Opinions Does the School Acknowledge Different Learning Styles? BY OLIVIA LUCAS Features Editor
Have you ever spent an entire class listening to a lecture, but just could not grasp the concepts being discussed? Or have you ever read a textbook for hours, but never precisely understood the information you were studying? Many students experience situations like these because everyone has a different way of learning. There are numerous learning styles, but the most common ones are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners prefer using images and pictures to express their ideas, while auditory learners learn best through sound and music. In comparison, kinesthetic learners prefer a more “hands-on” and physically interactive learning experience. Our school strives to provide its students with the best possible academic experience. The most effective way to achieve this goal is by accommodating each student’s learning style. Personally, I believe that the School makes a diligent effort to ensure that all students are able to get the most out of their academic experience at the School, regardless of their learning style. In many of our classes, teachers combine several different methods of communicating information to their students. For example, Chemistry Teacher Car-
oline Lehman uses worksheets to help her students who have difficulty processing information heard solely in lectures. “Worksheets help students who aren’t necessarily auditory learners because they’re able to see and hear the information at the same time,” she said. I identify myself as a visual learner, and after having took Lehman’s Chemistry class Sophomore Year, I can assure you that the worksheets she assigned truly enhanced my understanding of the complicated material in the course. Lehman’s worksheets effectively consolidated information from a class-long lecture into a two-sided piece of paper. History Teacher Karen Bradley has a similar approach to her teaching style. “I have my students make posters to increase their visual literacy and to help them translate their ideas into images,” she said. Instructing students to make posters is a technique that many teachers at the School have used to break the barrier between kinesthetic and visual learning. When making posters, students are both physically engaged because they are actively drawing images and are able to express information in a way that is appealing to visual learners. Additionally, a creative activity, such as making posters, is often a pleasant break from the traditional class lecture, which some students find
hard to comprehend. “Teachers should spice up lectures with fun stuff!” suggested Junior Rebecca Shoptaw. “Some classes are very lecture-heavy, which works well for some students, but completely doesn’t work for others.” There are plenty of other methods that the School’s teachers have adopted to accommodate different learning styles. Among those methods are collaborative group work and changing the format of class discussions to encourage more input from students who process information slower than others. Another technique that has recently become prevalent in the High School is the idea of “flipping the classroom,” which encourages lecture-based learning outside of the classroom, and allows more time for students to interact with their teachers in class. While the School certainly tries extremely hard to meet the needs of students with different learning styles, I believe there is much more room for improvement. Many classes at the School, specifically our advanced courses, are heavily lecture and textbook based. One on hand, this imbalance is understandable because in these classes we are expected to process an abundance of information in a short amount of time. On the other hand, it seems that in these classes students who do not easily process auditory infor-
mation or have difficulty comprehending textbook reading are at a disadvantage. “The very nature of the way the School is structured goes against teaching to different learning styles. There’s so much to teach, in so little time and so much pressure from outside sources to prepare for exams. If we take these pressures off, we could do things differently,” explained Lehman. Bradley added, “The goal of education is to learn, not to remember just enough information for the SAT or ACT. The more I’m aware of different learning styles, the better I’ll be able to help students achieve this higher goal.” Students also have a responsibility to ensure that teachers are accommodating their learning styles. Students need to take the initiative to talk to their teachers and explain to them what would help them learn better in the class. English Teacher Margaret Yee stated, “I depend on students to check in with me if they have a different learning style. I can’t really help unless I’m aware. So, students should really learn to advocate for themselves.” Overall, the School is clearly making big steps forward in accommodating students with different learning styles, but much more growth must occur before we reach fully achieve our greatest potential of academic excellence.
Why We Need So Much Homework BY LAURA COOK Reporter
All students at the School knows those nights where the pile of homework just seems endless. Having to stay up late and just barely finishing the assigned work, people wonder: what is the point of homework? While homework may seem excessive and time consuming, it is assigned for a reason. Without afterschool work, students would not be able to learn all of the material. History Teacher Peter Reinke stated, “There simply is not enough time during the school year to cover that body of knowledge in a serious enough manner unless you are asking students to do [some] of the work at home.” With many tenth graders planning to take the advanced placement exam at the end of this year, Reinke pointed out that without any homework, it would be hard to give the students all of the knowledge they need in order to succeed on the test. Homework not only allows for students to learn the material at a reasonable pace, but it also allows students to achieve a deeper understanding of the course. Reinke continued, “If you didn’t have [homework], you [might] still get through all the material, but it would be at a very quick, bird’seye view. You’d have a very shallow understanding of…history.”
Without homework, there would be less time for in-depth discussions and creative projects. English Teacher Jane Shamaeva stated, “I assign homework to have students do at home things that wouldn’t be productive for us to do in class…. I just think for ex-
Shamaeva summed up, “I assign things that need to be done in order to have a good class.” Teachers keep in mind that students have a busy schedule with extracurricular activities and other schoolwork in different subjects. They understand the
ample with a book like The Great Gatsby, it would not be productive if we sat here and read it quietly together. So I have students read at home, so that we can discuss in class and use our time collectively. I also assign essays [at home] because I think it’s a solitary project that requires focus at home and again, I think that wouldn’t be fun for us to sit together and write.” Teachers assign homework for the benefit of students, and homework allows for a fun class.
large amount of work we have, and many teachers try to give an appropriate amount of homework. Reinke stated, “I try to give students no more than 30 to 45 minutes each night. I really try to stick with that and many students think that I’m a teacher who veers on the side of giving less homework than that.” Shamaeva, like Reinke, tries to give a reasonable amount of work. She stated, “I’m actually a fan of not a lot of homework…. I try if I can, not to
assign too, too much homework.” While many students do not like homework, like their teachers, they feel that homework is essential. Junior Nora Sheeder stated, “No [I don’t enjoy doing homework], but I think it’s necessary.” Sheeder admits that it would hard to progress through all of the material in the course and have an enjoyable class period without the homework. I agree with Reinke, Shamaeva, and Sheeder. I would rather be assigned 20 pages of The Great Gatsby than spend the whole class period silently reading. I also believe that homework allows for more fun activities and deeper knowledge of the course. By watching presidential debates and reading pages in history textbooks The American Spirit and The American Pageant, U.S. History classes are focused on delving deeper into the material. Homework allows for fun activities, like having a Great Gatsby-themed party, in a class that would otherwise be spent reading. By doing math problems and writing out lab procedures at home, I can get a firm idea of the concepts and be prepared for the upcoming class. While late nights spent on completing homework is no fun, without it, the teachers could only briefly cover the material and class time would have to be spent doing the work that could easily have been done at home. Homework is a necessity for classes to remain fun.
Opinions Undercover in Detention: A Glimpse into the School’s Disciplinary System BY JOEY CHIPMAN Reporter Sixty years ago, corporal punishment was socially acceptable; students were liable to be paddled and caned for their unruly behavior. Over time, the societal standard for discipline has veered away from such draconian measures. Today’s customary form of punishment is detention, a disciplinary action that has been clichéd by teen movies such as The Breakfast Club and numerous other high school sitcoms. As the School’s faculty seems to be dishing out detentions at an alarming rate, I began to question whether this form of discipline is even effective Searching for answers, I sought out two experts on the matter: Dean of Student Life Barry Barankin, and the School’s active leader in detentions Ryan Diew. Barankin explained, “To most kids, detentions are an annoyance and reasonably effective. They are a small punishment for a small crime.” Despite Barankin’s 37-year tenure as a faculty member, I wasn’t convinced. I needed an answer that wouldn’t be tainted
by the dust of a long time for reasons of the employee of the School. utmost importance. In need of an honest All it took was a facopinion straight from the ulty accomplice, to mouth of a student, Diew write me up on a fabstated, “Detention is not ricated charge, and I effective at all; it’s pretty was in. much like a party. You October 24th at play board games, you do lunchtime, I comhomework, you talk, and menced my unyou joke.” When asked if dercover mission, this punishment has enblending in amongst couraged him to change his the other offenders ways, he responded, “No. If sentenced to 25 minanything, it makes me mess utes in the detention around even more.” room. During the Even though I had first couple of minmy answers, I felt like they utes, Upper School were coming from people Head Carl Thierwho had spent too much mann came into the time on their respective room. He explained sides of the disciplinary to us that although battle. It was necessary for detention seems to the issue to be analyzed by be a laughing mata fresh set of eyes. I needed ter to many students, somebody to go into the it is a serious matbelly of the beast, perform ter, and can result in some simple reconnaisALYSSA APILADO parents being consance, and return well in- Senior Ryan Diew is a regular in Mr. Davies’ detentacted and even an formed on the matter. The tion, which he has proudly been running for years. in-school suspenperfect person for the job? sion; however, my Me. Throughout my three passing the blame for whoever fellow detainees seemed unfazed years in high school, I have some- left their lunch out and convinc- by Thiermann’s forewarning. how fallen off the detention radar, ing my teachers that I was tardy Once he left, upbeat conver-
sation filled the room, followed by an intense game of cards. I realized that Diew, not always a reliable source of information, was right. Detention was indeed a barrel of fun. Once the clock struck 12:40, I was wholeheartedly disappointed that I had to leave. In retrospect, no longer on the mental high of playing cards and socializing with my peers, I acknowledge Thiermann’s concerns. Detentions can pile up like parking tickets, forcing students to suffer the consequences of repeat offenses. Yet, it is all too easy to disregard school rules, enjoying the “punishment” for your crimes, and then walk the tight rope of discipline once your actions near their tipping point. While I in no way believe that our educational system should revert to corporal punishment, I do believe that the status quo must change. Detention has developed a connotation that doesn’t evoke the slightest fear or remorse. A new disciplinary measure must be invented as a means of maintaining order in schools by striking fear into the hearts of the student body… but not until I graduate.
Do Flipped Classrooms Lead to Backward Learning? BY ALEXANDER LUCKMANN Content Editor
ne of the hottest topics in pedagogical theory at the moment is the idea of the flipped classroom. In the flipped classroom, basically, students watch lectures online at their leisure, and then come to class to pose questions and do practice problems, with access to an expert, their teacher. Flipping the classroom is a direct result of the overall progress in technology due to the opportunities for interactive learning computers open. First fully implemented by chemistry teachers from Colorado, the idea was profiled by industry magazine Education Next in the winter of 2012, and many teachers are starting to test it, especially at the secondary-school level. Supporters of the flipped classroom concept say that it offers a multitude of advantages. Advanced students can spend more time on challenging problems given by the teacher in class, whereas weaker students can work on more basic problems; both groups of students can get more help from the teacher. The flipped classroom, then, promises the opportunity of a more personalized curriculum. According to Education Next, one of the Coloradan chemistry teachers who kick-started the flipped classroom movement also finds that the flipped classroom increases the level of human contact in his classroom, as he talks to every student every day. This contact gives both greater context in which to evaluate a student and a better understanding of a student’s level and
performance. Teachers argue that they can relegate more basic and repetitive material, which often requires more memorization than analysis, to the online lessons, and spend class doing more collaborative and interesting activities with the grounding in the online lectures. However, there are also a number of dangers inherent in the flipped classroom. First of all, online lectures can be less engaging than physical ones. It is much easier to ask clarifying questions about a topic in a lecture in class to a teacher than to ask them without the same context the next day. It is all too easy for students to understand the general gist of a concept – often enough to correctly answer simple problems – and skip over the specifics they don’t understand that may only become evident in later units, when students are faced with more challenging problems. The flipped classroom makes homework a necessity – and shouldn’t one of the benefits of having a good teacher be that homework is easy and minimal, at least in math and science classes? (Of course, this does not mean that homework should be abolished, merely that for strong students it should not be a huge load of busywork.) Another questionable effect of the flipped classroom is an increase in the already heavy reliance on the computer, bringing up the question of the degree to which children should rely computers. Almost all supporters of the flipped classroom agree that the model is most useful in math and the sciences. Upper School Math Teacher Chris Davies pointed out that the humanities already, in
effect, use the flipped classroom: teachers ask students to read at home and then come to class to discuss the material. Especially given the discussion-based nature of humanities classes, it would make little sense for teachers to post a lecture and then discuss that lecture in class – in the humanities, reading, not a teacher, usually conveys the material. Some proponents of the flipped classroom see opportunities for application in foreign languages; for instance, according to Davies, Lower School French Teacher Sarah Sharp was so inspired by the idea of the flipped classroom that she flipped much of her firstsemester curriculum. Over the summer, three teachers at the School – Science Teacher Jennifer Brakeman and Math Teachers Chris Davies and Shahana Sarkar – took a class on the flipped classroom. All three
have applied the techniques they learned in this course to their own classes, and have received a range of student responses. Senior Rachel Bachman is very enthusiastic about the flipped classroom, saying that it “is very useful because you can get more feedback and help from more one-on-one time with the teacher.” One of my own classes makes use of the flipped classroom. I believe that the flipped classroom is an interesting and exciting idea in the early stages of its development; however, my experience with it thus far has not been positive. The concept behind the flipped classroom is that it will improve the learning of students across all levels. I believe that it will do the opposite: students at the top of the class will breeze through a lecture in five minutes online that would have taken half an hour in class and will exploit the resource
of their teacher in class to go on to more exciting work. Average and weaker students will engage even less in online lectures than they do in classroom lectures. They will fail to ask questions in class because they will have caught the general gist of the lesson while missing key details. Most importantly, they will simply be bored by online lessons: I personally find that I learn about half as much from online lectures as I do from classroom lectures. I remember having to randomly click on the screen in order to keep my mind at all focused on what was being said during the lecture. This is not to criticize the teacher: I was completely aware that the lecture was interesting and would have been quite informative in class. But I believe that online lectures fail to utilize the greatest strength of the School: the enthusiasm for a subject instilled by a good teacher.