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.