The cultural change required in thinking of space in a new way should not be underestimated. We need to ask such basic questions as "Should rooms have a front and a back? Deeply engrained attitudes about space in colleges and universities mean it will take patience and persistence to make changes, particularly more radical ones.
We also need to rethink the finances of space. Many public campuses, for example, have no base funding allocations for furniture replacement. Furniture is generally funded with the construction of a new building or when major renovations take place, but routine replacement of furniture and updating of lighting and decor depend on the chance administrator with a little end-of-the-year cash. It is not unusual to see year-old chairs in classroom buildings. In addition, universities often have no designated funding source for informal learning spaces.
On most campuses, it is not clear who has authority for these spaces, especially hallways or lobbies—which most people do not think of as learning spaces anyway. Fortunately, physical space is one aspect of campus need that lends itself to collaboration with donors. While naming physical spaces has long been a standard practice of campus development units, enlisting community partners in the design and construction of learning spaces, even renovated spaces, is one way to approach the frequent lack of funding. Furniture manufacturers also increasingly show interest in fostering innovation.
The partnership of Herman Miller and Estrella Mountain Community College in Phoenix offers another example of how to create good spaces through partnerships. Finally, we need more research on the impact of existing and experimental spaces on learning. We need basic research on the influence of the physical environment on creativity, attention, and critical thinking.
We need applied research on the effect of different kinds of lighting and furniture on comfort, satisfaction, and interaction. We need to study carefully the model environments we have created to determine how they influence students and faculty so that we can construct future ones in ways most likely to foster our goals. Fortunately, this research is growing in volume and quality. Professional associations and furniture manufacturers, architects, and academic scholars all are making contributions to what will hopefully become an important body of literature.
If campuses exist to foster specific kinds of learning, they should inspire and foster this work physically as well as intellectually. Choosing chairs should receive the same kind of attention to learning as choosing textbooks; decisions on building layouts should be made with the same focus on learning as developing curricula.
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In short, a campus should proclaim that it is a location designed to support a community of scholars. It should say this physically—from the inscriptions on its buildings to the spaces for study and reflection created by its landscaping, from the placement of furniture for team work and intellectual discourse to the way in which light is used to support energy and creativity. No longer can we assume that any old furniture and any old room arrangement will do—we know better. Like all academicians, we should ensure that current knowledge informs practice.
Nancy Van Note Chism is the associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and associate dean of the faculties at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, as well as a professor of higher education at Indiana University. She is a past president of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education and was previously the director of faculty and teaching assistant development at The Ohio State University. Bickford for Jossey-Bass This version diverts attention away from the possibility of institutionalized prejudice, and calls for contacts between individuals of differing cultural backgrounds.
Society-wide prejudice, in this view, is merely the accumulation of quite a few individual prejudices Levine-Rasky, Unlike the public heterosexuality discourse, the discourses of multicultural education all have education-related places and situations where they are freely expressed, or even expected. In the everyday life of many early childhood classrooms, for example, the third human relationships version of multicultural education can be used to minimize or prevent interpersonal conflict. The first, "celebration-of-selected-differences" discourse, on the other hand, might turn up more frequently in written curriculum documents or in oral discussions of curriculum, since it suggests a rationale for numerous classroom activities related somehow to "culture.
Sometimes it even serves as a negative backdrop when any of us argue for the benefits of private nurseries or private funding for the nurseries. In that case we would have to argue that system-wide discrimination against certain cultural groups is less of a problem than offering choices to individual middle-income families through private funding, and that allowing private choice of nurseries does not perpetuate current social inequalities indirectly Kincheloe, But in spite of having their places in early childhood education, the discourses of multicultural education create contradictions for early childhood teachers.
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Conflicts are inevitable because the dominant discourse of DAP relies heavily on the idea of developmental normalization, the notion of a series of desirable, predictable steps through which children pass on their way to desirable, predictable outcomes in maturity. A widely known example of developmental normalization is the thinking of Jean Piaget, but there are numerous others as well Seifert, Early childhood educators and DAP have inherited a belief in normalization from psychology, which played a major role in our early history as a profession and field of study.
Talking about normalization may seem innocent enough on the surface even "normal"! Among other effects, for example, it can exaggerate the oppressiveness of heterosexuality discourse discussed earlier, by implying that relationships and sexuality have predictable outcomes. It can also be inconsistent with the discourse of multicultural education, particularly when combined with the experience and beliefs of some teachers and parents. How might this happen?
The inevitability implied by this viewpoint contradicts key ideas in most versions of the multicultural discourse, which suggest instead that differences among children reflect diversity of social opportunity or the effects of social oppression, not diversity of individual maturity. More generally, the problem implied by the idea of normalization is this: Crosscurrents and conflicts among discourses are inevitable given the richness and diversity of our individual histories, circumstances and goals.
We each carry a unique blend of discourses, based partly on beliefs and attitudes circulating in society and partly on experiences brought forward from our pasts. Some of our discourses may fit comfortably with the ones promoted publicly within early childhood education circles. But others may not. As a profession, our awareness of non-standard or unofficial discourses may be correspondingly obscured, muted, or transformed. The problem is not limited to any set of individuals or portion of the profession, nor limited to selected discourses, topics or issues.
While the acquisition contributes to what we ordinarily call maturity or adult wisdom, it can also be a mixed blessing for some individuals, or even a burden. For some teachers, acquired personal life wisdom will support professional beliefs or assumptions; other times, it will contradict or undermine them. When the latter happens, the public or "official" discourses risk forcing certain personal experiences, beliefs, and feelings to remain hidden or disguised, no matter how important they may be to the individual. This ever-present possibility suggests that early childhood teachers, in helping each other to develop professionally, have a bigger task than teaching each other only the discourses sanctioned officially by professional documents and workshops.
Developing professional identity, in other words, means more than understanding developmentally appropriate practice, Piagetian stages, and other accepted and acceptable ideas. It also means reconciling the ideas and discourses about these ideas with private, personally held experiences and discourses. Yet how to reconcile the professional and the personal when personal discourses may often be partially silenced, and by definition are personal and private?
The answer may yes , but being truly helpful may require cultivating a particular psychological perspective that we are more used to using with children and students than with fellow teachers. In particular we must develop a taste for our diversity as teachers, just as we ordinarily expect and value diversity among our children and students. In this context, "developing a taste" means not only tolerating, but also taking an active interest in difference, and honoring the differences intelligently and appropriately.
And "our diversity as teachers" refers not only to our obvious or publicly displayed differences, but also to differences in personal motives, feelings, and perspectives that remain unstated in spite of their importance to us individually. Without adding interest to tolerance, we risk drifting into mutual isolation. Without attention to motives and feelings, our relationships risk getting stuck in shallowness.
At some level this advice is easy to accept, or even obvious. But living it fully can prove challenging, even for those of us with a lot of teaching experience, those who have "seen it all. In all likelihood, we began in this field because we wanted to take responsibility for children, and not to take responsibility for other teachers.
While giving priority to children was and is a worthy motive, it carries certain hazards that have been noted in published literature about teaching and childcare work. Too often, for example, we end up working alone Lortie, ; Goldstein, , with few colleagues to consult, or even none at all. While our personal motives are obviously not the only reason for professional isolation among teachers, personal motives can be a contributing cause, and can at least allow isolation to persist once it becomes established.
Too often, as well, we inadvertently drive those with important personal differences out of the profession simply by neglecting to address those differences Silin, ; Kissen, ; Johnson, Medical doctors sometimes say, "First of all, do no harm. A better maxim for early childhood educators would therefore be more proactive: It may take effort, but the more that we can listen and value each other actively, the more we can each learn not just to look like an early childhood teacher, but to feel like one as well.
The philosophy of the act. University of Texas Press. Developmentally appropriate practice for children from birth to age eight. National Association for the Education of Young Children. A critical study of learning to teach. State University of New York Press.
Chapter 2. Challenging Traditional Assumptions and Rethinking Learning Spaces
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