Center for Global Integrated Education
234 E. Alfred Dr.
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Integrating the Curriculum Through Service to Humanity

Integrating the Curriculum through Service to Humanity

Ray Johnson, Ph.D.

 

Associate Professor at Fort Hays State University, Kansas
rjohnson@fhsu.edu or raljo@bigcat.fhsu.edu or rajohnson@scatcat.fhsu.edu
(785) 628-4545

Abstract

This workshop will address a particular methodology of the distant delivery of instruction via the Internet and the use of the on-line facility of a ‘Discussion Board’ as a means of developing higher order thinking skills around a the content area of Character Education as a means of Community Development.

 

The available of technology to deliver and enhance learning opportunities in an anytime – anywhere format has made life long educational opportunities available to humanity world wide.

 

Because of the destruction or dissolution of cultures and family values is epidemic across the globe; technology can be a blessing or a malevolent influence.  I propose that the Internet provides a unique and promising opportunity to shape educational opportunity by providing the means to discuss these issues so development can progress in a healthy and productive manner.

 

A four year partnership between the Louhelen Baha’i School and Fort Hays State University has provided the chance to experience the impact of an ‘integrated curriculum’ in an Internet delivery format.  This workshop will share the ‘Character Education and Community Development’ program at Fort Hays State University and how the Internet delivery of this program has resulted in community development efforts in a variety of environments and communities. We will discuss the implications of this curriculum design for implementation in cross culture and cross national boundaries.

 

Biography

 

Associate Professor, Fort Hays State University in the Department of Educational Administration.  Dr. Johnson has a rich background in teaching, administration and educational research.  He spent 12 years in India where he was the chief administrator for an educational complex, which contained an primary and secondary school as well as a junior college and an Institute for rural technology. He also was the founding director of the Maxwell International Baha’i School located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia; which is recognized today as one of the top ten schools in British Columbia. His major research projects ranges from the director of the first migrant education program at Fort Hays State University and to a position as research associate on a national curriculum study conducted by Stanford University.  He was the first Fort Hays State University Professor to put a college course on the Internet.  Dr. Johnson also was the first recipient of Fort Hays State University’s award for “Creativity and Scholarship in Teaching” and has received special recognition from FHSU for his work with issues of diversity and working to eliminate all forms of prejudice.

 

 

 

Integrating the Curriculum through Service to Humanity

 

Paper presented at the “International Forum on Integrated Education and Educational Reform” held at the Bosch Conference Center, Santa Cruz, California, October 28-31, 2004.

Sponsored by the Center for Global Integrated Education
Building a global future

 

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Dr. Ray Johnson

Fort Hays State University

Hays, Kansas  67601

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Proverb

A Jade stone is useless before it is processed; a man is good-for-nothing until he is educated.

 

At the Annual National Academic Meeting held in Beijing in 2004, Dr. Judith Johnson defined Subjectivity Education as the process of motivating students to learn through participatory learning.  Dr. Johnson explains that “in order to carry out subjectivity education, teachers must also take the same approach to learning”.  This is the tenth time that Subjective Education has been included in China’s National Five-year Plan.  At this meeting Dr. Dina Pei, Director, Institute of Educational Research at Beijing Normal University stated that:

Education should be comprised of basic, practical and subjectivity education.  The integration of these three types of education requires the combination of theory and practice.  Research should focus on concepts, not methodology. It should yield data on 1) how to integrate the humanities and the science in the curriculum, 2) how to use subjectivity education in teacher training and 3) how to use subjectivity in school management.

 

Two main problems of current education are that 1) it lacks subjectivity and 2) values are becoming eroded and given less importance.  Schools need to focus on developing an appropriate ‘school culture’.  In other words, the humanities and sciences must be united through the common spirit of ethics.  The spirit can be built through the activities carried out by teachers and students.[1]

It is this common “spirit of ethics” that intrigued me and motivated me to develop a program on “Character Education and Community Development”.   In directing this effort I was able to combine my interest in “Distance Learning” and the use of the Internet as a vehicle for course delivery.  I have learned a great deal about creating a structure, or model if you wish, which raises the effectiveness of students’ learning. This paper, and presentation, briefly shares the progress of that effort.

 

The purpose or mission of the organizers of this conference, the Center for Global Integrated Education, is to …support, and promote integrated educational programs and materials; to foster the development of full human potential; encourage the preservation of global natural resources; and inspire the creation of unity among diverse peoples of the world. Within this concept, I felt, was a strong relationship with my work in promoting “Character Education and Community Development”.

 

Following a logical path in support of that mission, William Barnes[2] defines moral education in a paper published on CGIE web page, as the “…center of any model of integrated education, and the orbiting academic disciplines reinforce and complement the center, using spiritual principles to organize the content of the academic study”. Barnes explains that “A deeper understanding of human virtues however thinks of them not just as ideals to be taught, but as expressions of the inner forces that operate at the reality of every human being, gems of inestimable value that proper education can reveal and enable the community to benefit from. That is spiritual qualities are the basic foundation, and adorn the true essence of man; and knowledge is the cause of human progress. Such inner qualities are dynamic, positive forces for change seeking full expression. In this light, moral education is the process of drawing out these powerful inner forces in various contexts and for the good of all.”

 

I have tried to design a model of distant learning which will tap into those “inner forces that operate at the reality of every human being”.  For purposes of this paper I will concentrate on one of those inner forces, Altruistic Behavior, and show how I have used the potential of the Internet to help students to release this inner force.

 

China has a great history and demonstrated culture that teaches Altruistic Behavior as a pattern of life. The rest of the world can learn a lot from this tradition in this regard.  There is a cultural expectation that parents will make tremendous sacrifices for the good of the family. This attitude is carried over into the interaction and behavior of family units to make sacrifices for the betterment of the village and ultimately for the State.  This ingrained attitude in the Chinese culture is a common attribute of sacrifice and service for the “greater good”.

 

Today, China, and most every country of the world, is struggling with the challenge of maintaining this virtue of sacrifice and service. Society at large is experiencing a movement of locus of control from an internal to an external force and, therefore, this virtue is no longer altruistic.  China recognizes this trend and is hopeful that national curriculum reform will help solve this challenge.

 

School systems worldwide are experimenting with models of Character Education which teaches universal virtues.  Many schools today in the United States require a set number of hours of ‘Community Service’ for graduation and a high school diploma. In Guangzhou, in the Province of Guangdong, they have implemented, this year (September 2004), what they are referring to as “growing credit” as a student appraisal system. Under the new system courses will fall into eight different fields, including linguistics and literature, and sciences and arts. It is hoped that this move will be a catalyst for further educational reform in curriculum, role of instructors, student motivation, and school structure.

Barnes stated that, “In today’s integrating world, the fundamental spiritual principle of moral education must be the principle of the oneness of humankind; the belief that human beings are essentially the same everywhere and at every time, but that social conditions vary so that different qualities may be brought out, trained and find proper expression in societ”. Using this premise it then seems logical that it is the connectiveness with our fellow man that must be the over-riding principle to teach, to understand, and to actively pursue.

Recent research in the medical field has provided hard evidence that “connectivness” is critical for many students for academic success and a healthy life style. “There is a growing body of evidence that building emotional connections between young people and their schools improves their commitment to education and increases their ability to resist risky behavior”.[3] Motivating students to learn through participatory learning, as Dr. Judith Johnson stated, became central to accomplish the goal of oneness or connectiveness that is essential in an “Integrated Curriculum”.

To instill this “connectiveness” was the integrating principle and the central element of the program in “Character Education and Community Development”.  Every level (courses) of the CECD program integrates activities, reflection papers and discussion scenarios with service activities. The progress through the courses leading to a Certificate in CECD culminates in a terminal project defined by the student, which focuses on helping others to realize, and release, their human potential.

As students reflected on their own learning experiences, they were able to associate their academic pursuits as a service to humanity and its implications for future career opportunities. Through the use of the online discussion board and individualized homework assignments, we were able to foster, in students, an appreciation for academic learning and the application of that knowledge with an attitude of service to others. The following objectives, defined in the literature on Authentic Instruction, guided the structure and delivery of the program on Character Education and Community Development.

  • A learning environment where respect between teachers and students was established regardless of ethnic background, academic ability, gender, and individual learning styles.
  • Instruction focused on higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving strategies.
  • Class projects that made connections with real-world applications of subject matter drawing from the course content and the students’ experiences.
  • Opportunities for participation in class discussions, teamwork, and research projects engaged the students in meaningful interactions.

According to contextual learning theory, learning occurs only when students (learners) process new information or knowledge in such a way that it makes sense to them in their frame of reference (their own inner world of memory, experience, and response). This approach to learning and teaching assumes that the mind naturally seeks meaning in context–that is, in the environment where the person is located–and that it does so through searching for relationships that make sense and appear useful. [4]

According to Dr. Dina Pei, Director, Institute of Educational Research at Beijing Normal University, the two main problems of education in China are: 1) it lacks subjectivity and 2) values are becoming eroded and given less importance. Schools need to focus on developing an appropriate ‘school culture’.  Dr. Teng Chun, former Vice President of the Central Education and Teaching Research Institute said that three types of harmony must be a part of the curriculum, within oneself, between the individual and nature, and between the individual and society. Dr. Teng Chen stated that Moral education cannot be separated from the rest of education. A large part of students’ education is acquired from habit; therefore, education must include positive routine behavior in the curriculum.

 

The Internet enabled students to share and dialogue in ways that a few years ago could not even be perceived.  The online component of the Character Education and Community Development program created an opportunity for students to be in charge of their learning.  Collaborative projects emerged, and research was shared in a manner that greatly increased the level of growth and understanding.

 

The use of the Internet enabled the students to obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The following structures of learning were frequently used:

 

Cooperative Groups: Different student groupings within a larger class established their own online meeting times where they could discuss and collectively access resources or prepare presentations.

 

Demonstrations and Sharing of Student Work: The students posted and receive feedback on a “work in progress” which provided them with some hands-on experience and positive reinforcement. This allowed all students to participate in this technology-enriched activity.

Discussion Board: This vehicle proved to be a most valuable asset. The instructor could monitor and guide a “threaded” discussion of a posted topic and continually raise the level of understanding by using higher order questioning skills.  Another advantage of the discussion board was making experts in the field available who, from anywhere in the world, add comments to enrich the discussion.

Clark quotes Margaret Mead: “Now young people face futures for which their parents’ culture cannot prepare them.” I feel that this method of teaching altruistic behavior and using the Internet as a mechanism of delivery can create the connectiveness to motivate students to higher order thinking.  Clark describes his use of an integrated curriculum as one that “enables students to address their world with imagination, creativity, and purpose, rather than making them passive consumers of textbook and media-packaged information”.[5]

And Paul Weiss put the goals of virtue education rather bluntly when he wrote: “Men should be taught virtue and be forced to act virtuously. Since men are not born virtuous, they must acquire their virtue. The acquisition is the outcome of the performance of acts which promote the attainment of the Good. Such acts are sometimes performed by accident. But they are most effectively and persistently performed when men are directed and controlled by trainers, coaches, disciplinarian teachers in and outside the home.”[6] Requiring students to perform acts of service, and design projects of service, moves students from an external locus of control to an internal locus of control and increase connectiveness with those around him.

 

Integrating the curriculum using “service to others” as the focus of connectiveness, provides students a meaningful purpose in their pursuit of life long learning.


[1] Subjectivity Education Theory and Practical Studies, The Seventh Annual National Academic Meeting, 18-20  April, 2004, Beijing: A Report by: Dr. Judith Johnson, Yamaguchi University, Japan

[2] Morally-Integrated Curriculum, A paper posted on CGIE Web site as the definition of Integrated Education

[3] Dr. Robert Blum, John Hopkins University, Director of Project for the US Centers for Disease Control, reported: Journal of Public Health, September 2004

[4] Daniel Hull, The Contextual Learning Institute and Consortium, Oregon State University, 1993

[5] Edward Clark, Designing & Implementing an Integrated Curriculm, Psychology Press/Holistic Education Press, 2002

[6] Paul Weiss, Modes of Being. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958, p. 157


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