Saturday, May 28, 2011

Creating a positive learning environment using Dewey's philosophy as a guide

Using Dewey's philosophy of learning as a guide, my learning activities will have to be structured in a manner that will be engaging for the students. The lessons will have to be planned with accommodation for the active inputs of the students. To effectively achieve this, it will require me as the teacher, to always be in a state of constant study, observation and reflection of the students in order to understand who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their various intelligences etc.
It is with such an understanding that I'd be able to create a model positive environment that will allow the students to flourish.

Presently, my practical learning activities are usually designed with due cognizance for the students' past knowledge, their intelligences and potentials as i perceive them from my observations and reflections. Sometimes, I create learning activities which though are planned to teach computer skills, are laced with salient messages that require stud4ent inputs and active participation.

An example is a learning activity on Multimedia Presentations using Ms PowerPoint. The academic objective of the activity is to teach students to gather materials that will be used in creating a presentation made up of multiple slides. But it has a salient message of teaching the students about various cultures of the world.

ACTIVITY:   Creating a Ms PowerPoint presentation titled "Peoples of the World"

TIME: ONE WEEK (From initial preparation to final discussion)

DESCRIPTION:     *Students work in groups to create a 7-slide presentation with a slide for one country in each continent of the world.

* Each group selects one country from each continent and sources for the following information about it:
  •         Name of Continent,
  •         Official name of selected country,
  •         Capital city
  •         Official Currency
  •         Official language of the country and other major languages (if any)
  •         Most popular sport in the country,
  •         2 important exports of the country,
  •         Flag and Coat of Arms of the country.

LEVEL:      10 - 18 year olds (Though it could be further expanded and modified for more advanced students)

        *Basic PowerPoint presentation design using data gathered from research,
        *Information sourcing,
        *Scanning and saving of images on the computer,
Discussion on perceived similarities between the countries of the world.

        Students should: -
        *have basic Word-processing skills especially on how to insert pictures, textboxes, WordArt and basic shapes.
        *have basic presentation design skills.

        * Review basic presentation skills,
        *Review student’s knowledge of world geography (An earlier assignment could have been given to research into Countries and Continents)

        *Divide the class into groups of 2 or more,
        *Teacher facilitates country selection process (see Extra Note)
        *Review the country information gathered by each group.
        *Teacher guides each group to scan and save their flags and Coat of Arms to the Computer.
        *Each group develops its presentation,
        * Teacher facilitates class discussion to assess and evaluate each group's work (Teacher should avoid outright criticism but should instead highlight what each group has done best.
        *Teacher finally facilitates a class discussion on their discoveries about the different countries of the world and what similarities they were able to find between these countries and their native country.

        *Assess the quality of the presentation in terms of information accuracy and quality of arrangement. Provide students with oral feedback, to assist them in future presentation planning and design.
        *A formative assessment throughout the period of the activity through guided questions and comments to assist in successful completion of task.

        *Provide print copies of sample presentation to serve as a model for the task,
        *Provide print copies of flags and coat of arms (only in cases where students are unable to sources for it themselves),
        *Selectively pair/group students to ensure a workable pairing/grouping.

Selection Process:
        The selection process is to be facilitated by the teacher, with the students naming their choice of countries to feature in their presentations.
The teacher could write out the names of the Continents of the world on the board and ask the first group to name its country of choice from the first continent in the list; the second group then names its choice and so will the process be repeated until all groups have named their choices from the first continent in the list.
The process is again repeated for the second continent with the order reversed (i.e. the last group now starts first).
The process goes on until each group has named one country from each continent.
The groups should now be given the checklist of required information they are to find out about each country and the printed sample model of the expected presentation.

Though, this activity is based on teaching the students how to presentation planning and design, it is expected that the process of searching for information about different countries will help the students see these countries as homes to other people like them, not simply as ordinary lifeless names on a map.

After each group has developed its presentation with its materials, the teacher should now facilitate a class discussion session to allow the students discuss whatever discoveries they made and the teacher will also have the opportunity to clarify any misconception or misrepresentation that may crop up.

This section on Dewey has further exposed me to the reasons why we, as teachers, need to build our learning activities with the active participation of the students.
It encourages their interests in learning activities and allows them to see themselves as contributors to the formulation of what they learn.

The teacher could also allow some flexibility in the content of the presentation by allowing the students add more fields about the country information apart from the ones listed above. E.g. A group might decide it wishes to add Names of the Country's President, Date of Independence etc. A limit could only be set on the acceptable number of fi
elds. On the other hand, the teacher could, after listing the compulsory fields, ask each group to decide on additional 5 fields.


  1. Dear Ibrahim,

    I like the idea of having students do research on countries around the world. Your lesson content will make learning PowerPoint more meaningful.

    I'm wondering how it would work to have students brainstorm what things they would like to know about another country. Can they generate the list of things to learn about another country? How can they go beyond the basics and go deeper to know the people of that country even more.

    Some of what students can do will of course depend on how much time they have to complete the assignment and what resources are available for research.

    For example, some of the things I would want to know about Nigeria are: form of government, are there any internal conflicts, what are some recent events in Nigeria's history, what is the situation for human rights, what are common hobbies. Would these be too difficult for students to research? Or maybe it is too much too fast. Only you can decide that as only you know your students. I'm only giving some examples. You may think of others.

    Students might want to compare some aspect of another country with their own country.

    These are just my thoughts on your assignment. I think researching another country is a great way for students to learn how to create a PowerPoint presentation. Anything they learn about another country is useful.

    Best regards,

  2. Thanks for your comment.
    Yes, it will be great getting them to learn about people in other countries; it'll certainly build a sense of global citizenship in them. getting them to see that there are others like them in other places


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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.