Application: Student Observation, Part 1: Planning

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In this week’s media segment, Dr. Eugene Garcia creates powerful visual imagery when he describes students’ cultural and linguistic background as the roots that sustain them. Teachers need to understand these roots in order to create an effective classroom environment that fosters students’ development, motivation, and achievement. For this assignment, you will observe one student from a different cultural, linguistic, and/or socioeconomic background than your own. The purpose is to gain insight into the ways in which this student’s diversity influences learning and his or her general school experience.
This assignment is divided into three parts. Part 1, to be completed this week, consists of the planning and preparatory work for your observations. You will gather information and learn as much as you can about the student and his or her background, and you will make plans to observe the student in both an academic setting and a social setting.
In Parts 2 and 3 of this assignment, which you will complete in Weeks 3 and 4, you will put your plan into action by conducting your observations, summarizing your findings, and submitting a paper that summarizes your insights in relation to your learning in this course.
For this week’s assignment:
1. Choose a student from a different cultural, linguistic, and/or socioeconomic background than your own to observe. Note that this student must fit at least two of these criteria, one of which must be linguistic. For example, the student might be from a different socioeconomic situation and have a different linguistic background than you, but he or she has the same cultural heritage as you do; or, the student may have a different cultural and linguistic background, but have the same socioeconomic status as you, etc. Ideally the student would differ from you in all three capacities. If possible, the student should be from another teacher’s class and not your own. If you are not currently teaching within a school, you will need to gain access to a school or other educational setting where you can observe a student.
2. Gather background information and reflect on the questions below with regard to the student and his or her family. To answer these questions, you will need to do some research. You might talk to the student’s current teacher(s) and previous teachers if possible; read through the student’s cumulative file if available; and speak to the student and/or parent(s) directly if appropriate. You may need to find a person at your school who will help you with translation if the family does not speak English. Also, review the "What You Can Do Research Family ‘Funds of Knowledge’ section of the Affirming Diversity course text for more ideas about what you can do to learn about the values, skills, and life experiences of the student:
> What language(s) does the student and his or her family speak?
> What country or geographical region does the student’s family come from?
> What was life like in their native country (if applicable)?
> What was the student’s previous schooling experience?
> What, if any, preschool experiences did the student have?
> What is the student’s current level of achievement (e.g., is he or she meeting grade-level expectations)?
> What are some aspects of the student’s culture or background that may influence his or her experience in a school setting?
> What is the student’s socioeconomic status?
> What are the funds of knowledge, skills, values, and life experiences that the student and his or her family possess?
> How might you learn more about the culture and background of the student?
3. Make plans with one or more of the student’s teachers to visit his or her classroom to observe the student in an academic setting. You should also plan at least one observation of the student in a social setting (e.g., at lunch, on the playground, at home). Plan to observe the student for a minimum of 1 hour total. This time can be split into two or more observation sessions.
4. Preview the Application Assignments for Weeks 3 and 4 so that you will have a clear idea of the objectives for your student observations.
There is no written response required this week. Next week (Week 3), you will continue with Part 2 of this assignment by conducting your observation in an academic setting. In Week 4, you will conduct your observation in a social setting and then write a short paper reflecting on your observations and insights.
Note: You may choose to conduct your academic and social observations in any order you chose, and/or may complete both observations in the same week. If you do so, be sure to first read the Week 3 and 4 Application Assignment instructions, which provide guiding questions for the different observations. Regardless of when you complete your observations, do not write your summary paper until Week 4, as you will be required to reflect on your learning in Weeks 1 through 4.

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