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.

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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