Posts Tagged 'Marquette Meets Peru'

Teaching Social Justice: A Critical Issue: Grace Chambers

This past summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member spent a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They spent time writing and reflecting on their journey, and we followed along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. (You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru)

Grace Chambers

There is no one in the world who can learn about every injustice through lived experience. Oppression and injustice are global, and they vary geographically.

Educators often find themselves stuck in a bubble of schools that serve students of color or low-income families when talking about teaching for justice. When, in fact, teaching for justice in a privileged setting is equally important. Educational professionals and philosophers are beginning to uncover the greatest problem in teaching for justice: that it is not done in privileged schools. Professor Katy Swalwell of Iowa State University discusses this in her work, saying that “Social justice educational initiatives often focus on giving a voice to students of color and low-income students” but this alone is not enough to create change. “Regardless of their engagement, poor people have virtually no political power. The very wealthy are the ones with more political power and this gap is increasing,” Swalwell says. In order to engage middle and upper-class people in social justice initiatives, teachers in privileged schools must take it upon themselves to integrate conversations about justice into classwork. Middle and upper-class schools have significantly more resources than low income schools, and therefore have no reason not to integrate justice teaching into the curriculum. There are unlimited resources that guide teachers in teaching for justice, especially with access to online resources and a 24-hour news cycle, teachers can easily keep content relevant. Others may argue that teaching for justice is too much extra work, but there are simple ways to integrate social justice topics into every classroom in privileged schools, especially with the resources that are available.

Privileged students need to be taught for justice because they are the ones benefiting from injustice. Teaching for justice is a practice that can ignite student’s passion for work that dismantles systems of oppression. The idea of teaching for justice is not to create an army of social justice warriors, but to create a disruption in the current systemic oppression present in the United States. Schools, are a government system, and therefore are a part of systemic inequity. Teaching privileged students about social justice teaches them in a way that causes a disturbance in the system. Many privileged students are reluctant to learn about how their privilege allows them to benefit from oppression because it implies that they are bad people. Teachers need to explain to students that they have a say in how much they will benefit from oppression. This will help them to start to rid themselves of guilt, as well as frame the teaching in a way that does not make the students feel like they are being attacked. Students are also reluctant because they are young, inexperienced members of the world. Diane J. Goodman, in her article “Helping Students Explore Their Privileged Identities,” says that students will often be in “Denial that they make a difference,” when in fact, every person of privilege who is working for social change has an impact. Teaching for justice empowers students in a way that other learning does not. Learning about social justice can make privileged students examine their lives to realize the immense power that their privilege gives them. With teachers giving students as much information as they can access, students can decide how they will use their power and privilege.

Teaching social justice will not always result in privileged students taking it upon themselves to dismantle systems of injustice, and it does not have to. Privileged status and whiteness are just as much an identity marker as being from a low-income family or a person of color, however these facets of identity are frequently ignored because being white and middle to upper class is seen as “normal.” Teaching students about their own privilege is providing them the opportunity for self-exploration. “Self-exploration is central to our growth as individuals, our relationships with others, and our ability to promote equity” says Goodman. Students of privilege, especially white students of privilege, view their existence of normal, thereby “othering” anyone else. People of privilege often don’t discuss their own privilege because it leads to discomfort and feelings of guilt. One of the goals of discussing privilege is to help students sit with their negative emotions, and instead transform them into something constructive. Goodman says that students may “fear they will get stuck in these feelings or be subject to blame if they explore the privileged aspects of their identities,” but if students are never able to hurdle feelings of guilt or shame, they will become complacent in benefiting from systems that oppress less privileged citizens. Even if students do not agree with justice teaching, the practice still critical to development because every person should be aware of how much privilege they possess. It is often only those who lack privilege who are aware of who has privilege and who does not. Students should learn about privilege like any other facet of personal identity, what they choose to with it is up to them.

Some students at privileged schools will fall into some categories in which they lack privilege. Not every student in a school will be white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able bodied, neurotypical, Christian, or from a middle to high income family. Privileged students can also be members of oppressed and suppressed groups. Teaching students to both acknowledge their privilege and lack thereof can help them in identifying themselves, their passions, and the person they want to grow to be. The self-identification process is an important part of schooling, especially for adolescents. Students who are members of groups with varying levels of privilege need to learn about both the areas where they lack privilege and the areas in which they have it. Teaching social justice will give all students the greatest understanding of how they are benefiting from privilege, steering them away from feelings of guilt of helplessness, prompting them to take a stance and come to terms with their full identities.

There is no one in the world who can learn about every injustice through lived experience. Oppression and injustice are global, and they vary geographically. Without an education, we are prone to ignorance. While we were in Cuzco, we visited two low income schools. At one school in particular were exposed to some of the racism that exists in Peru. Students and staff alike had an unwavering obsession with mine and my classmates’ racial identity, only to have their inappropriate expressions of curiosity encouraged by the school director who insisted that myself and my three white classmates were “the real Americans.” This incident among several others led to a seminar conversation about whether or not low-income schools should teach social justice. Both of the schools we visited have less money and resources than the privileged and working-class schools we saw in Lima, and the school days are shorter. With limited money, time, and resources, is it imperative that children are still being taught about things like racism and injustice? If a teacher only has a half day in a classroom as opposed to a full one, shouldn’t all that time be devoted to academics? We danced around these questions for days, arguing from both sides, taking positions and then adjusting them based on readings and classmates’ thoughts. We reached no conclusion as a collective whole, but I stand by the idea that every child who is capable -by means of their minds and bodies, not income status or school location- of learning about injustice should have the opportunity to do so in class. In less privileged schools, the focus for educational content is on diversity and representation. This idea has not reached every classroom and it is still not enough. Students can be constantly learning about justice in every subject. The ideas that I laid out earlier in this essay apply just as easily to schools without privileged students as they do to schools with them. The key is integration. Any subject matter can be intersected with injustice and taught to students through that lens. In low-income schools and/or schools that have many students of color, the teacher can integrate contemporary injustices in the student’s communities into classwork, making it engaging, relevant, and important. Techers that are committed to their students will take it upon themselves to exercise this practice.

With that in mind, teachers must also consider the importance of teaching social justice to non-privileged students. Even though resources and time may be limited, knowing that a teacher can integrate social justice into academic work will create a more meaningful educational experience for children. In chapter three of her novel, “Changing the Odds for Children at Risk,” Susan B. Neuman says that “If we’re serious about improving children’s odds, then we must focus on enhancing background knowledge and conceptual understandings that are integral to academic learning.” Students in low income schools already lack the educational opportunities available at higher income schools, but teaching students about their own local, state, and national context gives them an advantage in their learning. This can become an asset for the school and eventually the community the school is located in. If students are knowledgeable about issues affecting themselves and people close to them, they will have more power to change systems. They will also have access to a greater field of knowledge, as well as the ability to better define themselves in their community and in the world. In Peru, we talked a lot about asset-based community development and being the protagonist of your own story. Programs teaching social justice and teaching for justice embodied those characteristics in a similar way that teaching justice does in the United States. Teaching social justice in schools that serve less privileged children gives the students the power to become protagonists of their own story, and, if they choose, to become assets to their own community and school development.

After all the theorizing, lesson planning, writing and re-writing, we are still left with the question: Why should teachers care? Why should teachers put in extra time and energy to teach for justice? Teachers who teach students without privilege usually have an easier time answering that question. As a teacher, it is your job to study your students. Study their interests, cultures, communities, who or what motivates them, how they learn best, etc. With this comes expanding your mind to learn about something unfamiliar, especially for white, middle-class teachers like myself. Teachers who teach students without privilege have a responsibility to be mindful of that fact in their teaching. The easiest way to do that is to teach students for and about justice, simultaneously showing compassion and igniting passion. Teaching for justice empowers low income students, students of color, female students, queer students, and differently abled students in their own studying. As for privileged students, why should we care? Privileged students are already privileged, and unless the teacher is already an advocate for justice, he/she/they may not always feel the responsibility to teach for justice. Here’s the thing, teaching students about social injustice and efforts for social change encourages them to use the same skills they have been taught since before preschool. To engage in productive and constructive conversations about injustice, one must engage in practices of compassion, empathy, active listening, conversation, questioning, and kindness. This promotes student learning and reflection. These are skills that every teacher wants to see in their students, skills that students learn as children. Teaching privileged students about injustice will encourage students to expand their knowledge of the world and practice qualities that make an exceptional learner. Swalwell says, “The goal {of teaching for justice in a privileged school} isn’t to get all kids to think the same way or to have the same political beliefs, but to get them grappling with the same questions and make sense of the same data related to inequalities.” In this sense, to teach for justice is simply to teach.


Neuman, Susan B. Changing the Odds for Children at Risk: Seven Essential Principles of Educational Programs That Break the Cycle of Poverty. Praeger, 2009.

Goodman, Diane. “Helping Students Explore Their Privileged Identities.” Association of American Colleges & Universities, 30 Dec. 2014,

Hunt, Angie. “Teaching Privileged Students about Social Justice Necessary for Change, Says ISU Professor.” RSS, 2016,

Critical Issue: Alli Bernard

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Alli Bernard

Although the education gap facing Peru is different than that of the United States, the idea is still the same. Boys and girls are not on the same level in terms of ability in performance in schools. And this is troubling.

There are many critical issues that plague the United States and the educational context. Among some of those issues include the gender gap in education and how it affects boys and girls in schools. The gender gap is an issue prevalent in all aspects of life in the United States, from the wage gap to representation in STEM or political fields. The gender gap in terms of education typically refers to the performance gap between girls and boys coupled with the biases teachers have for certain students in certain subjects. This gap is what continues gaps later in life, because education and school is the basis for the future. When girls and boys do not perform on the same level and are treated differently in schooling, it sets up for the gap to continue to grow. The need to close the gender gap in education is becoming greater so that all students can have an educational foundation that allows for future success in careers and life. I would also like to preface that this issue is looking at gender as a strictly binary construct. I know that gender is a construct and there are more than two genders (and that they are not strict in their constraints), but for the purposes of this exploration I will be looking at boys and girls.

Although it might make sense due to the gendered climate of the United States that the education gap would negatively affect girls, the truth of the matter is that both genders are affected in very different ways. As a group, girls “tend to have higher grades, take more advanced classes, graduate high school at higher rates, and participate in higher education” (Applerouth). In a June 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education, statistics showed that girls outperform boys in almost every aspect of schooling. Girls were in more gifted and talented programs, less likely to be held back a grade level, outnumber boys in enrollment of AP science, and are suspended at lower rates than boys (U.S. Department of Education). The statistics here do not even touch on the subject of race, which has even more implications to the gender gap. White girls are still more advantaged than black, Latina, or Asian girls. What this data does show is that where girls as a group tend to succeed in school, the boys are experiencing a deficit in their education.

In current society, it is easy to look at how the gender gap only affects one group of people, without seeing how it affects everyone else. Without looking at the whole picture, it is hard to imagine what the gap looks like from all sides. Because the education gap is something that affects boys and girls in very different ways, it is imperative that all research and data looks at the gap from all angles. In order to fully address the gap, we need to examine all the areas where boys and girls suffer, in addition to where they both excel.

Unfortunately, much of the research shows that boys fall behind and do not excel at the same level because of outside factors. Their behavior is often less than ideal for a structured classroom environment, and they are often viewed as more difficult students because of their behavior. Disciplinary issues are one of the main problems that boys fall behind in school, especially compared to girls. Boys accounted for 71% of school suspensions (Applerouth). It only makes sense that this time out of school has a negative effect on boy’s education, because the more time they are not in school, the less they learn. This stems from the belief that many teachers hold, which is that boys are harder to control and discipline than girls, simply because they tend to move around much more and want to be active. This idea can start as early as preschool. This time out of school seems to be one of the main causes of the education gap, because while boys are being removed from school, girls are still in the classrooms learning. Because of this high rate of suspension, boys develop negative views of school and continue to act out against their teachers and administration. It is not that boys are not as smart or intellectual as girls, it is simply that their views of school and how they are treated by their teachers. This harsher discipline leads to a dislike and even distrust of school. Part of the reason that girls do not experience the same disciplinary trouble that boys do is because girls are often more successful in regulating their behavior, while boys are more impulsive.

At the same time, boys do succeed on many levels. Boys are starting to catch up and close the gaps. While girls had often done better at reading, a report from the Brookings Institution reported that boys are doing better than ever in terms of educational indications such as reading tests. While girls have remained on the same reading level since 1971, boys are reading much better than they did at the same time (Loveless). This means that while girls have remained consistently at the same level, boys are starting to improve their skills and close the gap. This could be due to greater attention being paid to this issue on the part of the teachers. No teacher should want their students to fail, regardless of their gender, so perhaps this improvement stems from the desire for all students to have the same education and perform on the same level.

Despite the advantages for girls, their self confidence is often pushed down and they tend to underestimate their abilities, typically in subjects such as math. This confidence gap becomes more prevalent as girls grow up and emerges around middle school when girls become more aware of the way they are viewed in society. One of the biggest misconceptions in school is that subjects like math and technology are for boys only, and that girls cannot succeed in these areas. While this definitely affects their views on these subjects, it also places an extremely gendered view on all other subjects. This tells girls from a very young age that they cannot and should not succeed in math, because it is a male dominated subject. This leads to the lack of representation in STEM fields, because girls had constantly been told that they are not good enough for math and science. Opposite this is the idea that humanities are more female dominated subjects, and that girls should be good in those while boys are not as much. This is especially true with English.

Much of the confidence gap also has to do with how society treats and views these school subjects in regards to gender. Males dominate STEM fields in all aspects, while females have to fight to be represented, and the opposite can be said for the humanities. This can cause the girls who are good at math and the boys who are good at English to feel ashamed or embarrassed of their skills. Because this often develops in middle school, it is especially rough because that is a time where students want to fit in and not stand out. This confidence gap and views toward math and science is one of the biggest shortcomings of education for girls.

This education gap is something that can be seen everywhere, and Peru is no exception. The Fé y Alegría school we visited in Andahuaylillas made gender equity a priority. However, because Peru is still a very much machismo society, much of the work of the school is with keeping girls in school and raising girls to be on the same level as boys. This is very different from much of the research of the United States, where boys are the ones who fall behind. In Peru, it was often not necessary for girls to have the same education as boys because they would be in homes and taking care of families. This idea is shifting, and many schools are starting to address it and work to level the playing field. By educating girls the same way they do boys, Peruvian schools are showing that they care about girls the same way they do boys. By shifting the idea of girls only being in the home, it is becoming more apparent that educating the youth is more important than anything. The education gap in Peru among boys and girls was greater than currently is, simply because girls were either getting no education, or were in school long enough to learn the basics of how to read and write. Schools like Fé y Alegría placing an emphasis on equity among education for boys and girls is a step in the right direction toward gender equity in general. As mentioned earlier, education is the basis for one’s career and future. Fé y Alegría recognizes this and in order to make their society more equitable, has striven to provide education for boys and girls that benefits both of them and allows for growth. They work to make sure girls stay in school and are given the help and support they deserve. Fé y Alegría recognizes where the gaps are and work to fill them in.

Although the education gap facing Peru is different than that of the United States, the idea is still the same. Boys and girls are not on the same level in terms of ability in performance in schools. And this is troubling. But it is not enough to simply point out an inequality; one must also provide suggestions for change. In this situation, the most obvious change would be to treat girls and boys equally in the classroom. However, this is not enough, nor does it get to the root of any problem. Additionally, treating them equally might not work, because it is assuming that they operate on the same level and should have the exact same teaching methods-essentially the opposite of differentiation. As teachers, we can recognize when we treat students differently and work toward equity. For example, punishing for misbehavior will not be the same across the board. Gorski and Swalwell give four abilities to developing equity literacy for teachers and students, which are, “recognize even subtle forms of bias, discrimination, and inequity; respond to bias, discrimination, and inequity in a thoughtful and equitable manner; redress bias, discrimination, and inequity, not only by responding to interpersonal bias, but also by studying the ways in which bigger social change happens; cultivate and sustain bias-free and discrimination-free communities, which requires an understanding that doing so is a basic responsibility for everyone in a civil society” (Gorski 37). Much of the gap comes from implicit biases teachers hold in regards to the differences between girls and boys. Female teachers often build stronger relationships and hold their female students with higher regard, while viewing their male students as troublesome. Gorski’s four abilities are something that all teachers should imbed into their pedagogy, because this can also be used for other identities, such as religion or race. By practicing these four abilities, teachers can work toward eliminating the biases and stereotypes of the genders, which is something that is a huge case of the education gap. Very little research shows that girls are smarter than boys (or vice versa) it is the biases and stereotypes working against them that contribute to the gap.

Sara Mead offers her solution as well, which is to look at each student as individuals and not in terms of their gender. She says that instead of learning about the differences in the brains, teachers need, “effective reading curricula, tools for diagnosing students’ reading difficulties and research-based interventions for struggling readers. She also needs tools to help differentiate instruction to student abilities and needs. And she needs effective behavior management strategies, as well as research-based approaches to help children develop their self-regulatory skills and ability to focus” (Mead). By doing this, the teacher can address where boys commonly struggle, but also where girls might also be struggling. This approach does not lump students based on their gender, but rather remembers that each student is an individual who does not always conform to how society believes they should. Tools such as what Mead suggests can help all students, regardless of gender, but also help to close the gap by recognizing where common shortcomings and downfalls are.

Teachers also need to be able to provide resources for their students. For example, showing female scientists and mathematicians and being patient with boys or teaching them how to study and learn can also help to show that there is more to both of them than the stereotypes pushed on them. By doing this, we make it clear that we want all our students to succeed, regardless of their gender. It is not enough to simply know that there is a gap, we must also actively work and educate ourselves on how we can best help and advocate for our students. By recognizing how we treat and talk about boys and girls in school settings, we can work toward closing the education gap.

Works Cited

Applerouth, Jed. “Troubling Gender Gaps In Education.” N.p., 2017. Web. 29 June 2018.

“Gender Equity In Education.” N.p., 2012. Web. 29 June 2018.

Gorski, Paul, and Katy Swalwell. “Equity Literacy For All.” Educational Leadership (2015): n. pag. Print.

Loveless, Tom. “Girls, Boys, And Reading.” Brookings. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 June 2018.

Mead, Sara. “It’s a Boy Thing (Or Is It?)” U.S. News. 29 June 2018.

Philosophy of Education: Gabrielle Wroblewski

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Gabrielle Wroblewski

Setting students up for success is the main goal of teachers and education in general. However, in order for this to happen, the idea of education needs to be expanded by first looking at who the teacher really is.

Ever since I was little, it has always been my dream to be a teacher. Now of course, I am in the process of living my dream because I am almost done with school. However, my reasons for why I want to be a teacher and for why I feel such a connection to and am in such support of education has changed throughout the years, after I have been exposed to literature, experiences, and relationships. I no longer want to be a teacher just so I can draw on the chalkboard, like I wanted when I was a child. I now of course my desire and beliefs about education come from a much deeper source. I have been exposed to many different education literature and many different school settings, throughout Peru, throughout Milwaukee, and throughout my own years in school. In accordance with these school experiences, I also have been exposed to many different theories and philosophies about education. With all of these experiences and knowledge combined, I am now able to have my own philosophy of education.

The teacher. The person who stands in the front of a classroom and is in charge. The teacher. The adult who is responsible for teaching students content that they need in order to move on to the next grade or pass the next test. The teacher. The person who has all the knowledge and figures out ways to feed this knowledge to his/ her students. These claims about who the teacher is are very basic, traditional, and incorrect. Many would disagree with my claim about these statements being incorrect, but I am here to write about why “the teacher” is a much more broad and flexible term that encompasses more than one person and more than one thing.

A lot of people underestimate the power and knowledge of children. Children are capable of having their own opinions of things, they are very curious in nature, so they ask a lot of questions. They are hungry for new information and new experiences. Children are always moving, whether that be mentally or physically. This movement that children have is what allows them to be teachers. Now, this may sound silly, since it is “common sense” that in order to be a teacher, one must of course be an adult and go through some sort of schooling or training. However, this is not always the case. A teacher is someone who both learns and teaches. A teacher is someone who is learns new information from books, others, the outside world, etc. and then relays that information to others. Children definitely represent this statement of who a teacher is. Like stated before, children are curious, questioning creatures who are always excited to share new information with whoever they run into. Children also come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, so when all of those children are put into a classroom, they all come with knowledge that others may not have, including the traditional teacher.

Seeing that children bring new information into the classroom, this also means that the teacher is learning from the students. Of course, the teacher is tasked with giving the students new information that is required that they know, in all content areas, but the teacher is not the only one who can teach during a unit or lesson. Students may have additional information about a topic that can be shared to the class. Students may raise new questions or ways to think about a topic, that the teacher hadn’t previously thought about before. With this mindset about the students’ role in a classroom, it is clear that the traditional teacher also goes through a learning process while simultaneously teaching. This is the same for students. This idea of the teacher- students relationship and roles within the classroom is greatly supported by Freire’s theory of education. In Freire’s work, such as Pedagogy of the Oppressedhe talks about the importance of the student- teacher relationship and emphasizes the idea that “there is no teaching without learning… one requires the other” (Freire). Because of this relationship between the students and teacher and learning and teaching, the idea of what education really is, starts to be the process of learning and teaching, for all those who are involved. Education is the process of individuals taking previously known information and expanding upon it, revising it, questioning it, sharing it, in order to grow as individuals and become positive contributors to society. The traditional teacher is not someone who has all the information that needs to be given to the children, the students. The teacher is the person who aids children in their learning process, by steering them and prompting them in ways to get them to advance their understandings of things and expand their knowledge in general. John Dewey’s view on education would support this claim. Dewey states in his work, “School and Society,” that “the child is already intensely active, and the question of education is the question of taking hold of his activities of giving them direction.” This statement also goes back to my claim that children are always moving- mentally and physically. Because children have this instinct to want to learn new information and question and share new information, then they play a large role in the teaching aspect. Dewey explains here that education is what reins in the activeness and point it in the right direction, and this is very similar to my claim that the traditional teacher’s role is to take the students’ knowledge and steer it in the right direction. The traditional teacher also is not someone who has all the information that then gives it to the students. The students learn from other things as well- research, books, the internet, other people, experiences, etc. When thinking about who is the teacher here, one couldn’t really say that these resources are teachers, but they are tools that allow the students to become teachers themselves; students use these resources, sometimes guided by the traditional teacher, to learn more and new information.

I have seen students taking initiative in their learning in a number of schooling experiences. At the Fe y Alegria school in Lima, I was put in an English class where the students had to report on the different regions of Peru. The students did all the researching themselves and put the presentation together as well. Because the students live in Peru, they had background knowledge of the different regions to a certain extent, depending on the student and the students’ experiences. The “teacher” then assigned the students to different regions and guided the students in their research by giving them things to look for while researching. This learning shows how the students taught themselves in the process of researching their own region. When it came time for presentations, each group taught the class about their assigned region, so the other students learned from them (their peers). The students in the highlands and jungle group got creative and added a song in Quechua and a traditional dance. The teacher did not already know all of the information the students presented on for their presentation, so this means that the teacher also learned new information during this project. All the students seemed to really enjoy the project because they became experts on a region of their country and were then able to inform others on the information that they learned, including myself and Emily. The fact that the students found this project to be fun and interesting was beneficial to them in the way that a lot of the students were nervous to present in English because they of course were still learning English, this was an English class to begin with. The fact that they found this project enjoyable is what helped them get through the nerves of presenting in English. This is what makes education work. It is the process of getting the students to take initiative in the classroom in the form of research, asking questions, presenting/ sharing information, thinking critically about information, while having the students guide the students during this process, and as a result, the teachers learn from their students as well. The different aspects of education should all be interconnected- teaching is connected to learning, the students are connected to the teacher, all that is learned and taught in the classroom is connected to each other, such as students learning/ practicing English while they are learning about and teaching others the different regions of their own country.

Education, or being educated about something does not always happen in the classroom. Experiences play a huge role in teaching and educating people about things. Experiences are where students get their background knowledge which is then built upon by creating more experiences in school, whether that be in the classroom or outside of it. These learning experiences must be relatable and meaningful to the students, in order for the students to make sense of them and use them to build and expand their knowledge. These experiences also need to be ones in which the students are actively engaged and participating. They can not just be the teacher lecturing to the students, the students need to be really involved by sharing their own ideas, formulating and asking their own questions, and acting to reach a goal. Because it has been determined that students teach while learning, and teachers learn while also teaching, the students’ voices are just as important as the teacher’s voice in the classroom. The students should have a say in how they are being taught, and what is important for them to learn. Now, of course the students can’t always dictate what the teacher is going to teach them everyday because is content that the teacher just is required to teach the students, but HOW that content is taught can be greatly influences by the students. It is important for teachers to start where their students are and who their students are, and structure teaching strategies around that. Education involves students being active members of the classroom, so they can be active members of society, and being active members of the classroom happens through giving feedback on what’s working and not working, voicing opinions during discussions on different topics, and just having the feeling that they are not being ruled by a teacher, and instead their teacher is their partner in their learning. Dewy states in “School and Society,” that “school is traditionally all made for listening.” In other words, school is traditionally lecture-based. “The language instinct is the simplest form of the social expression of the child. Hence it is a great perhaps the greatest of all educational resources.” Dewey’s statements directly support my claim that students need to be actively participating in the classroom by voicing their opinions, thoughts, feelings, etc.

In the school La Inmaculada, in Lima, I was placed in an English classroom of 5th graders. The teacher Kathia, was excellent and used a very beneficial teaching strategy. She had her students write a reflection each week about specific activities or topics that were used/ taught during the week. The students had to state if they liked or didn’t like it and why. Kathia would then post the reflections in the classroom, in order to show the students that she didn’t just read them and throw them away, she really did care about what the students had to say, because the students should be n charge of their learning. This relationship and respect that Kathia has for her students and her students have for her is what makes her classroom run smoothly and sets her students up for success.

Setting students up for success is the main goal of teachers and education in general. However, in order for this to happen, the idea of education needs to be expanded by first looking at who the teacher really is. The teacher is both the students and the traditional teacher. The learners are both the students and the traditional teacher. Where one learns from, comes from experiences and from being actively engaged in the experiences both inside and outside the classroom. If the roles of the teacher and the students shouldn’t be thought of in the traditional sense, as the student only learns and the teacher only teaches, then perhaps a better way of viewing these roles is, the teacher is the person who sets up the students for success by being their partner in the learning process, and by giving them the responsibility and freedom to learn and teach at the same time.

What is Learning?: Aditi Narayan

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member spent a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Aditi Narayan

My father used to tell me that the best way to truly know whether one has learned something, is to teach said thing to someone else.

Hello Interwebbers!

Every teacher all over the world, whether they know it or not, strives to be a lifelong learner. However, when I think about it, from the moment we are born to the moment of our death we are all learning many things at once, whether we know it or not. As an active life-long learner myself, I strive to make every moment a learning opportunity, constantly asking questions such as: “Why do we have the problems in our country that we have?”, “What can I do to solve them?”, “Why is Lima a desert city despite the fact that the city borders the Pacific Ocean?”, and more. As I talk about learning and being a lifelong learner, I sometimes wonder: what is learning all about?

If I were to type “Learning” into any search engine, a definition of “Learning” would not be the first link that appears on the screen. There are so many different types of learning, from a psychological standpoint, that I wouldn’t know where to start. says that ‘Learning’ is the “act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill…of systematic study in any field of scholarly application”. The only part of this definition that I slightly disagree with is the part about ‘scholarly application’. I disagree with this because we did not need scholarly application to learn how to do everyday things such as brush our teeth and tie our shoes. Yes, I agree that scholarly application is part of learning as students in school and university, and even as teachers since we are constantly looking for the most updated versions of information to teach our students. Academics is only one small part of the entirety that is learning.

My father used to tell me that the best way to truly know whether one has learned something, is to teach said thing to someone else. After returning from our trip to Peru, after all the field placements that i have done in schools so far, after reflecting so much on my education in the past, I think I have finally understood what he meant. Teaching and learning come hand-in-hand. One cannot occur without the other. One cannot learn without the ability to teach and one cannot teach without the ability to learn. I saw many examples of this in one of the science classes that I observed at the Fe y Alegria #2 school in Lima. The seventh grade students were talking about different ideas about cleaning, protecting, and saving their environment along with their slogans that they created. Each group had to draw out a poster with their highly-decorated slogans on them. Two people from each group, of about four people in each group, would stick their poster to the board and give a brief presentation about their slogan and what their message is. While they spoke, I listened to what they each had to say. Each of the speeches were quite similar, seeing as the content was about el medio ambiente (the environment). However, the students gave many different reasons as to why they, as peruvian citizens, should be taking care of the environment around them and in their country. Some said that reducing the pollution in the air will help them breathe as well as clean the water so that they can drink it freely. Some said that cleaning the litter from the streets and in their neighborhoods will uncover the beauty of their homes as well as preventing stray animals from eating small pieces of rubbish that are harmful for them. They all said that we are citizens of this world, that the world is our home. Just as we take care of our homes, we should be taking care of the Earth by keeping it clean and healthy to live in. They all learned about climate change and the effects that it has on the Earth.

They finished with a reflecting discussion on what they had learned over the course of the day, and how they can relate that to what they learned in the previous week and in their daily lives. According to Marc Clara’s article “What is a reflection? Looking for Charity in an Ambiguous Notion”, “…reflection refers to a real and extremely common psychological phenomenon that happens continuously in all spheres of life” (pg 262 or 2 of 11) Reflection is another important part of learning. This process helps us understand the meaning behind what we had learned. This ability to reflect on content understanding greatly helps students and teachers understand the content and, more importantly, how each topic connects with one another. From my experiences in the US and Peru, the class lessons are set up with three fundamental steps: (1) Review from the previous lesson; (2) Learning new information; (3) Reflection on new information and how the new information connects to old information.

The rest of the lesson plan set up has an infinite amount of possibilities. I saw that in every classroom I have ever been placed in. Another example from Peru was in La Inmaculada. During the week we were observing at the school, I observed a second grade English class where the unit was all about different types of sports or fun activities and the ability to say whether one likes or does not like said activities. Before the teacher sets the students off on their tasks of the day, the teacher asks them to tell her different activities or sports that they learned about in class. After that, she asks them whether they like or ‘don’t’ like those sports and they had to respond with “I do” or “I don’t”. (I used ‘don’t’ because the teacher only used ‘I don’t like…’, instead of ‘I do notlike…’). In the last five minutes of class, she has the students stop their activities and asks them the same questions, which the students are all too eager to answer. Something as simple as a small review of the day’s learning helps the students remember the content from class when they leave, and they are able to remember when they return to class.

There are many different types of education systems around the world, but more schools around the world are separating themselves from what Hooks calls the “banking system”. This is the old school, traditional version of education: The teacher lectures and the students blindly take in the information as they take notes. What does this say about the learning? Students ‘learn’ to pass the exams and move forward. Hooks describes in her article that challenging this “banking system” of education to educate for the freedom of learning more about the world around us, is the way to better the overall learning experience for the students and for the teacher.

At the end of all this, I can’t help but wonder if I will ever be able to answer the question, ‘What is Learning?’. There are so many different definitions of Learning and so many different types, that no one would know where to begin. From my time of learning, exploring, discovering, and philosophizing, I believe that learning is the lifelong process of acquiring knowledge/ a skill(s) through experience.

Until Next Time,

Aditi Narayan

Philosophy of Education Final: Mary McQuillen

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Mary McQuillen

There isn’t enough thought about equity when it comes to education because most parents want to provide the best for their children. That is not a crime obviously, it’s a beautiful gift, but one that not all can afford.

I loved being able to observe a number of different classroom environments in such a short amount of time. We were given the rare opportunity to take a step out of our world to be able to look into the world of a totally different country. There are some risks of judgement that come from observation of different cultures, classrooms, and politics. I tried my very best to realize that although we are looking at schools from the tip top of the scale down to the depths of poverty, a lot of the same issues of inequality are consistent in America. I went to a school very similar to Inmaculada and because of that, I have had more opportunities than the average American or human on this planet. I am also white, a native English speaker and I can get by in Spanish. I was able to achieve that due to my parents who constantly supported me, the school system for preparing and challenging me, as well as my genetics because I have no learning disabilities. I think one of the most important topics that we discussed was asking about how to make Education just because it forced me to critique how schools can contribute to furthering inequality. There isn’t enough thought about equity when it comes to education because most parents want to provide the best for their children. That is not a crime obviously, it’s a beautiful gift, but one that not all can afford. Those that are already better off can provide a stronger education for their children’s future and give them more opportunities for success in the work force. Sadly, that means that the children with parents that aren’t able to afford this education will fall further behind. A lot of what SEA, BECA, and other programs as such aim to do, is to provide early intervention for students of poverty in order to get them back on a track towards equality. Obviously equity would be the goal, but it doesn’t happen quickly. This is why they use the Ignatian Pedagogy as a structure to help them.

The Ignatian Pedagogy involved five key elements of learning; context, experience, reflection, action and evaluation. After a wonderful 8 years in a Jesuit teaching environment, I would definitely want to use this pedagogy in my classroom. It begins with the context, it validates the students background and the way they live their life. It then builds off of their context so that the students are better able to comprehend what they are learning because it is always relevant. “Teachers need to understand the world of the learner, including the ways in which family, friends, peers, and the larger society impact that world and effect the learner for better or worse, (Page 2, Jesuit Education and Ignatian Pedagogy). The next focus is on the experience of the students, asking the students to take what they are experiencing and develop it into knowledge. This is more of an active role of education both on the side of the student and the teacher because it takes work to create an environment that promotes learning experiences. It also requires the students to take charge of their own learning to be able to make the connections necessary to understand ideas and how they feel about them. Now there is reflection, something that I find essential for students to accurately process their experiences. A huge reason that we need teachers is to guide us in the right direction of thought, to challenge our opinions, and to inspire us to think beyond what we ever could have before. Next we have action, which is still guided by the teachers but the students need to care about what they are doing for it to be meaningful. These can be little things like changing someone’s mindset or it can be starting a movement for justice. It is simply important for the student to take what they have been reflecting on and to actually do something about it. The final element is evaluation, this is done by the teacher, with the goal of assessing “learners’ growth in mind, heart, and spirit,” (Page 3). The teacher has to put in the work to include all of their student’s background knowledge in learning, find a way to make learning an experience, lead the students in reflection, and then actually grade them on all of that work. I think a lot of the time teachers don’t put in enough work, and there are many different reasons for that. I hope that I never turn out to be one of those teachers who always seems tired and makes their students read in silence all day. I want to be able to inspire my students, push them further and hopefully give them a just education. Sometimes I wonder if I even want to be a teacher, but then I end up finding myself surrounded by children having the time of my life. I guess I’m just sick of all the observation because I want to take charge (surprise, surprise).

I did not spend a lot of time with older students, I spent the majority of my time with students in the primary grades. Luckily, I was able to spend a day with 13-year-old students in Cusco so that I could have a more well-rounded experience. When I was with them, we watched a video on a man who was born without arms but he’s still accomplished his dreams. In Cusco there are a lot of families in poverty, so I felt like this connected well with them because it inspired them to find richness in spirit instead of monetary value. Although the teacher seemed to waste a lot of time making squiggly boxes to write in… and her handwriting was god awful, what was most important to her and to the students was the message here. I could clearly see the way that she was including elements of the Ignatian pedagogy in her classroom on that day. I wish I would have had a better chance to understand what was going on throughout the reflection and understand how she could have moved further with this lesson. I truly believe that reflection is an essential part of learning because it creates a safe place for dissecting the experiences. In my own personal experiences with reflection I am able to evaluate the kind of person that I want to become and how I can move toward that. There are so many different ways to reflect, for some it is more personal and for others it is helpful when there can be group discussion. In my future classroom I hope that I can create a community that allows my students to feel safe to question the way the world works and hopefully make discoveries. I like the way that Clara explains reflection as, “reflection is spontaneous, common, real thinking” (Clara, 262). There should not be one way for people as a whole to understand their experiences because they look at the world through different lenses. I want to ensure that my students understand that they have every right to their own opinions and beliefs, but they should also be prepared to have to back them up. There are a lot of different opinions and beliefs, not any one is right or wrong, but they should have a good reason for their beliefs.

After this wonderful experience, I have been able to learn more about myself in a number of ways. I have learned how important it is to stand for something, to have a purpose, and to follow through on my ideas. I think it’s just all about accountability and being the best possible person we can be, that’s how we make the education system better. I hope that after this wonderful experience I can keep what I have learned in mind. Doing so will help me follow through with making my classroom a safe place for my students to reflect. I think living out the Ignatian Pedagogy in my classroom will be the best way to help my students to be the best they can and impact the world as positively as possible.

Philosophy of Education: Kelsie Lamb

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Kelsie Lamb

Teachers and students should be collaborators in the learning process. The “learning process,” however, is also more complicated than I originally thought.

My parents have always stressed how important it is that I try my best in school to get a good education. To them, education meant the door to an abundance of options and opportunities, which they did not have when they were younger. While growing up, my interpretation of this was that I needed to go to school so that I could go to college so I could get a job that would allow me to live relatively comfortably. School — and, therefore, education — was a means to an end. However, after spending the past month not only reading about different philosophies of education, but also seeing philosophies put into practice, I have learned that the purpose of schooling is not as simple as my younger self thought. Instead, defining words and phrases such as “learning,” “good education,” and “teacher” can be incredibly complicated and relies heavily on one’s personal beliefs regarding education and the goals of schooling. Based on what I have read from prominent educational philosophers like John Dewey and Paolo Freire and what I have seen both in American and Peruvian schools, I have begun to formulate my own philosophy of education that is centered around the reciprocal relationship between students and teachers, the importance of context and experience in the learning process, and the implementation of a good and just curriculum.

One of the topics that has struck me the most when contemplating my personal philosophy of education is the role of the teacher. In traditional schooling, the teacher was often seen as an all-knowing authoritarian figure whose job was to impart his or her abundance of knowledge onto the students. The seminal educational philosopher Paolo Freire referred to this system of education as the “banking model” in the second chapter of his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Under the banking system, “the teacher talks and the students listen…the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects” (73). When this is the system of education that is used, students become passive spectators in their own education and may eventually cease to see the value of schooling because they are not being adequately prepared for their futures. Instead of the banking model, Freire suggests that we reconcile the teacher-student contradiction “so that both are simultaneously teachers and students” (72). From my own experiences with authoritarian teachers, I know how discouraging it can be when all you receive is negative feedback and are never permitted to share your own thoughts. It is essential that students are active participants in the classroom and have opportunities to voice their opinions. Further, it is important that educators embrace what Freire writes in his Pedagogy of Freedom: “There is no teaching without learning.” Like Freire, I believe it is imperative that teachers recognize that they too are students. To move away from the banking, authoritative model, teachers and students must be partners in the classroom and form relationships based on mutual respect and care. Teachers must show interest in their students’ beyond simply their performance in the classroom. While completing a week-long field placement at Colegio de La Inmaculada in Lima, one of the qualities I admired most about my fourth-grade cooperating teacher was the strong relationship he had with his students. When he would greet them, I could tell that he was genuinely glad to be with them. He and his co-workers would even sit with their students during lunch, strengthening the idea that students and teachers are partners. When I become a licensed teacher, I hope to form a similar relationship with my students, in which we learn and grow together as respectful partners.

Teachers and students should be collaborators in the learning process. The “learning process,” however, is also more complicated than I originally thought. One of the frameworks that we both studied and utilized while in Peru was the Ignatian Pedagogical Model. The foundation of a Jesuit education, “Ignatian Pedagogy embodies five key teaching elements — Context, Experience, Reflection, Action, and Evaluation” (2). Within “context” is the Jesuit idea of cura personalis, or “personal care and concern for the individual.” In the classroom, cura personalis involves realizing that each student has a unique set of experiences and assets, and that teachers may have to support more than just academic needs. In her piece “Lessons from Teachers,” Lisa Delpit advises teachers to “recognize and build on children’s strengths,” (225). This idea relates back to the collaborative, reciprocal relationship between teachers and students; all children have assets, so it is important for teachers to recognize those strengths and use them advantageously within the classroom. For example, while observing a first-grade class at Fe y Alegria II in Lima, one young boy sometimes had trouble staying in his seat. His teacher recognized that the boy was energetic, so she put that energy to use by asking him to help hand out materials and choosing him to participate in a dance class. Small acts such as these, in which teachers see students’ potential for good, are part of what can make a child’s educational experience a positive one. In addition, teachers must also understand the context of their schools to create a more meaningful and relevant curriculum. If teachers know the backgrounds and experiences of their students, they can relate the content and standards to their students’ lives. By doing this, students are not only more likely to remember the information, but can also understand and apply that information in a meaningful way. Delpit suggests that teachers “use familiar metaphors, analogies, and experiences from the children’s world to connect what children already know to school knowledge” (226). Included within my personal philosophy of education is the idea that learning is not simply the memorization of facts, but that it is a process by which students and teachers can build on familiar ideas and knowledge to promote the understanding of new information.

As I have refined my thoughts about the process of learning, I have also begun to consider how educators support authentic learning within their classrooms. One of the ways this is done is through the “experience” stage of the Ignatian Pedagogy. In John Dewey’s influential book The School and Society, he describes a traditional classroom with small desks packed tightly together and students “studying lessons out of a book.” Dewey describes this type of environment as conducive to listening, which means that it is not appropriate for learning. Instead, “the workshop, the laboratory, the materials, the tools with which the child may construct, create, and actively inquire” are extremely important to the students’ process of learning (32–33). As I have seen during field placements both in the United States and Peru, creating an environment that allows students to get first-hand experience while learning is beneficial to improving their understanding of content knowledge. For example, La Inmaculada has ample classroom space for their students, including computer and science labs. Most excitingly, the school also has its own zoo filled with endangered South American animals. I observed a fourth-grade science class in which students learned about what animals eat and how they reproduce. After discussing vocabulary terms, the students then walked to their zoo to find evidence of the animals’ diets and reproduction types. For instance, in the bird cage, the students saw egg shells, so they could conclude that birds are oviparous, meaning egg-laying animals. It was exciting to witness fourth graders not only learning complex vocabulary, but also putting this new knowledge to use through their work as young scientists. As a future educator, this type of real-life application is what I hope to engage my students in. Although it is unlikely that we will have a zoo on our campus, I believe it is necessary to incorporate community resources and local sites into the curriculum. Some of children’s most influential learning experiences take place outside the classroom, and part of the teacher’s role is to curate and facilitate these real-life, hands-on experiences.

Zoos, field trips, and computer labs are wonderful tools that aid both students and teachers as they work together to construct knowledge, but, unfortunately, these resources are not widely available. Publicly funded Peruvian schools do not have the monetary means to purchase the state-of-the-art resources that La Inmaculada has. Some schools in Peru, such as the Fe y Alegria in the impoverished Pamplona Alta, do not even have enough teachers to fill their classrooms. Many public schools in the United States face similar challenges. Although not included in this course’s curriculum, Gloria Ladson-Billings’ “From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt” provides a good explanation of how historic and systematic injustice in the United States has led to widespread educational inequalities. Peru’s colonial history has led to a similar situation in which indigenous peoples and cultures have been viewed as inferior to Europeans and their descendants. There is no denying that disparity exists between wealthy and marginalized schools. Systemic inequality directly affects students; therefore, curriculums must address these disparities. A “good and just education” is one that exposes students to historic inequalities, gives examples of modern-day consequences of these past events, and provides students with opportunities to explore solutions to these problems. When possible, a good and just education should also include community-based learning to reinforce what students are studying in the classroom through first-hand experiences. This seems like a lot to ask of students and teachers, but Paolo Freire believes that this can be accomplished through what he calls “problem-based education” in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire’s problem-based education emphasizes the transfers of knowledge between students and teachers and the importance of critical thinking (80–81). In my teacher preparation courses, I have become familiar with inquiry-based curriculums, in which a big idea or question is posed and students work together with the teacher to answer the question and formulate their own questions along the way. While I did not witness any truly inquiry-based lessons during my observations in Peru, if these big ideas and questions relate to current events and injustices, an inquiry-based curriculum can orient students towards social justice issues and solutions, which is an important component of a good and just education.

Thinking about a good and just education leads to a broader understanding of the purposes and goals of schooling. As I believed when I was younger, school is meant to provide you with the content knowledge that will be useful in your future life and career. But the goals of education are more than that. Schools should not only equip students with the knowledge and skills they will need to improve their own lives, but should also educate children so that they are filled with the desire to improve the lives of others, as well. This idea is fundamental to the Ignatian Pedagogy: “Learners see service to others as more self-fulfilling than personal success or prosperity” (1). The tagline of Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, our host-university while in Peru, reflects this: “Be bold enough to be the change.” The mission of La Inmaculada, which is a Jesuit-run school, also embraces Ignatian ideals; within their goals, La Inmaculada hopes that their already-privileged students become “agents of change” and “men and women for others.” Through La Inmaculada’s service work and community activities, they are fulfilling an important goal of education: social justice. In the chapter “Moral and Political Aims of Education,” Harry Brighouse describes five “aims goals” of education. One of these goals is “cooperative capacity,” which allows students to cooperate with one-another as equals and engage in “give and take” (40–41). And as Freire argues education should be a liberating and humanizing praxis. These goals are not about simply passing a standardized test or mastering a curriculum standard, which shows that the goals of schooling go beyond in-class assessments. A good and just education should expose students to inequalities, pose questions for them to seriously consider, foster their ambitions to promote justice, and provide some of the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to realize those ambitions. Although not easy, if a curriculum can incorporate these aspects, the social justice goal of education may be reached.

One of the most frustrating things about philosophy is the lack of definitive answers to questions that philosophers pose; suggest one solution and more questions are raised, provide a response, and others will challenge you. As I have discovered throughout the past month, philosophies of education are no different. The questions that current and future teachers are struggling with are likely those that we will continue to grapple with for years to come. Through my readings and first-hand experiences, I have begun to formulate my own philosophy of education. Perhaps as I experience new classroom contexts and face new challenges as a licensed teacher, my philosophical ideas will change. However, as I enter my last year of teacher education, the ideas, beliefs, and values I gained while studying in Peru will guide my actions and educational practices.

Philosophy of Education: Emily Chang

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Emily Chang

The students in turn, also become the teacher by bringing in their own outside knowledge, their background, and taking what they have from their own experiences or the new knowledge they have acquired and bring it to everyone else.

Education and the learning cycle are an ongoing process that culminate who we are and how we perceive of the world around us. There are various ways in which students learn best within their environment, and addressing a more equitable education based off experiences for students helps us look past the surface level and more in depth at what they are capable of, or what they can bring into the classroom. It is a way to avoid the “banking concept” where the teacher is the dominant, all knowing person in the room, while the student has no knowledge in the subject area and accepts their inferior position, uncomfortable with the fact that they can contribute their own knowledge (Freire, 72). An important way in which we have discussed how students can confirm their beliefs about the schooling process and a teacher’s role in the classroom is through relevance of the context of what they are learning. One of the important parts about learning is to be able to relate the context with the world around them and understanding that what they are learning is actually important and useful. Education is a continuous, inquiring process for both students and teachers alike because we are constantly acquiring new knowledge from the ever-changing world around us. And everyone starts out being a student before being a teacher or having knowledge about a subject. Having experimental experiences that relate with the context of what students are learning creates a whole new contribution to their wellbeing and their inquiry process as a whole and not just their academics. Experiences increase motivation, attention to identity, and what captivates their interests. Schooling is just the base of an infrastructure in a student’s life on the kinds of knowledge they want to acquire, how they want to better themselves and the world around them, and what ignites their passion to make a change.

The challenge of empowering students comes from arranging quality experiences where students will work best and still be able to transfer the context of what they are learning into real life experiences in meaningful ways. Experiences are how we make sense of the world around us and engages students to further inquire in their learning process and even aid in their social transformation (Dewey, Experience and Education 13). Experiences provide a constant state of questioning where students connect learning with what they already know, what they want to know with their experiences and the experiences they want to have (Hooks, 20). By experiencing what they are also learning, students receive a much deeper and more profound understanding because they are hypothetically or literally putting themselves in the mindset of others or thinking in a different way than what the typical classroom structure offers, which opens up their eyes to the differences in the way the world thinks and lives. Creating experiences also leads teachers to think about differentiation and take into account students who come from different backgrounds because students make sense of experiences differently; so, thinking about environments where students will flourish best in and think freely is part of the creating process.

An example of how even simple experiences effect learning was during my time at La Inmaculada when I sat in on an English language lab class. The students were in a computer lab practicing their speaking/conversational skills through headsets with their other classmates. I also had the opportunity to participate with them and the activity had students discuss the topic of photography and how it could be used to make people aware of global issues around the world. The students were all engaged and it was an activity that gave them an experimental experience because they were speaking without any focus on any particular grammar form, but they were still thinking critically about the topic, conversing about their thoughts in the target language, and relating it with issues that were relevant in Peru such as traffic and pollution. It had students speaking to each other conversationally as if they were talking with their friends, and the topic had them connecting to problems that were relevant to them and around the world. It was interesting to observe as students discussed, changed, and added to their peers’ comments and helped each other by correcting or supporting their statements. Interactions within experiences are important because students find themselves looking at a concept from a different mindset, adding to their current knowledge and integrating within their own identity/outlook. “An experience is always what it is because of a transaction taking place between an individual and what, at the time, constitutes his environment, whether the latter consists of persons with whom he is talking about some topic or event, the subject being talked about being also part of the situation,” (Dewey, Experience and Education 10). In the English lab where students were connecting with their world today and interacting with each other, they were more interested in the topic and asked critical thinking questions that went beyond what they were just doing in the classroom. Through simple experimental experiences like this, the context becomes a part of their world and leads towards growth and awareness in their own mindset.

Another example of a pedagogy through experience is the study abroad program that we have participated in and other study abroad programs some of us participated in before. As we prepare to become educators, we have acquired knowledge, theories, knowing how to plan different types of lessons, and read our textbooks about education. But all this comes together and becomes clearer when comparing our field experiences with those in a different country where the education aspect is similar but classroom pedagogies, the backgrounds of students, expectations, and how lessons are carried out are drastically different. Through my experiences at the schools we were in, interactions with students, teachers, and program directors, and through discussions and not just straight lectures, I was able to have a deeper perception and understanding of what a culturally relevant pedagogy really is along with the social justice issues that are relevant in both Peru and the US. It was also easier bringing in concepts I have learned in the past 3 years of my Education classes into a more active light. Dewey writes, “Every genuine experience has an active side which changes in some degree the objective conditions under which experiences are had,” (Experience and Education, 8). We become more aware of the differences and the connections with our readings become more apparent leading to an active over passive thought process with what we are observing and connecting.

Through experiences that connect with our learning, it not only has students thinking critically but also makes the material relevant for them. Without relevance, students see no purpose in learning and begin to lose interest. As a result, it is important to provide quality input that students can relate to, to increase their motivation and strive for a long-term goal of innate curiosity that will continue to push them to want to learn more. Motivation is highly important in the learning process for a student because without it, there is no drive to continue discovering new knowledge and to value the content even after the lesson has been taught. If students only retain and regurgitate information that does not connect with meaningful experiences, the individual loses sight on the value of the subject matter and knowing how to take away reflection and purpose for future experiences (Dewey, Experience and Education 13). Motivation determines the level of active intervention in the learning process and influences students in a way that has them form goals and increase the duration in which they will continue to maintain their skills or knowledge of the content (Anjomshoa, 130). This is something I noticed especially while at Fe y Alegria in Lima, as there were a couple boys in the classroom who were greatly interested in biology and brought in outside knowledge they knew about cells into the classroom, since they had done outside research with help from the teacher. This type of intrinsic motivation where there is an innate desire to extend their learning outside the classroom is something I have also personally experienced this past year as well in some of my Spanish classes. One of my professors helped me understand the meaning of motivation, particularly in language learning, along with how motivation aligns directly with the experiences we have in the target language. I believe that motivation that comes within a person is more meaningful than motivation that is guided by other outside factors, since it is a desire to want to learn more for your own sake than for something else. It brings on more meaningful experiences that impact you for a longer period of time rather than in the moment. It refers to what Hooks calls “engaged pedagogy” where there is also an emphasis on the wellbeing of the teacher in order for them to give proper guidance and empower their own students (15). It starts from the inside, changing our own selves, because that starts inspiring others to change for the better too.

An example that Dewey uses connecting motivation and experiences is with the acquiring of language, and he relates with how motivation of learning comes from the social experiences people have with others. “There is all the difference in the world between having something to say and having to say something,” (Dewey, School and Society 50). This was something that resonated with me particularly as a teacher who will be teaching another language, since classroom settings emphasize more on the semantics of language and less on the pragmatics or the conversational, less structured aspect of learning a language. Like the English lab example, learning is more productive when there is purpose and a motivation to bring in their own input.

A supporting example I looked into at how experiences aid in our learning process, comes from a study done by one of my Spanish professors who explored the relation in motivation, interaction, and development of speaking proficiency in another language after a study abroad experience. With certain pretests and posttests, his study indicated that students with integrative motivation that study abroad and those who have an innate desire to learn through communication with other speakers of the target language, increase their interaction with people of the target language, culture and with the language in general more outside of the classroom (Hernandez, 607–608). Implications show that although the study abroad experience definitely increases motivation and interaction with the target language, there are still ways to incorporate similar experiences into the classroom for those who do not study abroad by creating similar, natural environments for students. Although there may be limited resources, time, and money for teachers to create certain types of experiences, they can still use it as an infrastructure to create and incorporate an opportunity for students to still give their own output through inquiry projects and cooperative activities. It can also aid in the development of more comfortable, less structured discussions on certain topics that has students participating more naturally. These types of activities lead to experiences for students that also may have them look into moral or ethical issues in society and how they relate the context of what they are learning with the environment around them. Students could look more in depth at the issues that exist within their community and address those problems in ethical ways which leads to meaningful and quality experiences.

Alongside this though, there comes the question of who the teacher really is in the classroom. In a pedagogy that incorporates significant, profound experiences, the “teacher” would be both the student and the educator in this sense, because the teacher continues to inquire and learn in order to create those quality experiences for students. The students in turn, also become the teacher by bringing in their own outside knowledge, their background, and taking what they have from their own experiences or the new knowledge they have acquired and bring it to everyone else.

In conclusion, by using experiences as a forefront to schooling, students and teachers receive a broader input and output to make sense of the world and with what they are learning. From my experiences at the schools in Lima and Cusco, it is evident that more students are eager for experiences that have them inquire about the world around them and where they can have meaningful reflections on what they experience. The learning process becomes more complex and opens the mindset of students beyond the classroom and gives purpose to schooling. Without the relevance of experiences, students would not get past the surface level of particular topics and issues that are relevant around the world. A pedagogy through experiences is the base for a liberating, empowering, and more equitable education because it addresses all the aspects that students can control in the way they learn with guidance, and differentiates for them in a way that is less structured and more towards what helps them learn best through connection and experience.

Works Cited

Anjomshoa, L., & Sadighi, F. (2015, February). The Importance of Motivation in Second

Language Acquisition. International Journal on Studies in English Language and

Literature (IJSELL), 126–137. Retrieved from


Dewey, John. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1963. Print.

Dewey, John. The School and Society: Being Three Lectures. Chicago: The University of

Chicago Press, 1899. Print.

Florence, Namulundah. Bell Hooks’ Engaged Pedagogy: A Transgressive Education for Critical

Consciousness. Westport, Conn.: Bergin & Garvey, 1998.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder, 1972. Print.

Hernández, T. (2010). The Relationship Among Motivation, Interaction, and the Development of

Second Language Oral Proficiency in a Study-Abroad Context. The Modern Language

Journal, 94(4), 600–617. Retrieved from http://0

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