Reflecting on Teaching

2. Instruction – The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

2.3 Reflecting on Teaching – Teacher makes an accurate assessment of a lesson’s effectiveness and the extent to which it achieved its instructional outcomes and can cite general references to support the judgment.

The second standard of the Internship Performance Criteria emphasizes the importance of using research-based instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students. Reflecting on teaching is one critical component of this standard. It is important for teachers to constantly reflect on how lessons went and what could have been done differently or more efficiently to better meet the needs of the students. As I continue through my internship, it is important for me to reflect on my lessons and whether students were engaged, how well they understood the lesson, and steps I need to take for the next lesson.

I created several math lessons to begin teaching a unit about equivalent fractions. These lessons were based on research I had learned in my Elementary Math Methods class. Empson & Levi (2011) suggest letting students explore the concepts on their own first before being directly given methods or algorithms of solving problems. The theory is that students will learn better if they come to understand the concept through real world problems and classroom discussions. According to Empson & Levi (2011), effective teaching practices include “Posing problems to children without first presenting a strategy for solving the problems; choosing problems that allow children to craft a solution on their own; and facilitating group discussions of children’s strategies” (p. 10).

I started my first lesson by giving students an open-ended question with little instruction on how to solve the problem. Below is a portion of my lesson plan (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Open-Ended Math Lesson Task

At the end of the lesson I had students complete an exit ticket. The sample exit ticket below (Figure 2) shows that this student thinks they understand the concept since they indicated a 5 for understanding the learning target, however, their answers to questions 1 and 2 did not support their high self-assessment score.

Figure 2 – Sample Math Lesson 1 Exit Ticket

As I proceeded to teach the second lesson, I used a similar format of giving students a problem to solve and allowing them to solve in whatever way made sense to them. Below is an exit ticket from my second lesson (Figures 3a & 3b) showing that this student really needs help and doesn’t understand the learning target.

Figure 3a – Sample Math Lesson 2 Exit Ticket

Figure 3b – Sample Math Lesson 2 Exit Ticket

Many students struggled with the exit ticket questions and the average “understanding the LT rating” for lesson 2 was 2.9. While I was teaching these lessons, I realized that my students were not ready to be given open-ended questions without prior instruction on how to solve them. I saw students struggling with the question and not knowing what to do or how to get started. I thought about my teaching after both lessons and determined that I could no longer apply the research and theories discussed in my Elementary Math Methods class. Without this type of reflective thinking, I would not have thought about what to do differently for the next lesson so that more students are able to meet the desired instructional outcomes.

I have learned that reflecting on teaching is important for effective lesson planning and instruction. As a result, I modified my third lesson to include direct instruction and modeling first before giving students a problem to solve. I have also learned that theories or instructional ideas may not make sense to use with certain students or groups of students. Perhaps if students had been taught earlier in the year to expect to try to solve problems in their own ways first, they might have performed better during my lessons. This constant reflection will help me meet my students in their zone of proximal development and provide them with instruction better geared toward their abilities. I am confident that my students will greatly benefit from what I have learned. I will use the remainder of my internship to continue reflecting on my teaching and making sure I am meeting the needs of as many students as possible.

Reference:

Empson, S. B. & Levi L. (2011). Extending Children’s Mathematics: Fractions and Decimals. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

ISTE Standard 2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

ISTE Standard 2 states that teachers must design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments. Specifically, teachers should incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity, enable students to manage their own learning and assess their own progress, as well as address diverse learning styles.

This complex standard has many facets and implies that digital tools are necessary for all teachers and students to use. One potential issue with this standard is that not all schools can afford to provide such expensive tools for each classroom or student. For example, iPads, laptops, Kindles, and other technology tools are incredibly expensive. However, according to a 2010 survey conducted by Grunwald Associates LLC and PBS, “teachers spend 60% of their time using educational resources that were either free or that they paid for themselves” (p. 6). Despite the cost and lack of funding, teachers seem determined to provide as many technological resources as possible for their students.

60% of teachers use free resources or pay for resources themselves

60% of teachers use free resources or pay for resources themselves

I have always enjoyed games and remember playing The Oregon Trail and Math Blasters in elementary school during computer lab period. This made me curious about how game-based learning could satisfy ISTE Standard 2. According to the survey, 56% of teachers value web-based interactive games or activities for student use in school and 54% of teacher report using Web-based interactive games (PBS & Grunwald Associates LLC, 2010).

Teachers Value Many Types of Digital Resources

Teachers Value Many Types of Digital Resources

I found an article on edutopia that discusses ways to use games to enhance learning for upper elementary and middle school students. Game-based learning isn’t simply students playing games in your classroom for fun. Nor do games substitute for the teacher. Games can be a useful AND fun activity that helps students get engaged with learning and relating games to the real world and real life events.

According to Farber (2016), games can be a shared experience, similar to taking the class on a field trip. An example is the game Minecraft and how students learn the mechanics of the game in order to survive. This can be related to how pilgrims had to understand their new environments when settling in a new area. Next he discusses games as text where the student would make choices that affect and tell a story. These stories can then be related to historical events that are similar. Finally, Farber (2016) talks about games as models. For example, the board game Pandemic illustrates how disease can travel via networks all around the world, which relates to how disease spreads during plagues like the Black Plague.

This article led me to search for benefits of game-based learning. In addition to games providing a different learning tool for addressing different learning styles, games provide motivation and engagement for students. Peters (2016) asserts that games include rules, definite objectives, measurable goals and competition, and promote a sense of achievement for all participants. Students have goals that they try to accomplish and assess their progress over time. Games also provide immediate feedback for students about whether or not they made a good decision. Peters (2016) also discusses how games promote cognitive growth, digital literacy, and skills development such as hand-eye coordination, spatial skills, and fine motor skills.

Another colleague suggested using a whiteboard called a Promethean board for interactive “calendar time” each day in order to satisfy ISTE 2. This whiteboard would provide students with a collaborative way to discuss the date and weather, as well as talk about the calendar and planning. While not a game by itself, I could see this tool benefiting student learning by providing a stable and predictable environment.

I think that games, whether web-based or not, can be an engaging and helpful tool for students to learn. It is important for game-based learning to incorporate all aspects of the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework in order for the activity to be as beneficial for students as possible. I will need further research to determine how to incorporate assessment methods into game-based learning.

TPACK Model

TPACK Model

References:

Farber, M. (2016). 3 Ways to use game-based learning [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-ways-use-game-based-learning-matthew-farber

PBS & Grunwald Associates LLC. (2010). “Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology.”

Peters, J. (2016). 5 Main advantages of game-based learning [web article]. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/129304-advantages-of-game-based-learning/

ISTE Standard 1: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

ISTE Standard 1 states that teachers should facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity. The standard further states that teachers should model creative thinking with technology and promote student reflection using collaborative tools in both face-to-face and virtual environments. As a future elementary teacher, I wanted to consider how my third grade students could use technology to enhance student learning and creativity during literacy instruction in particular.

One way to enhance literacy instruction is to use technology such as digital storytelling to assist students during various stages of the writing process such as planning, drafting, and revising. According to Robin (2008), digital storytelling involves combining information or stories with various types of multimedia including computer-generated text, videos, music, and images that can then be played on a computer, shared online, or even burned to a DVD. Digital storytelling can help promote technology skills including digital literacy, global literacy, technology literacy, visual literacy, and information literacy. As students participate in digital storytelling they “develop enhanced communication skills as they learn to conduct research on a topic, ask questions, organize their ideas, express opinions, and construct meaningful narratives” (Robin, 2008, p. 224).

One research study about the effectiveness of digital storytelling indicated that students thought more deeply about their story and were able to clarify their thoughts before and during the process (Sadik, 2008). Furthermore, “digital storytelling provided a unique opportunity for students to acquire new media literacy and IT skills” (Sadik, 2008, p. 502). The study also found that students were dedicated to the task and took pride in their digital stories (Sadik, 2008).

7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

Writing narratives is an important skill for elementary students to learn. Many students struggle with planning before beginning to write. Once they start to write, they have a difficult time writing down all of their thoughts in the correct order and with an appropriate amount of detail. Bogard and McMackin (2012), explain how students can use technology at all stages of the writing process during writing workshop. First, students map out on paper the key points of their story with drawings of important events. Next, students can use Livescribe Pulse Smartpens that contain a camera and a microphone to record their drawings of various points in the story and also add audio narrative. Students collaboratively discuss their audio recordings of their stories and revise and edit. Finally, video editing software such as iMovie and PhotoStory can be used to provide visuals such as images, photos, video clips, and scanned pictures as a final creative touch to finish the personal narrative.

Click the link below for an example of a digital story that talks about how math is important in everyday life. While not an example of a personal narrative, the basic principles of digital storytelling are the same.

http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/view_story.cfm?vid=93&categoryid=6&d_title=Mathematics

Another technology to consider for promoting student learning and creativity is using iPad apps for creating stories. A colleague of mine indicated that iPad apps such as Rory’s Story Cubes, Write About This, or Mad Libs could be useful for engaging students with technology to promote their literacy skills (Lee, 2013). I think that incorporating some iPad app use in my classroom would be a good way to make literacy fun for students who may not enjoy it much. However, I would want to carefully monitor student use of such applications to ensure that they are being used appropriately and productively.

I had never really considered using digital storytelling or apps in my future classroom. Now I believe these technology resources could be very useful for promoting student creativity, engagement, and collaboration. One shortcoming of using digital storytelling is the amount of time spent up front becoming familiar with the technology myself and then making sure students are able to effectively use it. I could see it being a very time-consuming process to implement in the beginning. In the long run however, this technology allows for significant redesign of a historically paper and pencil task of writing a narrative, which can greatly enhance student learning and creativity during literacy instruction.

References:

A Day Without Math [web video]. University of Houston Education. Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/view_story.cfm?vid=93&categoryid=6&d_title=Mathematics.

Bogard, J. M. & McMackin, M. C. (2012). Combining traditional and new literacies in a 21st-century writing workshop. The Reading Teacher, 65, 5, 313-323. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01048 http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=a9h&AN=70857266&site=ehost-live

Lee, D. (2013). iPad apps for creating stories with primary children. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 42, 1, 23-27.

Robin, B. R. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory Into Practice, 47, 220-228. doi:10.1080/00405840802153916

Sadik, A. (2008). Digital storytelling: A meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56, 487-506. doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9091-8

The 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling [website]. University of Houston Education. Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=27&cid=27&sublinkid=31.

EDU 6989 Observation Reflection

As part of my field experience class at Seattle Pacific University, I observed several teachers at B. F. Day Elementary School over the past two months to gain a better understanding of the curriculum, culture, and the daily life of teachers there.

Demographics

B. F. Day is located in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. It is the oldest continually operating school in the city. The “building is a designated historic landmark having undergone state-of-the-art renovation in 1991” (About B. F. Day Elementary, 2016). It is a relatively small elementary school with approximately 330 students and 21 teachers. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI, 2016), for the 2014-2015 school year, about 58% of students are Caucasian, 12% are Asian American, 10% are Hispanic, 8% are African American, and 12% are two or more races, making the student population moderately diverse. Approximately one-third of students quality for free or reduced-price meals, 16% are transitional bilingual, and 13% qualify for special education (OSPI, 2016).

Curriculum and Teaching Styles

B. F. Day uses the “mini middle school” system where the 4th and 5th graders have several teachers throughout the course of the day. This program is meant to help prepare them for the transition to middle school. I mostly observed the 4th and 5th grade literacy, science, and math teachers, but I also observed the physical education teacher and the art teacher. After my observations of the “mini middle school,” I am not convinced it has a positive effect on students. Instruction time is lost with as many as three transitions a day, not including transitions for recess and lunch. The students also have four or five different teachers who all have different personalities and ways of managing their classrooms. Expectations are different almost every hour depending on which teacher the students are with at that time. Additional observations in future years would help determine the effectiveness of the “mini middle school” program.

The curriculum included math, science, and literacy/social studies as the core subjects, with art and physical education on alternating days. In the math classroom, not once did I see learning targets shown anywhere, essential questions being asked, or instruction occurring. This may be an unfair assessment, given the fact that my observing was very sporadic and I generally spent the majority of the time with the science and literacy teachers. However, I frequently observed the math teacher handing out worksheets rather than actually teaching. Most of the students expressed boredom with math and were frustrated that they were forced to do so many repetitive worksheets they felt would be irrelevant in their futures.

In stark contrast, the literacy teacher had learning targets for the week posted on the board, as well as references to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Reading. I graded a few worksheets and papers for her during one of my observations using the rubrics provided by the CCSS. She also used rubrics for the end of unit projects students completed and scored them on a scale of 0-4. It appeared that she used this information to improve her instruction for the rest of the unit and for future years. She also often had students turn and talk to their neighbor about answers to questions and other topics. This teaching technique seemed to work well at gaining student interest. Students were also interested in the social justice unit in their literacy class. Many liked the fact that they could choose a book from a list of books provided related to a social justice topic.

The science teacher often used PowerPoint presentations to give direct instruction, which usually included a learning target. No standards were referenced. Students seemed interested in science, especially when doing experiments such as the erosion and deposition of soil. It is unclear to me how he evaluated student progress and achievement. In general, if an experiment did not go well or the students appeared to be confused, he would simply revisit the experiment the next day to correct any errors or misconceptions. He often used sentence starters as a way to get the students to start writing a summary about a topic such as erosion and deposition. I assume he graded these summaries and took that information into account when working with particular students, but again it was hard for me to make a fair judgment based on the short amount of time I spent observing.

Child Abuse Prevention

Child abuse prevention and reporting is a critical aspect of being a teacher, counselor, principal, or other professional school employee. As part of Seattle Public Schools, B. F. Day follows Board Policy 3421 adopted in April 2012 by the district with regard to reporting child abuse:

All professional school personnel who have reasonable cause to believe that a child has experienced abuse, neglect, or exploitation shall report such incident to law enforcement or the Children’s Protective Services Staff at the first opportunity and in no case longer than forty-eight (48) hours after the finding of possible abuse or neglect.

I am sure these guidelines are reiterated at the beginning of every school year with training occurring every three years after initial employment.

Culture

Rules and expectations are posted in the hallways and in classrooms and are reinforced by faculty and staff daily. B. F. Day is in the first year of implementing the social and emotional literacy program called RULER, which stands for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating emotions. They also utilize a school wide curriculum called Second Step to teach social skills. I saw posters about these programs in the hallway and in classrooms, but never observed them being referenced by teachers. I often observed students misbehaving in the hallways, in classrooms, and on the playground. Students are expected to transition between classrooms quietly and in line order, however many times students were talking and continually out of line and had to be corrected.

I generally observed good behavior in classrooms, however the math teacher struggled to maintain order in her room. On my first day of observing, I walked into a chaotic classroom where the teacher was doing very little to control her students. The math teacher asked me to help two girls with their math worksheets in the hall outside the room. The girls continued talking and were off-task the majority of the time I tried to help them. Once one of them tore up the math worksheet right in front of me and refused to do it. There seemed to be no consequences for their actions. Needless to say, the math teacher had no idea how to gain student interest in math and failed to keep students in line. She is taking a position at a different elementary school next year.

The other classrooms I observed were much better behaved. The literacy teacher indicated that she set behavior expectations at the beginning of the school year and students seemed to respect her more than the math teacher. As part of her behavior plan, she set up a classroom meeting one afternoon a week for her 5th grade classes. Every student had to compliment at least one person for something and all students were given the chance to discuss important topics such as playground issues, school or community events, and their personal lives as they felt like sharing. Students took this classroom meeting seriously and really enjoyed discussing topics.

The science teacher also set up classroom meetings for the 4th grade classes, which they appeared to enjoy. For general classroom management he used a computer/cell phone app called ClassDojo. This app allows the teacher to quickly award or take away points for each student based on their behavior. Students can gain points by being on-task, participating, and helping others. Points can be taken away for off-task behavior, talking out in class, or other distracting behaviors. At the end of the week if all students had at least 15 points, the teacher would allow them to play on the playground for the last 15 minutes of class. I think this was a great motivational technique for maintaining student engagement and behavior.

As for the faculty frustration, it was clear that the literacy teacher did not appreciate the lack of control the math teacher had over her students. During lunch I would often sit in the teachers’ rooms while they worked on their lessons for that afternoon or answered emails. Sometimes the other 4th and 5th grade teachers, with the exception of the math teacher, would join us and talk about how their day was going. Often I heard lamenting about how they wished the day or week was over and that it was summer break. Other times they felt energized about how well a lesson went that morning or how a certain student was successful at something. They seemed ever hopeful that things would get better, which was encouraging.

In summary, the school culture seemed to be one of rowdy and sometimes disengaged students, as well as frustration among the 4th and 5th grade faculty, mostly in relation to the math teacher and particular students egregiously misbehaving. It is unclear whether the students I observed were as disengaged in prior years or whether their rowdiness was a result of a poor math teacher.

As for my overall experience, I enjoyed getting to know the teachers at B. F. Day Elementary School. They welcomed me, a complete stranger, in their classrooms and allowed me to assist with experiments, grade student work, supervise the playground, inventory science kits, and perform many other tasks. B. F. Day has a handful of dedicated teachers and I am hopeful that next year’s math teacher will be an immediate improvement for the 4th and 5th graders. I hope to have a chance to revisit the school in the future. Having this chance to observe a local school gave me a better understanding of how classroom management can impact the learning environment. Building positive relationships with students and other faculty, clearly communicating expectations and enforcing them, as well as creating a compelling curriculum can make teaching incredibly rewarding.

References

About – B. F. Day Elementary. (n. d.). Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://dayes.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=2199&pageId=35328

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=1120&reportLevel=School&year=2014-15&yrs=2014-15

Seattle Public Schools Board Policy No. 3421. April 4, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://www.dayes.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/Migration/Departments/HR/3421.pdf

Academic Standards and Technology in the Classroom

The United States education system and academic standards have been a hotly debated topic the last several decades. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, attempted to hold all states accountable for the performance of their schools with little assistance in determining how to improve poor-performing schools. NCLB expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing according to state standards, annual performance tracking, improving teacher qualifications, as well as changes in funding. The responsibility to develop academic standards and assessments was left up to the individual states. Fifteen years later, NCLB has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and many states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Math.

I have yet to fully understand the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and how they differ from prior standards. CCSS seem to be the closest thing to national standards the United States has ever had. I think it’s a good thing to be able to evenly measure academic abilities of the majority of students in the U.S. (some states have not adopted CCSS, including Texas). At the same time, teachers need to quickly become familiar with the new standards so that they know what their students are responsible for learning. I struggle with knowing how much flexibility I will have as a future teacher. On one hand, I like the idea of knowing what I will need to teach, but on the other hand, enabling students to have a choice in what they are learning can be beneficial. According to Noddings (2006), educators have a choice to either work with the student’s internal motivations and interests with proper guidance, or to externally motivate them to provide incentive for them to learn what we think they should learn that will benefit them in the future. It is important for teachers to recognize student interests and encourage them, but at the same time make sure students learn critical academic skills that will open up more possibilities for their futures.

Another controversial topic is the use of computers and other electronic devices in schools. While computer games can help build social skills including collaboration, team work, and being part of a community, they can still be misused and deprive students of more enriching activities (Evans, 2008). According to Evans (2008), “as a result of increase time spent with computers, video games, and TV, the current generation of elementary students will experience an estimated 30 percent fewer face-to-face encounters than the previous generation” (p. 308). Learning through human interactions is so important, especially for preschool children. It is also important for older children to know how to use technology responsibly and ethically. Just a few weeks ago at a school I’m volunteering at, I saw students abusing their access to iPads in their math class. They were supposed to be playing math-related games, but several were on YouTube listening to music or generally wasting time on other applications. If not monitored, students will abuse electronic privileges, and it is our job as educators to teach them appropriate ways of interacting with them.

References:

Evans, Dennis. (2008). Taking Sides: Clashing Views of Controversial Issues in Teaching and Educational Practice. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Noddings, Nel. (2006). Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

EDU 6526: Survey of Instructional Strategies Meta-Reflection

Over the past quarter I have learned about multiple instructional strategies I can use in my future teaching career. Through the use of information processing models, social models, personal models, and direct instruction, I will have many tools in my toolkit to teach my students the best way possible. According to Adler (1982) children must acquire three different types of knowledge: organized knowledge, intellectual skills, and understanding of ideas and values. Certain instructional strategies fit with these types of knowledge better than others. I believe a good mixture of strategies can create a creative, exciting, and interesting environment for my students.

Being able to transmit information is the basis of education. Information processing models such as scientific inquiry and Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) are good general examples of how to structure information so that students successfully understand the main concepts. Advance organizers are an excellent tool to use to set the stage for lessons and gain the student’s interest. The more compelling and relevant the information is to the student, the more interested they will be and therefore the better they will learn and remember.

Teaching social skills is another important aspect of education. Cooperative learning, group investigation, and role playing can teach important social skills including team work, collaboration, negotiation, and having respect for others. “If anything is genetically-driven from birth, it’s a social instinct. If it weren’t for each other, we wouldn’t even know who we are” (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 231). Encouraging social interaction between my students can foster positive feelings and encourage them to manage conflict in a productive way. Working together is a crucial skill that is highly valued in our society and it is important for teachers to recognize that.

Personal models that promote learner-centered activities and teach students to develop positive self-concepts can be used to enhance self-esteem and self-efficacy. Teaching our students to be lifelong learners can lead to rich and personal fulfillment. I want to be a good role model for my students and teach them to have confidence in themselves and know that they can succeed if they put forth the effort. Self-actualization is the ultimate goal in the personal models family and every child has the ability to become a successful learner and productive citizen.

Finally, direct instruction, providing practice, and giving feedback are important skills I will need as a teacher. Effective teachers spend more time explaining new material and providing timely feedback than noneffective ones (Joyce et al., 2015). Structured practice, guided practice, and independent practice are all important for students as they learn. Practice is more likely to be effective when it requires students to practice more than one skill at a time and when practice is distributed over time (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). Timely feedback lets students know what ideas they are struggling with so that they know which areas to work on. Assigning appropriate amounts of homework that have a legitimate and useful purpose can enhance student retention of skills, ideas, and concepts. Below is a summary of the direct instruction model.

Direct Instruction Model

Direct Instruction Model

I hope to use a variety of these practices and models to promote an enriching and compelling curriculum for my students. Lifelong learning is important for us to grow as individuals. I hope my future students become lifelong learners, good people, and respectful citizens.

References:

Adler, M. (1982). The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto.

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

EDU 6526: Constructivism and Cooperative Learning

When I started this teaching program, I thought I would be the teacher that lectured and simply told my students the information while they took notes and repeated it back. I suppose this is because that’s all I knew from my childhood: teachers spoon-feeding the information to us so we could pass a test and never use the information again. Now, I believe that a more constructivist approach can lead to improved learning, and even more so when done in a cooperative learning setting.

Constructivism is defined as a theory of learning asserting that knowledge is not passively received, but actively received; and cognition functions to organize the experiential world. It is important to understand that when a student is given authority in the classroom to come up with their own ideas, hypothesis, and categories for information, they will learn and remember better than if the teacher had simply given them all the answers in the beginning.

One way to incorporate this constructivist approach is to use group learning as a tool to promote social abilities and skills. Students today need to possess not only intellectual skills, but also social skills in order to work efficiently and effectively with others (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). Allowing students to follow their own curiosities while in a group setting can be an exciting thing. Cooperative learning has many benefits including increased academic engagement, higher self-esteem, better attitudes about school and peers, and an increased desire to work with others (Dean et. al., 2012).

I don’t have fond memories of my group projects and cooperative learning when I was in school. I was always the one that did the majority of the work while the other students in my group took the credit just the same. I realize now that my teachers may not have implemented the group projects in the best way possible. The following elements are essential to a successful cooperative learning environment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1 – Elements of the Cooperative Learning Model

Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) describe the classroom as a miniature democracy where students works together to inquire and solve problems and become more effective as a group. Constructivism in this case involves students being presented with a problem and they think about possible solutions while the teacher plays the role of counselor, consultant, and friendly critic (Joyce et. al., 2015). “Inquiry is stimulated by confrontation with a problem, and knowledge results from the inquiry. The social process enhances inquiry and is itself studied and improved. The heart of group investigation lies in its concept of inquiring groups” (Joyce, et. al., 2015, p.250). Figure 2 describes the phases of the group investigation model.

Figure 2

Figure 2 – Group Investigation Model

In my future classroom, I hope I can follow these ideas and suggestions in order to create an environment conducive to students constructing their own knowledge and in turn improving their academic success through positive social interactions with peers.

References:

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.