Supportive Learning Environments: Week 3, 4, 5 and 6

And now begins a couple of weeks catch up, and hopefully getting up. The following is reflection on weeks 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the course on Supportive Learning Environments I’m studying.

Culture, Society and Difference – Week 3

The focus questions given for the week are

  1. How do our sociocultural values shape our attitudes towards groups of people?
  2. What are the limitations of stereotypes?
  3. What is the relationship between stereotyping and prejudice?
  4. How do racism and discrimination evolve?
  5. Should diversity be accommodated or celebrated?

Already I am thinking of the point about human-beings being pattern-match intelligences . It seems that stereotypes and prejudice are examples of pattern matching, rather than rational decision making at action. We’ll see.


So, we’re asked to write down the following words (with some space in-between, as if the net gen would be using paper!) and write down meanings we associate with them. I feel the immediate need to do some Google work to develop a more formal meaning before expressing my current opinions. Will ignore that for now.

  • Stereotype – an abstract template/description used to describe characteristics deemed common to a group of people, often used as the basis for decision making/treating that group all the same.
    Am wondering what the difference is between this and archetype?
  • Prejudice – a negative belief about someone that arises from a particular characteristics, rather than actual knowledge of the individual.
    I find this meaning particularly weak and ill-informed. Though it matches okay with the provided definitions.
  • Racism – a belief that a particular race/group of people are in someway inferior to another.
    I missed the idea that racism believes that different human races have distinctive characteristics.
  • Discrimination – actions against a person or people that disadvantage them and are based on a particular characteristic(s).

There’s more reading from the textbook, but no

Indigenous students – Week 4

Focus questions

  • What are your own attitudes towards Indigenous peoples?
  • Why has there been an acceptance of poor learning outcomes for Indigenous students?
  • How can teachers attempt to meet the needs of Indigenous students better?

First off is a set of slides outlining what teachers need to know about indigenous students. At the root of all this is the perspective that it doesn’t appear any different from “good teaching”. i.e. every student is different, value and engage with that diversity. There then appears to be a slight tendency to somewhat “stereotype” indigenous students. i.e. that there is some collective set of characteristics that they all have. Though those characteristics are never really mentioned in specifics…

There’s also a pointer to a MACER report on indigenous education. It has a very “Waiting for Superman” section in which it bemoans that lack of challenge to teachers about the on-going lack of improvement fo indigenous students. While not entirely dismissing the problem of some teachers, this response seems to go a bit far and seems to ignore the influence of socio-economic status. i.e. it is known (and oft-repeated) that a low SES environment has significant impacts on learning outcomes + a large % of indigenous students come from low SES backgrounds, which seems to suggest that SES status is a significant contributing factor here. Certainly schools and teachers should be doing more, but there are other needs as well. The report does pick this up a bit now.

There is then a DEST funded study on self-identity for indigenous students. Perhaps not so surprisingly was the finding that self-identity “is complex and multi-faceted: varies with context; it has multiple dimensions that are valued differently by different individiuals…”. But some commonality around “kinship group, sense of history, language, traditional practices, and place”

Students with high support needs

Focus questions

  • What range of characteristics may be associated with students who have ‘high support needs’?
    Basically anyone who requires an additional level of support in order to effectively participate in school. But it does appear likely that they have to fit into one of the established categories. Which is the problem facing folk with dyscalculia. Given that “high support needs” students are defined by disability categories, one answer to this question is to list those categorise: ASD, SLI, HI, II, VI…
  • How do you feel about including these students in your classroom?
    Uncertain, but then I’m uncertain about most aspects of teaching at the moment. Mainly because I haven’t done it yet. It’s a mystery. Obviously, one feeling is that teaching will be hard enough without also having to deal with someone who has “high support needs”. Mostly because it adds yet another level of novelty to the process. After a bit of experience, this would be somewhat lessened, but I imagine the perception of workload would remain. As with all things it seems to depend on the specifics of the context. i.e. having a student with high support needs within a school where this is an accepted practice, would be somewhat easier than some alternatives.
  • How can the teacher feel prepared to accommodate high support needs?
    This appears to mirror good teaching practice. i.e. know your students, know what resources are available, build collaborative networks within and outside the classroom/school

Apparently an area of education replete with acronyms, though I’m not finding too many areas of education that aren’t.

  • EAP – Educational Adjustment Program.
    A program of resource distribution used to support high support needs students. Such students have to fit within one of the categories of disability.
  • IEP – Individualised education plans.
    Based on an EAP, map out what will be done for the student.
  • The categories are
    • II Intellectual Impairment
      IQ of 70 or below. Question: This raises the point about IQ. I thought that IQ was not a measure of fixed intelligence, just intelligence as it currently stands. That it can be improved. In the explanation, the diagnosis seems to focus on genetic problems as the cause.
    • ASD Autistic Spectrum Disorder
    • SLI Speech Language Impairment
    • HI Hearing Impairment
    • VI Visual Impairment
    • PI Physical Impairment
    • IAS – II/ASD

This is where I feel that I am missing something, a slide I’m looking at lists the following three tips for inclusion

  • Find out the specific needs of the student
  • Identify resources available to you
  • Foster social networks and learning activities that encourage interaction and participation by all students

These look like fairly good guidelines for teaching in general.

Inclusive strategies

So, onto some actual classroom strategies to deal with this. Already starting to seem like general good practice.

Focus questions

  • What strategies can be used to cater for a range of abilities?
  • What implications are there for assessment procedures when catering for a range of abilities?
  • What are the potential benefits for students when they participate in cooperative learning?
  • What role does the teacher play in cooperative learning?

A powerpoint slide covering various collaborative strategies- peer teaching etc – and now onto reading Chapter 4 of the text. Oops, that should be chapter 7.

And now an online resource on collaborative learning. It gives an interesting spectrum of learning approaches

  • Co-operative – working together to accomplish shared goals.
  • Competitive – work against each other to attain grades such as an A, which only a few students can attain.
  • Individualistic – students work by themselves towards learnings goals unrelated to those of others.

What about a “network” approach? Somewhat individualistic but connected to the work of others?

Mmm, interesting suggests Lewin refined the notion of a group to incldue

  1. Essence of a group is the interdependence among members.
  2. An intrinsic state of tension between group members to motivate them toward accomplishement of the desired common goals.

Ahh, and now Deutsch suggesting three types of interdependence: positive, negative and none.

In formal cooperative learning teachers’ roles are

  1. Make pre-instructional decisions.
  2. Explain the task and cooperative structure.
  3. Monitor learning and intervene to assist
  4. Assess learning and help students process how their groups functions.

Suggests different approaches: informal cooperative learning, cooperative base groups.

And now 5 essential elements for good cooperation

  1. positive interdependence.
  2. individual and group accountability.
  3. Promotive interaction.
  4. Appropriate use of social skills.
  5. group processing.

And goes onto to summarise large body of research findings showing the benefits of cooperative over competitive and individual approaches to learning.

And now a reading

Conway, R. (2001). Adapting curriculum, teaching and learning strategies. In P. Foreman (Ed.) Integration and inclusion in action (2nd ed.), pp. 262-310. Southbank, VIC: Nelson Thomson Learning.

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