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

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Course Reflection: EDU 6150

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

4.1 Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy – Teacher’s plans and practice reflect familiarity with a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches in the discipline.

Program standard 4.1 clearly summarizes the basic function of teaching. It is essential for teachers to have good lesson plans that include a variety of teaching practices such as varied instructional methods and activities, multiple ways for students to practice new information, opportunities for formal and informal assessments, and student reflection. According to Marzano (2007), using formative assessments to check for understanding and provide feedback to the student are essential for learning new information correctly. Figure 1 gives examples of informal assessments that can be used to inform instruction and modify lesson plans as necessary for maximum student learning.

Figure 1 - Informal Assessments (Koetje, 2016)

Figure 1 – Informal Assessments (Koetje, 2016)

One of the projects for EDU 6150 General Inquiry, Teaching and Assessment Methods was a complete lesson plan. I drafted a 4th grade geometry lesson where I incorporated informal assessments, various activities, practice opportunities, and ways for students to reflect on their own learning (see Figure 2). My plan includes an informal assessment with students answering questions as I circulate the room. I also asked for students to indicate their level of understanding the new material by using 1-3 fingers at a few points after my initial presentation.

Figure 2 - 4th Grade Geometry Lesson Plan

Figure 2 – 4th Grade Geometry Lesson Plan

After receiving feedback, I’ve realized that my plan does not include any informal assessments during my initial direct instruction, which is where many students may misunderstand key ideas and concepts. Also, my first draft lesson plan tries to cover too much information, which means I need to “chunk” the material into smaller parts to enhance learning. According to Marzano (2007), our working memory can only hold so many pieces of new information and I need to be able to break information down into manageable chunks for my students.

In summary, I learned to apply my knowledge from the content from this course by creating my own lesson plan. Knowing effective pedagogical practices will enable me to make better lesson plans for my future elementary classroom. Figure 3 shows an excellent summary of reflective questions to ask myself as a future teacher to ensure I am using a variety of pedagogical approaches. I intend to review the information I learned from this course in the future in order to incorporate as many of these great ideas as I can so that my lesson plans are effective, promote student engagement and understanding, and create a positive classroom environment where all students are supported.

Figure 3 - Reflection Questions (Marzano, 2007)

Figure 3 – Reflection Questions (Marzano, 2007)

References:

Koetje, Kirsten. (2016). EDU 6150: General Inquiry, Teaching, and Assessment Methods, Week 4: Reviewing Modules 1-3 and Standards Paper [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://learn.spu.edu/webapps/login/.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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: Fostering Student Self-Esteem

Teachers can have a profound effect on students’ well-being, self-confidence, and self-esteem. According to Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015), “our primary influence on our students is what we model as people” (p. 310). When expectations of behavior or learning are clearly communicated, good behaviors are modeled by the teacher, and students are taught to self-monitor, self-evaluate, and self-reinforce, they can be more confident and have higher self-esteem. Social-cognitive learning theory is based on the assumption that we learn through the observation of others. Students learn by watching their parents, peers, and teachers model behavior. According to Joyce et al. (2015), schooling can have a significant impact on how successful a student is and how they grow as people. First, all students can learn how to learn if we provide them with ample opportunities and multiple types of environments. Second, “the more skills students develop and the more they widen their repertoire, the greater their ability to master an even greater range of skills and strategies” (Joyce et al., 2015, p.301). Finally, the community developed in the classroom can influence how students feel about themselves, how they interact, and how they learn (Joyce et al., 2015).

Making sure students’ physiological, safety, acceptance needs are met is crucial before a teacher can hope to foster student self-esteem. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see Figure 1), people are motivated by their needs and progress in to more profound needs as other basic needs are met. The first is physiological, which includes water, air, food, sleep, and other bodily needs. In the classroom, should could mean allowing students to take a restroom break when they need them, allowing students to have a snack mid-morning, or giving them a chance to stretch their legs by standing at their desk for a minute.

Figure 1 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Figure 1 – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Image Credit: J. Finkelstein via Wikimedia Commons

The second basic need is safety. Students need to feel safe and secure before they can even begin to learn. According to John Medina (2014), students who are stressed due to a troubled home life, one or both parents in legal trouble or worse, do not learn as well. Stressed bodies have higher levels of anxiety. Teachers can help students feel safe by assuring students they are important and that if they are afraid of something, they can talk about it with a teacher or counselor. Another idea from a study by Carl Rogers is to allow students to individually talk to the teacher about anything they wanted them to know – something they are worried about, something on their minds, or even something exciting they wanted to share. This can help relieve any anxiety the student might have that prevents them from learning efficiently.

The third need is love or a sense of belonging. Teachers can help students feel like they are a part of the classroom community by including them in decisions about what they would like to read or learn about. Allowing students to voice their opinions and work with others can improve their sense of belonging. Ideas include signing up for a classroom service project or having students work with a partner on classwork in a cooperative learning setting to foster more friendships. Teachers should also model empathy for others and provide opportunities for students to practice.

Self-esteem can be fostered by teachers by modeling behaviors that lead to success. The skill should be as personally relevant to the student as possible in order to increase attention. According to Carl Rogers, “when students’ feelings are responded to, when they are regarded as worthwhile human beings capable of self-direction, and when their teacher relates to them in a person-to-person manner, good things happen.” This allows them to learn about themselves and in effect, they grow as individuals and can become more successful. Another way to help a student’s self-esteem is to make sure they have the tools necessary to be successful with a moderate amount of struggle. One particular danger to help students avoid is comparing themselves to others, which can be especially toxic if they are significantly underperforming compared to other students.

When students are equipped to overcome obstacles they face, they will have a greater sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Being able to learn from mistakes and failures instead of obsess over them is crucial to self-esteem. Teachers should also model self-monitoring, self-evaluating, and self-rewarding. When teachers are clear about expectations and set appropriately difficult goals to achieve, students will be able to monitor their progress and correct any errors along the way with feedback from the teacher. When teachers provide a safe, caring, welcoming environment, students can have high self-esteem and be successful in school and life.

References:

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

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retreived February 27, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs

Medina, J. (2014). Brain Rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Rogers, C. “Teacher Effects Research on Student Self-Concept.”

EDU 6526: Learner-Centered Approaches

As a future teacher, it is important for me to reflect on student personalities and emotions and how they can affect my instruction. I think what initially drew me to consider being a teacher was my desire to help all students with their personal and emotional struggles. I am a very nurturing person and building trust with my students is one of my top priorities. Sometimes a teacher is one of the main people a student can trust, especially when their home life is stressful or when they have few friends or peers to turn to for help. Carl Rogers proposed that there are six priorities for affective education:

1) Establishing a climate of trust
2) A participatory mode of decision-making
3) Uncovering the excitement of discovery learning
4) Teachers acting as facilitators of learning
5) Helping teachers to grow as persons
6) Promoting an awareness that the good life is within each of us

Carl Rogers believed that students were at the center and that learning happened when students found the information relevant to their own lives. Student personalities dictate how a student perceives information or experiences. According to Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015), Carl Rogers believed that “positive human relationships enable people to grow, and therefore instruction should be based on concepts of human relations in contrast to concepts of subject matter” (p.285). In the nondirective model of teaching, the teacher plays the role of facilitator and the student is given authority to express their feelings and emotions without fear of being judged by the teacher. This builds a sense of compassion, empathy, trust, and respect between the teacher and student. I think when a student feels free to express themselves without the fear of being punished or judged, they can truly take responsibility for defining their problems and planning ways to correct and learn from them.

Related to these ideas is Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence (MI) theory. Gardner suggests there are eight intelligences everyone possesses to a differing degree: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. This short video briefly describes each intelligence and provides a few examples for how to cultivate them in the classroom.

As an introverted person, I can certainly understand how personality and different intelligences can affect how one learns in the classroom. I am strong in intrapersonal intelligence and logical-mathematical intelligence, therefore I tended to work on my own and kept to myself for the most part. I also liked concrete answers and logical tasks, especially in math. But not all my students will be like me. How exactly can I take into account these differing learning styles and modify my instruction as a future elementary teacher? According to Howard Gardner (2009), “When child are young, we should encourage well roundedness. As they grow older, it becomes more important to discover and cultivate areas of strength. Livelihood and happiness are more likely to emerge under those circumstances.”

I need to understand that students have varying levels of all types of intelligences and that I may need to differentiate my instruction or homework assignments to accommodate for those differences. I believe that teaching in a variety of ways is the best solution to reaching the most students possible. That doesn’t mean I need to change up my teaching every hour of every days, but perhaps over the course of a semester I could incorporate music, exercise, nature, and personal activities into my lessons to encourage different intelligences. That way I can see what works for each student and learn to distinguish different intellectual strengths and styles on the fly (Gardner, 2009).

References:

Gardner, H. & Edwards, O. (2009). “An Interview with Howard Gardner, Father of Multiple Intelligence.”

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

McKnight, H. (2011). Multiple Intelligences [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/cf6lqfNTmaM

EDU 6526: Citizenship and Moral Education in the Classroom

Teaching students to be good, moral citizens is critical to their future as adults. Being a citizen means being a member of and supporting one’s family, classroom, community, social group, and country. Assuming children come to school with a developed idea of virtue, morals, and citizenship is dangerous. Today, more than ever, the family unit is disintegrating and other outside influences such as television and the Internet have crept into our children’s lives unchecked. As a future teacher, I hope to become a role model for good behavior and conflict resolution so my students learn how to become good citizens.

Learning how to build lessons around the idea of citizenship and creating a safe and respectful learning environment are important to the overall function of the classroom. One way to promote a respectful learning environment is to run the classroom like a democracy. At the beginning of the year, students can vote on what the classroom reward will be for good behavior over a period of time. The students will feel a sense of ownership over the reward and will work together in behaving appropriately in order to achieve the reward.

Another way to promote citizenship in the classroom is using the role playing model of teaching. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) define role playing as “students exploring human relations problems by acting out problem situations and then discussing the enactments. Together, students can explore feelings, attitudes, values, and problem-solving strategies” (p. 262). According to Joyce et.al. (2015), role playing explores how values drive behaviors and students think about how they feel and what is important to them. They also think about what is important to others and can develop empathy and compassion for others, while learning strategies for resolving conflict (Joyce et.al., 2015). Other benefits of role playing include improved listening skills, negotiating skills, reasonability. It is important for students to develop these skills in order for them to become good citizens in the classroom and life in general. See Figure 1 for an outline of the role playing model.

Figure 1 - Role Playing Model

Figure 1 – Role Playing Model

Citizenship can also be promoted in the classroom through the exploration of historical or contemporary problems using nonlinguistic representations, such as generating mental pictures and creating illustrations or drawings (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). For example, when discussing Lewis and Clark’s expedition, the teacher could have the students imagine how Sacagawea might have felt when she initially came into contact with Lewis and Clark. Was she scared, angry, or interested? To further this thinking, students might be asked to think about whether they know anyone with Native American heritage or family. Considering how one’s actions impact others is critical to developing empathy and in turn good citizenship. When students are good citizens of the classroom, there are fewer interruptions and conflicts are resolved quicker and with less escalation. The classroom functions more smoothly in general, leading to increased concentration and learning.

There are many websites that include ideas for how to promote good citizenship and morals in the classroom. One idea in particular from this list that I like is a community service project such as picking up litter. My classroom could go out into the neighborhood surrounding the school and pick up litter. This would promote taking care of our natural resources and treating the environment with respect. I plan on incorporating many of these ideas into my future classroom in order to provide a positive, safe learning environment for my students.

References:

Davies, L. (2002). 20 Ideas for Teaching Citizenship to Children. Retrieved from http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip27.html.

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.