sumara’s article really resonated with me. If we don’t use a common language, and a language that we all have a common understanding about, then as educators we can’t use the same types of learning and teaching. We need to have the same understanding of how to use the words around our practice, and the importance of contributing to the shared identity of our classrooms.

“Also, we wanted to learn more about how to help experienced teachers interpret current and new teaching methods in relation to theories of learning suggested by recent scholarly work” (Davis & Sumara, p. 123). As “experienced” teachers we feel we know the ground, while theorists only know ideas. We “live” in a different world and have a different way of communicating (which is why this program is kind of interesting). What we are really changing is the ontological idea of a teacher, not really what the teacher does. If we can’t all fully believe (as a society I guess) that the end of year test isn’t important, then it is always a teachers job to help students reach success, which might be that test.  So if success isn’t clear, if the learning path isn’t clearly understood by everyone, I wonder how we, as teachers, can ever really get it?

Constructivism is the lens that the researchers are looking through but I feel like the real problem “Why aren’t they getting it” goes beyond the idea of constructivism, why is it so hard for us to really understand who we are, why is it so hard for us to change our way of being? It’s not really about getting the knowledge, maybe it’s more about us “restructuring” our way of thinking, changing it up and not being afraid to take some things down or grow in different ways. 

Brent Davis & Dennis Sumara (2003) Why Aren’t They Getting This? Working through the regressive myths of constructivist pedagogy, Teaching Education, 14:2, 123-140, DOI: 10.1080/1047621032000092922

Derby, M (2015) Place Being Resonance, Peter Lang, New York