Post #7 The Establishment of an Ideal Educational Community: Embedding Moral Education into School

Last week, I acknowledged the responsibility of parents in the moral development, and made three suggestions for parents to better educate moral reasoning. Fundamentally however, it is notable that not every pair of parents has a proper understanding of right conducts themselves, and the composition of moral education is complex which requires other parties, such as school and religion to be involved (Oladipo, 2009). This got me thinking: what is the importance of moral education in school and how to implement it consummately?

McCambridge (2004) proposed moral education, critical thinking and imagination (creativity) as the determinants of an ideal educational community. He believed that moral education not only restricts individuals to inhibit crime commitments, that individuals being truthful are also necessary to the accretion of science, to admit the misrepresentation of evidence and re-investigate with a real passion. Besides, an understanding to respect others helps promoting a healthy mental status and reduces social problems; in other words, such respect preclude bullying, deceiving and various issues caused from irreverence to life (McCambridge, 2004; Oladipo, 2009).

Since the importance of critical thinking is evidential in academic and life success (Butler, 2012), starting to establish a deeper form of thinking at a younger age would increase the likelihood of success; whereas moral education can be viewed as an aid in fostering it. Currently, there is a low opportunity for students to develop critical thinking skills under the teaching curriculum of formal education, because its main aim (i.e. Chinese, English, Mathematics, and History) is to provide a wide fact sheet on basic knowledge as to build up a solid foundation for higher education.

Reminiscing the Chinese Literature, I found myself incompetent to remember or apply any knowledge I learnt from the lessons; laughably the mere ancient language I recall is “bird” in Cantonese because it was used as a swearword in the old times.”

Nevertheless, an appropriate assessment in moral education provides opportunities to practice critical thinking skills as it requires more flexibility and individuality while understanding and accepting different transmitted values (family and public) of right conducts. Any Evidences?

Before suggesting a change on moral education, it is central to point out the problems in the current teaching curriculum. A study in Jiangxi (a province of China) indicated that school moral education has two main problems: examination-based assessment and content-based teaching strategy (Liang, n.d.). The way the moral education is taught generally reflects the perceived educational objectives by educators, which is indoctrination, without any attempts to increase engagement in learning. The heavy examination-based evaluations also influence the teachers’ priority of thinking in education, since their main concern is to ensure students achieving a good grade in the examination and conform to the expectation of top management and parents (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2000).

It is important for teachers to meet students’ affective needs for successful moral reasoning to occur (Power, 2007), because moral education requires students not only to have a high comprehension of knowledge but as well as acceptance to others’ moral value. Suggestions that I would make for improving teacher quality are:

  1. Understand the multi-roles of teacher – Alter their viewpoint on the single role of teacher as being an instructor but as well as a co-learner with their students, mostly because students can be active creators of knowledge (i.e. technology use) that teachers never know (Holbrook et al, 2012). In such way, this new role facilitates teachers to enhance self-competency when they seek challenges in co-learning with students (Fischer & Rustemeyer, 2007), and also promote their intrinsic motivation (Bieg, Backes & Mittag, 2011).
  2. Learn the psychological knowledge base – Help them to understand the mental and physical characteristics and study status of students, to increase the sensitivity to students’ need; arranging psychological experts to give lectures for teachers.
  3. Update the notions of moral education – A regular update (i.e. 1-2 years period) of notions in moral education is necessary, since the ideal right conducts in each society change across time and politic consideration (Dorn, 2012).  For example, corporal punishment is prevalent during kindergarten and primary school (Kilimci, 2009) whereas it is given that school corporal punishment is not likely to enhance moral character or awareness of respect (Society for Adolescent Medicine, 2003). Therefore, it is pivotal to prohibit wrong notions from happening and research into alternatives for change (National Association of School Psychologists, 2006).

The use of imagination is deemed to foster both moral education and critical thinking (McCambridge, 2004), where it has affinity with the theory of creativity although the definition of creativity varies. While imagination refers to “the ability to conceive of that which is not” (McCambridge, 2004, p.15), creativity generally means the creation of new ideas from existing concepts (Ray, 2005). Therefore, some policies that I suggest for modifying teaching strategies or curriculum of moral education would try to comprehend the application of creativity into it:

  1. Increase the openness to change – Emerging research in relation to the moral education system from different regions would help to acknowledge their success, identify the existing problems and adapt to a modified system. Aside from this, enriching knowledge from different aspects or cultures can improve educators’ creativity because mental jumping requires the access to abundant information (Strong, n.d.).  Kiva anti-bully program from Finland education would be a good example to learn from.
  2. Stimulate the use of “psychological distance” questions in group discussion – Discussing problem solutions in group provides opportunities for students to access a greater understanding of their peers. The use of psychological distance (Construal-level Theory) is suggested to induce creativity by generating solutions to problems attributing in a long distance or future time to the individual (Kruglanski & Higgins, 2007; Trope, 2010). In other words, the logic force is more likely to detach under those conditions. Some online sources give many interesting sample moral questions (Get to Know U, n.d.); as an example “Would you volunteer to be one of the first colonists on Mars if it meant you could never return to earth?” (related to long distance). Aside from psychological distance, I would suggest to ask more realistic questions such as the here and now in the updated news, so students can apply their moral values practically.
  3. Utilize computer-mediated learning tools as alternative assessment of examination –Sidek and Yunus (2012) indicated that blog has become the most popular among all online tools (i.e. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Weibo) to be implemented in classroom. This blog assessment is also found to promote learning autonomy, critical and reflective thinking skills (Yang, 2009). This makes blogging suitable to start in secondary school as young adolescents are more inclined to be concerned with social relationship and seek for peer acceptance in order to fit in groups (Almas, 2009), which actually happened to me when I was a high schooler. Allowing students to explore learning through blogging can also provide teachers a great insight into their diverse opinions and experiences, as well as enhancing teachers’ critical thinking (Deng & Yuen, 2011). Personally, I think its implication can extend to help teachers who have a good psychological base to identify bullies and/or victims among students through reading their blog entries and comments.
  4. Co-operations between schools (as stimulation of a real community) – It is acknowledged that in China, economic inequality is a serious concern (my week 4 blog), individuals from rural areas and cities (different fabrics of society) are not likely to have clear understanding of the similarities and differences of their fellow-citizens due to the “Hukou” household registration system (Afridi, Li & Ren, 2012). I would say that promoting short-term exchange programs (i.e. for one semester) between schools in different regions allow students and educators to experience domestic diversity (especially differences in socio-economic status and education level) and support the integrity of the society (Castania, 1996).

References:

  1. Afridi, F., Li, S. X. & Ren, Y. (2012). Social Identity and Inequality: The Impact of China’s Hukou System. Retrieved from: http://ftp.iza.org/dp6417.pdf.
  2. Almas, A. N. (2009). Adolescents’ Disclosure and Advice-seeking Behavior about Peer Dilemmas: Characteristics, Maternal Parenting Predictors, and Adolescent Social Outcomes. Doctor Thesis: University of Toronto.
  3. Bieg, S., Backes, S. & Mittag, W. (2011). The role of intrinsic motivation for teaching, teachers’ care and autonomy support in students’ self-determined motivation. Journal for Educational Research Online, 3(1), 122-140.
  4. Butler, H. A. (2012). Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment Predicts Real-World Outcomes of Critical Thinking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 721-729.
  5. Castania, K. (1996). Diversity Fact Sheet #1: What is Diversity?. New York: Cornell University. Retrieved from: http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/chemung/general/publications/what-is-diversity.pdf
  6. Deng, L., & Yuen, A. H. K. (2011). Towards a framework for educational affordances of blogs. Computers & Education, 56(2), 441-451.
  7. Dorn, J. A. (2012). The Rise of Government and the Decline of Morality. Retrieved from: http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/cl-12.pdf
  8. Get To Know U. (n.d.). Life Lessons (30 Moral Quandaries). Retrieved from: http://www.gettoknowu.com/LifeLessons/Hypothetical_Moral_Quandaries.php
  9. Holbrook, T., May, L., Albers, P., Dooley, C. & Flint, A. S. (2012). Teachers as Co-Learners in the Digital Age. Language Arts, 89(4), 219-221.
  10. Kilimci, S. (2009). Teachers’ Perceptions on Corporal Punishment as a Method of Discipline in Elementary Schools. The Journal of International Social Research, 2(8), 242-251.
  11. Kruglanski, A. W. & Higgins, E. T. (2007). Social Psychology Handbook of Basic Principle. New York, U.S.A.: Guilford.
  12. Liang, M. (n.d.). Problems, Causes and Solutions in a School Moral Education Course – Research in a School in Jiangxi. Retrieved from: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/about/documents/About_Overview/Mingyue_L.pdf
  13. McCambridge, T. R. (2004). Imagination, Critical Thinking, and Moral Education as Essential Elements of an Educational Community. Retrieved from: http://www.ierg.net/confs/2004/Proceedings/McCambridge_Thomas.pdf
  14. National Association of School Psychologists. (2006). Position Statement: Corporal punishment. Bethesda, MD: Author.
  15. Oladipo, S. E. (2009). Moral Education of the Child: Whose Responsibility? Journal of Social Science, 20(2), 149-156.
  16. Power, F. C. (2007). Moral Education. U.S.A.: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  17. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (2000). Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage, QCA/DfEE.
  18. Ray, K. (2005). What is Creativity?. Retrieved from: http://www.nyu.edu/cas/ewp/raycreativity05.pdf
  19. Sidek, E. A. R. & Yunus, M. M. (2012). Students’ Experiences on Using Blog as Learning Journals. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 67, 135-143.
  20. Society for Adolescent Medicine, Ad Hoc Corporal Punishment Committee (2003). Corporal punishment in schools: Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32, 385–393.
  21. Strong, A. B. (n.d.). How Do You Think – Creative or Logical. Retrieved from: http://strong.groups.et.byu.net/pages/articles/articles/creativity.pdf
  22. Trope, Y. (2010). Construal-Level Theory of Psychological Distance. Psychological Review, 117(2), 440-463.
  23. Yang, S. H. (2009). Using Blogs to Enhance Critical Reflection and Community of Practice. Proceedings Ascilite Melbourne 2008: Full Paper. Educational Technology & Society, 12(2), 11-21.
  24. Yannuar, N. (2010). Exploring Learners’ Autonomous Abilities in Blogs Designed for Independent Learning. Malaysian Journal of ELT, Research ISSN: 1511-8002.

Post #2 Involvement in Diversity Experiences: Fostering the Development of Critical Thinking

It is always imperative to identify causes before finding a solution as the wrong solution, brought by misinterpreted cause could bring about further problems. The nature and nurture debate of an individual’s development has been investigated for centuries. Rather than looking at the genetic factors of development, I am more interested in environmental development. This is because understanding the genetic factors cannot help change anything about the people in the present. For example, I know that my IQ is just over the standard rate of 100, perhaps scientists can create new technology or even medicines to aid future infant’s IQ, but this will not likely happen for me. Instead, understanding how the environment influences the way individuals view the world can assist research to improve existing problems more. So here I would like to ask a question: would experiencing diversity help learners to improve their critical thinking skills?

Importance of Experiencing Diversity

The dynamics of personal experiences and the ways of being taught to view differences are what learners will explore to achieve lucidity to a complicated subject. This clarity aids learners to exclude prejudice and discrimination from their beliefs, and also increase their self-confidence (Nagda et al., 2004). Exposure to diversity is crucial for building a good connection with members in domestic or international groups.

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Castania (1996) proposed two main dimensions of diversity to help explain the theory, known as international diversity and domestic diversity. International diversity is to explore the cultural differences outside one’s country. Through exploring the outside world, it is possible to heighten individuals’ awareness of differences and gain the opportunities of being outsiders, experiencing how the other social group of individuals behave and think differently from their own perspectives. Fundamentally however, these experiences may give the learners a false message about different cultures if they only examine the diversity by the most manifest differences. An example of this would be that learners can get the impression of Japanese by eating sushi and watching animations, and they then assume that the whole population of Japanese is big anime fans. How can people make assumption by knowing only one or two things about a culture?

Being an international student, I have had the chance to experience the British culture for the past two years. Not only did I stand out in this culture, I also experienced the feeling and the pain of being discriminated as a minority. The discrimination came from those people who seem to have a misunderstanding of my culture. For example, many white adolescents are brought up with social websites (i.e. Facebook) and film portrayals of individuals from different cultures, like Africa and China that were shaped and framed from a restrictive perspective. Asians, in many American movies, were shown or viewed as unintegrated into the western culture, or restricted to lower-class occupations when compared to white people (i.e. restaurant worker, laundry worker, gangsters). This cultural-identity approach negates the authentic relationships and the deeper sides of another culture. Is it possible for media to learn balance between the restrictive images of minority races? If only there was an opportunity for them to communicate and better understand my culture, perhaps then they would know that only a very minority of us consume dog meat and bear paws.

It is also critical to understand the differences inside the community that the learners grow up, because individuals are genetically different from each other, and being influenced by dynamics of environments. Domestic diversity allows learners to explore individual similarities and differences, not just limited to the other ethnic cultures (Castania, 1996). The social groups within one community can be defined by gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, education level, and socio-economic status, etc (Bennett & Bennett, 2004).  Having a deep understanding of the domestic differences can increase learners’ sensitivity to international diversity, enabling them the chance to gain a larger identity to represent their country more appropriately.

How Diversity Experiences Help on Critical Thinking

The body of research that investigates on the effect of diversity experience on school outcomes is quite big (Kuklinski, 2006; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). However, there are not many evidences that draw on specific relationship between diversity experience and critical thinking until the last decade. Gurin et al. (2002) brought out this issue, and pointed out that learners tend to participate in more deep and complex modes of thought, when communicating with more individuals from diverse cultures in a school setting. The diverse peers offer unfamiliar situations or new beliefs for learners, which would challenge the current thinking modes in their cognitive development and therefore provide them opportunities to learn.

According to Erikson (1956), experience diversity is most influential for university students because studying university is a developmental stage that provides them much freedom to generate more innovative ideas, and involvement in different social roles (i.e. students, student representatives, volunteers, society members, peer guides). Zuniga, Williams, and Berger (2005) implemented the teaching content, assignments and group discussions as assessments for 597 university students to experience diversity. The finding of their research indicated that students are more willing to accept different perspectives and eliminate their discrimination.

In one of the most recent research, Loes et al (2012) were focused interested in the effect of diversity experience on critical thinking skills. They used 4,501 college students from 19 institutions on critical thinking tests in two periods (fall 2006 and spring 2007). As a result, their findings were aligned with Zuniga, Williams and Berger (2003), that high exposure to diversity help learners to generate a more complex form of thought, or critical thinking. It was a good research because that some problematic methodological processes had been amended. The reliability was higher as they assessed the data not only by collecting questionnaires, but also included the control of any potential confounding variables to minimize the errors (i.e. residence arrangement, and time spent for the class preparation); whereas its sample size was large to allow generalization to the college population.

Application of Diversity Experience in Bangor University

It is acknowledged that psychology research is famous in Bangor University, and I believe that good critical thinking skill is one of the key factors to high quality research. Have our educators applied any diverse experiences in our education program to make us think more critically?

The composition of diverse peers is quite small in the psychology department, as I remembered, the rates of students of other colors is not over 10% for my entry year. However, this is a factor that educators cannot control. Therefore, the educators have to deliberately implement various elements in the design of the course, in order to foster the development of critical thinking. In the year one module Scientific Writing and Communication I/II, one of the assignments is to write on a controversial debate: “do beautiful people deserve to be more successful?”, and it utilised diversity where learners need to think about different perspectives of how to define success. As for year two, the teaching contents of Social Psychology module allow us to understand dimensions of domestic diversity and international diversity, with topics such as “intra-group”, “inter-group”, “prejudice” and “discrimination”, etc. Currently in the third year, students are allowed to select modules based on their own interests. Most of these year three modules provide opportunities for students to involve into debates, since there are seminars/group works for each module. Students can challenge/ perceive new ideas from their peers, that allow them to think in a more complex and critical form.

 

References:

  1. Bennett, J. M,  & Bennett, M. J. (2004). Developing Intercultural Sensitivity: An Integrative Approach to Global and Domestic Diversity. Retrieved from: http://www.academia.edu/465870/An_Integrative_Approach_to_Global_and_Domestic_Diversity
  2. Castania, K. (1996). Diversity Fact Sheet #1: What is Diversity?. New York: Cornell University. Retrieved from: http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/chemung/general/publications/what-is-diversity.pdf
  3. Gurin, P., Dey, E. L., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and High Education: Theory and Impact on Educational Outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72, 330-366.
  4. Hu, S., & Kuh, G. D., (2003). Diversity Experiences and College Student Learning and Personal Development. Journal of College Student Development, 4(3), 320-334.
  5. Kuklinski, J. H. (2006). The scientific study of campus diversity and students’ educational outcomes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 70(1), 99-120.
  6. Loes, C., Pascarella, E., & Umbach, P. (2012). Effects of Diversity Experiences on Critical Thinking Skills. Who Benefits?. The Journal of Higher Education, 83(1), 1-25.
  7. Nagda, B. A., Kim, C., & Truelove, Y. (2004). Learning about difference, learning to connect, learning to transgress. Journal of Social Issues, 60(1), 195-214.
  8. Pascarella, E., & Terenzini, P. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  9. Zuniga, X., Williams, E. A., & Berger, J. B. (2005). Action-oriented democratic outcomes: The impact of student involvement with campus diversity. Journal of College Student Development, 46, 660-678.