EDU 6989 Course Reflection

Educational Standard 8- Professional Practice

Increasing drop-out rates have plagued the American school system for many years. While there are a variety of issues which seem to contribute to the mounting rate of drop-outs, it appears the dominate culprit is student engagement within the school and classroom setting. One may assume the issue of dropping out of school predominantly effects those who do not academically excel, however, studies have shown those who are gifted also contribute to the percentage of students who leave high school without receiving their diploma. Teachers have a responsibility to acknowledge and remedy this issue at every academic level and should not accept student drop-outs, regardless of a student’s ability. In response, educators should tailor their classroom environment to meet the needs of their most at risk pupils.

Students drop out of school for a variety of reasons, both academic and social. Research findings suggest “poor attendance, school failure, dislike of school, drug and alcohol use/abuse, learning disabilities, pregnancy, and family conflict” as well as less supportive school environments, lack of teacher assistance, lack of engagement and peer pressure are often the reasons why students, of any academic ability, leave school (Fan & Wolters, 2014, Landis & Reschly,2013). Children who drop out of school are at a higher risk of reduced earnings and higher risk of need for government assistance, to name a few (Landis & Reschly, 2013).

In order to properly assess and remedy the issue of drop-outs among students, teachers must first examine why kids leave and what they can do to make them stay. Many factors are associated with academic resiliency. Whether students believe they are able to complete a higher degree is among the factors that predicts whether or not a student will complete high school (Fan & Wolters, 2014). Fan and Walters (2014) discuss the idea of “Expectancy-Value Model”. This model refers to what the student believes their academic ability is in comparison to their interest in learning. These two internal thoughts play a significant part in how a student will perform at a task, thereby influencing their achievement overall. Students who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in coursework and feel confidant of their abilities (Fan & Wolters, 2014). Motivation is one of the most important indicators of whether or not a student will drop out (Fan & Wolters, 2014). In fact, the act of dropping out is initiated well before the student actually leaves school for good (Fan & Wolters, 2014, Landis & Reschly,2013).

Ensuring learners are engaged in the classroom environment is perhaps the single most effective way to insure lower drop out rates, therefore student engagement should be of the highest importance to teachers (Landis& Reschly, 2013). While there are internal factors, such as self-perception and determination in students, teachers can do their best to create an environment where students of all ability can connect and engage in academic activities. These efforts must start early and educators must be vigilant to not overlook any student, regardless of their seemingly apparent abilities. Educators should be creative in the ways they engage students, remembering to use tools and strategies that are effective as well as remembering that engagement can be cultivated in a variety of ways, including: cognitive, behavioral, academic and affective. The most significant type of engagement for gifted students is behavioral. Meaning in order to keep exceptional students in school, they must actually be engaged in more extracurricular activities. Activities that get them involved outside of the academics, not necessary exclusively within the classroom (Landis & Reschly,2013).

Likely this is a different approach than many teachers would normally take to engage their gifted students in school and academia. Many educators likely assume the biggest problem is actually boredom. While boredom does play a role in whether or not gifted students complete their degree, teachers must consider whether or not the student was placed in the appropriate class to begin with (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Regardless of when a student shows gifted abilities they should have access and resources (Landis & Reschly, 2013). By providing the appropriate resources at every grade level, educators can ensure they are providing ways for gifted students to remain engaged throughout their academic career (Landis & Reschly, 2013).

Other issues involved with the completion of high school is a gifted student’s ability to develop career aspirations (Landis). When students do not know what is possible to do with their skills once graduated from high school, they are less likely to be engaged in the classroom environment, be it through homework or class discussion (Landis & Reschly, 2013). One way of insuring proper engagement is through appropriate placement in classroom environments that allow them to explore and exercise their abilities (Landis & Reschly, 2013). With appropriate placement, gifted students are able to be cognitively engaged (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Teachers must be conscious about how placement and opportunities are provided to gifted students. Occasions should be provided with intention and design. For example, students should have the chance to participate in advance classes from the elementary level (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Additionally, schools should recognize a larger group of “gifted” learners. By simply providing programming for students who test at “gifted” levels, educators miss a chance to educate a more diverse population of students who may have giftings that are overlooked (Landis & Reschly, 2013).

Gifted learners also benefit from a tailored environment. Promoting questioning in a classroom environment is one way to accomplish this. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to structure questions, teachers can provide a thought-provoking, safe environment where students can self-promote further learning (Shaunessy, 2000). When students are able to develop questions on their own, information is likely to feel more pertinent to their lives.

Another group of students that must be considered is those of low achievement. Studies show that students of average or low abilities who believe they are strong in English and Math skills are less likely to drop out of school, and those who do not think they are strong in English and Math are more likely to drop out of school (Fan & Wolters, 2014). Learners who do not believe they are strong in English and Math are also more likely to believe they are unable to preform at other high level academics. These believes hinder any motivation to stay in school (Fan & Wolters, 2014).

For students who have disabilities, information should be presented in chunks. By breaking larger concepts into smaller, more manageable bits, students have an opportunity to learn concepts more deeply (Bisland, 2004). Information should also be presented in such a way that it builds on previously learned information and knowledge, beginning with content that is more easily grasped and progressing toward more challenging substance (Koetje, 2015). When learners are able to access information in manageable and obtainable ways, it is more likely they will feel both engaged and successful, motivating them to continue their education.

A final grouping of students yet to be discussed in this paper includes students who are both gifted and learning disabled. These students also contribute to the number of those who drop out before completing schooling. In order to engage learners who are academically disabled and gifted, an educator must be vigilant to recognize both the learning disability and the gifts. Teachers should consider allowing students who are gifted in some areas the opportunity to use supports to accomplish tasks which they may be hindered by in other ways. For example, a student who has a difficult time with hand-writing, but has a talent for essays or stories, is allowed to use a computer to type.  Such supports also promote independence in learning for those who struggle (Shaunessy,2000). Finally, students who fall into the gifted/learning disabled group should be supported through counseling throughout school, ensuring they have adequate support throughout their education (Shaunessy,2000).

By using research based information, as well as the psycho-social issue of motivation and engagement, teachers can develop an environment that supports students staying enrolled in school, regardless of academic ability. Teachers must focus on creating a meaningful environment for their students, where learners can feel engaged and called to higher levels of achievement (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Simply giving students busy work in the classroom will not keep them engaged, and may frustrate students, leading to the seemingly ever present issue of drop-outs. (Landis & Reschly, 2013).

 

 

 

 

References

Bisland, A. (2004). Using Learning-Strategies Instruction With Students Who Are Gifted and Learning Disabled. GIFTED CHILD TODAY, 27(3), 52-58. doi:https://bbweb03.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1134521-dt-content-rid-2474300_1/courses/EDU6150_46328_201563/EDU6150_46328201453_ImportedContent_20150121014720/Bisland 2004.pdf

Fan, W., & Wolters, C. A. (2014). School motivation and high school dropout: The mediating role of educational expectation. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 22-39. Retrieved May 21, 2016, from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e4931499-f68f-4ca3-8145-b2192d6aa19b@sessionmgr106&vid=0&hid=102

Koetje, K. (2015). Methods for Supporting Exceptional Learners [Web log post]. Retrieved May 31, 2016, from https://spu.techsmithrelay.com/JtRN

Landis, R. N., & Reschly, A. L. (2013). Reexamining Gifted Underachievement and Dropout Through the Lens of Student Engagement. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 36(2), 220-249. Retrieved May 21, 2016, from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c35bad5d-a5dc-469d-bfd0-b5567acbed97@sessionmgr103&vid=0&hid=102

Shaunessy, E. (2000). Techniques Questioning in the Gifted Classroom? Gifted Child Today, 23(5), 14-21. doi:http://gct.sagepub.com/content/23/5/14

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EDU 6989- Field Experience Reflections

 

  • Curriculum adoption, knowledge vs. student centered curriculum (April 15, 2016)

 When considering curriculum, school boards must consider the population they intend on reaching. There are many circumstances which must be considered in order to provide the best education to students, even on the macro level of curriculum adoption. Experts find themselves disagreeing with one another about the best way to serve and equip students of the next generation.

Two important issues school boards must consider is the adoption of national standards and the use of technology in the classroom. While experts appear divided on these two issues, districts must make decisions that will result in student centered education. There are many points to be raised about both topics.

For example, perhaps students should have more access to technology as they travel through school. Once they graduate these very same students must be able to utilize the technology many jobs have come to rely on. However, perhaps schools miss the boat when they only create environments that support learning through technology. There is interpersonal knowledge that can only be developed by working with one another face to face. This knowledge includes such things as learning how to respond to conflict or even having empathy for others. When it comes to national standards adoption, school boards that choose local standards may hinder students who consider jobs outside of their home state after graduation. However, when national standards are used, students may miss out on noteworthy information that national standards to not necessarily highlight.

Regardless of decisions made, all students must be equipped with an education that ushers them into the adult world leaving them competitive in the job market as well as competent and able to succeed. By finding a balance, school boards can make thoughtful decisions about these two important classroom issues.

  • Character, Moral and Religious Education (May 1, 2016)

Religion in some form or another is inescapable within the context of a classroom. Whether the subject is history, science or art, religion plays some part in the evolution of school subjects. Teachers must find and strike a balance between properly portraying religions and maintaining a non-bias stance. While this is not impossible, it is difficult. Many teachers have well formed ideas of certain religions and it is difficult to not portray bias.

Outside of specific subjects, morality and the issue of character education can also be tied to religious affiliation. While you do not have to be religious to be a good person, much of the time it is easiest to refer to Biblical reasoning for such things as treating others well, being honest and trying your best. It is important to remember any one of your students may not be affiliated with a religion or may even feel as though they are viewed as a bad person because of their lack of affiliation.

Regardless of the potential correlation between morality and religion, I believe it is important to encourage character education within the classroom. This does not mean it must be taught from a Biblical perspective. Such phrases as “Do unto others as you would have done to yourself” are widely accepted and respected no matter what background one may come from. There are a variety of Character Education curriculum available that are not tied to religious values. We as teachers are obligated to help develop upstanding and contributing members of society. Our nation relies on it. If teachers neglect this aspect of education in the public school system, future generations will suffer the cost in every avenue of life.

  • Learning and Emotional Disorders (May 8, 2016)

 Discussing and addressing learning and emotional disorders within the context of the classroom has, for many years, been a source of frustration, contention and confusion on the part of both the parent and the educator. Amidst these charged feelings, over the last few decades there has been a strong push to mainstream students with both learning and emotional disorders. As a teacher with extensive background in mental health, this topic is of particular interest to me.

It has been my experience that more often than not it is the parent who has the strongest feelings toward the idea of special education for their children. In Taking Sides: Teaching and Educational Practices, argument author’s Kauffman, McGee and Brigham recognizes the struggle parents have, suggesting people no longer see special education as “fair or equitable”. In fact, Kauffman, McGee and Brigham, suggests parents may be on to something, stating the education system has lost sight of what accommodations for students actually should be. Instead of allowing students “off the hook” in order to accommodate their needs, we should be providing accommodations that actually help them meet the standard, not change the standard itself.

Accommodations cannot and should not be a “one size fits all”, just as everyone is different from one another, metal and physical disabilities manifest themselves in different ways. Accommodations should be provided. Schools should work to provide fair and equitable education no matter what the child’s abilities. However, educators must be careful not to limit a child’s ability to develop independence by providing an academic crutch. Certainly, the job of creating and implementing accommodations may be seen as more difficult with this sort of mentality, however, the education system would do students a disservice with anything less.

Evans, D.L. (2008). Taking sides: teaching and educational practices. (3rd ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Strategies In Effective Teaching – Reflections

How is questioning a teaching strategy? 

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to know “why”. “Why does it rain so much here?”, “Why do I have to go to sleep at 8pm?”, “Why do frogs look like fish when they are first born?”. There is a specific time in my life that I can remember an adult specifically asking me, “Why do you ask so many questions?”. At the time, I was hurt and embarrassed by their question. My assumption was, in fact, I did ask too many questions. While I was not raised in the era when it was socially appropriate for children to not only be seen, but also heard, my relatives were old enough to remember that cultural mindset. The idea of questioning as a teaching strategy, or inductive reasoning, completely supports the curiosity children innately have. The desire to ask questions continuously and without limit. There are many ways to cultivate this curiosity. Susan Chaffer promotes giving children original sources to read. By using original sources, children are able to explore the text themselves and formulate ideas based on what they have read, all while teachers are simply guiding study by asking questions. When a child reads someone else’s interpretation of an original text, the student is robbed of the opportunity to create their own ideas on the content of the text.

Not only does questioning promote the responsibly of each individual child of their education, it also allows for deeper understanding of a subject. The Biological Science Curriculum endeavors to promote this through multiple steps of inquiry and investigation promoted by both teachers and students through questioning. Knowledge layers on one another in this format and students are able to gain a better understanding of what they are learning about. The Picture Word Inductive model is another example of a mode of questioning for a teacher. By simply showing students a picture and asking them what they see, children are able to develop their own thoughts and theories about what the picture depicts. This is an opportunity for students to grow their vocabulary and sight word abilities. The combination of skills practiced while using the Picture Word Inductive model promotes oral and written literacy.

What is the relationship of concepts to facts? 

I like to think of the difference between concepts and facts in order to understand their relationship. A fact is something stated, a piece of information that can be used in conjunction with other facts in order to create something larger. A concept is an idea made up of many different facts. Facts can be fed to students in a rote memorization fashion, where as concepts must be learned through experience with the information. When a student has a good understanding of the concept and can articulately explain themselves, a teacher can be certain the student understands a topic. If a student is able to regurgitate a fact, or even a string of facts related a topic, it is less clear a student understands the whole idea being taught.

I enjoyed reading excerpts from Bruner on the elements of discovery. Bruner suggests in order for concepts to be properly obtained, and the only way to know if students will appropriately use the concepts is through discovery learning. If a teacher promotes the use of metacognitive activities, students are more likely to have a more holistic and well developed understanding of concepts. Students will understand how ideas they already know fit together to form new concepts, as well as connect those newly obtained with ones learned in the past.


How do advance organizers relate to the use of instructional media?

As I understand them, and in the most general sense, the use of advanced organizers in a classroom setting helps to convey information through lectures and readings, allowing teachers the opportunity to present large amounts of information in a productive manner to their students. Teachers can thereby scaffold information, conveying the important concepts first to students then adding more information as they move through the topic. This is called progressive differentiation.

Bases on these definitions, one can consider the relationship of advanced organizers and the use of instructional media. For example, when a teacher shows a movie (a common use of media in the classroom) the teacher will not be able to communicate all the intricacies of a topic through the movie, but instead will be able to set a tone for their classroom. If I were teaching a module on Manifest Destiny and showed a film about Lewis and Clark, students would learn about a significant part of western expansion. In this way, I would be able to set students thinking in a specific direction.  Engaging the students through a film with a broad topic allows a teacher to utilize media to create an umbrella of information. Following the media, teachers can then introduce ideas that are related to it.

Alternatively, media can function as an advanced organizer on its own. If a teacher chooses their media correctly, students can be presented a topic then allowed to explore the media to learn more. For example, in a module about biology, a teacher could share a link with students that allows them to explore cells and the different parts that make up a human or plant cell.

What is meant by “knowledge is socially constructed”? 

What a fascinating question to ask ourselves as teachers: Is knowledge socially constructed? Before beginning my studies as a master’s degree candidate, I would have answered no. Yet the more I understand and learn about the history of education my mind has changed about the purpose and functionality of education. When great educators and forefathers of educational principles, such as John Dewey, resoundingly state knowledge is socially constructed, one must pause to reflect on the sentiment.

In Dewey’s work, “My Pedagogical Creed”, we discover how knowledge may be socially constructed. For example, he states “I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” As a reader and teacher I interpret this to mean what is taught should be immediately applicable to a student’s life. We also learn in models of teaching, such as Cooperative Learning, students should bring their own problems or ideas to the classroom, then by using group investigation, solve their problem. Through this type of learning, students are more likely to remember and implement skills correctly because the skills have relevance in their own lives. Additionally, cooperative style learning promotes the ambitions of individual students to continue learning on their own.

Today, students benefit in the workforce from skills gained in the classroom which promote cooperation and collaboration. These skills are greatly enhanced when the acquisition of knowledge is done through classroom activities that promote interdependence. Therefore, we can take the phrase “knowledge is socially constructed” to mean students develop deeper understanding of concepts when they are learning and solving problems together.

How is citizenship promoted in your classroom situation? 

As R.Kirk wrote in his work, “The Wise Man Knows”, American children need to practice being good citizens, not simply hear about what it means to be a good citizen in their classrooms. Kirk also warns while it may be possible to tech virtue in the classroom, this education must be informal. By facilitating naturally occurring discussions about morality and citizenship among students, an educator will have more success teaching students morals and citizenship than if he or she directly approached such topics.

There are a variety of ways to promote morality in the everyday classroom. One of my favorite examples is to read a book, with clear moral and civic undertones, as a class. By introducing such materials, teachers can provide a moral education without overtly telling their students his or her intention. In this way, teachers allow students to bring up issues of virtue, or lack there of, in the literature, independently. Discussions about the characters, and their decisions, can then be mapped onto the lives of the students in the class. Thereby connecting citizenship and morality to the students without any formal intention.

Another creative way to address morality with students is through the use of role playing. The method of role playing as an instructional tool allows for present circumstances to dictate the content of discussion and opportunity for learning. Often student initiated, role playing provides the opportunity for teachers to facilitate students as they work through issues that arise in the classroom or in their communities. By allowing students to provide material for such activities, the teacher can be confidant most children will be engaged and have an opportunity to consider and discuss relevant issues that lead to practicing morality, as Kirk encourages.

How practical are multiple intelligence activities?

For many years I have been a proponent of recognizing multiple intelligences in instruction. I myself learned at a young age I learn best in a non-traditional manner. After spending several years teaching in a setting with an incredibly diverse population of students, I have become more certain the recognition of a variety of intelligences of and learning styles is beneficial for both students and teachers.

Teaching to a variety of learning styles is not necessarily the most intuitive or easily accomplished. According to Howard Gardener, “it is better to teach in two ways than one”. As teachers we are not restricted to teaching materials in one specific way or another. One way I have learned to accommodate multiple intelligences is by varying teaching styles on a daily basis. By teaching science through interactive methods one day then orally or auditory another day, students with different intelligences will have an opportunity to learn in through their strongest intelligence. Another way teachers may accomplish teaching to multiple intelligences is to simply allow students to explore a topic independently in whichever way they choose, then return to share with the class what they have discovered.

At the beginning, educators may find teaching to multiple intelligences unnatural, however with small changes and adaptations to current teaching styles, accommodating individual students is possible. Actively promoting a variety of learning styles will not only engage more students, but also likely improve overall classroom performance.

How can a teacher foster student self-esteem?

 As a future educator it is important to consider both the academic and emotional effect one has on their students. Historically, the classroom and public education has become the cornerstone of civic and moral development of future generations. In addition to these important responsibilities, teachers must recognize how they influence the development of student self-esteem.

Students become what teachers model for them. From Maslow we learn there are a variety of personalities that demonstrate varying levels of self-concept. Maslow describes a “gourmet omnivore” as someone who engages the environment. This activity fosters self-actualizing characteristics which results in a strong self-esteem. Therefore, we can surmise teachers who model engagement around their students will help promote self esteem development in their students. By being teachers who engage with our fellow teachers in a respectful and congenial way, interacting with the school community and the community at large, and by utilizing the resources at hand, we will promote self-actualizing characteristics in our students.

Another way teachers may help encourage strong self-esteem development is by empowering their students to take control of their own education. In the article by Carl Rodgers, “Teacher Effects Research on Student Self-Concept”, he shares a vignette of a teacher who includes struggling students in the development of their own appropriate and engaging curriculum. In this vignette, it appears by simply empowering the students to create a curriculum they enjoy and feel attached to, the student’s achievement measurably improved. This is not a singular example. Any teacher can choose to support their students in taking ownership of their education.

From these two simple examples, I can surmise, teachers can easily and effectively influence the development of positive self-esteem in their students.

Course Meta-Reflection

Throughout this course we have discussed a variety of teaching principles and how they can be effectively implemented in a classroom setting. While investigating these principles, we have also spent time addressing such questions as: is it feasible or practical to teach to multiple intelligences, what is the relationship of concepts to facts, how can one promote citizenship in their classrooms, and so on.

Many of the principles learned throughout this course were entirely new for me, such as Non-Directive Teaching and Inquiry Training. However, a few of the models I was familiar with, but gained a deeper understanding about, such as Role Playing, Memorization and Group Investigation. Finally, some principles, while I had not had and formal education about, were models I was already using in my teaching strategies.

Either way, throughout this class, I have come to realize deeper purpose behind my teaching strategies. By having an understanding of the outcome of particular teaching models, I can better and more effectively serve my students.  For example, I have learned how effective the Inductive Teaching model can be by meeting my students where they are at developmentally, teaching to students’ innate ability to search out answers to questions. I have also learned to trust that unstructured group discussions can be beneficial and allow them to happen more frequently in my classroom through Role Playing.

Course Reflection- Introduction to Education

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Figure 1

Educational Standard 8- Professional Practice reflects the importance of continual professional development for teachers as both educators and colleagues. Figure 1 shows an excerpt from Internship Criteria Rubric Wiki, modeled after the Danielson Framework for Teaching, which I completed in Introduction to Education. Two other emerging educators and myself collaborated to create a model of an excellent teaching candidate and tools one might use to engage students and enhance learning. Donna M. Ploessl’s paper, “On the same page: Practical techniques to Enhance Co-Teaching Interactions” addresses the relationship of co-teachers and endorses multiple teachers working together to create the best possible learning environment. Ploessl states co-teachers must devote time to improve communication skills, improve instructional strategies and resolve conflicts (Ploessl, et al, 2010). I believe Ploessl’s recommendations apply not only to teachers working in the same classroom, but also those who work within the same school. Not only did this assignment provide me an opportunity to learn more about becoming an excellent teacher, this activity also allowed me a platform to become better a co-worker. In Figure 1 I demonstrated personal growth and understanding in this area when I state “The teacher recognizes personal weaknesses and endeavors to grow as an educator by setting goals for themselves. In order to stay accountable to these goals, the teacher asks two colleagues and a supervisor to asses them bi-monthly on their progress.” Additionally during this assignment I developed a better understanding of important variables to consider when working with colleagues including work schedules and limited communication modes. I also practiced giving and receiving quality feedback. By working with others to accomplish tasks, teachers have the opportunity to model social skills and teamwork for their students. Developing students who are able to contribute to society and work well together is an important function of the classroom. One way to continue enhancing my professional development is by mirroring the example I referenced in Figure 1. By creating goals in alignment with teacher standardized assessments and evaluating my growth and development on a regular basis, I will experience continual professional growth.

Reference

Ploessl, D., Rock, M. L., Schoenfeld, N. A., & Blanks, B. (2010). On the same page: Practical techniques for enhancing co-teaching interactions. Intervention in School and Clinic, 45 (3), 158-168.

 

 

 

Characteristics of an Effective Educator

During my time in the classroom, I have had the opportunity to learn from great leaders and role models what it means to be an effective  educator. Those who are masters of the classroom are ones who can teach amidst social and psychological barriers, maintaining the mentality every child can succeed academically. A teacher should know how to preserver in the face of adversity, be flexible with change, handle conflict with peers and parents expertly, and remain culturally sensitive to the needs of individuals and families.

A teacher should also know his or her audience, engaging as many students as possible regardless of subject content or student learning styles. By taking time to understand each group of students and tailoring academic lessons to the children’s interests there is strong motivation to learn. With this foundation laid, grade level standards can be met if not exceeded. Although changing lessons from year to year to accommodate ever changing interests may take time, the outcome is worth the investment.

Classrooms are continually becoming more diverse both ethnically and financially. An effective teacher recognizes these changes and accommodates them. An effective teacher can make a lesson in any circumstance and promote learning regardless of cultural background, access to technology or an array of other limitations. On a global level, classrooms vary drastically and teachers have a responsibility to provide the best education to next generations regardless of geographical location or financial resources.