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SBESInc. Educational Philosophy

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Introduction

The objective of the SBESInc. philosophy is:


To bring meaning into the academic experience of our students through experiential, hands-on learning.


Meaning comes from experiences. Without experience, definitions and techniques are theory, ideas, and words on a page. For many students, pictures help form a framework for what something should be, but for blind people, experiences are the only way to understand a concept.


For example:

The very hungry caterpillar is a children's book that has pictures of a caterpillar, butterfly, life, eggs, fruit, and chrysalis. When a blind child listens to the story, they like hearing the words and they can imagine a character performing what the caterpillar is doing but ask the child what they are thinking of and their definition is based off their experience. A butterfly may be a housefly made out of butter, or they will have a textual response, like a caterpillar is a furry baby butterfly. But give a child different fluffy objects that match the description in the book and they will not be able to choose a caterpillar without guessing.

It takes feeling a caterpillar for a blind child to understand the story. If it is not practical for a child to feel a real object, then a stuffed animal or plastic object that the student can touch will be an OK substitute, but a student should feel a caterpillar when they get the chance.

This technique is also successful with English as a Second Language blind students.

Core Elements

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The core elements are:

1. Hands-on learning

2. Peer teaching & collaboration

3. Student Problem Solving

4. Roleplaying

5. Student-led Learning (through their interests)

6. Experiential Learning

Foundation

The SBESInc. teaching philosophy is founded upon the Constructivism methodology. In Constructivism, using experiential learning, problem solving, peer interaction and working in groups, collaboration, and student interests guide learning. The teacher is a facilitator of learning for the students.

For more in-depth learning of the Constructivism methodology, please go to this website: https://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html


From: Parent Involvement An Integral Part of the Early Learning Experience for Blind Children: A Qualitative Study of the Mother’s Experience by Dr. Sonja Biggs (2014)


The constructivist learning theory is an important theory when working with children with visual impairments (Lueck et al., 2008). Aspects such as social interactions, scaffolding, modeling, and experiential learning are key components to ensuring a blind child has a successful learning experience. Lueck et al. (1997; 2008) showed how social interactions with families and environments affect the way infants learn and develop. O’Connell, Lieberman, and Peterson (2006) revealed how physical guidance and tactile modeling are important strategies in teaching fine and gross motor skills to children with visual impairments.


Additionally, Lueck et al. (2008) reported that in the development of a visually impaired child, the zone of proximal development is the space between what infants can independently do and what they can accomplish with assistance from parents, caregivers, or siblings. For the infant, gaining independence is the next step in developmental growth (Sapp & Hatlan, 2010). Lueck et al. (1997; 2008) further indicated that scaffolding is an important technique to ensure an infant understands and actively participates in the world. Scaffolding provides step-by-step tasks which build upon each other with parental or adult guidance (Lueck et al., 1997; 2008). Chen et al. (1990) concurred that scaffolding, which happens when an adult brings a baby to a higher level of achievement than the baby would otherwise reach on his own, is the way the infant with a visual impairment learns most effectively. Chen et al. (1990) emphasized in their guide to parents, that in order to learn effectively, infants need scaffolds in their specific daily routines.


Schunk (2008) pointed out Vygotsky’s theory stresses three important factors in the learning process: (a) the cultural-historical factor, (b) the interpersonal or social factor, and (c) the individual or inherited factors. The culture-historical factor refers to transformation in thinking that occurs as a result of the way learners interact with everything in the world in which they live. Meaning is constructed from the relationship of the concept with the child’s world (Schunk, 2008).


The social factor stresses the importance of a person’s interaction with other people and the environment in growth and development. Schunk (2008) further explained that change and learning built on knowledge gained as a result of social interactions brings about a transformation within the child. Socially meaningful activity has an important effect on human consciousness, according to Schunk. The social interaction component of constructivism fits with the transactional model espoused by Lueck et al. (2008) as they described the best way to work with visually impaired infants. Lueck et al. commented, “The infant, family, and environment influence each other; and an infant’s optimal development is the result of active and successful adjustments in these relationships.” (p. 14).


In the constructivist theory, according to Schunk (2008), there are certain teaching strategies that have been developed reflecting Vygotsky’s teachings. Schunk explained that reciprocal teaching is when the teacher models and then the teacher and students take turns being the teacher. Peer collaboration in cooperative groups occurs when peers learn from each other in structured groups as each student is assigned a specific role to play (Schunk, 2008). Schunk further indicates that apprenticeships happen when the inexperienced learner works in a close relationship with an expert during on-the-job training. Schunk reported that unit studies involve the use of a theme, such as owls, and incorporate several different content areas such as math, reading, writing, music, and movement in the learning process. Schunk further elaborated how hands-on instruction unfolds as students actively use real objects and models, as well as social interaction, to learn important concepts. Student interest-led instruction follows the design of students being “taught to be self-regulated and take an active role in their learning by setting goals, monitoring, and evaluating progress, and going beyond basic requirements by exploring interests,” (Schunk, 2008, p. 237). Bruning, Schraw, Norby, & Ronning, (2004), and Geary (1995) also cited the above mentioned strategies as effective constructivist teaching strategies for working with blind children or children with special needs. These components of the constructivist learning theory work together to provide a balanced educational approach for children, birth to 5 years of age, with visual impairments (Koenig & Holbrook, 2003; Lueck et al., 2008).

Application

When walking into a classroom, reading a curriculum, or reviewing a set of standards, the first question is always:


"How can I make this a real learning experience or use real experiences to teach this concept?"


When a student is handed a book, worksheet, or paper with text on it, the question is:


"What is something in this text that the student does not know or have an experience of?" "How can I make this text come alive for them?"

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Keep your eyes open to ways you can teach to student interests, adapt using real objects, and make the experience of learning real and experiential. Remember, worksheets are NOT the best way for a blind or visually impaired student to learn. We want to always be looking at ways we can bring lessons to life through experiences involving real things.