Classroom environment is an often overlooked but critical component to the learning experience at all levels of education. The proper classroom design serves four functions within the academic environment: to help focus and guide initial planning discussions for users and design professionals; to avoid reinventing the wheel for each new construction or renovation project; to standardize the inventory of classrooms by size and capabilities; and to guide educators in the detailed design of key elements of learning spaces in order to ensure optimization for lighting, acoustics, and educational technology. Most guidelines are based on achieving efficiencies in terms of floor space and ceiling height, the goal being to accommodate the largest number of students comfortably in the least amount of space. In the last decade, much has changed in the way classroom-based learning is accomplished. As a result, there is a need to take a fresh look at classroom guidelines. This paper will focus on describing the particular classroom and community I teach in with particular focus on child development theory.
Description of My Classroom:
My classroom has six rows with 5 desks each. The largest class of students I have is 30 and smallest is 16 students; therefore, this allows for flexibility in my class sizes and movement if needed for partnership and group work. The front of the classroom has a large, sliding white board and the back has a large bulletin board. I have my rules and consequence posted up front. The bulletin board has large posters of relevant class material. On the side walls, the classroom has large poster size boards which have relevant unit information that we are working on. Behind one of the sliding white boards is where student materials are located: markers, paper, extra pens, class set of Bibles and reference books. In addition, the classroom has Internet (wireless included) mounted projector and overhead. Technology is utilized for presentations and video. As students walk into my classroom I have a welcoming, positive song playing that sets the mood and a bell work assignment written on the board. I have tried my best to combine utility with an encouraging and educational sphere for the students.
Mater Dei Catholic High School (MDCHS) is a 50-acre custom built facility in the Otay Ranch suburban area of Chula Vista, California, a mostly Mexican community. The school is located just four miles north of the U.S.-Mexico International Border. MDCHS is surrounded by middle class residential neighborhoods. The school primarily serves the South Bay and East County areas of San Diego and Chula Vista as well as other parts of the metropolitan San Diego area from Escondido to Jamul, spanning about a 50-mile radius. Many students commute daily from Tijuana and other places in Baja California, Mexico, and there are a number of exchange students from other countries. Presently MDCHS has exchange students from South Korea, Brazil, Thailand, Germany and France. We have many Mexican students because of the location, yet a diverse San Diego community with other ethnicities. The typical socioeconomic status is middle class, but we do provide tuition assistance via need-based financial aid and scholarships.
Type of School:
Mater Dei Catholic High School is a four-year co-educational high school in the Catholic Diocese of San Diego with a student body of 700 and 53 non-Catholic students. The faculty consists of 17 lay men and 32 lay women. Included in this body are three counselors, one campus minister, and two librarians. It is a college preparatory school with competitive college placements across the United States and Mexico.
Grade Level and Age Groups:
MDCH is for grades 9-12 and typical ages included are about 14-18 years old. I teach grades 9 and 10, who are 14-16 years of age. Subjects taught vary year to year.
The child development theory that best represents my grade level of the first two years of high school is that of the Bioecological Model of Bronfenbrenner. This theory expounds that everything in a child's environment affects how a child grows and develops. Within the theory there are different aspects of the environment that influence development, including the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem and the macrosystem (Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 1998). Before explaining the theory, I would argue that this model represents high school unlike other theories, which are stage-based, as it focuses on child growth as the sum of influences.
To start at the first level, the microsystem is the small, immediate environment the child lives in. Children's microsystems will include any relationships they interact with, such as their family or caregivers. How these groups interact with the child will have an effect on their growth; the more nurturing these relationships are, the better the child will be able to grow. Furthermore, how a child reacts to these people in the microsystem will affect how they treat her in return. Bronfenbrenner's next level, the mesosystem, describes how the different parts of a child's microsystem work together. For example, if a child's caregivers take an active role in a child's school, such as going to parent-teacher conferences, this will help ensure overall growth. In contrast, if the child's two sets of caretakers, divorced parents for example, disagree on how to best raise the child and give conflicting lessons, this will hinder the child's growth.
Growing in scale, the exosystem level includes the other people and places that the child may not interact with directly but that still have a significant affect on her, such as parents' workplaces, extended family members or the neighborhood. For example, if a child's parent gets laid off from work, that may have negative effects on the child if her parents are unable to pay rent or to buy groceries. Bronfenbrenner's final level is the macrosystem, which is the largest and most remote set of things to a child but which still has a great influence over the child. The macrosystem includes things such as the relative freedoms permitted by the national government, cultural values or the economy. I see this influence a great deal with our foreign students.
I selected this theory over others as a rejection of the stage-based theory of development. A variety of recent works have suggested that this early twentieth century modeling approach is over-simplified (Downer, et al., 2007; Bjorklund, D., 2011) If anything, as a high school teacher, I see that students develop down different unique paths dependent on their different micro, meso, exo and marco-systems. To pigeonhole students in such as fashion as Piaget (Ginsburg and Opper, 1988) or Erikson (Osche and Plugg, 1986) suggests fails to take into account cultural and system differences and is counterproductive as educators seeking to maximize student potential. By understanding where theory gives way to practice is critical to the educator in the field.
In developing teach strategies I make sure that child development theory is taken into account and that variation between students of the same age but different systems are addressed. Bronfenbrenner states that we must build bridges between home and school. Parents must realize that teachers cannot do all the work themselves and vice versa. Teachers should help children learn to learn and parents must help reinforce that learning at home. Schools must get involved with community projects. That involvement can extend to the home by having children and their family members also contribute to the community. The extended family is also very important in the child's schooling. Teachers could invite grandparents into the classroom and have them tell stories about their culture so the children can feel proud of their heritage. Teachers and schools need to extend, to the working parents, as many options as possible to allow them to get involved in their child's education (Smetana, et al., 2006). This needs to happen because there are so many hurdles that working parents face, such as inflexible work schedules and limited sick leave; "time off work" may mean ends won't meet. Open communication with the parents as well as the student is imperative for the success of the child. One of the most important factors to keep in mind in the classroom while interacting with the children is this: Bronfenbrenner would tell us to remember that everything we do and say, not only to the child, but to the people, who have everyday contact and influence over that child, will affect the child's development. It may even change a child's development. Think hard about what you want to teach, say and do.
Upon reflection, child development is a diverse academic field with significant real-world applications. All of these theorists' ideas will influence and inspire teachers for generations. The subjects and theories covered centered on child development, both from theoretical perspectives, and also from applied perspectives, ranging from infancy, to early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence. This breakdown of ages provides rough correspondence with the stage theories of Piaget, Erikson and Bronfenbrenner. It's important to remember that while these theories make general statements about…