Course observation journal #1

TEL 705
May 23, 2018

Week 1: Palomar

Part 1: Worksite

I visited Kyrene del “Palomar” this week, to shadow a student as part of my Design Initiatives team’s work with the Kyrene School District. For my time there, I followed a 7th grade student, we’ll call him Sam, and essentially participated in life as a 7th grader for the day. I attended his classes, worked on the same assignments, took the same history exam, and ate lunch in the cafeteria with him and his friends as well. As I was shadowing him, I was looking to gain an understanding of what it’s like to be a middle school student in 2018, which connects to my team’s work of trying to help schools empathize and understand their stakeholders (in this case, students) needs in order to reimagine and redesign for them.


Part 2: Observation notes — Monday, May 21, 2018

As this is a school in the most traditional/applicable sense, there are a number of educational activities taking place: organized courses of study, extracurricular programming, social interactions, and other informal learning. The activities here are certainly organized by adults, namely administrators and teachers who lead the instruction. The children are primary beneficiaries of the activities, which consist largely of discussions, learning simulations, rehearsal/performance (particularly in the arts), play, and assessment. I would think that the general public in the school district, and especially parents and any former students, would know what happens here. At a broader level, the school structure is supported by both local and state governmental agencies, like the Arizona Department of Education. I’m sure that this school also receives support (as well as guidance and or directives) from the US Department of Education. I don’t think I observed many inherent inconsistencies, but I did notice that there were several times when tension was apparent. For example, something that might go on in one classroom, like a strict lecture or an exam, wasn’t happening in another. There were definitely moments where there was personal tension, too. Faculty and students would occasionally butt heads over behavioral matters.

As a system, this school definitely functions on particular routines and habits. It’s pretty easy to see this in most schools, and Palomar is no different. Students move from class to class on a bell schedule, and in most classes there is a predictable sequence of progression through learning materials and activities. Most of the students are dressed alike, as are most of the teachers and adults. Sam tended to have his routine down pat, and very rarely did anything seem to be unexpected or out of sorts for him. He acknowledged that he is a student who does well in this system, mostly because, he says, he follows the rules and pays attention to what his teachers ask him to do. He says that because he does well, he tends to feel good about his performance. I think in many respects, this school fits the description of a system to a tee.

Part 3: Readings

From the Jordan, Kleinsasser and Roe (2014) reading this week, I definitely want to remember how wicked problems are viewed in educational settings. I really liked the citation to the Bore and Wright (2009) article that Jordan et al. referenced, writing that “Bore and Wright (2009) contend that problems in schools specifically, and education generally, rely too heavily on technical rational solutions that tend to avoid reflective practices and lack processes of problem meaning and sense-making” (p. 418). I’ll probably go dig into Bore and Wright for 706 as I start to frame my concept paper at the end of the term on why design approaches might be useful for attempting to solve or at least resolve wicked problems in education.

Bore, A., and N. Wright. (2009). The wicked and complex in education: Developing a
transdisciplinary perspective for policy formulation, implementation and professional practice. Journal of Education for Teaching, 35(3): 241–256. doi:10.1080/02607470903091286.

Jordan, M. E., Kleinsasser, R. C., & Roe, M. F. (2014). Wicked problems: Inescapable wickedity. Journal of Education for Teaching, 40(4), 415-430. 10.1080/02607476.2014.929381

Part 4: Integrations

  • How would my visit have been different if I had shadowed a poor-performing student? Would I have seen the downside of the system?
  • If I had come earlier in the year, would I have seen different activities – or would the students and teachers behaved differently.
  • Students said this school has an arts emphasis, but there are other schools in the district that are “traditional” academies. I wonder what those would be like in comparison to Palomar.

Note: I didn’t take photos because I didn’t have a photo release from Sam, but I may try to follow up before the end of the term.

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