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Assessing Curriculum Theory

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Assessing Curriculum Theory
Educational theories attempt to distinguish, understand and propose educational practices. The theories encompass many different types of instruction, curriculum methods and techniques to teach as well as policy, organization and leadership (Ornstein& Hunkins, 2014). People have different understandings of learning theories and different beliefs and opinions about how people process information and learn new material. Their beliefs may derive from personal knowledge, self-reflection, performance of others, research, and from trying to educate or convince others to adopt their way of thinking (Wang, 2012). According to Shuell (2013) the various theories are pertinent to different kinds of learning and may be similar. Nonetheless, they provide different viewpoints on the difficult aspects of learning and go hand in hand in their capacity to clarify different kinds of learning conditions. Consequently, completely different theories are pertinent to the classroom by speaking to several elements of classroom learning. Theories of learning are attempts to describe how people learn. Various theories center on different traditions and are suitable for clarifying certain educational conditions but not others. Theories of learning may be able to advise instruction and suggest different educational resources to include new forms of technology. At the end of the day, the instructional activities in which the student undertakes will determine what the student learns in the classroom. Classroom learning entails many dynamics, such as the amount of participation, the social aspect of the school and community as well as the emotional state of the student, in addition to the intellectual factors of the student. These factors should be taken into consideration when creating and evaluating the theories of learning. Many theories of learning assume and only take into consideration that the purpose of schools is to teach students by increasing their capacity to learn and to become critical thinkers. However, schools have to do so much more than that in the society of today (Shuell, 2013). The purpose of this paper is to identify the educational theory most useful within my work setting. Additionally, it is to write a narrative that evaluates the aims, goals and objectives and how they would support my work.
Educational Theory Narrative
Currently, in many urban school districts with a low socioeconomic status, many of the students are behind the national average in reading and math and require a lot of remediation. The students have many behavior issues that impede their learning progress. Additionally, they often exhibit a lack of social skills. In lieu of this, the best learning theory that would be beneficial to the urban school environment is the Sociocultural Theory. If more information can be gathered about the backgrounds and environments of the students, then it will help to reach them academically.
According to Shuell (2013) Lev S. Vygotksy, (1979) a psychologist in Russia was the founder of an original all-inclusive theory of human cultural and biosocial development. Based on the works of Vygotsky, Wertsch (1991) proposed three key themes that explain the basis of the relationship among the person and his or her social practices for growth and learning. The first is that the growth of a person starts from social derivations. The second theme is that human action embodies symbolism. The third theme proposed that the best way to study the first two themes is through examination hereditary or development (Shuell 2013 as cited by Vygotsky, 1931/1997, pp. 105–106).
The main idea of the Sociocultural Theory is to examine the activities that children participate in to study their learning habits and to study the ways in which learning is an act of enculturation, which is the process by which people learn how their environment and culture works. In essence, this theory relates to how people learn the values and behaviors that are important in their culture. The goals and objectives of the Sociocultural Theory are to explain the thinking and development of people based on their participation in culturally structured activities (Shuell, 2013).
As it relates to diverse learners with regard to assessment, curriculum and instruction, the Sociocultural Theory supports identifying the capabilities that are in the progression of developing and trying to foresee what the student will potentially be able to do without assistance, which can be done through dynamic assessment. Dynamic assessment is a word used to describe a number of methods that highlight guided learning to ascertain the value added of a student. Additionally, it looks at how students with the same score actually earned the score (Shuell, 2013).
As it relates to instruction, from a Sociocultural Theorist viewpoint, learning happens from the interaction, cooperation, and collaboration with others, which is indicative of a cooperative learning environment. The goal of instruction is to encourage students to immerse themselves in activities related to their classes. Teachers and students are working together, but with the teacher as the facilitator and initiating accountable talk among the students, which allows time for students to think and support their answers (Shuell, 2013).
As stated earlier, the students in most inner school districts are lacking in reading and math. According to Shuell (2013) forty-two percent of students in the United States have difficulty meeting and exceeding mastery in reading comprehension. The Sociocultural theory will benefit education by improving instructional practices that might eradicate differences between minority students and White students. Minority students and students who live in poverty achieve scores in the lowest quartile on reading standardized tests (Shuell, 2013 as cited by Perie, Grigg, & Donahue, 2005). Teachers need to reconsider using the traditional approach to literacy instruction and utilize the strategies from the sociocultural theory to instruct students by taking a look at and allowing for the differences between the culture, settings and environments of literacy practice for the students. From this viewpoint, teachers would deem the capacity to read and write as an instrument for use in particular situations and the students would be taught how reading and writing for different settings (Shuell, 2013).
Another factor adding to the achievement gap among African American and Caucasian students in reading is deficits in oral language skills. Many urban African American students speak African American English that relates to their culture, which often includes the exclusion of using the correct subject/verb agreement and including the word “done” to show some type of action (Craig, Zang, Hensel & Quinn, 2009). Many students learn to code switch when they leave their home and enter school. Code switching or dialect shifting consists of using Standard American English instead of the cultural African American English away from the home setting. A study to evaluate the differences among African American students in reading who uses dialect shifting, Standard American English, during testing versus those who uses the African American English during testing shows there is a great difference between the two. In the study group, 165 African American boys and girls in the first through fifth grades were tested. Thirty- three percent of students tested were of a lower socioeconomic status, and sixty-seven percent were of a middle socioeconomic status. Based on the results of the reading tests, the students who used Standard American decreased the gap between the oral and written narratives. The conclusions of the study suggests that the African American students who elected to use Standard American English in reading will achieve at a much greater level than African American students who elected not to use Standard American English in reading (Craig, et al. 2010).

Children are capable of learning a wealth of material by the age of five. However, it is up to the parents to make a conscious effort to make sure that their child learns all reading readiness skills before they enter elementary school. As stated by Gabriel, (2010) “If African Americans are to move forward and remain competitive in the future job market, a change in mentality about educating our children is mandatory, and the changes must be made immediately (Gabriel, 2010).”
The reality for some African American students, especially in the inner city communities, is that their parents may not be able to help them. Some of the parents did not perform well in school either, which is often times a part of the culture. Additionally, the importance of the emphasis and the significance of education need to be taught to some parents as they put more of an emphasis on music and designer clothing. Further, children should also be taught within their culture and home environment how to communicate verbally and how to express themselves in writing. When parents interact with the children by playing games and having meaningful conversations with them, it requires them to think (Gabriel, 2010). Using the principles of the Sociocultural Theory to teach parents how to interact with their children is necessary and beneficial.
Conclusion
Parents are the first teachers of students. They teach them how to interact with the world and how to get along with others. African American students have the capacity to thrive in school and on standardized tests. Ultimately, the family, culture, and community must join together to create an environment that encourages African American students to excel academically. The problem of African American students lagging behind many other ethnic groups has to become the problem of all of the stakeholders in education. Until this transpires, the problem will continue to exist. Using the principles of the Sociocultural Theory will enable us to help our students to get what they need academically and start to excel in reading and math.

References
Craig, H. K., Zang, L., Hensel, S. L., & Quinn, E. (2009). African american english– speaking students: An examination of the relationship between dialect shifting and reading outcomes.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ,52, 839-855. doi: 1092-4388/09/5204-0839
Gabriel, T. (2010, 11 09). Proficiency of black students is found to be far lower than expected. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/09/education/09gap.html?_r=3&

Ornstein, Allan C., and Francis P. Hunkins. "The Field of Curriculum." Curriculum: foundations, principles, and issues. 6th ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2014. 1-9. Print.

Shuell, T. (2013, July 13). Theories of learning. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/theories-of-learning/ Wang, V. (2012). Understanding and Promoting Learning Theories. International Forum of Teaching & Studies, 8(2), 5-11.

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