Be Smart About Higher Education: A Six Step Assessment to Know Where You Are in Life

Where are you? Do you allow location access? Smart phones regularly pop-up this question in order to supply directions and relevant information to make the best choices available. The power of technology makes this happen in seconds, but it isn’t quite that easy in life.In order to achieve anything significant in life or higher education, providing direction to the desired destination or goal comes only after identifying where the starting point is. Life is moving so fast for today’s student, the important things like taking the time to plan suffers at the expense of a hundred urgent things of little significance.A planning problem occurs when self-deception creeps in making up a story that avoids getting to the core of the issue. If I stop smoking, I’ll gain weight (but actually, I get nervous and eat to calm down). I’m not good at names (because I don’t care to remember them). After starting college I’ll pick a major (because that’s hard work to figure it out beforehand).Eliminating self-deception begins by describing things accurately. The brain works best when problems are clearly defined. Do not confuse this with negative self-talk that only leaves a broken spirit. Refuse to allow the “never good enough” and “who am I to think that… ” negative phrases to sabotage dreams.An example of this is to think “I’m stupid” as opposed to “I did poorly on one test.” One is an opinion and derogatory while the other is specific and something the brain can work on a plan to make better. Words are powerful, especially self-talk that is continually bouncing around in the mind. Make it honest and positive!Following is a Where Are You self-assessment with a P-E-R-M-S-F acrostic:

The P stands for Physical – weight, blood pressure, health, fitness (how many push-ups, sit-ups, etc.), nutrition, etc.

The E is for Emotional. Use a spreadsheet and list three positive things that were accomplished during the day. Categorize the entire day into one of three emoticons – sad, indifferent, or happy. At the end of the year a total for each emoticon can be calculated. Now how the year progressed emotionally is measured.

The R is for Relational. Married, parent, single, and in a relationship are the basics, but also include social circles and friends. A closest person category is limited to one or two people. Close might be two to three, good friends may range from three to 12, and Facebook friends don’t count.

The M represents the Mental or intellectual side of life. Note all formal education, but informal as well. A great book, 7 Kinds of Smart, is a good reference to combat a problematic stereotype in society. A professor is considered smart while the maintenance person is at best labeled less intelligent. The fact is both are smart and necessary for the institution of higher education to function. The maintenance person is smart at fixing things. Both are good at problem solving. The smarts are about specialized intelligence. Everyone is gifted, the challenge is finding, developing, and applying that gift.

The S refers to Spiritual and is the basis for decision-making. Whether a person professes allegiance to a particular religion or none at all indicates some type of worldview. What brings meaning to life? Is there a purpose to existence? Is humanity the result of intelligent design or a random arrangement of molecules?

Finally, F signifies Financial and is just a matter of digging up records or paying someone to do it. Identifying how money is earned and where it is spent defines what is important to you.

In summary, complete this self-assessment without getting over analytical. The objective is not to solve life’s problems with this article. Keep answers simple and straight-forward. The important thing is beginning a process of honest self-evaluation. The journey to a better life starts with a decision to take the first step.Circumstances do not dictate personal response, you do. Diligently assessing where you are before and after the pursuit of higher education shifts thinking accordingly to determine what can be done. Dream big. As Les Brown quotes, “Live full, die empty.”

An Ongoing Priority For American Education

The concept of a cognitive apprenticeship can be successfully applied to early childhood instruction. An ongoing priority for American education is the systemic reform of urban schools to better meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. One general recommendation from policymakers is that school reform efforts target the early education of young children through the design and implementation of effective, responsive curricula.A new program has the goal of developing a responsive instructional package for young learners in which technology-based tools play an integral role. In essence, the program is a principled framework for designing meaningful instruction for children in the USA. Meaningful instruction is created through the use of authentic, problem-based learning activities. For example, children may learn to alphabetize by creating an inventory list for their classroom store. Once the list is made, it may become a computerized spreadsheet that is used for real inventory and accounting purposes. The program is put into practice as a community comprised of businesses, service organizations, and special interest groups. Each classroom assumes a unique role (e.g., as a store, newspaper, theater group, museum, etc.) and together the classrooms engage in the ongoing exchange of goods and services. The approach to the teaching of reading, writing, and mathematics has its roots in cognitive science. According to this view, academic skills, like all cognitive activities, are essentially problemsolving in nature and are best acquired in problem-based learning environments.Like other complex cognitive skills, people develop expertise in reading, writing, and math, and the course of that development parallels, in many important ways, the development of other types of cognitive competence. Similarly, just as experts rely on both automated and conscious skill components, expert readers, writers, and mathematicians automate some parts of those skills and retain other parts as conscious strategies. In addition, sociocognitive and sociocultural factors appear to have a large impact on the organization and content of a person’s knowledge.Since an individual’s thoughts and actions are the products of one’s knowledge base, the social contexts that house the experiences of individuals directly shape the nature of a person’s cognitions. In this sense, one’s cognitions are situated within particular social contexts. One instructional application that draws heavily on many of the concepts associated with the development of expertise in situated contexts is that of the cognitive apprenticeship. In general, cognitive apprenticeships are authentic instructional environments in which one or more students (apprentices) study under the mentorship of someone more skilled, with the stated intention of developing expertise in that particular area.The researchers believe that the concept of a cognitive apprenticeship can be successfully applied to early childhood instruction and represents their attempt to translate the theoretical concepts underlying cognitive apprenticeships into instructional practice. According to the researchers, at least five critical dimensions must be taken into account in designing effective learning environments for young children.In that regard, the classroom must possess these five characteristics:1. Goal-Directedness-refers to the idea that human thoughts and actions are purposive and, as such, sound instructional practice requires making the goal(s) of learning explicit.2. Authenticity or Contextualization- refers to the idea that a student has some meaningful prior knowledge that can aid in understanding new concepts and solving new problems. Simulating a store in a classroom is meaningful because of the children’s experiences with neighborhood stores. Thus, alphabetizing a list of items for a store’s inventory becomes an “authentic” task.3. Shared Responsibility-refers to the social nature of the learning enterprise. In part, shared responsibility provides a motivation for learning.4. Multiple Modes of Expression and Representation-For young children, one must allow literate expression to take many forms (e.g., art or acting). Similarly, instruction should provide multisensory opportunities for acquiring literacy skills so that children will develop enriched representations of their world.5. Use of Technology-Not only is multimedia technology an efficient delivery system for multisensory input, it also engages students for long periods of time. Further, with the increasing importance of computer literacy, young children should have as much access as possible to the tools they will be expected to master. Several important results have been observed with the program:- When implemented effectively and continually, the growth in children’s achievement (as measured by standardized tests) is greater than in comparable non-project classrooms.- Successful classrooms become “child centered” rather than “teacher centered.” – Teachers report increased collaboration among students and spontaneous group problemsolving.- Teachers report greater student competence and increased ability to work independently.- Technology use is clearly motivating for the children and is a medium with which they will engage for extended, productive periods of time.- Students want to be legitimate, participating members of the community and will alter their behaviors in positive ways in order to participate. It engages them in authentic, problem-based learning activities by capitalizing on their a priori knowledge. At the same time, promotes the use of technology for real purposes.