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.

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.