Presentation for the One World Youth Project

This past weekend I gave a presentation on skills and approaches to teaching and facilitation for the One World Youth Project (OWYP).  OWYP is a great non-profit educational organization that links schools globally in service-learning to prepare the next generation for the globalized 21st century. In service of this mission they train college and university students  to go into local high school and middle schools to teach and implement elements of the OWYP curriculum which focuses on exploring the Millennium Development Goals and other global issues.  My presentation was filmed and will be put online to be used as a resources for college students who are “educators in training” interested in learning more about specific education approaches and teaching techniques that can help them be creative, culturally aware, and effective facilitators for OWYP.  Continue reading to check out my remarks.

Hi, my name is Daryn Cambridge. I am an educator, trainer, and organizer, passionate about the field of education and view it as a key part of advancing social, global, and environmental justice. I am adjunct professor at American University where I teach education for international development and education for peace and conflict resolution. I also work at an educational foundation called the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. It is a pleasure to speak with you and to be a contributor to the One World Youth Project.

As facilitators for the One World Youth Project you are beginning a journey that gives you the opportunity to work with and draw from young people all over the world – an amazing and unique experience to say the least. Something I wish I had been exposed to when I was in Middle school, high school or college.

Today, I speak with all of you as a fellow educator. In this capacity we may call ourselves teachers, facilitators, or instructors, but at the end of the day our role remains the same, which is, simply put, to engage people in a learning experience.

And you will soon find out, if you haven’t already, that a learning experience is impacted by several factors:

(1) The relationship that exists between the teacher and the students
(2) The relationship that exist among the students themselves
(3) The physical set up and layout of the learning space
(4) The content that is the focus of the learning experience
(5) The individual needs, experiences, and skills that each participant is bringing into the learning space

So, I would like to explore these various factors with you in the next 15 minutes, with the hopes that such an exploration will give you a useful framework and some specific tools to be a creative, culturally aware, and effective educator for the One World Youth Project.

The first thing we are going to explore is our educational philosophy. In other words, what do you view as being the purpose of education, particularly within context of the One World Youth Project?

Some people view education as a way for learners to understand the way things work in the “real world” so they students can operate, function, and live within the status quo. Others view education as a way for students to develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills so they can become effective agents of change and think transformatively to visualize and then actualize a better, different world.

In his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire refers to these two distinct models of education as the banking model and the problem-posing model.

With the banking model the relationship between the student and teacher is one in which the teacher knows everything and has all the valuable information and experience, while the students know nothing and are seen as having little to no valuable information and experience. With this model the teacher dominates the learning experience, becomes the focal point, and communicates, implicitly, that the students should be merely passive recipients of information not actually creators of developers of it. I would argue that many traditional models of education pretty much fit this description. You may have experienced this model of education yourself growing up.

With the problem-posing model of education, on the other hand, the relationship between the student and the teacher is one of mutual learning and sharing. At times the teacher becomes the student and the student becomes the teacher. Students are not passive recipients of the teacher’s knowledge, but are rather active participants in the learning process. The teacher’s role then is to set up and support this process.

Our philosophy of education is not only manifest in the relationship that is developed between teacher and student, but also be in how we set up the physical learning space. The banking model oftentimes necessitates rows of chairs, all facing the teacher at the center of the head of classroom. The students are left staring at the backs of each other’s heads. This sends a clear message that students are not to share, collaborate or learn from one another, but rather only from the single individual in the front of the room.

The problem-posing model, on the other hand, is best practiced in a space where students can see each other’s faces, and the teacher is not always the center of attention. This would include setting up tables or chairs in a circle, small groupings, a some type of U-shape formation.

Being aware of how you view your role and that of the students, along with how you arrange and set up the learning space is key in being a educator interested in social change.

The second aspect of education we are going to explore is our theory of teaching. What we see as being the purpose of education (philosophy) will impact what theory of teaching informs our practice. If we believe that the experience, knowledge, and input of the student is just as integral to the learning process as that of the teacher’s then as educators we have to find ways to keep students engaged and value the different ways they learn. This is where Howard Gardner’s theory of “multiple intelligences” comes in handy.

Gardner theorized that every single person has a number of different kinds intelligences that allow us to learn, explore, and grapple with ideas in a variety of ways. I am going to outline those seven intelligences and provide brief examples of learning exercises or activities that can tap into those intelligences.

Verbal-Linguistic intelligence has to do with words, spoken or written. People with this intelligence are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and through discussion and debate. They have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

Exercise: Having students engage in communal note-taking by tweeting their key take-aways from a lecture as its taking place and then having those tweets pop up on a real-time twitter feed projected on a screen somewhere in the room.

Logical-Mathematical intelligence has to do with logic, abstractions, reasoning, and numbers. People with this intelligence emphasize reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations.

Exercise: Having students work with a household budget and asking them to make certain choices on health care, food, school fees, transportation, energy, shelter, etc. in order to explore the micro-level economic choices families make given a particular income.

Musical intelligence has to do with rhythm, music, and hearing. Those who have a high level of musical-rhythmic intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. They normally have good pitch and may even have absolute pitch, and are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. Since there is a strong auditory component to this intelligence, those who are strongest in it may learn best via lecture. In addition, they will often use songs or rhythms to learn and memorize information, and may work best with music playing in the background.

Exercise: Having students create photo slide shows about a particular Millennium Development Goals and putting it to music that they feel captures the spirit of those images. They could also write poems or songs on a particular theme and then perform them in front of the class in a coffeehouse or poetry slam type atmosphere. Or simply playing music while students are engaged in group work may stimulate more focus or more creative thinking.

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence has to do with bodily movement and physiology. In theory, people who have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence will learn better by involving muscular movement, i.e. getting up and moving around into the learning space, and are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance. They may enjoy acting or performing, and in general they are good at building and making things. They often learn best by doing something physically, rather than reading or hearing about it. Those with strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence seem to use what might be termed muscle memory – they remember things through their body such as verbal memory or images.

Exercise: invite student to respond to question or a statement by standing up and physically moving to either side of the room along a spectrum depending on how they respond to the question or phrase. You could also have students working in teams and using their bodies to create human sculptures or tableaus that represent one of the rights listed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Visual-Spatial intelligencePeople with strong visual-spatial intelligence are typically very good at visualizing and mentally manipulating objects. Those with strong spatial intelligence are often proficient at solving puzzles. They have a strong visual memory and are often artistically inclined. Those with visual-spatial intelligence also generally have a very good sense of direction and may also have very good hand-eye coordination, although this is normally seen as a characteristic of the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

Exercise: have students create new logos or symbols for the Millennium Development Goals (or for additional goals they feel have been left out or that they would like to see added after 2015). They could then hang their work symbols and logos up around the room and turn the space into an art exhibit, where everyone can then see each others’ work.

Interpersonal intelligence has to do with interaction with others. In theory, people who have a high interpersonal intelligence tend to be extroverts, characterized by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate.

Exercise: Have students share their responses to thought-provoking questions in small groups of five or less and then either come to consensus on a group answer, pick the most interesting or unique answer from the group, or have one person report back a summary of what everyone said. Look at a variety of questions and have the students mix up and form new small groups for each question.

Intrapersonal intelligence has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities. Those who are strongest in this intelligence are typically introverts and prefer to work alone. They are usually highly self-aware and capable of understanding their own emotions, goals and motivations. They often have an affinity for thought-based pursuits such as philosophy. They learn best when allowed to concentrate on the subject by them selves. There is often a high level of perfectionism associated with this intelligence.

Exercise: Have students do a free write, a journaling exercise, or a poem on their own that reflects on an activity, reading, or concept brought up during the session.

Those are the seven original intelligences that Gardner outlined. What I like about them is that it provides a framework to which I think most people can relate, because we can see these different intelligences present in ourselves and how we learn. It makes us as educators more cognizant of people’s learning styles and hence we become more aware of how we structure certain activities.

So I believe that if we can frame our teaching with Freire’s problem-posing model of education with Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, we can effectively engage students from a variety of backgrounds and leverage their own experiences and insights as way to cultivate a learning experience that nurtures one’s agency in advancing social, global, and environmental justice.

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