Monday, November 27, 2017

An American Education Tragedy: Death of the Affective Domain

A few years after I began teaching, I became serious about instructional design so that effective teaching and learning would take place in my classroom. Yes, you read the first sentence correctly. For the first one/three years of teaching, I was just trying to survive. I am sure; well somewhat sure, that I was exposed to Bloom's Taxonomy and instructional objectives in my initial professional development courses. However, trying to design lessons without a textbook for all of my students forced me into the survival mode of just finding “stuff” to keep my students busy.  My existence was like the test pilot in a new jet plane who radioed to the tower and said, “I’m going faster than I have ever gone before, but I don’t know where I’m going.”

At some point in my professional development as a teacher, I began to understand the significance of valid instructional objectives and the domains of learning. I will concede the point that the cognitive domain is the most important domain in the educational process. Objectives written in this domain specify what students will be able to do intellectually as a result of instruction. These instructional results range from the memorization of facts to the most complex processes of evaluation and assessment (Gunter).  We can measure these results with multiple-choice items on standardized tests. Numerous educators and politicians believe these tests enable us to rate the effectiveness of schools and teachers in most levels of the cognitive domain.

My concern is that in order to satisfy those who want a significant portion of teachers’ assessment based on the academic achievement of their students, we feel obligated to spend all of the instructional time in the cognitive domain. In the affective domain, we wrestle with attitudes, feelings, and values.  At the highest level of the affective domain, the students internalize the values being taught and behave consistently with their personal values set.  You are correct; a multiple choice standardized test cannot correctly assess whether the students have internalized a set of values.  This assessment takes place over a lifetime and therein lies the assessment problem.   

I recently began surveying textbooks on instructional strategies used in professional development courses. I have found that the affective domain receives very scant attention. In one textbook we have used at Maryville College, in the most recent edition the affective domain is never mentioned (Estes).

What type of impact do we want the schools to have on our children? Is there any time left for developing “the good person” in our educational system. We live in a country, notwithstanding the world, where we desperately need a critical mass of adults who are morally strong. If schools shirk the responsibility of developing moral individuals, who will teach and model moral values to our children?  The family structure is in such disarray we can no longer rely on the family to teach and more importantly model appropriate values.  Fewer and fewer of our children, especially our children who live in poverty, are active in a faith community.  As a result our children become easy prey for the demagogues that fill the internet.

Our country once championed the ideal of always being on the high moral ground. Have we as a society sacrificed this noble cause to a weak pragmatism that permits us to do whatever we want to do in order to get what we want? Have we given in to the ideal that those with the rawest power always win regardless of their virtue?

It has been the death of idealism over the last several decades that troubles me the most.  It has been the searching and striving for those noble ideals that have historically given us the high moral ground. If as a society we have rejected the notion of striving for these ideals, which include justice and fairness, we are doomed as a society never to be better than we are at this moment in time.

Deborah and I have four grandchildren, and we plan to spend a lot more time with them in the next few years. However, I would be less than honest with you if I did not admit that I am greatly concerned about the kind of world we are leaving them.  As teachers, we should demand a more balanced curriculum integrating the affective domain in our state mandated curriculum standards.

Bless you my children,

Dr. Terry L. Simpson

Estes, T. H. & Mintz, S. L. (2016).  Instruction: A Models Approach. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Terry and Deborah Ready for Retirement

Terry and Deborah Ready for Retirement

As I finish 28 years at Maryville College, I have been reflecting on the personal cost of being Director of Teacher Education, Chair of the Division of Education, classroom teacher, and supervisor of student teachers all at the same time. I have realized that my choices did take a toll. Deborah has been the one that has sacrificed the most. I recall many decisions that I have made, and I would like a redo on several of those decisions, but life does not work that way.

Deborah has three daughters; Anna, Meg, and Trisha. One lives here, another lives in Texas, and Trisha and her daughter, Victoria, live in Phoenix. Deborah is excited about living closer to her granddaughter, Victoria. My daughter, Jennifer, lives in Houston with her husband and my three grandchildren; Savannah, Daniel, and Isabella. We are eager to be closer to our grandchildren so we can be more involved in their activities and daily lives.
Deborah and I want to spend time investigating Western and Native American culture, especially art. Deborah is very knowledgeable in this field, but I do not know enough to even be classified as a novice. We are trying to find a way to purchase an RV in order to spend extended time at specific sites in the West. Both of us enjoy learning and plan to spend retirement being active.

As I often tell my students, when the train of opportunity comes by, get on board because it may not come by again. Deborah and I are ready to board that train.

Bless you my children,

Terry L. Simpson

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

...a bittersweet post

This is a difficult blog for us to post and will not be an easy read for many of you. I can assure you that those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Terry Simpson everyday are trying to soak up all of his wit and wisdom before he calls it a day. Please follow our Maryville College Teacher Licensure Facebook page to monitor the events being planned to celebrate the man, the myth, the legend, but most importantly, our friend...Dr. Terry L. Simpson.       BL, AO, and BW

Dr. Barbara Wells
Vice President and Dean of the College  
Maryville College 

Dr. Wells: 
I have always told my faculty in the Maryville College Teacher Licensure Program that when I am no longer an asset to the program, I do not want to stay in my position.  It seems that I have reached that point.  For this reason, I will retire at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. 

If I may quote the Holy Scriptures that I read, “I have finished my course.”  At the close of the 2017-2018 academic year, I will have completed 44 years as a teacher.  This pilgrimage began in 1973 in Knox County Schools as a teacher at Cedar Bluff Middle School.  It was the realization of my dreams as a 7th grader.   

At the close of this academic year, I will have completed 28 years at Maryville College.  When I came to Maryville College, the Tennessee Department of Education was restructuring teacher education in the state.  Few people have the opportunity to play a critical role in the initial development of a new program.  I was given that opportunity.  I have given Maryville College a small amount of knowledge with a tremendous amount of passion as we developed a program that gained a local, regional, and national reputation.  We have realized every goal that I had for this program.  

As a 7th grader growing up in rural East Tennessee, I could never have dreamed in a million years the experiences teaching would give me.  I have taught at the middle school, high school, community college, and college/university levels.  I have taught in public, private, and religious education institutions.  I have lectured/taught in Haiti, Brazil, the Philippines, Estonia, and Saudi Arabia.  To be honest, on many occasions I was scared out of my mind. 

However, I must thank numerous individuals for my successful tenure at Maryville College.  First, Marcia Keith took a risk and hired someone the polar opposite of her to be her closest colleague.  She gave me lots of freedom to develop certain aspects of the new licensure program.   

Second, it is impossible to find adequate words to express my gratitude to Alesia Orren, Becky Lucas, and Bonnie West.  Each of these individuals brought different skills and expertise to our program.  We have had tremendous success and program recognition over the past 10 years, and Alesia, Becky, and Bonnie should receive the proper recognition for this success. 

Furthermore, adjunct instructors played a significant role in our program.  There were too many to list them all, but three adjuncts played a critical role.  The work and expertise of Steve Fugate, Evelyn Homan, and Joe Malloy were essential in the development of our program.   

Finally, the Maryville College Teacher Licensure Program would not exist without the students.  Some of the most outstanding young men and women that I have ever known have graduated from our licensure program.  They embraced our vision of teaching and did the hard work that resulted in the positive recognition that we have received.   

A friend once told me that I was the luckiest person on this earth because I have always enjoyed my work.  I do consider myself fortunate. I have given Maryville College 28 of the most productive years of my professional life.  I do not have any regrets. 


Terry L. Simpson, EdD 
Director of Teacher Education 
Professor of Secondary Education 
Director, Maryville College East Tennessee Math/Science Partnership 2008-2012 
Fulbright Awards -  Estonia 2000 and Saudi Arabia 2002       

Thursday, August 10, 2017

“Oh No! You have Todd in Your Homeroom!?”

It was during the inservice days before school began that several 7th grade teachers discovered Todd was in my 8th grade homeroom class.  This was the kid from hell, or so it seemed, if you listened to what they said about him.  From day one and for several weeks, I must admit that I always had my eye on Todd, just waiting for his bad behavior to explode in my classroom.  In spite of this negative attitude toward Todd on my part, I took a few positive steps on how I would approach Todd.  The positive outcomes of these steps were more luck from a novice teacher than any display of wisdom on my part. 

This was the early 1970s, and divorce was growing at an alarming rate.  Todd’s father had left the family, and he had very limited contact with Todd.  Consequently, Todd was an angry young man.  His family situation explained some of his negative behavior.  

As a male middle school teacher, I was the very first male teacher many of my students had experienced.  Due to the increasing number of students living in single parent homes (and that single parent was often female), I was often the only positive male role model in the lives of many of my students.  This was a heavy burden to place on a young teacher’s shoulders.   

Looking back on this experience, I believe the most important step I took was to connect with Todd outside the academic coursework in my class.  During the early 1970s, Cedar Bluff Middle School had 900/1000 students in grades 6-8.  Many of our buses ran three loads in the afternoons.  Instead of sending the second and third load riders to the gym, they were sent to different classrooms identified as bus rooms.  Todd was assigned to my classroom as his bus room.   

Since I was sponsor of the Chess Club at Cedar Bluff, there were several chessboards on the shelves in my room.  Todd informed me that he liked to play chess, so I asked him if he would like to play against me during the wait for his bus.  He immediately set up a chessboard to play against me.  This connection was all it took.  From that point on, Todd would set up the chessboard each afternoon to play against me while he waited for his bus number to be called.  Yes, there were numerous times I really did not want to play chess with Todd, but I seldom turned him down.  This relationship outside of academics made all the difference.   

Do you have Todd in your class this year?  Let me offer a few suggestions:  

  1. Ignore teacher gossip about how bad your student’s behavior was last year.  Give the student a new beginning. 
  2. Students change and often mature from one year to the next.  Give this maturity a chance to work.  
  3. Find out about the economic and social conditions of the student’s home life.  It may give you insight concerning the unacceptable behaviors of the student.  
  4. Get to know your student and make a connection outside the academic content of your course.  This often takes time, but the result can make a profound difference in the behavior of the student in your classroom. 

Bless you my children, 

Dr. Terry L. Simpson 
Director of Teacher Education
Maryville College 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Call to All Social Studies and History Teachers: Your Country Needs You—Step Up to the Plate

During the mid to late twentieth century, our country has found itself in critical situations, and it often asked that the nation’s schools and teachers play a central role in the solution.  On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite.  It was in an elliptical low orbit with four external radio antennas.  It was visible all around the earth, and its radio pulses were detectable.  I was 8 years-old and I remember how scared the people in our community were.  In fact, the entire nation seemed to be gripped in fear.

Consequently, one of the first institutions our nation looked to for a response was our educational system.  In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (You didn’t know Congress could respond so quickly, did you?).  Millions of dollars were directed toward math and science, and many of the grants awarded for more than 40 years were referred to as “Eisenhower Grants”.  

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was a cornerstone of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty”.  Title I, a provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is a program created by the United States Department of Education to distribute funding to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families.  Title I was designed to close the skill gap in reading, writing, and mathematics between children from low-income households who attend urban or rural school systems and children from the middle-class who attend suburban school systems.  We still trying to close that gap.

In 2001, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act under President George W. Bush was known as the No Child Left Behind Act.  The goal was to assure that all schools and all students made Adequate Yearly Progress. 

Our nation is looking our way again.  It desperately needs its schools to lead our people out of civil disintegration and back into a state of civil discourse, which is "a conversation intended to enhance understanding".  This task falls squarely in the lap of social studies and history teachers.  I am an “old” middle school social studies and high school/community college history teacher.  Too often I felt that the social studies and history curricula were the unwanted stepchildren of the total school curriculum.   The emphasis was always on math, science, and elementary reading.  They have STEM instruction now... they can keep building their robots, while we take on the serious task of healing the nation’s wounds.     

I would like to suggest four essential objectives we must meet.  First, we must provide opportunities for students to reflect about the formation of their own ideas and values.  Second, we must establish a safe space for students to discuss diverse and sensitive viewpoints.  Third, as teachers we must model not passive listening but engaged listening for our students.  Fourth, teachers must model how to engage in civil discourse with someone who holds opinions and values different from those of the teacher.  I do not have the right to level personal attacks against that person on unrelated issues or demonize that person.  Don’t worry about the standards.  My objectives can find a home under multiple social studies and history standards.

To my fellow social studies and history teachers:  This is your hour!  We must act faster than Congress in 1958.  Step up to the plate.  Let’s prepare a new generation to heal the divisive wounds inflicted on our people.

Bless You My Children, 
Terry L. Simpson

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 17, 2017

From the desk of Dr. Terry L. Simpson...

          Since you have now completed your final exam at Maryville College, may you have a wonderful celebration with those who care deeply about you and your future.  We have worked hard together to make you the best teacher that you can possibly be, but it is now squarely on your shoulders.  We have equipped you to be a leader and not a follower.
          When you finally receive your official Maryville College degree, please remember that no one owes you anything.  Rather, you are obligated.  You are one of the 10% of the world’s population with a college degree.  You are obligated to make a positive difference in the world around you.  You are obligated to be unconditionally dedicated to our children.  A wise teacher once said, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
          When you begin teaching in the fall, just remember, we will be teaching with you.  When you are faced with one of those overwhelming situations, pause and reflect on what we taught you.  A few years ago, one of our graduates, during her first year of teaching, sent me the following text message, “Dr. Simpson, remind me why I wanted to be a teacher.”  We are only a text message or email away.
          When you are named “Teacher of the Year,” you must call Dr. Orren, Dr. Lucas, Dr. Mertz or me before you call your mother.
Finally, for the last time, and this one is good for a lifetime, “Bless you my children.”

Dr. Terry L. Simpson
Director of Teacher Education
Maryville College