Webster’s Online Dictionary defines epiphany as, “(1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure”. All of these definitions capture the beauty of teaching in today’s classrooms. These are some of the most meaningful moments for any passionate and caring teacher. As a university faculty member, I am no different.
This set of feelings about education and seeing my students have their own educational epiphanies has led me to write this latest reflection. While the cognitive development of all of us happens at different rates and times, it is such a wonderful sight to see those who you are charged with supporting their learning process have these moments of revelation. No matter the level or degree of that occurrence, I find great joy and pride in being a witness in their classroom. I am an active participant, but never the only holder of knowledge.
The Topic: Moral Reasoning
Talking with my students and/or anyone about moral reasoning in a critical way is always an interesting activity for me. I often find myself immediately analyzing their responses to the material and each other in the midst of our class discussions or my mini-lectures. Today’s classes provided me with more opportunities to engage the ways in which others see or don’t see this topic–I use Perry’s theory of moral reasoning. These four stages: 1)Dualism 2)Multiplicity 3)Relativism and 4) Commitment are staples for my course on diversity. Through these stages, I challenge my students to critically evaluate not only their environments, but their own ways of thinking.
Activity: Student Interaction and Discussion
Using Perry’s model, I provided examples using concrete images such as referencing how this thinking can be applied to how they have preferences for Coca-Cola and its other brands of soft drinks (I found that using this as an example allowed for more students to connect with the activity). Using this concrete way, I stumbled onto a means to concretize this concept beyond some abstract notion to a concept that they can see in themselves and others with time and practice. Moreover, it served as a place holder for them use until they were able to conceptualize their own examples–ownership (potential point of humor)!! This moment of student ownership is one of the most rewarding times to me as an educator. I view educational epiphanies as students’ first steps to educational ownership or, more importantly, them owning their paths in their educational journey.
The other beautiful thing about this process is that you see students begin to take educational risks. I often don’t provide students with affirmation of their answers to allow for them to grapple with their own thoughts independent of an immediate assessment that they may be accustomed to from the prior educational experiences. For me, this is a risk that I’m willing to take because I seek to offer students opportunities to share their thinking as opposed to silencing them before they even speak. Yet, I honestly admit that this is one of the hardest things for me to get students to buy into, based on how they’ve often been socialized to learn and demonstrate their learning. It’s almost like fighting Iron Mike Tyson in his prime (Yet I haven’t given up though).
With these experiences in mind, I go back to work preparing myself and the lesson for the next opportunity. As I told my students, “When you show me you can do it [critically think]. I get greedy and want you to do it every time.”
Until the next entry.