Thursday, 30 October 2014

Letter of Intent - Journey from Intent to Proposal - Part 1

Monica Taylor
Masters of Education Application
Letter of Intent
February 5, 2014

Drama in Education: Facilitating the Integration of 21st Century Literacies and Concepts
in the Classroom

As a dedicated student of Brock University's Faculty of Education, my work as
both an educator and a researcher has manifest an eternal respect and wonder for the craft
of teaching. I have found my passion as both an educator and researcher. Studying
education as a concurrent student has ignited my interest in alternative ways of teaching
and learning, using drama techniques to develop life long learning and meaning-making
skills. My studies in the concurrent program have unequivocally kindled a genuine
curiosity in alternative ways of teaching and learning. My courses have allowed me to
explore the creation of standards-based interdisciplinary curriculum and 21st century
literacy skills. Through my practicum experience while in Brock’s Faculty of Education I
have created lesson plans and activities that embody critical literacy skills while infusing
them into applied drama lessons that aids students in discovering, in their own way, how
they can put life together as something that means a lot to them.

Through the "Teaching, Learning, & Development" stream, I will fulfill my
passion and vision for the craft, using my practical experiences and knowledge of the
field as a catalyst for further investigation. I would like to research and examine the
contributions that drama education and drama-teaching techniques can have to the
cognitive, social, kinesthetic and problem-solving strategies used by students in the
pursuit of meaningful and lifelong learning. I believe the most appropriate methodologies
to research the benefits and challenges of using drama as a medium to promote life long
learning and meaning-making is through action research, or living-theory research
(Whitehead, 1993; Whitehead & McNiff, 2006).

My unique flair for teaching and learning has invited several leadership
experiences into my personal life, allowing me to become recognized as a leader within
my St. Catharines community. For example, I was very fortunate to work for The United
Way ‘After School Matters’ program as a Drama Drop-In Facilitator for student groups
in need of enrichment. My job was to provide groups of students with opportunities to
creatively engage with their academics through the use of dramatic and kinesthetic
activities as a way of teaching to achieve higher order thinking. My desire is to work
collectively with community youth programs and the District School Board of Niagara
(as well as other boards) to develop a series of workable documents to aid teachers with
integrating drama techniques into their standards-based integrated curriculum.
As a student of the concurrent education program, I have had many opportunities
to write research papers in my various Education and Dramatic Arts courses. For
example, Dr. Joe Norris of the Dramatic Arts Department based the ‘Alternative Forms of Theatre’ DART 3F98 course on his book Playbuilding as Qualitative Research: A
Participatory Arts-Based Approach. This course allowed me to hone my research skills
by examining how collaborative creation can bring intervention, development, and social
change to fruition. Due to my keen interest and active participation in applied theatre, I
was able to write an 8000-word research paper to conclude the positive findings of the

As an education student, I have worked closely with critical education theory and
have interrogated the links between educational theory and practice; this has driven me to
pursue a Masters of Education degree at Brock University. I have experienced firsthand
the support and innovative research of Brock's Faculty of Education, and would benefit
from the expertise of Dr. Susan Drake while studying standards-based integrated
curriculum and 21st century literacy education (Drake, 2012). Furthermore, Dr. Joe Norris
and Prof. Helen Zdriluk of the Drama Department have provided the framework for
research in drama education studies, which has been invaluable to my research interest
(Norris, 2009). Not only does Brock offer the resources I need to pursue my research
interests, but I am confident that my passion, enthusiasm, and academic talent will be an
asset to the program as well.

Works Cited

Drake, S. (2012). Creating Standards-Based Integrated Curriculum: The Common Core
State Standards Edition. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Norris, J. (2009). Playbuilding as Qualitative Research: A Participatory Arts-Based
Approach. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press Inc.

Whitehead, J., & McNiff, J. (2006). Action Research: Living Theory. London: Sage.

Whitehead, J. (1993). The Growth of Educational Knowledge. Creating Your Own Living
Educational Theories. Brighton: Hyde Publications.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Exploring Interdisciplinary Curriculum (5P42)

Literature Review: Integrating the disciplines: Successful interdisciplinary subjects. 


Guide / Descriptive

This guide, Integrating the disciplines: Successful interdisciplinary subjects, outlines why and how the University of Melbourne believes interdisciplinary teaching and learning to be integral to the curriculum of their institution. As well as the primary document, two supporting documents: Attributes of the Melbourne Graduate (2009) & Refining our Strategy (2009) were included in the guide to support claims made by the CSHE (center for the study of higher education).

This guide seems to provide two distinct purposes; one to enhance and educate on the interdisciplinary methods of the University of Melbourne and to provide a document for reference to enable consistency, second as a tool for educators outside of the University to use this process for themselves elsewhere. I believe that reading this guide has helped me conceptualize how our integrated units are going to be framed and how to go about it. I found the language in this guide very accessible and easy to relate and engage with your own interdisciplinary practice. This guide provides insight the importance and ideal scenarios to engage with either disciplinary or interdisciplinary subjects. Although the guide is written in the context and for the purpose of a University, the methods, procedures and findings are easily transferable to post secondary interdisciplinary work.
I would like to include the sections within this guide as I found just looking at the headings sparked ideas.
  • Introducing interdisciplinary subjects
  • What are interdisciplinary subjects?
  • What are the generic objectives of interdisciplinary subjects?
  • Do interdisciplinary subjects require disciplinary depth?
  • How do you design and coordinate interdisciplinary subjects? (Included - Interdisciplinary subject template)
  • How do you assess interdisciplinary learning?
  • What conceptions do students need for successful interdisciplinary teaching and learning?
  • How do you evaluate the success of interdisciplinary subjects?
  • What criteria can be used for quality assurance of interdisciplinary subjects?
I would like to include here a selection of referenced works at the end of this document that I believe may lead to deeper understanding of the practices of interdisciplinary work at the University of Melbourne and to inform practices of interdisciplinary work across the world.

Petrie, H. (1976). Do You See What I See? The Epistemology of Interdisciplinary Inquiry. Educational Researcher, 5(2), 9-15.

Paul, R. W., & Elder, L. (2002). The Miniature Guide to the Art of Asking Essential Questions. Santa Rosa: Foundation for Critical Thinking.

Paul, R. W. (1994). Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs to Survive in a Rapidly Changing World (revised 3rd ed.). Melbourne: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Nikitina, S. (2002). Three Strategies for Interdisciplinary Teaching: Contextualising, Conceptualising, and Problem-Solving. Project Zero: Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Lyon, A. (1992). Interdisciplinarity: Giving up Territory. College English, 54(6), 681-693.

McCalman, J., Muir, L., & Soeterboek, C. (2008). Adventures with Breadth: A Story of Interdisciplinary Innovation. Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

Miller, M., & Boix Mansilla, V. (2004). Thinking Across Perspectives and Disciplines. Interdisciplinary Studies Project, Project Zero: Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Monday, 27 October 2014

What is development? Defining for a purpose. (5P30)

Teaching, Learning, Development:
What is development? Defining for a purpose.

“Our main critique of a traditional notion of development is that it has been assumed that development is independent of an observer. We argue that development is a social construction emerging in and among communities of practice” (Matusov, Hayes, & Drye, 2007, p.1).

In an attempt to fully understand the scope of the field I am researching under (Teaching, Learning, and Development), defining the broad discourse that falls under each of these concepts will assist in conceptualizing my work. During my undergraduate education classes and pre-service education, I was exposed to many opportunities to discuss, reflect, and define learning and teaching. I had previously assumed that the scope of what development encompasses was a concise, easy to define term used to enhance our understanding of teaching and learning. After reading Matusov, Hayes, & Drye’s article Whose Development?Salvaging the concept of development within a sociocultural approach toeducation, I was able to see that defining the discourse of development was more complicated than I had anticipated.

I am wondering how does education fit into the scope of development? Three differing angles to this debate have fueled education research on the development of students. Piaget believed that development was a constraint for education which cautions educators against implementing curricula and instruction that lay outside the student’s developmental stage. Where Vygotsky believed in the zone of proximal development in which more capable peers, adults, or a sociocultural activity (e.g. play) engage a child in more advanced actions than he or she would have done on their own and thus defines the child’s development (Matusov, Hayes, & Drye, 2007, p.2).  Third, there is also the belief that development is a self-organizing dynamic system that pulls focus to the emergence of stable patterns of relations. This view of development shifts focus from the student (how much they learn/how they behave) to the student’s emerging relationships (with peers, teachers and parents as ‘hidden curricula’ of education) (Matusov, Hayes, & Drye, 2007, p.3). 

The paper reviewed here examines the traditional notion or development and then provides an alternate, sociocultural view to development as a response to defining development in education and psychology. The traditional notion of development assumes that development is independent of an observer. What is common among these attempts to define development is how its observers define development, thus playing an integral part of the development of development. Defining development as something that is tangible and is effected by observers/outsiders allows education to apply pedagogical actions to enhance certain developmental phenomenon specific to the sociocultural aspects of the school/board/classroom. I would be interested in incorporating a more comprehensive understanding and definition of development in my future qualitative arts-informed research.

Matsuov, E., Hayes, R., & Drye, S. (2007). Whose Development? Salvaging the concept of development within a sociocultural approach to education. Educational Theory, 57(4), 1-8.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ms. Taylor, when am I ever going to use this in real life? (5P42)

I often wonder how as educators in this insanely faced paced 21st century learning world how we can effectively provide relevant curriculum and education for students across Canada's cultural mosaic. We are seeing the need and relevance of moving from one teacher/ one subject learning to a more integrated and collaborative style of learning. There is a passage in Chapter 5 that caught my attention in how it was phrased. "With only one teacher, some excellent teaching and learning can happen with fewer obstacles. Yet we have found that some of the richest integrated units are designed collaboratively." The yet proposes that this action of collaboration for richer integrated units and curriculum is an uncommon or underestimated. It shocks me some times to remember and recognize that this has not been the practice of curriculum development in the past. It excites me to remember we are all in a position of great influence as collaborative educators in the 21st century world. I believe it may be easier for elementary teachers to wrap their heads around the benefit and potential ease of blending and integrating subjects together to teach concepts or themes in the classroom. I have always separated secondary subjects from each other in order to fully grasp the scope and depth of each individual subject. I believed it would be a disservice to blend them together for students, it would be too confusing. 

I am now able to see how integrated curriculum can actually heighten students awareness of the scope and depth of each individual subject. This awareness comes from the explicit skill and ability to make meaningful connections between subjects and between the subject and daily life. Integrated units and curriculum allow for broader themed projects or community based projects, for example, which give students immediate use for the skills and knowledge acquired in a method that connects to them personally. This immediate tangible knowledge can assist with the inevitable question, "Ms. Taylor when am I ever going to use this in real life?" 

In order to find the common themes and threads that can relevantly link material to practice comes from careful consideration and brainstorming on the part of the collaborating educators. I will insert another verbatim Chapter 5 quote here;

"Typically, there may be territorial conflict about what knowledge and skills are front and centre. The backward design process facilitates a process where all collaborators can find a substantive place for their subject areas by providing a way to discover what is common across them" (Drake, Reid & Kolohan 2014). 

Changing the educator territorial and subject specific niches from a rigid to an interchangeable one can impact the approach students take to school work. Collaborative learning that happens at all levels of learning and education (curriculum development, teacher training, daily classroom teaching and daily classroom learning) will permeate and trickle through to daily learning routines. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

40 Tips & Tricks for Essay Writing Success (1F95)

40 Tips & Tricks for Essay Writing Success
Brought to you by: EDUC 1F95 14/15 - Seminar 15 & 16 – TA: Monica Taylor

1.     Do a bit every day so it gets done without a ton of stress.
2.     Start ASAP! Get a structure down early and take your time. Leave time for editing.
3.     DO NOT leave it until the night before. Give yourself time to write each draft and paragraph.
5.     Provide yourself with little rewards when you write to keep yourself motivated!
6.     Go for a walk! Do not underestimate fresh air!
7.     Organize by day what you want to be done certain things. This way you feel less stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work. Example:
a.     Day 1 – topic
b.     Day 2-5 – Research
c.      Day 6-7 – Thesis / Intro
d.     Day 8-13 – Writing
e.     Day 14-18 – Edit, Edit, Edit!
8.     Start working on the essay as soon as possible and try to finish it a few days early.
9.     Chocolate.
10. Don’t wait until the last minute, work on it in small bits over time. Just don’t leave it to the night before!
11. Don’t underestimate writing out the rough outline. Even the roughest, barest outline helps when guiding you when pouring out ideas onto the page.
12. Plain and simple: plan and structure!
13. Proofread and then have someone else read it.
14. Don’t wait until the last minute!
15. If you have a friend in the class, make the same mini deadlines and help each other stick to them! Treat yourselves to a coffee when you reach a certain point!
16. You can never have too many references when planning out your essay.
17. Cut out all external distractions (music, TV and cellphone YES YOUR CELLPHONE)
18. Find references before you begin writing your essay since this will help shape your thesis and make your overall paper stronger.
19. Use advantage plus in your EDUC 1F95 Sakai Tab to help you. (EDUC1F95 Specific)
20. Make sure that you have all materials ready. Organization and understanding of the assignment is key.
21. Leave a day (minimum) in between writing each body paragraph.
22. Use a clear outline to help organize your thoughts and make writing your essay easier.
23. Write a general rough draft with everything you think is relevant, then leave it for a day or two and go back to edit it. You will have a clearer mind, and notice more of your mistakes.
24. Write a first draft and then don’t look at the assignment until a few days later. It will help you clear your mind.
25. Editing is half the battle. Content is important, but editing and finalizing your paper always increases your mark.
26. Take a break in between essay writing and editing to look at it with a clear head. (Movie break!)
27. Before deciding that you ‘can’t do this’ or you ‘can’t find enough info’ read back through your course notes and required texts with an open mind and with your general topic ready to explore.
28. Research, research, research!
29. When you have all of your information (even more than you need), writing will come easy to you.
30. Remember the rule of thirds! 1/3 Research 1/3 Writing 1/3 Editing
31. BRAINSTORM! Read your essay over and over!
32. If you find something relevant while researching, quote it and cite it right away. Make it accurate and add WHY it seemed relevant (this makes your research easier to use later).
33. Finish essay early and email it to your mom or dad and get them to read and provide suggestions.
34. Tell the people you live with you’re writing so if you try to distract yourself, they can tell you off!
35. Write! Don’t stop! Don’t edit! You done? NOW EDIT! #DRAFTSDRAFTSDRAFTS
36. Take a deep breath. And keep taking them.
37. E-mail your TA if you have any questions. REMEMBER you can’t e-mail them 48 hours before an assignment is due. Be prepared! (EDUC 1F95 Specific)
38. Use your Making Sense book. Show it off to your friends how much easier writing an essay is now that you have started learning tips from the book.
39. Try having a visually accessible calendar with your mini deadlines on it to keep you on track.
40. Be proud of your own work. Be proud of your progress. Don’t underestimate yourself! You’ve got this!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Weekly Words of Wisdom (5P30/5P42/5P37/1F95)

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."

It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!"

- Author Unknown 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

KDB Umbrella (5P42)

Graphic organizers have turned into one of my favourite ways of processing, transmitting and discussing concepts in the classroom. In our class EDUC 5P42: Foundations of curriculum and assessment, we explored the relationships and connections between Assessment/Instruction/Curriculum & Know/Do/Be.

Below we have broken these concepts into a metaphor (hamburger & umbrella) with the central themes of KNOWLEDGE & STUDENT SUCCESS.