OLD ASSESSMENT – SOSE ESSAY (recieved a Distinction)

7988 Social and Environmental Education 1

Assessment 1 (Essay):

What makes an effective HSS teacher in the area of SUSTAINABILITY within early childhood education?

In order to understand what makes an effective Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) teacher in the area of sustainability, one must know what the word sustainability means. There are different descriptions on what sustainability and sustainability education is and what it does for students’ education. The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2010) claims, “sustainability is about reducing our ecological footprint while simultaneously improving the quality of life that we value”; while Reynolds (2012) adds that sustainability is about reducing our “negative impact on the environment, while improving the quality of life of our society”. Sustainability education is fundamentally about values, respect for others, including those of present and future generations, for the environment, and for the resources of the planet we inhabit (UNESCO, 2008); but the most common belief about sustainability education is that it “addresses the ongoing capacity of Earth to maintain all life” (ACARA, n.d.; ACARA, 2012). This paper will address why sustainability is included in HSS education, the many educational matters related to teaching sustainability in early childhood, and cite evidence in support of the many facets that create an effective HSS teacher in the area of sustainability.

Australia has an international reputation for leading-edge education for sustainability practice (DEWHA, 2009), and includes it within the HSS framework as a cross-curriculum priority; although evidence in the early childhood sector has “been slow to take up the challenge of sustainability” (Davis, 2005) with the new national curriculum, this is slowly beginning to change. HSS “provides content that supports the development of students’ world views, particularly in relation to” the access and use of the Earth’s resources (ACARA, n.d.). So it stands to reason that sustainability would be a logical inclusion into HSS education. ACARA (n.d.) states that education for sustainability “develops the knowledge, skills, values and world views necessary for people to act in ways that contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.” They add that it also “enables individuals and communities to reflect on ways of interpreting and engaging with the world”, which are important needs of the present (ACARA, n.d.). This engagement is achieved by creating “a renewed and balanced approach to the way humans interact with each others and the environment” (ACARA, n.d.). Sustainability, a cross- curriculum priority in the Australian Curriculum (AC), is focused mainly on 3 topic areas: Systems, World Views, and Futures (ACARA, n.d.).

Effective sustainability educators will teach students: about how all life forms are connected to the earth, and how sustainable patterns of living rely on healthy ecological systems; to recognize that individual and community actions for sustainability rely on that of the local, national and global levels (ACARA, n.d.); and that an effective environmental education for sustainability curriculum provides the knowledge and understandings, skills, attitudes and values, and opportunities for participation and action that will help students to create a sustainable future (DEH, 2005).

Teaching these skills and attributes at an early age is crucial for creating “a more ecologically and socially just world through informed action” (ACARA, n.d.), because as students begin to understand the role of ethical principles, values and virtues in human life, acting with moral integrity, acting with regard for others, and having a desire and capacity to work for common good, they begin to develop ethical behavior and become well-informed citisens. (ACARA, 2012). Early childhood students develop understanding of the changes in environment over time, and the roles played by individuals and communities or the overuse of natural resource and the rise of environmental movements (ACARA, n.d.). It is important to note that the reason that these ideas and skills are taught at the K-2 sector is because “it is important for young children to learn to listen to other opinions, and respect others as well as to respect one’s self and express one’s own thoughts. It is also important for children to experience that their voices are heard and dealt with in a respected way” (UNESCO, 2008). It is also important to start teaching sustainability in early childhood because “young students are curious about their personal world and are interested in exploring it” (ACARA, 2012), and as stated before,

Kimberly Hall U3071645 SOSE Essay Extended Assessment 2

teaching students early on will ensure a well-informed citizen in the future because with guidance “even very young children are able to critically respond to environmental issues” (Davis, 2005). Furthermore, “sustainability should begin very early in life” (UNESCO, 2008) because at the K-2 sector children are developing their basic values, attitudes, skills, behaviours and habits” (UNESCO, 2008).

The AC’s draft Geography document (2012) emphasizes inquiry-based learning and teaching, and suggests opportunities for student-led questioning and that investigation should be provided at all stages of schooling. This method commonly results in the use of informal assessment, a tick mark sheet marked with abilities or knowledge achieved, almost achieved, or not. On the other hand, formal assessment is common in this area and is achieved by assessing the completion of projects and activities. Either way, an effective sustainability education teacher will utilize these essential teaching strategies and “the basic characteristics of curriculum planning to promote environmental education for sustainability” (DEH, 2005). This basic characteristics would include: ensuring that the key concepts of sustainability are clearly identified and coordinated wherever they appear in the curriculum and are reinforced through all key learning areas (DEH, 2005); ensuring that the students’ prior understandings are identified and inform the planning process (DEH, 2005); enabling all students to relate to their surroundings as a frame of reference and ensuring that content is relevant to their own lives (DEH, 2005; ACARA, 2012); adapting the curriculum in response to change and developments in the wider world; and ensuring that the curriculum matches the needs and interests of students and monitors and evaluates their learning from the beginning of their education (DEH, 2005). As part of Professional Practice, it is important for an effective teacher in sustainable education to include a variety of strategies that engage students in their learning (AITSL, 2011) by framing questions, evaluating the findings of investigations, guiding decisions and planning actions about environments, places and communities (ACARA, 2012). A range of techniques are available that encourage students to “explore environmental issues, generate possibilities and look for possible answers or solutions” (DEH, 2005). An effective sustainable education teacher in early childhood needs “to provide opportunities for divergent, multidimensional thinking” (DEH, 2005), and should relate all teaching plans to Bloom’s revised taxonomy table, which includes a range of higher and lower order thinking categories such as: creating, evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding, and remembering (Tarlinton, 2003). Effective teachers of environmental education for sustainability should also recognise and respond to the four dimensions of the learner: reflective and deep thinker, ethical and responsible thinker, connected learner, and autonomous learner (DEH, 2005), because these emerging challenges are imminent. (DEH, 2005)

The teaching strategies related to sustainability education are vast and varied, but a preferred way for teaching sustainability and organizing the experiences within an environmental education program is to use the about, in, for framework (DEH, 2005). Education about the environment focuses on students’ understanding of the basic concepts and theories first (DEH, 2005; Kershaw, 2013). Education in the environment involves placing students into the environment and in direct contact “with a beach, forest, street or park to develop awareness and concern for the environment” (DEH, 2005; Fleer, 1998) in order to create an emotional connection in the students hearts (Kershaw, 2013); including fieldwork at all stages of the curriculum is an essential component of geographical learning (ACARA, 2012). This strategy, considered to be founded by great theorists like John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and

Jean Piaget (Miettinen, 2000), is called experiential learning, sometimes called ‘learning by doing’ or ‘hands on’, a strategy which is usually attributed to Vygotsky and Piaget for their kinaesthetic focus (Kershaw, 2013), “engages students in constructing knowledge, skills and values from direct experience and in contexts that are personally relevant to them” (DEH, 2005). Examples of this strategy include making toys from recycled items or paintings that show students’ understanding and solutions to real world problems (UNESCO, 2008). Education for the environment aims to promote a willingness and ability to adopt lifestyles that are compatible with the wise use of environmental resources (DEH, 2005) by having students create or participate in a sustainable project which Kimberly Hall U3071645 SOSE Essay Extended Assessment 3

promotes concrete actions in favour of the environment (Kershaw, 2013; UNESCO, 2008). This can be achieved by using the inquiry learning strategy, which “encourages students to respond to their own concern or curiosity and to investigate and act on an environmental issue” (DEH, 2005), because according to educational change theorist, Michael Fullan it only takes a small number of actions that help create deep-level change (UNESCO, 2008). Examples of this strategy in the K-2 sector would be to collect food scraps for composting for a school vegetable garden or flowerbed (Fleer, 1998). Further project ideas on lessons in sustainable education, found in the Sustainability Curriculum Framework (2010), are: ways humans care for themselves, others and for other species (DEWHA, 2010); how children all over the world are working for sustainability and the reasons why it would be valuable to link up with them (DEWHA, 2010); local plants and ecosystems that provided food for first Australians (DEWHA, 2010); and, identify and give reasons for change in objects, places and behaviour over the immediate past (DEWHA, 2010).

It is essential for teachers in the sustainable education area to engage in Professional Engagement and continually pursue professional development (AITSL, 2011)by reading articles on sustainability, attending workshops and seminars on environmental education, and seek advice and constructive feedback from supervisors and fellow teachers to improve knowledge and practice (AITSL, 2011). A story written about the Sustainable Planet Project (SPP) held in Brisbane, Queensland in 1997 that “led to enhanced play spaces, reduced waste, lowered water consumption and improved biodiversity” (Davis, 2005), promoted active citizenship in young learners, and led to tangible environmental outcomes (Davis, 2005), is an example of how reading journal articles on sustainability can promote professional development in teachers. Within the SPP article, Davis (2005) states that the staff involved used reflection, regular attendance of conferences and workshops, the undertaking of courses to upgrade qualifications, networking through professional associations, and actively seeking visitors to the centre who can share expert knowledge, team planning sessions where issues of curriculum and pedagogy are regularly discussed and debated as examples of their pursuit of professional development. Davis (2005) goes on to suggest that both “formal and informal approaches to professional development have generated a ‘grass roots’ collaborative learning culture which supports learning for the children, teachers, families and the community at large”.

It is clear, therefore, that to be an effective early childhood teacher in the area of sustainability one must pursue professional development in order to gain up-to-date content knowledge in sustainability education, and utilise vast and varied strategies and effective methods for teaching sustainability education. In conclusion, this paper has proven that sustainability education is an essential part of early childhood HSS teaching because it constructs varying benefits for the teacher, student, and local community involved. This paper has also found that there are many facets involved in creating an effective early childhood teacher in the area of sustainability, which includes strategies and effective methods for teaching, such as experiential learning, the use of higher and lower order thinking, and inquiry-based approaches.

Kimberly Hall U3071645 SOSE Essay Extended Assessment 4


ACARA. (n.d.). ACARA Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Retrieved April 28th, 2013, from Cross-Curriculum Priorities – Sustainability: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/CrossCurriculumPriorities/Sustainability

ACARA. (2012). Draft F-12 Australian Curriculum: Geography. ACARA Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Canberra: ACARA.

AITSL. (2011). National Professional Standards for Teachers. Austrlian Institute For Teaching and School Leadership, Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs . VIC: Education Services Australia.

Davis, J. (2005). Educating for sustainability in the early years creating cultural change in a child care setting. Australian Journal of Environment Education , 21, 47-55.

DEH. (2005). Educating For A Sustainable Future: A National Environmental Education Statement for Australian Schools. Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

DEWHA. (2009). Living Sustainably: The Australian Government’s National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability. Australian Government, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

DEWHA. (2010). Sustainability Curriculum Framework: A guide for curriculum developers and policy makers. Australian Government, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Fleer, M. (1998). What is environmental education? Every Child , 4 (4).
Kershaw, K. (2013). Week 3: Sustainability [Study Notes]. Social and Environmental Education 1 .

University of Canberra.
Miettinen, R. (2000). The concept of experiential learning and John Dewey’s theory of reflective

thought and action. International Journal of Lifelong Education , 19 (1), 54-72.
Reynolds, R. (2012). Teaching History, Geography & SOSE in the Primary School. South Melbourne:

Oxford University Press.

Tarlinton, D. (2003). Blooms Revised Taxonomy [Week 10 Handout]. Retrieved from Social and Environmental Education 1: http://www.kurwongbss.eq.edu.au/thinking/Bloom/blooms.htm\

UNESCO. (2008). The contribution of early childhood education to a sustainable society. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Paris: UNESCO.

Thursday, February 14th 2013: Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

7152 Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL)

Assessment 2: Scenario Report (Option 1)

An action plan with reccommendations based on critical reflection and research

By Kimberly Hall



The focus of this report is to address how to create an inclusive integrated unit on ‘food and food preparation’ this upcoming term for all of our students, including those English language learners (ELL) from Muslim, Jehovah Witness, Indian, Chinese, and Anglo backgrounds. Our goal is to create an action plan that will ensure that our students feel comfortable, welcome, and have the confidence to pursue their English learning in a safe and inclusive environment, while having their needs met. I know this sounds like a tall order, but given the researched recommendations provided in this report to support our actions, we will persevere triumphantly.

Intercultural Understanding

Before we can meet our students’ needs, we need to know who our students are; what their first language is, what their cultural background is, what their religion and practices are, and if they are Australian born, migrants or refugees. “Each of us has different ‘cultural layers’…our cultural identities are historically and geographically determined. Culture and our cultural identity are constantly changing” (Adoniou, 2012b). And it is our duty to obtain depth of knowledge in these areas in order to attain a truly inclusive unit. We cannot expect our students to listen with respect about a foreign language or someone else’s culture (ACARA Australian Curriculum, 2013c), if we do not give value to their own as well. It is absolutely imperative that we include the cultural identities of all our students. “When modeling examples of activities do not always use the default position of white urban Australia” (Adoniou, 2012b) because that would erase our efforts in connecting with our students. We need to achieve Intercultural Understanding (IU) in order to “participate and negotiate with people in a variety of social and cultural contexts” (Adoniou, 2012b). This is why I feel it is important to begin with what the Australian Curriculum calls the Intercultural Understanding Learning Continuum (ACARA Australian Curriculum, 2013b).  Adoniou states that this is a three-tiered view of developing IU. She lists them as Recognition, Interaction, and Reflection (Adoniou, 2012a). By adopting this learning continuum our ELLs will know and understand their culture, another’s culture and have the skill to work between them (Adoniou, 2012b). Within the Recognition view, we should acknowledge the differences and similarities amongst us, both in and out of the classroom (Adoniou, 2012a). We can accomplish this by holding discussions with the students about where they come from and maybe look at a map and point those places out. We can then transition the discussion into what foods are eaten in their households, and then use a smart board and investigate and explore more about those foods and how they are prepared and compare them to different cultures (ACARA Australian Curriculum, 2013c).

The second tier in the IU tool is Interaction, where we can explore those “similarities and differences through contact with those cultures” (Adoniou, 2012a). We can accomplish this by having the students bring in pictures and items from home related to: food and food preparation, or special celebrations where food is involved. We also should invite parents, local community, and staff members to come in and share their information, objects, recipes, and cooking skills with the students. This will help students to empathise with others as well as offer multiple perspectives across cultures (ACARA Australian Curriculum, 2013a). They can do this by providing a baking lesson on a type of bread from their own cultural background. These actions will be key in proving that all cultural backgrounds eat and make their own types of bread, which makes us all similar, but that also “bread is made and eaten differently throughout the world” (Adoniou, 2012a), which also makes us different. The final tier, Reflection, can be accomplished through discussion and student response writing about the “new knowledge gained about cultures” (Adoniou, 2012a). This helps the students “reflect on intercultural experiences” and “mediate cultural difference” (ACARA Australian Curriculum, 2013d). A great follow-up to the baking lessons would be to create a procedural text, like a bread recipe book, with the students. This book can be created individually, or as a class project; and should include recipes from different cultures, including those of the students involved. Students can have family members who did not participate in the baking lessons provide home recipes to include in the class project. This way all students are able to make the project their own. Creating this connection for the students is critical in obtaining engagement which Cambourne (1995) states as an outcome of two of his Conditions of Learning: Demonstration and Immersion.

Engagement is achieved when our students are convinced that they themselves can also bake these recipes, write the recipes, and share the newly learned cultural knowledge with confidence (Cambourne, 1995). These activities will help strengthen the identity of our students by “making difference normal” and “having learning environments which are ‘spacious’ enough to allow everyone to be who they are” (Adoniou, 2012b).

Considerations & Difficulties

Student Participation

Hertzberg (2012) observes that it is “important that mainstream teachers encourage the use of L1 in the classroom as L1 remains a crucial resource for L2 learning”. We need to remember to encourage our students to use their L1. “Competence in the home language(s) helps students to learn subsequent languages. This is why teachers need to find out about the child’s competency in the first language (L1) and always support the maintenance of L1 because learning English in an English-speaking schooling context is different from learning a foreign language…” (Hertzberg, 2012). This can be addressed by having the students use their L1 to name the different types of bread or the names of ingredients. These words and their English counterparts should be posted on the wall in the classroom as a visual text display and a reminder to our students that we value their linguistic differences, aid the visual learners, and to help develop literacy skills in both their L1 and English (Gibbons, 2002). This is vital in helping our ELLs because as Hertzberg notes that “Students about ten years or older should be able to learn another language” more quickly because often it is just a matter of transferring the many fundamental conceptual understandings already learnt in L1 into language two (L2)”  (2012). But not all of our students have come to us with the prior knowledge of vocabulary or “linguistic structures” in their L1 (Hertzberg, 2012). We need to consider this fact in all our programming and make adjustments where need be.

Family Participation

In order to include our students’ family members to partake in our baking project we need to send an invitation home asking for any volunteers to share an afternoon with us. We’d ask for them to share some of their cultural background knowledge with us by way of stories, baking lesson, and/or discussion on food preparation and typical dishes from their culture.


Due to the many cultural and religious, not to mention allergy, restrictions on food it is best to steer clear of peanuts and meats. A note should be sent home stating that the students will be participating in baking breads at school and if there are any food restrictions that we are unaware of that they should contact us. We need to take into account the different daily practices of our students and their families (Adoniou, 2012b), and note that some families may not want their children to take part in the baking process. The note should also reflect the decision to only cook vegetarian items and to not include peanuts. There should be some consideration in possibly illuminating the use of gluten, dairy, and egg as well for some allergy and anaphylactic sufferers. For further information regarding specific religious and cultural food limitations please see APPENDIX 1.

“Breads Around The World”: Unit Recommendations

The Curriculum Cycle

The focus of the unit should be on bread recipes, bread making and preparation, and procedural writing of recipes. The purpose of the unit is to create expand knowledge of bread, develop vocabulary, develop an understanding of procedural writing structures, and create IU by sharing of cultural and prior knowledge with one another. Consider using the “Breads Around The World” theme to address subjects like History, Maths, Science, Art, IT, as well as English. For History allow “all children to share their experiences of how the past in their country/experiences differs from the present” (Adoniou, 2012b) in regards to the preparation of bread. For Science & Maths bring ingredients to class and ask each student to shop for the ingredients to make their own bread, and then have them measure out ingredients into bowls and mix them. For IT take photos of the project process and create a blog or booklet for the children to take home (Wing Jan, 2001). And for SOSE we can arrange class trips to local cultural food locations like a Halal butcher, an Asian grocer, or a Jewish Deli. I recommend that we utilize the mode continuum of Scaffolding Literacy and build our programming around The Curriculum Cycle in order to better engage our L1 learners (Hyde, 2012c). The following is an example on how to follow this cycle with the “Breads Around The World” theme.

Build The Field

Hold a discussion on different cultural foods and then guide it towards bread. A quick Google search online can bring up many different bread images for the children to view and discuss. The book “The Little Red Hen” can then be used to discuss the processes in which bread is made. Be sure to find a copy of the book that describes the processes in how the bread is made (e.g. sifting, kneading, baking, cutting), because there are different versions.

Deconstructing and Modelling

Have a family member instruct a baking lesson on a cultural bread of their own and guide the students with appropriate procedural language like “now we pour the oil into the bowl” and ” the next step is to…” This will scaffold the children when it comes time to analyse the recipe procedures (Wing Jan, 2001).

Joint Construction

“Jointly construct a simple recipe making sure to include the appropriate structures and features” that were just analysed in the last lesson (Wing Jan, 2001). This can be done on a smart or white board. Wing Jan (2001) suggests using a class data chart to document the learning, which can be added onto in future terms with other types of procedural texts (if we should decide to continue with this type). For an example please see APPENDIX 2.

Individual Construction

“Discuss the need to write clear, easy-to-follow and logically sequenced instructions” (Wing Jan, 2001).

The children can then write their own bread recipe of their choosing following the procedural structures learned in the last lesson (Wing Jan, 2001). “As a particular skill from any subject is taught, a chart or booklet can be written to remind the children of the process” (Wing Jan, 2001).


Assessment can be informal by way of interview to observe if the student can identify the basic structure of a recipe, or uses action verbs at the beginning of most steps. A formal assessment can be to create a “breads around the world” recipe book individually or as a class using the appropriate structures of procedural text properly, or a wall display of student written recipes (Wing Jan, 2001).


This report concludes with these 4 simple recommended guidelines to fulfil an integrated unit on ‘food and food preparation’ action plan. 1. It is important for us to create IU for the benefit of out students. This will help them gain confidence to learn new skills and share their prior knowledge. 2. We should always consider the cultural differences in daily practices of our students and their families but remember to find ways to make all our activities inclusive so that no one is left out. 3. Send notes home to invite families to take part in our projects and to advise them of any foods or preparation of foods related to the project, which may offend or concern them. 4. Create engaging programming that values the cultural identities of all who are involved and be clear to administer appropriate concern and care with all personal knowledge gained about our students so that our students will feel safe and have their needs met. If we follow these simple guidelines our unit this term will be inclusive, integrated and meaningful for all.


ACARA Australian Curriculum, A. a. (2013a). Intercultural Understanding: Interacting and empathising with others. Retrieved February 13th, 2013, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Intercultural-understanding/Organising-elements/Interacting-and-empathising-with-others

ACARA Australian Curriculum, A. a. (2013b). Intercultural Understanding: Organising elements. Retrieved February 13th, 2013, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Intercultural-understanding/Organising-elements/Organising-elements

ACARA Australian Curriculum, A. a. (2013c). Intercultural Understanding: Recognising culture and developing respect. Retrieved February 13th, 2013, from : http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Intercultural-understanding/Organising-elements/Recognising-culture-and-developing-respect

ACARA Australian Curriculum, A. a. (2013d). Intercultural Understanding: Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility. Retrieved February 13th, 2013, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Intercultural-understanding/Organising-elements/Reflecting-on-intercultural-experiences-and-taking-responsibility

Adoniou, M. (2012a). Recognition, Interaction, Reflection. Unit 7152 Teaching English as a Second Language: Semester 2, 2012. [Tutorial Handout] . University of Canberra.

Adoniou, M. (2012b). Week 5: Cultural Awareness. Unit 7152 Teaching English as a Second Language: Semester 2, 2012. [Lecture Notes] . University of Canberra.

Cambourne, B. (1995). Toward An Educationally Relevant Theory Of Literacy Learning: Twenty Years Of Inquiry. The Reading Teacher , 49 (3).

Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Hertzberg, M. (2012). Teaching English Language Learners in Mainstream Classes. Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

Hyde, F. (2012a). Week 2 Lecture: What is TESL? Unit 7152 Teaching English as a Second Language: Semester 2, 2012. [Powerpoint Slides] , 21. University of Canberra.

Hyde, F. (2012b). Week 2-3: Lecture Notes. Unit 7152 Teaching English as a Second Language: Semester 2, 2012. [Lecture Notes] . University of Canberra.

Hyde, F. (2012c). Week 7 & 10 Tutorials. Unit 7152 Teaching English as a Second Language: Semester 2, 2012. [Tutorial Handout] . University of Canberra.

Wing Jan, L. (2001). Procedural Texts. In Write Ways: Modelling Writing Forms (2nd Edition) (pp. 63-73). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012: The Case of Nature Vs. Nurture: A Critically Evaluative and Argumentative Essay in favor of Nurture

Recieved a “DISTINCTION”

Critique recieved: 

Your argument has been presented with clarity. There is a highly competent use of the essay genre and your referencing is very good.

All ideas in the paper flow logically; the argument is identifiable, reasonable, and sound. You have anticipated and successfully defused counter-arguments. Your work displays critical thinking and avoids simplistic description or summary of information, and you have made thoughtful conclusions based on the presented research

You have clearly related evidence to “mini-thesis” (topic sentence) and there has been excellent integration of quoted material into sentences.

Essay: By Kimberly Hall

The Case of Nature Vs. Nurture

A Critically Evaluative and Argumentative Essay in favor of Nurture

 About.com Psychology, defines Nature vs. Nurture as a debate on “the relative contributions of genetic inheritance and environmental factors to human development”, and adds “some philosophers such as Plato and Descartes suggested that certain things are inborn, or that they simply occur naturally regardless of environmental influences” (Cherry, 2012). In other words, are certain people genetically predisposed to be successful and achieve tremendous academic success or is it a result of an enriched environment? Thus, this essay will critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Nature vs. Nurture debate within the confines of genetic inheritance, physical environmental factors, emotional environmental factors and socioeconomic status (SES); and argue that Nurture is equally, if not more, important than Nature.

In education, Nature usually refers to the genetic aspect of the Nature Vs. Nurture debate; therefore, this essay will begin by exploring the weaknesses and strengths in the genetic inheritance argument. Many genetic research results suggest that genetics make up for a substantial amount of students academic achievement (Walker, Petrill, Spinath, & & Plomin, 2004). In a study on the disregard for rules within children, Petitclerc (2010) suggests that “genetic factors accounted for most of the stability in disregard throughout early childhood” and that “preventive interventions should take an intergenerational approach, targeting at-risk families as early as possible” (Petitclerc, 2010). This study reveals a weakness in its case, because if the previous statement is true, then it stands to reason that regardless of genetic factors, environment will have an impact on a child, and therefore requires immediate positive intervention or guidance (Petitclerc, 2010; Miller, 2012).

Conversely, in a paper by Plug and Vijverberg (2003), they state that parental IQ is an important factor in explaining a child’s school success. Their research found that about 70-75 percent of the ability for school achievement, measured by IQ, is determined by Nature. While this data is undeniable, the rest of their research is flawed and inconclusive as it is teeming with weak arguments for the case of Nature. They contend that Nurture does not seem to play a dominant role in academic achievement, but then go on to explain that parents who are siblings create similar household environments for their children because of the way they were brought up together and not necessarily because of genetic inheritance. Furthermore, they maintain that a large amount of money is spent on creating nurturing environments for students to flourish but that it’s wasted on genetically advantaged students. They further claim that while the “school environment may help the less able children to overcome their disadvantage”, “the ability of the next generation of children is still unequally distributed” (Plug & Vijverberg, 2003). On the contrary, in another paper, Silcock (2008) discusses Stephan Pinker’s belief, that because we are human, we are all inherently more or less the same. But then describes tabula rasa, a theory which suggests that the mind begins as a blank slate; and that according to this notion, everything that we are and all of our knowledge is determined by our experience. Silcock (2008) asserts that too much of education is based around this thinking, when in reality genetically inherited traits which include mental maps and tips on anything will automatically assign an advantage to one person over an another at birth (Silcock, 2008).

While behavioural geneticists commonly claim that DNA accounts for 30-50 of our behaviours, the remaining 50-70 percent is best explained by environment (Jensen, 2009). Consequently, this essay will now examine Nurture in relation to the aforementioned debate by considering the physical, emotional, and socio-economical aspects involved.

In a study by Uline & Tschannen (2008), they demonstrate that the physical state of a school is a predictor of student achievement. They list the specific building features shown to be related to student achievement as building age, climate control, indoor air quality, lighting, acoustical control, design classifications, wall color, smell and overall impression (Uline & Tschannen-Moran, 2008). In addition, they add that teacher attitudes and behaviors are related as well, as teachers are less likely to show enthusiasm for their jobs and to go the extra mile with students to support their learning when they teach in buildings they judge to be of poor quality. This brings up the matter of resource support within the teaching practice, which is commonly an issue in teaching as a profession. In this same study, teachers were asked to assess the degree to which they had the materials, support and supplies they needed to accomplish their teaching duties, and data revealed that high negative scores corresponded with those of low building quality and limited school budgets. Uline & Tschannen concluded that there is a link between the quality of school facilities, resource support and student achievement in English and mathematics (2008).

It seems self-evident that the kinds of buildings that children and their teachers inhabit will affect not only what they learn but also the ways in which they learn (Upitis, 2004). This statement falls in line with the common misconception that educational theory is based only on approaches into the mind of a child, when actually much more is involved, including environment. In a study by Upitis (2004) theoretical approaches that have given attention to physical elements that affect learning, were examined to illustrate that in early childhood, there is a focus on how architecture shapes and teaches children. Upitis (2004) goes on to discuss how Reggio Emilia teachers believe that the best environments for children are rich, complex, support relationships between people and ideas, and have a strong aesthetic appeal for teachers and students alike (Upitis, 2004). Similarly, every aspect of a Waldorf school, “the wooden furniture, pastel colors, natural lighting, and the presence of natural objects in the classrooms, as well as the outdoor spaces, has architectural and pedagogical significance” (Upitis, 2004). Upitis (2004) goes on to point out Dewey’s description, of what he called the “utopian” school, as a place with large grounds, gardens, greenhouses, “open-air” interiors; he implied “the importance of having a variety of workspaces, easy access to books, and the feeling of a “well-furnished home” (Upitis, 2004). He also stated that in relation to schools, the matter was “not with issues of pedagogy or teacher method or administration, but with physical space” (Upitis, 2004).  Consequently, it is clear that educational theories also agree that there is a strong relationship between human development and the development of educational theory, and concur that Nurture is important in academic achievement for the student and in practical in-class approaches for the teacher.

It is “reported that students who become more self-aware and confident about their learning abilities try harder, and that students who motivate themselves, set goals, manage their stress, and organize their approach to work, perform better” (Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). In addition, a study by Park (2004) provides substantive evidence that positive life satisfaction develops positive youth development further supports the Zins, Weissberg, Wang & Walberg’s findings, that if a child is emotionally happy, they will achieve better marks in school therefore attaining positive academic achievement. Research has also found that self-empowerment programs improved the health conditions of their participants. Results concluded that more programs like these were detrimental in helping the community better themselves, their SES, and their overall health (Tsey & Every, 2000). These findings make a strong case supporting the idea that self empowerment can change a persons outlook on the world around them, thus opening doors of opportunity. Connecting this theory along with the findings of Zins et al. (2004), and of Park (2004), proves that if one addresses the emotional aspect of children’s lives, it will in turn make positive changes in their academic life, supporting the theory that Nurture is an important factor in academic success. This is substantiated by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who found that problem-solving skills and maintaining an even temperament is difficult for children of parents who fail to challenge and nurture their intellectual development (Cleckley, 2012; Jensen, 2009). Thus, parental involvement has been found to be positively and significantly related to student achievement (Kirby & DiPaola, 2011; Jensen, 2009). This suggests that environmental factors, including teacher bias, play a role in academic achievement of children, but research concludes that biological and hereditary factors still play a huge role in the strengths and weaknesses of students’ learning (Jensen, 2009; Kirby & DiPaola, 2011). Researchers say that although some people may be born with genetic advantages, these advantages can be lost if not nurtured and refined, which may decrease a child’s intelligence. They further argue that not only can genetic advantages can be lost, but genetic disadvantages can be gained through particular up-bringings and lifestyles (Jensen, 2009; Karmiloff & Karmiloff-Smith, 2011)

This essay has weighed the evidence for and against Nature and Nurture in regards to the Nature vs. Nurture debate. Firstly, making a firm case, genetic inheritance research claim that genetically inherited traits will automatically assign an advantage to one person over another at birth (Silcock, 2008). The weakness that this essay has found in the case of Nature is that there are limited studies on the implications of inherited advantages in regards to academic achievement. Additionally, the case for Nurture is strong as there are many findings that support it, like those that demonstrate that the physical state of a school is a predictor of student achievement. Also, studies confirm that emotional and socio-economical factors can have a positive or negative affect on academic achievement in children, regardless of genetic inheritance. These findings are significant because they establish that anyone regardless of IQ, given a supportive and positive environment for learning, can do just as well, if not better than someone who is genetically advantaged. In conclusion this essay has successfully argued that Nurture is as important, if not more important than Nature in regards to academic achievement in children.

Reference List

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Jensen, E. (2009). Chapter 2. How Poverty Affects Behavior and Academic Performance. In Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. ASCD.

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Uline, C., & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2008). The walls speak: the interplay of quality facilities, school climate, and student achievement. Journal of Education Administration , 46 (1), 55-73.

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Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R., Wang, M., & Walberg, H. (2004). Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning. What does the research say? New York City, NY: Teachers College Press.