Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Educational Change/Goals

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What are the goals for educational change?
You do not get out of a problem by using the same consciousness that got you into it.

—Albert Einstein

Education in today’s society is becoming exceedingly difficult as students’ interests are constantly changing and more skills are needed to become successful in society. Also, the society in which we live is completely different from the world twenty years ago, yet the way of educating children and what is taught has not significantly changed. This shows the need for educational reform. However, it brings up the question: What are the goals for educational change? The change in education needs to encompass the following ideas: cooperative learning, differentiation, technology, and conscious discipline. Cooperative learning is important because studies have found that children, even older children, learn better by actively participating in class instead of passively observing. In addition, they can learn more from working with other students along with what the teacher has to offer. Differentiation is also essential because no two children are identical and they may not learn in exactly the same way. Therefore, the classroom should be taught as individuals instead of a group to best meet the needs of each individual student, taking into account the student’s learning style and preferences. Technology is changing the lives of both students and teachers everyday as life becomes more and more high-tech and it should be used to the advantage of the educational process. Finally is conscious discipline, which focuses more on creating and maintaining a relationship with the student versus a reward system. With these ideas being the basic goals of the education system, the students should be more likely to succeed.

Cooperative Learning[edit]

"Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. Students work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it" (Kennesaw State University).

Cooperative Learning as a technique that not only teaches the students more effectively but it also helps to develop their social skills, character, and morals because the students are forced to interact with one another and work as a group. The Kagan strategy, which was developed by Dr. Spencer Kagan, is a method of utilizing cooperative learning. The Kagan strategy switches the teaching methods from lesson-based to structure based, so that the students are learning more on their own than being taught directly from the teacher. It allows the student to not just learn a particular skill, but instead acquire it by actually practicing the particular skill in the classroom. It uses an embedded curriculum to teach the students math, language arts, science and social studies through methods that require each student to actively participate in each lesson, so what is taught is actually being used (Kagan).

Elements of Cooperative Learning[edit]

  1. Positive Interdependence
    • Each group member's efforts are required and indispensable for group success
    • Each group member has a unique contribution to make to the joint effort because of his or her resources and/or role and task responsibilities
  2. Face-to-Face Interaction
    • Orally explaining how to solve problems
    • Teaching one's knowledge to other
    • Checking for understanding
    • Discussing concepts being learned
    • Connecting present with past learning
  3. Individual & Group Accountability
    • Keeping the size of the group small. The smaller the size of the group, the greater the individual accountability may be.
    • Giving an individual test to each student.
    • Randomly examining students orally by calling on one student to present his or her group's work to the teacher (in the presence of the group) or to the entire class.
    • Observing each group and recording the frequency with which each member-contributes to the group's work.
    • Assigning one student in each group the role of checker. The checker asks other group members to explain the reasoning and rationale underlying group answers.
    • Having students teach what they learned to someone else.
  4. Interpersonal & Small-Group Skills
    • Leadership
    • Decision-making
    • Trust-building
    • Communication
    • Conflict-management skills
  5. Group Processing
    • Group members discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships
    • Describe what member actions are helpful and not helpful
    • Make decisions about what behaviors to continue or change

Project-Based Learning[edit]

Project-based learning is an approach to engage students in cooperative investigation. It is an emphasis on cooperative learning. In project-based learning, students work together to make sense of what is being taught. There are two components to project-based learning. The first component is a question or problem that organizes and pushes the activity. This question or problem is the meaning behind the project at hand. The second component is developing tasks that address the question or problem.

There are four features to use in project-based learning. The first feature is a driving question. This question is the problem at hand that the students are working towards finding the answer to. The second feature is when students explore to help them apply information, learns concepts, and show what they learned in different ways. The third feature is sharing with other students and teachers that they have learned. This is referred to as the “learning community.” The fourth feature is using cognitive tools in showing their ideas. An example of this would be using computers to show their information.

Students use Project-based learning by:

  • Asking and refining questions
  • Debating ideas
  • Making predictions
  • Designing plans and/or experiments
  • Collecting and analyzing data
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Communicating their ideas and finding to other
  • Asking new questions
  • Creating artifacts

(Houghton Mifflin)

Project-based learning is a great way for students to learn and share. Though is may have some downfalls, it has been found to be a great way for students to interact and be motivated to learn. It teaches students to learn for themselves how to organize and gather information. It is a great technique to use in any grade level.


"The idea of differentiating instruction to accommodate the different ways that students learn involves a hefty dose of common sense, as well as sturdy support in the theory and research of education. It is an approach to teaching that advocates active planning for student differences in classrooms" (Tomlinson).

Differentiation is essential to classroom instruction because no two children are the same and therefore do not learn in the same way. In addition, all students have different intelligence quotients (IQs) and learning styles so the teaching needs to reflect that. It is also necessary to teach the students to think for themselves that way when they get out of the classroom they do not flounder. In a classroom of twenty-five students, most of them are on different reading levels and some may not even be able to complete certain tasks. Now the teacher should not differentiate his or her class so that there are twenty-five different assignments but rather so that there are several options and the teacher groups them into the section most appropriate for each particular student. This allows the students to learn in a way that is best for them to learn the particular material; therefore, making them more likely to succeed in the education system.

Four Ways to Differentiate Instruction:

  1. Differentiating the content/topic
  2. Differentiating the process/activities
  3. Differentiating the product
  4. Differentiating by manipulating the environment or through accommodating individual learning styles


This is the era of technology where it encompasses almost every part of a student’s daily life from iPods, to the internet, to computer games, and video games. As technology drives the students’ lives, the education system has yet to keep up. Many businesses use computers to save time and make work more efficient; however, most classrooms have only one computer in a classroom and then a computer lab that students use once a week or less. If students were given more opportunities with computers learning could be changed, not just through things like educational video games, students can get on the computer and find information for themselves on the topics being learned in school. It will help them to learn how to find out information for themselves as well as learn to think for themselves and decipher the information that they find. Education needs to stay on hand with today’s technology and use its advantages to better teach the students.

Conscious Discipline[edit]

"Conscious Discipline is a comprehensive classroom management program and a social-emotional curriculum. It is based on current brain research, child development information, and developmentally appropriate practices. Conscious Discipline has been specifically designed to make changes in the lives of adults first. The adults, in turn, change the lives of children" (Bailey).

Conscious Discipline, developed by Dr. Becky Bailey, starts first by having the teacher change his or her attitude and that will in turn cause the students behavior and attitude toward learning to change. It involves developing a positive relationship with each individual student. However, it switches the classroom discipline from the traditional reward and punishment for good and bad behavior to one where the classroom is like a miniature community and discipline occurs through thinking. Conscious Discipline teaches students how to control their emotions and develop social skills as well as problem solving. It also helps to build the students self-esteem by the sense of community (through students helping one another) that is created within the classroom. Finally, Conscious Discipline is learned through example since the teacher starts by respecting the student and the student in turn will respect the other students as well as the teacher.


With society consistently changing, education needs to change with it and meet the needs of each student in the classroom in the best way possible. By implementing cooperative learning, differentiation, technology, and conscious discipline students will be able to learn more successfully and develop more skills that will help them to succeed outside of the classroom. It is important for students to stay interested in education and if they are learning in a way suitable for them that encompasses elements that are significant to today’s society, then education will become stronger and leave a more substantial impact on the student’s life.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Mrs. White changes the way she acts towards her class in attempt to increase her students' self esteem and develop their social-emotional skills. What is Mrs. White implementing in her classroom?
A. Kagan Strategy
B. Conscious Discipline
C. Differentiation
D. Cooperative Learning

B. Conscious Discipline

Mr. Smith divides his third grade class up into five reading groups and each group reads a different story and completes similar, but different work on the stories. What is Mr. Smith implementing in her classroom?
A. Kagan Strategy
B. Conscious Discipline
C. Differentiation
D. Cooperative Learning

C. Differentiation

Ms. Jones divides her students up into groups of four to work on a project for the end of chapter three in which they must remember and utilize the knowledge gained from chapters one and two. Which element of cooperative learning is Ms. Jones using the most?
A. Individual & group accountability
B. Group processing
C. Interpersonal & small-group skills
D. Face-to-face interaction

D. Face-to-Face Interaction

Mr. Jackson divides his class up in to groups based on they way they learn best and gives each group an assignment that will be completed using different skills so that each student completes the assignment in they way that they learn best. What type of differentiation is Mr. Jackson using?
A. Differentiating the content/topic
B. Differentiating the process/activities
C. Differentiating the product
D. Differentiating by manipulating the environment or through accommodating individual learning styles

D. Differentiating by manipulating the environment or through accommodating individual learning styles

Miss Peters divides her students into two groups one which will learn a specific skill and another which will work on applying the skill. What type of differentiation is she using?
A. Differentiating the content/topic
B. Differentiating the process/activities
C. Differentiating the product
D. Differentiating by manipulating the environment or through accommodating individual learning styles

A. Differentiating the content/topic

What is the first step for students in Project-based learning?
A. Ask new questions
B. Draw a conclusion
C. Ask and refine a question
D. Make predictions

C. Ask and refine a question

What does project-based learning emphasize?
A. Individual work
B. Cooperative learning
C. Technology
D. Questions

B. Cooperative Learning

What is it called when students share what they have learned?
A. Sharing work
B. Sharing community
C. Community help
D. Learning community

D. Learning community

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

Which type of educational change do you feel is most important to a student's education? Why?

I feel that differentiation is the most important change that could be made in education an a national level. Though differentiation puts more work on the teachers it helps the students learn more effectively. It essentially will make the student feel better about his or herself because he or she is doing better in the classroom since learning has been adapted to their learning style or to help them from struggling so much with the course material. This type of adaptation is essential to the classroom since all students learn differently.