Language Immersion

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There have been several studies done over the years that suggest that students who attend language immersion schools have long term academic benefits when compared to their counterparts in traditional schools. As more and more language immersion schools pop up all over the country, more and more qualitative data is available in this area. It has long been known that cognitive development is significantly impacted by the environment and a student’s surroundings. How does language immersion affect this process? Well it seems that for many students the process of learning multiple languages actually enhances the development of critical thinking and problem solving at a young age. The data appears to show a link between basic problem solving skills at specific ages and the amount of time spent in a language immersion schooling environment. This is of course correlated data, and should not immediately be looked at as causal.  However, it does open the door to an interesting discussion. What other types of benefits could language immersion provide aside from enhanced problem solving? Are there any areas where students’ are not as proficient as they otherwise would have been in an English only setting? The pros and cons of immersion learning will continue to be a subject of interest for many years to come as our world becomes more globally connected.

International Education

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With the recent effects of the earthquake in Haiti firmly on the minds of many people all around the world, I think this is a good time to discuss how 3rd world countries handle the education of their citizens. Now the term “3rd world” is in itself contraversial, but we won’t get into that in this post. The question that I would like to address here is simply: “How should poor countries handle the education of their most promising minds?” This question is really paramount to the future prosperity of all developing nations. Many nations choose to send their best talent abroad to be educated in the finest universities in other parts of the world. However, this model has its drawbacks. For one, many times these citizens never return to their homeland and spend their adult lives enriching the countries where they were educated. This does little to benefit their native countries. So how should these countries handle the education of their citizens? I have my theories which I will share in a subsequent post but I would like to hear what you think about this topic. Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Standardized Testing

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In the  last post we looked at how the seeds of self-doubt can be planted in the minds of children from the time they begin school.  This seed is often watered and nurtured very quickly in many schools.  Let’s look at the impact that standardized testing can have on the confidence of young students.

Many states such as California have begun implementing standardized testing at alarmingly early stages, with many of these tests now beginning as early as kindergarden. This trend is concerning for a number of reasons. For one,  how are the results of these types of tests going to be used? It certainly seems plausable that schools and school districts could use these scores to determine class placement for the following grades. This would mean that a child could be “tracked” into a less demanding curriculum simply because they didn’t test well as  a 5-year-old.  Furthermore, since students are in such a nascent stage of their development as kindergardners how trustworthy would the results of standardized testing at this age really be? The whole trend has the possibility to exacerbate many existing problems in early childhood education.

Early Childhood Learning Part 1: Building Confidence Part 1

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Far too often when students are young they are infected with the idea that they “aren’t good at ______” (fill in the blank with any subject or activity) . This is happening to our children at younger and younger ages and is truly crippling them in ways that parents and teachers don’t even realize.  Children enter school without any “learned limitations” and are sponges for any and all material, both good and bad. As they start learning, there is a natural separation of “good students” from “not so good students”. This is where the damage begins. Teachers, quite naturally, begin separating students into ability groups so that they can more effectively address the needs of the students who are at disparate levels. This in and of itself is fine, however, it is usually accompanied by a far more damaging component: the-you-aren’t-good-at-X seed.

Imagine a mother who is picking up her 1st grade daughter from school and decides that before she and her daughter head home, she wants to speak to her daughter’s teacher on her progress. She pleasantly greets the teacher who smiles and starts highlighting all of little Suzie’s great accomplishments. She explains how well she is doing in Art and Science, how well behaved she is, and what a pleasure she is to have in class. All very nice things, but then she drops the hammer: “Suzie has been struggling a little in math, she is still at grade level but it’s not her strongest subject. ” A seemingly innocuous comment that plants the I’m-not-good-at-math seed. We all have seen the results of this seed, as Suzie grows older more of her teachers will water and fertilize this seed. Her parents will  do the same when giving friends and family updates on Suzie’s progress saying things like “Suzie’s doing great in everything Art,Science, her behavior is great, but like me, she’s not too good at math.”

We’ll delve into the damaging consequences of this all-too-common scenario in detail in the upcoming posts.

All Things Education

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