Book Club Reflection: See Me After Class

See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, by Roxanna Elden, is so refreshing and real! Elden is practical about the reality of teaching which makes you feel like you’re not the only who had a lesson plan fail or a student misbehave. She gives several pieces of advice related to classroom management, parent involvement, testing, time management, observations, student motivation, and more! Below are pieces of advice I often need to be reminded of!

Advice # 1: “Your classroom is your first responsibility” (Elden, 2011, p. 8).

Elden (2011) states, “To prove myself, I signed up to teach night school, tutored on Saturdays, and sponsored the volleyball team. I was at school for 12 hours on a short day and still had to bring papers home. I spread myself so thin I was ineffective in everything” (p. 8). Through my own experience as a beginning teacher and through the mentorship and observation of new teachers, I have seen how easy it is to walk into a school with the expectation and drive to make changes, start new programs, and get involved. It can also be challenging to apply and adapt the great ideas and teaching approaches learned about in college education courses to the context of an actual classroom. Although it’s important to not let your excitement dwindle, it is crucial that the classroom is your first priority. This means understanding the needs of your learners, establishing a positive learning community with high expectations, having a deep understanding of the grade level standards, designing instruction that directly connects with specific learning targets and using assessments to improve student learning. I think this type of structure really sets the tone for learning and keeps the focus on student learning. This part of teaching is challenging in itself and needs 100% of a teacher’s attention. Although diving into other responsibilities and extracurricular activities are important and valuable, I think it is very easy to spread yourself too thin.

Advice #2: “A well-run classroom is a process, not a starting point. Keep reaching for that goal even if you lose ground some days” (Elden, 2011, p. 73).

This quote is a good reminder that managing a classroom takes effort every single day. Just because rules have been reinforced the day before, does not mean they don’t need to be reinforced today. The key is consistency, which is always challenging! The most challenging part for me is being fair and providing consistent consequences. Elden (2011) states, “Kids have super- sharp “fairness” radar. Threats and promises work best when they are backed up by action and when rules apply to everyone” (p. 66). The reason this is difficult is because kids don’t have consistent behavior. I do find it easier to ignore a student who is talking during a lesson that often demonstrates “good” behavior and I am quicker to respond with a student who frequently misbehaves. It’s important that I have consistent consequences so the “bad kids” don’t think I’m just picking on them. I have also found it’s equally important for showing the “good kids” that rules apply to them too. When I have not been consistent, I notice towards the end of the year that these students begin to push the boundaries. They begin to figure out that I will give them a pass, so their misbehavior becomes more frequent. Since these kids are normally such good kids and never get in trouble, they are extra sensitive to consequences. I know they will be upset or embarrassed if they lose their gold card for good behavior or hear their name called aloud (I was one of these kids! If the teacher called my name aloud in front of the class because I was talking, I felt horrible!). This sometimes prevents me from giving them a consequence. However, since they are such good kids providing a consequence just once will help turn their behavior around quickly. Being consistent will always make the days ahead much smoother!

Advice #3: “If you know they can do it, and they know you know they can do it, stop telling them you know they can do it, and make them do it” (Elden, 2011, p. 118).

This is advice I often forget when students do not turn in quality work when I know they can do better. It is easy to say “I know you can do better and I expect that from you the next time.” However, it’s important that students get immediate feedback and are held to the expectation that they will complete an assignment until it is their best. Waiting until the next assignment does not motivate students to perform their best the next time around.

Advice #4: “If a student refuses to work despite your best efforts, let him fail. Life doesn’t give grades based on potential. Either should you” (Elden, 2011, p. 119).

I think this is effective as long as students are given feedback and an opportunity to improve along the way. “Does this count towards our grade?” is a question that I often hear when an assignment is given. The problem with this is that grades have become the motivation to achieve. If a grade isn’t attached to the assignment the motivation to perform well decreases. Similarly, after a grade has been given, motivation to make improvements decreases. While it is important students do not receive high grades based on potential, it’s also important that the grade reflects their levels of understanding. As a teacher I may need to adjust my practice in order to adjust my students view of assessment. Students may need more opportunities to use feedback and make improvements before a grade is given.

I will definitely keep this book close by along my educational journey! It will remind me that I’m not alone and to continue to strive to do my best teaching each day despite the challenges I face.

References

Elden, R. (2011).  See me after class: Advice for teachers by teachers.  New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing.

 

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EDU 6524: Meta-Reflection

Standard 1 Instructional Planning: Designs and monitors long and short-term plans for students’ academic success.

Standard 3 Curriculum: Provides knowledge and skills that bring academic subjects to life and are aligned with state content standards.

The course, Curriculum Design, taught me the importance of using curriculum as a guide to plan instruction that is aligned with state standards and focuses on what students need to know. Parkay, Hass, & Anctil (2010) define curriculum as “all of the educative experiences learners have in an educational program, the purpose of which is to achieve broad goals and related specific objectives that have been developed within a framework of theory and research, past and present professional practice, and the changing needs of society” (p. 3). Curriculum and instructional planning should be intertwined in order to determine what students need to know based on state content standards and how teachers will design and monitor long and short-term plans for students’ academic success.

Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) offers a backward way of thinking about curriculum that focuses on defining first what students need to know, rather than the activities and instructions that will be used. Design of assessment needs to take place first in order to clearly identify academic standards and the purpose for learning. This makes the learning evident for both the student and teachers. Teachers should first think about the evidence they will need to determine students’ learning. This can then guide the lesson planning and instruction. Teachers can apply backward design to any curriculum or learning standards and at any grade level. There are three stages of backward design which include: “identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence, and planning learning experiences and instruction” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 18).

In backward design, the purpose is to teach to reach objectives, instead of teaching to cover content in a textbook. Teachers need to think first about what students need to know and second about the instruction and activities that will help students meet the objectives. This way the design of instruction becomes more purposeful and students have a clear understanding of what they need to know and why. An important component to implementing the backward design strategy is to differentiate between the words “understand” and “know.” If students are to understand a concept they must be able to provide evidence by demonstrating they know specific pieces of knowledge. Understanding is different from knowledge because it requires thinking beyond the facts. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) state, “To understand is to have done it in the right way, often reflected in being able to explain why a particular skill, approach, or body of knowledge is or is not appropriate in a particular situation” (p. 39). Unlike facts or skills learned through memorization or drill, understanding requires students to apply what they learned to different contexts. The goal then is for teachers to design instruction that focuses on applying what students learn to larger contexts so they can transfer their knowledge. Otherwise, students will likely learn topics in isolation through memorization without understanding their relation to other ideas or the purpose for learning the content.

When designing units using the curriculum, teachers should frame learning goals in the form of essential questions to help students make connections and apply new knowledge to broader contexts. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) state, “The design must explicitly focus on the big ideas that connect and bring meaning to all the discrete facts and skills” (p. 105). One way to approach the design of essential questions is to keep them open-ended. This allows for higher-level thinking and a level of inquiry. Students cannot simply respond with a yes or no and can’t just search for a single answer for the purpose of completing an assignment. Questions should be engaging and relevant to students. It’s also important that questions don’t just address a specific topic (topical) that fulfills the learning target for the lesson, but questions should also be general enough (overarching) so students can apply the standard across content areas (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). The goal in creating questions is to use them as a frame that helps guide the learning activities and inquiry. Both teachers and students can revisit the questions throughout the lesson to determine if their new learning has led them to answers. Questions can help keep the lesson focused on answering the goals of the unit. Creating overarching questions before the lesson provides direction for the teacher to ensure that learning activities are aligned with the goals of the unit. It also helps teachers avoid teaching for coverage because students are not just searching for definitive answers but applying their new knowledge to understand big ideas.

As teachers prepare to use curriculum effectively, they must think about the process as well as the content. This includes a focus on: goals and outcomes, instruction, and assessment (Costa & Kallick, 2010). Costa & Kallick (2010) describe a curriculum mind shift that needs to take place as teachers prepare students for a 21st century education. Teachers need to value knowledge acquisition as an outcome rather than knowledge production. Students should be constructing their own knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, and understanding multiple perspectives. The views of curriculum vary depending on the subjective and objective elements in which knowledge is constructed. There are different types of knowledge that should influence the curriculum taught in schools. These include personal/cultural, popular, mainstream academic, transformative academic, and school (Banks, 1996). Students should learn all types of knowledge so they are able to understand multiple perspectives and develop their own. If teachers understand different types of knowledge they can apply this knowledge in the classroom to help students see how the knowledge fits within a social context. Creating an empowering school culture where all teachers are approaching the curriculum with a critical eye and making modifications will allow students to see multiple perspectives. Since curriculums vary from school to school and do not always represent multiple cultural backgrounds, it is not enough to rely on simply delivering the content. It is important that teachers not only provide multiple perspectives but also allow students to engage in critical thinking activities so they can learn to make their own interpretations. These are skills that students can apply beyond the classroom. Students need to be prepared to make decisions so they can make positive contributions to our diverse society.

 UBD Unit  This artifact is an example of how I applied the Backward Design model to a 3rd grade math unit.

References

Banks, J.A. (1996). Transformative knowledge, curriculum reform, and action. In J.A. Banks (Ed.) Multicultural education, transformative knowledge, and action: Historical and contemporary perspectives (pp. 335-348). New York, NY: Teachers College Press (Chapter 18).

Costa, A., & Kallick, B. (2010). It Takes Some Getting Used To: Rethinking Curriculum for the 21st Century. Curriculum 21 Essential Education for a Changing World (pp. 210-23). Alexandria: ASCD.

Parkay, F., Hass, G., & Anctil, E. (2010). Curriculum Leadership: Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs (9th ed.). Pearson Education.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

 

 

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Standard 1 & 3 Meta-Reflection: Instructional Planning and Curriculum

Standard 1 Instructional Planning: Designs and monitors long and short-term plans for students’ academic success.

Standard 3 Curriculum: Provides knowledge and skills that bring academic subjects to life and are aligned with state content standards.

The course, Curriculum Design, taught me the importance of using curriculum as a guide to plan instruction that is aligned with state standards and focuses on what students need to know. Parkay, Hass, & Anctil (2010) define curriculum as “all of the educative experiences learners have in an educational program, the purpose of which is to achieve broad goals and related specific objectives that have been developed within a framework of theory and research, past and present professional practice, and the changing needs of society” (p. 3). Curriculum and instructional planning should be intertwined in order to determine what students need to know based on state content standards and how teachers will design and monitor long and short-term plans for students’ academic success.

Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) offers a backward way of thinking about curriculum that focuses on defining first what students need to know, rather than the activities and instructions that will be used. Design of assessment needs to take place first in order to clearly identify academic standards and the purpose for learning. This makes the learning evident for both the student and teachers. Teachers should first think about the evidence they will need to determine students’ learning. This can then guide the lesson planning and instruction. Teachers can apply backward design to any curriculum or learning standards and at any grade level. There are three stages of backward design which include: “identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence, and planning learning experiences and instruction” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 18).

In backward design, the purpose is to teach to reach objectives, instead of teaching to cover content in a textbook. Teachers need to think first about what students need to know and second about the instruction and activities that will help students meet the objectives. This way the design of instruction becomes more purposeful and students have a clear understanding of what they need to know and why. An important component to implementing the backward design strategy is to differentiate between the words “understand” and “know.” If students are to understand a concept they must be able to provide evidence by demonstrating they know specific pieces of knowledge. Understanding is different from knowledge because it requires thinking beyond the facts. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) state, “To understand is to have done it in the right way, often reflected in being able to explain why a particular skill, approach, or body of knowledge is or is not appropriate in a particular situation” (p. 39). Unlike facts or skills learned through memorization or drill, understanding requires students to apply what they learned to different contexts. The goal then is for teachers to design instruction that focuses on applying what students learn to larger contexts so they can transfer their knowledge. Otherwise, students will likely learn topics in isolation through memorization without understanding their relation to other ideas or the purpose for learning the content.

When designing units using the curriculum, teachers should frame learning goals in the form of essential questions to help students make connections and apply new knowledge to broader contexts. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) state, “The design must explicitly focus on the big ideas that connect and bring meaning to all the discrete facts and skills” (p. 105). One way to approach the design of essential questions is to keep them open-ended. This allows for higher-level thinking and a level of inquiry. Students cannot simply respond with a yes or no and can’t just search for a single answer for the purpose of completing an assignment. Questions should be engaging and relevant to students. It’s also important that questions don’t just address a specific topic (topical) that fulfills the learning target for the lesson, but questions should also be general enough (overarching) so students can apply the standard across content areas (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). The goal in creating questions is to use them as a frame that helps guide the learning activities and inquiry. Both teachers and students can revisit the questions throughout the lesson to determine if their new learning has led them to answers. Questions can help keep the lesson focused on answering the goals of the unit. Creating overarching questions before the lesson provides direction for the teacher to ensure that learning activities are aligned with the goals of the unit. It also helps teachers avoid teaching for coverage because students are not just searching for definitive answers but applying their new knowledge to understand big ideas.

As teachers prepare to use curriculum effectively, they must think about the process as well as the content. This includes a focus on: goals and outcomes, instruction, and assessment (Costa & Kallick, 2010). Costa & Kallick (2010) describe a curriculum mind shift that needs to take place as teachers prepare students for a 21st century education. Teachers need to value knowledge acquisition as an outcome rather than knowledge production. Students should be constructing their own knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, and understanding multiple perspectives. The views of curriculum vary depending on the subjective and objective elements in which knowledge is constructed. There are different types of knowledge that should influence the curriculum taught in schools. These include personal/cultural, popular, mainstream academic, transformative academic, and school (Banks, 1996). Students should learn all types of knowledge so they are able to understand multiple perspectives and develop their own. If teachers understand different types of knowledge they can apply this knowledge in the classroom to help students see how the knowledge fits within a social context. Creating an empowering school culture where all teachers are approaching the curriculum with a critical eye and making modifications will allow students to see multiple perspectives. Since curriculums vary from school to school and do not always represent multiple cultural backgrounds, it is not enough to rely on simply delivering the content. It is important that teachers not only provide multiple perspectives but also allow students to engage in critical thinking activities so they can learn to make their own interpretations. These are skills that students can apply beyond the classroom. Students need to be prepared to make decisions so they can make positive contributions to our diverse society.

Artifacts:

Understanding by Design Unit– This artifact is an example of how I applied the Backward Design model to a 3rd grade math unit.

Assessment Portfolio– This artifact is a portfolio I created that demonstrates my ability to design instruction and use assessment to make instructional decisions based on students’ needs.

References

Banks, J.A. (1996). Transformative knowledge, curriculum reform, and action. In J.A. Banks (Ed.) Multicultural education, transformative knowledge, and action: Historical and contemporary perspectives (pp. 335-348). New York, NY: Teachers College Press (Chapter 18). 

Costa, A., & Kallick, B. (2010). It Takes Some Getting Used To: Rethinking Curriculum for the 21st Century. Curriculum 21 Essential Education for a Changing World (pp. 210-23). Alexandria: ASCD.

Parkay, F., Hass, G., & Anctil, E. (2010). Curriculum Leadership: Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs (9th ed.). Pearson Education.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

 

 

 

 

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EDU6524: EdCamp Reflection

I want to reflect on my experience at EdCamp at University Prep. The event offered a “unconference” format in which teachers taught teachers during sessions centered around specific topics. One of the sessions I attended was about the role mentors play in the school setting. The discussion focused on how teachers can be positive mentors for students. Some suggestions were:

  • Matching students with mentors they can connect with.
  • Identifying what students need and how they can best be supported.
  • Helping kids take ownership so they care about their work.
  • Helping establish trust with students by making a personal connection- checking in on them, asking “How are you doing?, “How can I help you?”, and letting them know you are glad they came to class.
  • Should be a reciprocal relationship- empowering for both people

This discussion connected with the article, “Schools Explore Benefits of Peer Counseling,” by Evie Blad from Education Week. This article was about the positive effects of peer coaching for kids transitioning to high school. The program is called Peer Group Connection. High school students are leading groups of 9th graders to help “boost attendance, academic persistence, and graduate rates” (Blad, 2014, para. 4). This program recognizes the influence of social and emotional factors on students’ academic performance. The program not only supports 9th grade students as they prepare for high school but it provides older students with leadership skills. It gives an opportunity for all students to learn how to be mentors and a positive influence for others. Blad (2014) states, “Peer Group Connection is more successful than some other peer-mentoring efforts because its integrated into the school day, incorporates several meetings with students’ families to reinforce lessons and supports, and requires buy-in from principals and teachers before a school implements the program” (para. 10).

After reading the article, I think peer-mentoring offers many of the benefits of mentoring described at EdCamp. Students are more likely to relate to other students who are living the high school experience and understand the social and academic pressures they are dealing with. It is easier for students to establish a trusting and personal connection when they can relate to each other’s experiences. Since the mentor is taking on a leadership role, the mentor is learning along with the student making it a reciprocal relationship in which they can learn from each other.

I also had the opportunity to attend Twitter 101 at EdCamp. This session connected with ISTE Standard 5 which recommends joining a local or global learning community. Twitter is a resource that allows teachers to learn new ways to integrate technology and share best teaching practices with others. According to Koehler & Mishra (2009), “Teachers practice their craft in highly complex, dynamic classroom contexts that require them constantly to shift and evolve their understanding. Thus, effective teaching depends on flexible access to rich, well-organized and integrated knowledge from different domains”  (p.61). Twitter is a great tool for professional development because it allows teachers to share information in 140 characters or less and search for information related to their content area. The session at EdCamp was a great starting off point because I was able to create an account and learn how to tweet and use Twitter’s features. I was able to connect with other educators and follow tweets about what other educators were learning right at EdCamp!

Finally, I attended the teacher leadership session and got to hear about the vision of education from two Washington Teacher of the Year winners! It was great to hear about the impact positive leaders can bring in shaping a school community. There was an emphasis on the importance of job-embedded learning. Job-embedded learning focuses on professional learning that is ongoing and a part of daily instruction. Zepeda (2008) states, “Job-embedded learning is about learning from everyday practice as people learn by doing, reflecting on the experience, and making modifications based on the experience, the talk and the action of doing” (p. 76). The current Washington Teacher of the Year, Katie Brown, gave examples of what job-embedded learning looks like at her school. Staff meetings always begin with modeling of an effective teaching strategy. Teachers are asked to not only share strategies but model the strategies for other teachers. There are also opportunities for teachers to observe other teachers to get new teaching ideas and learn from one another!

I’m glad I was able to attend EdCamp! It was a great learning experience and a cool way to connect and learn from other educators!

References

Blad, E. (2014). Schools Explore Benefits of Peer Counseling. Education Week, 33(19), 1,15. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/04/23/29peerconnection.h33.html

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Zepeda, S. (2012). Professional development: What works (2nd ed.). Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education

Posted in Standard 01. Instructional Planning, Standard 03. Curriculum, Standard 06. Communication, Standard 07. Collaboration | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Standard 12 Meta-Reflection: Professional Citizenship

Standard 12 Professional citizenship: Willingly engages in dialogue that transcends the individual classroom, taking informed, coherent positions on important matters of educational policy and practice.

Throughout history, reformers have influenced educational policy and educational practice has changed over time. School has changed since the colonial era in which the school was the last form of education to be considered of value. Family, church, and the community were all more valuable aspects in education. Within three different cultures (African American, Native American, and European) there were different traditions and rituals that were a part of education. Although there were multiple cultures, the English institutions dominated and were imposed on others (Fraser, 2010, p. 2). Literacy for slaves changed from acceptance to discouragement with the fear that slaves would rebel or be disobedient. This began to change after the Civil War and education changed significantly after the Civil Rights Movement. Laws were created to encourage parents to teach their children or to ensure that schools were available to children. Non-Europeans were addressed with the attitude that they would believe in Christianity and understand the trades of American civilization. There was also the fear that education and baptism would free the slaves.

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and Noah Webster were all influential philosophers in changing the direction of education after the American Revolution. They all believed that the United States needed a new education system. Jefferson believed that educating people would protect Americans from tyranny. Jefferson states, “The best safeguard against tyranny is to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large” (Fraser, 2010, p. 17). Although, women, Native Americans, and African Americans, were not included. Unlike Jefferson, Benjamin Rush’s vision for education included women. Noah Webster was influential in education with the creation of the dictionary, speller, grammar, and reader. In addition to helping Americans learn to read and write, he also believed America needed a new education system. He believed that “dead languages” were not necessary and that “if children are to acquire ideas it is certainly easier to obtain them in a language which they understand than in a foreign language” (Fraser, 2010, p. 30). He also believed that teachers should be a “master” of the subjects they teach so students are receiving a good education. Educators should be of strong character and virtues believing that “education, in a great measure, forms the moral characters of men, and morals are the basis of government” (p. 33).

The Common School Movement between 1820 and 1860 brought a change in the school system. Previously in the colonial era, education was at the center of family, community, and the church. Horace Mann was a leader in the Common School Movement, which aimed to create a “common” school that was non-secular and paid by taxes. It was no longer the church that was the unifying force. Instead the school would “reach all citizens and could replace the church as a carrier of culture and creator of national unity” (Fraser, 2010, p. 45). The Common School Movement brought female educators to the schools, which was encouraged by Catharine Beecher. Not all citizens supported the Common School arguing that their tax dollars should not support all students’ education and some did not agree with state involvement. Throughout this movement, segregation of schools was prominent. The Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 allowing segregation was overturned in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 (Fraserp. 2010, p. 48).

The Progressive Era (1890-1950) brought progressive education, which included multiple ideas for improving education. Fraser (2010) refers to progressivism in education as “ a many-sided effort to use the schools to improve the lives of individuals” (p. 215). Different viewpoints brought different ideas. Administrators believed authority was necessary and teachers believed their ideas connected to the reality of the classroom. Others believed a child-centered curriculum with opportunities for active learning was important. There were also reformers who thought testing was of high value and would allow teachers to adapt the curriculum to meet students’ needs.

Progressive education declined during the Cold War Era. The launching of the Soviet satellite Sputnik was seen as crisis in the United States. John Dewey’s efforts towards a progressive education no longer fit the mold of what American education needed to be. Fraser (2010) states, “John Dewey and the progressive educators-diverse as they had been- were seen as the enemy, soft and mushy-headed sentimentalists who had let the nation’s schools fall dangerously behind the rigorous and tough-minded schools of the Russian enemy” (p. 255-256). This led to reformers support of a more traditional curriculum. The National Defense Education Act was signed to provide funding for schools to create a better education for students in order to support scientists and engineers in the future. There was a drive to steer away from progressive education, which held the belief that children “learn by doing” (Fraser, 2010, p. 263). Instead, reformers wanted education to return to the basics and to have children learn from books.

Brown v. Board of Education created significant change for education with the decision that segregation of schools based on race was illegal. The effect of segregation did not provide students with equal protection of the law. Equalizing tangible factors did not make the schools separate but equal. Students of color did not receive equal opportunities, which deprived them of equal education and created feelings of inferiority. A finding in the Kansas court stated, “ A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn” (Fraser, 2010, p. 295). Although schools are no longer segregated today, there is still a need to focus on how race and culture influences our classrooms and students.

Today, my own views of education are influenced through multiple lenses that affect my influence as an educator, leader, mentor and professional. The political, social, and moral principles that guide our education system challenge teachers to improve student learning. However, evidence of student learning is required to be displayed in the form of high-test scores. My personal educational philosophy is that improved student learning does not result in the increased rigor of academic content from new Common Core State Standards or the pressure of high stakes testing. I believe that teachers’ voices should be at the core of improving student learning. Teachers are the professionals working with students on a daily basis. They are constantly learning about students’ lifestyles, learning needs, and cultural backgrounds. They understand that students’ growth should not be measured solely on their test performance on a single day of the year. They understand that students should have multiple pathways and need the support of teachers to prepare them to be successful in the pathway they choose. In order to empower teachers to drive change, school communities should be built on developing trusting professional relationships that will encourage teachers to wear multiple hats. In our school system, we need teachers that are leaders and mentors while still having one foot in the classroom door. This will ensure that decisions are made with an understanding of how policy would be applicable in an actual classroom.

I think there has been a shift away from Horace Mann’s philosophy to provide children with a “free, nonselective, academically challenging, fair, and morally just system of school” (Baines, 2006, p. 269). The pressure of standardized tests forces teachers to test standards, rather than adapt instruction to meet students’ specific needs. There is less character education and more of an emphasis on academic needs (Baines, 2006). Rather than a “progressive” approach in which children “learn by doing” (Fraser, 2010, p. 269), education has steered in the direction of essentialism. The “essentialist” approach “calls for a learning community based on a common core of ideas, understandings, arithmetic, history, the sciences, and creative work in art” (Urban & Wagoner, 2000, p. 269). In today’s schools, students are held to high expectations and are assessed based on rigorous standards. Teachers are expected to cover multiple content areas and assessment of student progress is constant to ensure that students are meeting learning targets. I think a combination of both progressivism and essentialism is important. However, the pendulum has swung too far towards essentialism and students need more opportunities to participate in the learning and engage in tasks that are interesting to them. I think educational experiences would be more meaningful if students were active participants. This helps students connect their background knowledge to new learning and develop high-level thinking skills. I think students are more likely to remember and apply their learning to new situations when they can experience it. However, it’s also important that assessment is used to guide students’ learning to ensure that students are meeting standards.

Artifact: EducationalPlatform

This artifact is my educational platform that describes the political, social, and moral principles that guide me in the educational setting.

References

Baines, L. (2006). A School for the Common Good: Does Horace Mann Still Matter?.  Educational Horizons.

Fraser, J. (2010). The School in the United States. New York, New York, Routledge.

Urban, J. & Wagoner, J. (2014). American Education: A History (2nd ed). New York, New York, Routledge.

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EDU 6524: Assessing Student Understanding (Blog 4)

Rubrics can serve as a tool to determine students’ level of understanding based on their responses. Rubrics allow both the teacher and student to assess progress and areas for growth. In order to use rubrics effectively, students need to be aware of the criteria and use the rubric as a guide for completing quality work.

When creating rubrics, teachers need to be clear about what quality work looks like and provide samples of work at different levels on the rubric. Students should become familiar with the language on the rubric so teachers can provide descriptive feedback connected to various levels. Involving students in identifying characteristics of quality work allows them to have a clearer picture of the evidence they must demonstrate to show understanding. Involving students in the assessment process provides many benefits that allow students to take ownership of their learning. O’Connor (2009) states, “Student involvement in determining criteria and then judging their work using these criteria achieves several things at once; it gives students more control of their education, it makes evaluation feel less punitive, and it provides an important learning experience in itself” (p. 189). Teachers can then use student work to refine the rubrics created. According to Wiggins & McTighe (2005), “A rubric is never complete until it has been used to evaluate student work and an analysis of different levels of work is used to sharpen the descriptor” (p. 180). This is important because in order for rubrics to serve their purpose they have to provide valid inferences. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) propose two questions for teachers to think about when sharpening descriptors:

  • Could the proposed criteria be met but the performer still not demonstrate deep understanding?
  • Could the proposed criteria not be met but the performer nonetheless still show understanding?

(p. 188)

Providing criteria in the form of a rubric also helps make grades meaningful. Averaging grades over time does not represent a student’s true level of understanding. Students may receive the same grade but have different understandings. Rubrics offer a way to describe a student’s understanding. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) state, “It reflects the reality that individuals can have diverse but valid understanding of the same ideas and experiences” (p. 177). Rubrics also provide meaningful information when communicating grades with parents. Grades have meaning when they are aligned with descriptors that provide a clear picture of students’ understanding. This artifact, RubricUBD, is the rubric I used for my Understanding By Design unit. I designed a four-point rubric to score both the pre- and post-assessment. Each question is worth four points and will receive a score from 1-4. Since each question is aligned with a learning goal, I will be able to determine each students’ level of understanding at each learning goal. The criteria on the rubric for each level will help me determine whether the students’ performance met the learning target.

References

Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right-Using it Well (2nd ed.). Pearson Education, Inc..

O’Connor, K. (2009). How to Grade for Learning, K-12 (3rd ed.). Corwin Press.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

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EDU 6524: Essential Questions (Blog 3)

When designing units, teachers should frame learning goals in the form of essential questions to help students make connections and apply new knowledge to broader contexts. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) state, “The design must explicitly focus on the big ideas that connect and bring meaning to all the discrete facts and skills” (p. 105). One way to approach the design of essential questions is to keep them open-ended. This allows for higher-level thinking and inquiry. Students cannot simply respond with a yes or no and can’t just search for a single answer for the purpose of completing an assignment. Questions should be engaging and relevant to students. It’s also important that questions don’t just address a specific topic (topical) that fulfills the learning target for the lesson, but questions should also be general enough (overarching) so students can apply the standard across content areas (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

Topical and overarching questions should both be used when designing essential questions. Topical questions focus on the goal of the unit and overarching questions are general and apply to larger contexts. If only topical questions are used students are not able to make connections across units. If only overarching questions are used, class discussion may not have a direction and the lesson may lose its purpose. Matching both the topical and overarching questions “signals to the learner that the learning process has stages and rhythms whereby answers lead to other questions and new inquires suggests the need to revisit earlier answers” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 117). Although topical questions may have a definitive answer, understanding this content can lead students to make inferences to answer overarching questions.

The goal in creating questions is to use them as a frame that helps guide the learning activities and inquiry. Both teachers and students can revisit the questions throughout the lesson to determine if their new learning has led them to answers. Questions can help keep the lesson focused on answering the goals of the unit. Creating overarching questions before the lesson provides direction for the teacher to ensure that learning activities are aligned with the goals of the unit. It also helps teachers avoid teaching for coverage because students are not just searching for definitive answers but applying their new knowledge to understand big ideas.

References

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

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