Winter 2010 Stories
Innovative Teaching in a Test-Centered System
Critical thinking or passive reception of information? As external pressures on schools are ratcheted up through increased standardized testing and public accountability, K-12 teachers of tomorrow need tools to help students meet state standards as well as think outside the box.
“It’s possible to make a non-traditional classroom in a traditional school,” says education faculty member Lester Krupp. “Learning is an active, creative and individual process, as opposed to response to stimuli. Teachers can make more use of the active model of learning.”
Language, Literature and the Schools is a half-time, two-quarter Evening and Weekend Studies program taught by Krupp. It is offered winter and spring quarters for undergraduate students—whether returning adults or traditional college age—interested in becoming teachers. A 12-credit option allows students to meet requirements for Washington state teacher certification in either children’s, adolescent, multicultural, British or world literature, or language structure.
In the program, students will explore ways that writing and literature are valuable in the education of children. Typically, the program attracts a wide range of students, ranging from future kindergarten teachers to those interested in pursuing post-graduate studies in education. “Students come with a wide range of comfort levels and writing abilities,” says Krupp, a 1974 Evergreen graduate who taught all levels of English, from advanced to remedial, for 34 years at Yelm High School.
An integral part of the program will be writing and peer critique. “Students will learn about themselves as writers in a semi-public setting. If you ever claim to teach writing, you need to be willing to subject your own work to critique,” Krupp explains. “It is interesting to watch what happens when students go through six months as part of a stable writing group.”
Drawing on works ranging from 19th/20th century educator-philosopher John Dewey and contemporary writing guru Peter Elbow, Krupp will encourage students to examine current K-12 education pedagogy and assumptions about the purpose of education. “To be a good teacher means challenging some existing practices,” Krupp says. “Teachers have to be bigger than any standardized test. They also have to thoroughly understand the test, and make sure the material on the test is integrated into their lessons in a meaningful and seamless way.”
Krupp’s program will also help prepare future teachers to work with students who bring a variety of skills, interests and needs to the classroom. “It’s important to learn to master one’s own responses as a teacher so that what the student experiences is openness,” he says. “Then the student will experience an open-hearted human being worth knowing. That may be the most important quality in making one’s teaching experience satisfying and effective.”