Chris Cooke's Master of Arts in Education - Transcript
The course focused on the roles and responsibilities of school leaders and aimed to give perspective, advice and theoretical knowledge as leaders confront and address many of the day-to-day and long-term challenges. We began by looking at the requisites of a learning organization, with particular focus on how, as leaders, we need to engage in self-assessment, reflection and productive reasoning. In addition, we looked at vision, mission, strategy, constituency relations and group processes. As a positional High School Administrator, this course, my first in this degree, was invaluable not only for the content, which provided enlightened approaches to and perspectives of challenges I was facing, but also of the academic rigor and writing expectations required for a masters level course. The final assessment involved a formal Research Project and a self-refection essay.
This course examined social-emotional development from birth to adolescence in the context of school and other settings. It ensured that we looked at topics such as emotional and moral development, an individual's self-concept, aggression, peer relationships, family relationships, and socialization in school. All of which was cross-referenced with current research and built on an ecological theory of development which looked at dynamic socialization within groupings that influence children's ability to develop and learn - the family, peer-groups and wider socio-ecologies. Although clearly quite theoretical, I appreciated accessing and understanding a link between the influence of the school environment and a child's socio-emotional development.
Although this course is the introductory one in the MSU online MAED program and, as the course syllabus says, "designed to be foundational", I somehow managed to do it as the fourth of my ten courses and I'm glad I did. I had a little hindsight and context for the direction I was going in for my studies and this course provided an opportunity for me to think and exchange ideas about my beliefs about education and the many forms of inquiry related to it. We asked questions such as "What are education’s purposes, traditions, characteristic activities, and its recurring problems and efforts at reform?" and "What is most worth knowing and how are individual, institutional, and social views of schooling and the curriculum reconciled?" or simply "How do we learn?" To address these questions (and more), we focused on educational inquiry, interpretation, theories of intelligence and the curricula that dictate and drive education systems. Once again, and because this course was also self-paced, I enjoyed exploring my own curiosity and inquiry processes while comparing them to the same processes in my students.
ED 800: Concepts of Educational Inquiry
Dr. Steven Weiland
This and Prof. Weiland's other course were probably two of the courses I enjoyed the most through this degree and probably mostly because of it's self-paced nature, which allowed room to explore a phrase that, although sometimes quite problematic, has a meaning that is at the core of what we as educators hope to create. "The Learning Society" in all its manifold complexities speaks directly to our mission, which is to create or provide and environment which is conducive to learning. We started by discussing how in some theorists'/writers' minds, academic institutions have become quite "myopic" in their approach to and concept of a Learning Society. Some writers, like Anthony Kronman who wrote an article for the Boston Globe in 2007 entitled “Why Are We Here?” went as far as arguing that learning institutions have lost the ability to guide learners in addressing what it really means to exist. Universities, he commented, need to (and are starting to) make allowances for discussion and questioning regarding “the meaning of life”. This, of course, opened up another broad avenue of discussion in the class and as a result, I managed to gain a much clearer understanding of the main concept driving the course.
An Academic Voyage through my MAED
What follows is a brief description of each of the courses I took to fulfill the requirements of a Master of Arts in Education through Michigan State University (MSU) in the United States of America. Detailed descriptions can be found on the MAED website but what I have also attempted below, is to describe my understanding and personal growth through each of the courses.
EAD 860: Concept of Learning Society
Dr. Steven Weiland and Dr. Nicholas Sheltrown
CEP 841: Class Management in an Inclusive Classroom
Dr. Troy Mariage
EAD 850: Multicultural Education
Dr. Riyad Shahjahan
WordCloud created from text of - Johnson, A. (2006). Privilege, power, and difference (2nd ed.).
When I just started out on my teaching career over 25 years ago, I remember looking at experienced teachers with a morbid envy, asking myself if I would ever last as long as them so that I too would get the experience necessary to survive in this profession. Now, however, apart from anything else, I believe the greatest thing I’ve learned, whether a first year teacher or about to retire, is that without self-reflection one cannot be anything near a good teacher. If nothing else, CEP 841 helped me to remember this. The course content was designed to provide us with a foundational knowledge in classroom management, behavioral intervention for mild/moderate behavioral challenges, and a knowledge of behavioral technologies to support classroom teaching with diverse students, including those with special needs and provided ample opportunities for us to reflect on our own practice. To aid the process, we were also enabled, although vicariously, to engage with classmates by having a glimpse into their classrooms and teaching practices. The practical outcome of this was that I received some new and very helpful classroom management tools to ensure an inclusive classroom.
From the outset, this course forced me to look my own identity "in the eye" and, as a white, middle class, non-disabled, heterosexual, husband, father, friend, teacher and school administrator, I immediately became aware of several factors that influence how I interact with society because of what they have done to shape my identity. In essence, I needed to understand myself before I could engage in multicultural practices and, as a consequence, rethink myself. The course also looked at the concepts of “privilege”, “power” and “difference”, and how these affect personal and social transformation. To this end, I was able to explore not only how "commission" can affect peoples identity but also how "omission" can have as much effect - often in a negative way. In schools, for example, we became aware of how educators who perpetuate a system of simply “depositing” knowledge are on a path of least resistance where there is so much else to discuss about how we function in society. On the surface, the way schools are structured, for example, can be seen as an easy way of dealing with the masses that need to be processed through the education system but, on a much deeper and enduring level, the result is that student’s differences are marginalized instead of celebrated and this, in some ways (and to use Iris Young’s  words), “is the strongest form of oppression.”
TE 831:Teaching School Subject Matter with Technology
CEP 815: Technology and Leadership
Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf and Josh Rosenberg
WordCloud created from text of Hattie, J. (2008). The Argument: Visible teaching and visible learning
This course was probably the most practical of all the courses I took and, for me, was the one which I was able to apply immediately to my teaching practice. Through the course, I was introduced to a Wikispace which carried the course content and provided a forum for discussion and although now, on reflection, the interface was a bit antiquated, I was glad to find a very malleable tool with which to create an online presence for my students. I still use a Wikispace today and once my students get used to its idiosyncrasies, it serves our purposes very well. All this to say that the course, in addition to introducing me to TPACK, allowed me to explore various Tech Tools that would aid my teaching. The principal aim of the course was to help us to develop strategies and methods for teaching school subject matter with technology and, as we progressed, it very consciously helped us to turn theory in to practice by offering various ways of integrating educational technology with content and pedagogical practice. In the midst of this, I was also afforded the opportunity to engage in the "great debate" over universal access to, and the affordances and constraints of, utilizing educational technology in schools. At the time, I was also functioning as our school's Technology Coordinator and so these considerations couldn't have come at a better time. Clearly, digital technology is here to stay and I was able to reflect on ways of integrating technology in school subject matter and how to make the learning authentic.
During this course and by understanding ourselves as educational technology leaders, I was expected to articulate the relationship between technology and the factors that influence student learning. Consequently, the course spent a while considering theorists, such as John Hattie, who defined several categories of factors which do influence student learning and achievement. What then became clear to me was that I needed (to use Hattie's words) to see how essential it is for teaching and learning to be "visible" and, furthermore, to bear in mind the scope and influence of technology in increasing this visibility. Clearly, I as a teacher, need to be an "activator" and "deliberate change agent" who is consciously and deliberately directing learning. Beyond this, the course guided me in formulating a viable technology plan for my teaching. I was also able to identify the difference between "instrumental" thinking, which ends up simply using technology for technology's sake and, "missional" thinking, which keeps the goal of teaching and learning clearly at the forefront of my mind. Visible, if you will.
CEP 800: Learning in School & Other Settings
Dr. Danah Henriksen
ED 870: Capstone Seminar
Dr. Matthew Koehler, Spencer Greenhalgh, Brittany Dillman and Sarah Keenan
For me as a life-long learner and as an educator, I have always been struck by how easily traditional school systems and pedagogy separate knowledge and what we actually do with it. Clearly, if it is too abstract or decontextualized, it is very difficult to apply and use - which, after all, is the main reason for any learning. With this in mind, this course helped to acquaint me with several major psychological perspectives for appreciating learning that goes on in school and other settings. I was then given opportunities to connect these theories of learning to my own experiences as a learner and by constantly examining the relationship between theories/ideas and practice, I could find greater significance in both. I particularly enjoyed using educational technologies such as digital stories and podcasts to enhance this synergy.
This course was a culmnation of all the courses in my Michigan State University program plan and, consequently, those expected to fulfill the requiements for my Master of Arts in Education degree. From the outset, I was expected to establish an online presence which took the form of a website designed to showcase my professional and academic achievements. In addition, I was able to engage frequently in discussions with my classmates about the progress of our respective websites. For this, we used Piazza, which is an online tool that facilitates asynchronous comminication. This platform was especially helpful as many of our course members were in different time zones.