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My Ideal Classroom Argumentative

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“We want all young people to have a successful life. This means success in worthwhile activities and relationships which they have freely engaged in and which they pursue wholeheartedly.” (White, 2007: 26) I wholly agree with Professor John White and believe that the main purpose of the educational system should be to promote and assist in the development of well-rounded individuals who are capable of embracing the challenges of living in a modern society. In the past decade the world has experienced, what Drucker calls a “transformation”. The transition from the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Age requires one to take a fresh look at the very purpose of education. (Trilling and Hood 2001: 9). In view of this transformation, I will begin this paper by looking at the implications on the Education System of the so-called Knowledge Age and the need to redefine the essential purpose, scope and process of education to suit the needs of the future generations.

After establishing the need for educational reform, I will present to you my view of, “The Ideal School”. I will look into the core values of my ideal school, the curriculum aims, content and organization and the teaching pedagogy that will enable my ideal school to fulfil its objectives. Based on the tenets of, “My Ideal School”, this paper will than look into what will effectively translate as, “My Ideal Classroom”. I will focus on a foundation stage classroom as the premise for my paper. This section will identify the design of the classroom, the classroom environment and teaching practice. Lastly, this paper will highlight the importance of developing programs for continual improvement in teaching and classroom practice. Overall, this paper attempts to draw a picture of “My Ideal classroom in my ideal school” based on professor John White’s saying that, “One aim of education is to unlock many doors, to acquaint young people with components of a flourishing life and to encourage reflection on them, the degree of value they contain, and to prioritize among them” (White 2007:39).

Globalization & the IT Invasion – Are we ready?
“The challenges that our knowledge Age brings to learning and education are great, but the promise of a new renaissance of learning and knowledge in our society is even greater” (Trilling and Hood, 2001:28). The first step in educational reform is to recognize current and future trends brought upon by globalization and the knowledge revolution and its implications on world economies, the environment, communication, technology, health and finally education. Having entered the Knowledge Age, our response to each of these goals shifts dramatically, challenging our entire education enterprise (Trilling and Hood, 2001:9). “Redundancy and volume of information, the emergence of new technologies in media; new forms of identity, both our own and those of the people that we teach, inter-act with and work with everyday; volatile economic environments and work places that require we be fancy on our feet and juggle knowledge and information; competitive environments that are paradoxically highly competitive but also requiring that we work together in teams and collaboratively”. (Luke, 2012)

I agree with the above statement made by Allan Luke. In light of the current scenario facing our society we need to take a fresh look at the purpose of education, the place of schools in modern society and to design a new curriculum to suit the needs of the Knowledge Age. As information and communication technologies become part of our daily lives we must learn to cope with its benefits and its potential dangers such as addictive graphic violence and titillation, feelings of social isolation and even depression from over-immersion in electronic media space, etc. (Trilling and Hood, 2001: 10). In the past decade, many schools have included ICT as one of the core subjects. However, successful ICT work requires careful thought as part of a whole school strategy combined with specific, structured classroom preparation. It is paramount that the school teaches its pupils skills referred to by Trilling and Hood as the Knowledge Age Survival Skills. These skills include communication, cross cultural understanding, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, computing and career and learning self-reliance. This has important implications on classroom practice, pedagogy and the content being taught. Where learning through facts, drill and practice, and rules and procedures was so adaptive in the Industrial Age, now learning through projects and problems, inquiry and design, discovery and invention is more fitting for the times. (Trilling and Hood, 2001: 16) My Ideal School

The English School curriculum aims at helping every young person to live a fulfilling life and to help others to do so. (White, 2007:32) However, how effectively it achieves this aim is highly debatable. In reality, schools are widely seen as arenas of competition for success in public examinations and access to well-paid jobs (White, 2007: 32). In order to establish a framework of my ideal school I believe, we must begin by defining what is essentially the purpose of education in today’s world. Core Values of My Ideal School

A positive school ethos can significantly impact on the wellbeing of its pupils and staff. In order to build a value system it is important to establish a strong sense of community within the school and an atmosphere that encourages citizenship. (The Highland Student Council, 2010: 2). After all it is through education within a community that children would become members of a moral world. (Hirst and White, 1998: 68). As the first step in developing a curriculum, which would enable the school to achieve its aims we must first determine the core values the school is intending to inculcate in its pupils. Rational Planning for educational curricula begins with consideration of those qualities in mind that are required for a well-rounded complete education. (Hamm, 1989:62). I believe that my ideal school should develop its students to be global citizens and learners who strive to be: Inquirers, Thinkers, Communicators, Knowledgeable, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced and Reflective (IB learner Profile Booklet, 2009:5). The Ideal Curriculum for My Ideal School

According to Marsh, “Curriculum is all planned learning for which the school is responsible” (Marsh, 1997:7). However, in A Life in Classrooms, Philip Jackson has identified the things that pupils learn that are not explicitly taught in the formal curriculum, implicit messages about values, attitudes and norms of behaviour that emerge through a school ethos itself (Jackson, 1998). He calls this unintended learning the ‘hidden curriculum’. According to Ivan Illich in his 1971 book Deschooling Society, there was a hidden curriculum in western education that indoctrined pupils, smothered creativity, induced conformity and encouraged acceptance of the ‘status quo’ (Illich, 1971:1). My own school experience was very similar to the one described by Illich and hence, I strongly believe that the curriculum needs to be rectified. The fundamental concepts in designing the curriculum are to determine its purpose, content and organization (Marsh, 1997:7). The Curriculum Aims

John White of London’s Institute of Education says schools should be inculcating knowledge relevant to modern society such as the ability to live healthily, to manage money and to find fulfilment (Bloom, 2007: 2). His curriculum aims come under four headings that are as follows: personal fulfilment, social and civic involvement, contribution to the economy and practical wisdom. I wholly agree with Professor John White. Students should be taught the skills they need to succeed in the future, not only in their careers but also in their social and family life. I believe that the school curriculum is not self-contained but has its place in the wider upbringing of the child (White, 2007: 31). Last but not the least, schools should develop a love in students for lifelong learning, and the ability to become natural inquirers and thinkers. Individuals who can reflect upon their own strengths and limitations and also understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal fulfilment for themselves. I would like to conclude by stressing that the curriculum must cater for every aspect of the students needs, not just grant them a qualification.

The Curriculum Content
“Statements about what should be in the curriculum exemplify what things powerful groups in a particular society think students should learn, and encapsulate value judgements about what sorts of knowledge are considered important and what attitudes students are expected to emerge with. It is assumed for example that what is most important is the learning of subjects and some subjects are given priority over others” (Dr. Paechter, 1999:1).

I believe Dr. Paechter has taken a very negative view of organizing the curriculum content into a variety of areas of study or subjects. In my opinion, this allows a sound structure and organization to the broad areas of knowledge. For the purpose of the Foundation Stage Classroom, Language & Literature and Mathematics & Logic should be considered the core subjects. Science and Social Studies should be taught as Units of Inquiry. Language Other than English, Art, Drama, Music, IT and Health & PE should be considered foundation subjects.

The one subject I would like to include in the current school curriculum is Global Citizenship. Citizenship is a very important subject because its gives children a sense of the society in which they live, how it works and the part they can play in, making it better (Anon, 2009). The purpose of this subject would be to develop students to become global citizens and to teach them about world issues such as poverty, plight of the underprivileged, environmental issues such as global warming, depletion of natural resources, democracy, political equality and a respect for diversity. Most importantly it would teach students international mindedness and the importance of giving back to the community as a part of life. The Child’s character must be shaped by offering the right types of experiences to create a concern for society and community (Bloch & Kennedy, 2001). My Ideal Pedagogy

Pedagogy means the method of teaching interpreted in the widest sense (Winch & Gingell, 1999: 170).
According to Freire the ‘banking’ concept of education where the teacher is the depositor and the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing and storing the deposits must be rejected in its entirety (Pollard, 2002: 365). According to Mike Bottery there are four educational philosophies; Cultural transmission, Child centered, Social reconstruction and GNP code (Bottery, 1990: 6 – 16). I believe that consideration of curriculum construction should be from the perspective of the child (Hamm, 1989:73) but at the same time it should not completely ignore the elements of the other educational philosophies. This is because cultural heritage needs to be retained; the interests and capabilities of the child need to be taken into account, the school must initiate the pupil into rational criticism for the improvement of society as a whole and pupils must be given an education, which enables them to gain a job once they leave school (Bottery, 1990: 6-16).

My ideal Pedagogy is built on an old idea expressed by a Chinese philosopher who more than 2000 years ago said:
“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand” (Abbott & Ryan, 2001: 9).
My Ideal pedagogy is based on the following tenets:
The Teacher as a Guide – The Role of the Teacher is to act as a facilitator. The teacher is to contrive situations or to present materials, which are so structured, that appropriate experiences must be provided for the children (Hirst & White, 1998: 202). Learning through Inquiry – The curriculum is implemented through a rich schedule of discovery, presentations, projects, demonstrations, discussions, field trips and experiments (Trilling & Hood, 2001: 22). Child as an agent of his own learning – The Child is seen as active, involved and responsible for his learning and behavior (Pollard, 2002:143). Promote success and foster intrinsic motivation – a whole school focus on recognizing and celebrating positive behaviors whether it is an academic achievement, an athletic triumph or an act of kindness.

A Parental Involvement program – This is very important because after all parents are a child’s first and chief educators (White, 1997: 101). A Global Community Concern Program – This program would provide opportunities for pupils to get involved with community work. This could involve junior school students running an Eco Committee, under the guidance of a teacher, etc. School responsible for development of the pupil as a whole person – The school has appropriate support structures in place to oversee the personal, social and emotional aspects of learning in the form of student counselors, group activities, “Theme of the Month”, for example Say No To Bullying, etc. Social, emotional and behavioral skills underlie almost every aspect of school and are fundamental to school improvement (DFES, 2005). Learning is Fun and Lifelong – Learning through play, story telling, role-playing, games, and activities. Play is vital to a child’s learning and therefore vital to school (Pollard, A. 2002: 143).

My Ideal Classroom
The classroom represents ‘home’ for five or more hours of each weekday during term times for children and teachers alike (Moyles et.al, 2003: 173). The classroom environment is an integral part of the learning process and no teacher or student can be unaffected by it (Marsh, 1997: 125). According to Moyles, the vital elements that affect a classroom environment are the physical environment both indoors and outdoors, the structure; which includes the class routines, resource management, behavior and the communication of the rights, responsibilities and rules. “Classrooms are not passive environments in which teaching and learning happens to take place- they should be designed to promote and enhance learning. They should motivate and stimulate, and they should be planned to make the most efficient use of the most important resource – namely the teacher”. (Pollard, A. 2002:196)

The Class Layout
Multimodal Semiotic Analysis, an approach developed by Professor Gunther Kress, can be used as a means of understanding the teaching and learning processes in any classroom. (Kress et al, 2005). According to this approach the factors that contribute to the overall effectiveness of the classroom include classroom layout, teacher movement, visual displays, speech, gaze and gesture, voice quality and also student’s posture and movement (Kress et al; 2005, 21). However, even though Kress et al; show in their book “ English in Urban Classrooms”, two examples multi-modally described, there is no data or evidence in determining which way is better or conducive to classroom learning. This brings us to the question, “Is there one best formula?” The first step in designing the ideal classroom is to decide upon a class layout that is conducive to learning. My ideal classroom would allow the teachers the flexibility to arrange the desks based on the types of activities taking place. Collaborative group work requires tables to be organized in such a way that cooperation and interaction between children can take place (Moyles, J. 1995: 35-40).

Each desk will seat a group of three to four pupils and each desk will have colour pencils and stationary to allow students to complete their work. There would be a reading area for the pupils to be able to pick up a book of their choice and read after they have finished an activity as well as an IT station. A carpet area is necessary to bring the whole class together for conducting circle time, units of inquiry, or discussion of class events or theme topics and the sharing of ideas. Routines should be established and clearly communicated. Each pupil should know where to go, what to do and where everything belongs. “A quality classroom is one where there is a place for everything and everything is mainly in its place” (Moyles et.al, 2003: 176).

Each pupil will have his own tray to keep his work and pupils will be given responsibility to keep the classroom clean and organised. Train and Trust the Children (Moyles, J. 1995:35-40). Each class should have easy access to water and toilets, which at this age can make pupils anxious and uncomfortable. Classroom Displays has three distinct uses: it can celebrate, stimulate and inform (Pollard, A 2002: 198). Wall displays can be used to display students work which would be a source of pride for the pupils and to introduce the unit of inquiry and also give a clear description of the daily class routine, time table, rules and responsibilities. And last but not the least as part of their daily school routine Foundation Stage pupils should have access to an outdoor play area or a garden to break the monotony of the classroom and to allow for free play. Pupil Grouping

As the evidence regarding the impact of the various pupil grouping strategies on attainment and learning remains inconclusive (Kutnick et al., 2006: 7), I believe it is safe to assume that the main motivation behind deciding on an effective pupil grouping strategy is to create a stimulating and safe learning environment. My preferred approach is nonetheless based on the premise that there is “no best way”, and that, “one way does not fit all”.

I believe that pupils in Foundation Stage should be organized in mixed ability classrooms. This enables that all students learn from each other and enhances inclusivity. Teachers can employ within-class grouping by organizing pupils on tables of four based on the task or project. This approach to grouping should be flexible and should take into account not only the pupil’s ability but also their personality and social interaction. The groups should be restructured as the unit of inquiry or topic changes to allow for enhanced peer interaction and social development. Improving Classroom Practice

Continuing professional development is vital for personal fulfillment and for developing the quality of educational provision (Pollard, A. 2002: 346). In order, to continuously strive to improve classroom practice the educational system must be flexible to the changing demands of society. School Management must actively work on and implement a teacher development program to support professional enrichment. This can be done in a variety of ways; by establishing a culture of collaboration in school so the teachers can learn as they take part in the ‘community of practitioners’ within the school situation (Pollard, A. 2002: 354). Another way of improving classroom practice is through collaboration with a partner school somewhere else in the world involving a teacher exchange program. As seen in the various videos on Teachers TV there is a lot we can learn from seeing how educators/teachers in different countries approach teaching and learning. Lastly, professional development can be achieved through training workshops and through conducting in class observation. “Observation is a fundamental part of training for early years practitioners. It is central to the process of assessment, evaluation, reflection on practice and action research” (Hargreaves & Wolfe, 2007: 209).

According to Trilling and Hood there are four traditional aims of education in our society. Education empowers individuals to contribute to society, fulfil their personal talents, fulfil their civic responsibilities and carry tradition forward. (Trilling and Hood. 2001:9). I believe my ideal school should aim to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world though intercultural understanding and respect and who strive to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners. In order to achieve this, careful consideration must be given to the construction of the curriculum aims and content, teaching pedagogy and the classroom environment. Though for the purpose of this paper I have attempted to draw a picture of “My ideal classroom in my ideal school”, I am fully aware that there is no best or ideal way. Still we must thoroughly analyse the needs of a changing society, the influence of globalisation and the knowledge age and reflect upon how to adapt the education system to meet the needs of the future in a more effective manner. “Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other”. (Pollard, 2002:365).


Anon (2009) Private Communication
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