Meeting the Diverse Needs of our Students

How can a teacher foster student self-esteem?

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who was interested in figuring out what motivates people.  He conducted a lot of research in his life about human potential as well as mental health.  He came up with a hierarchy of human needs.  You can see an illustration of this concept in figure one.  The needs are arranged with the most basic at the base all the way up to the peak, which is self-actualization and meeting one’s full potential.  Individuals cannot progress to the next stage before having their needs met at the previous level.


figure 1

The very first level of needs is physiological. These are basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and clothing.  Unfortunately not all of our students get these needs fully met, but when they come to school they can get breakfast and lunch, and will be in a warm building.  The school also has resources and counseling available for students and their families that are struggling to get these base needs met.

The next level is safety and security.  Teachers want school to be a safe and stable place for all students.  This is why school and student safety is such a high priority for educators and administrators.  We want all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or socio-economic status to be able to come to school without fear.  Teachers want their schools to have a positive climate for all students and to be a welcoming place for all learners.  This is why so many schools have put anti-bullying campaigns into action and have worked on PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) lessons that aim to make the school and inclusive place.  Through PBIS, they emphasize the importance of all students being respectful, responsible, and safe.  At my school, we give students golden tickets (they can be entered into a raffle for rewards/prizes) for good behavior, which includes helping others and being good citizens.  My school also periodically gives something called Second Step lessons which were designed by the Committee for Children.  These lessons contain information about stress management, coping skills, bullying, staying in control, disagreeing respectfully, giving and receiving support, working well with others, identifying future goals, and prejudice.  Key components of these valuable lessons are posted around the school on posters, and example of one such poster can be found in figure two.

Second Step Poster

figure 2

The third level is love and belonging.  We want all students to feel like they are a meaningful part of the larger school community.  Teachers want students to make friends, and have kind interactions with their peers.  Teachers can ensure that their classrooms are a positive learning environment that has a positive learning community.

The fourth level is self-esteem.  As teachers, we want to foster feelings of self-worth among our students.  This level is so important because it is absolutely necessary for reaching the final level—self-actualization.  “The important message is that students can learn not only academic content and social skills, but how to become integrated selves that reach out into the world and reciprocally contribute to and profit from their transactions with it” (Joyce, p.301).  Educators understand the importance of going beyond content and curriculum, of educating the whole child.  This means meeting their emotional needs and teaching them skills that are not purely academic.

Students need to gain independence and strong self-concepts.  This is accomplished through self-actualizing behavior.  In practice, this is the act of reaching out to the environment with confidence that there will be a fruitful interaction.  A person who is self-actualized seeks out opportunities for growth and ultimately helps others develop as well.  They have strong coping skills, and are not focused on merely surviving.  They feel good about themselves and about their lives.  It is important that we as teachers make it a priority to lead by example for our students.  “If we model activity and reaching out toward the world, we encourage active states” (Joyce, p.310).  I personally make a great effort to encourage my students, and also to show them how I am working on improving myself.  I share my love of reading and learning with them.  I talk about higher education, and my experiences in college.  I want them to feel empowered to accomplish great things, and meet their full potential.  Positive relationship building and sharing our excitement for self-growth will encourage students to seek self-improvement as well.  “In general, positive human relations are related to positive human behaviors” (Rogers).  Teachers displaying empathy and asking students for feedback are ways they can make their classrooms positive learning environments for everyone.  Studies have found that “for students identified as having learning difficulties, the teacher’s level of interpersonal facilitation was the single most important contributor to the amount of gain on all outcome measures” (Rogers).  This means that teachers have a great deal of influence upon their students and their achievement levels.  When students feel valued by their teachers, and have an affirmative relationship with them, they do much better academically.

It is clear that Maslow’s work is very relevant to educators and students, and something we should be mindful of in our practice.


Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2014). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Allyn & Bacon.

Rogers, Carl. 1970. Teacher Effects Research on Student Self-Concept.





Allowing Students to Grow

How practical are multiple intelligence activities?

Teachers have a tendency to focus on the educational and intellectual needs of their students, but it is also necessary to take students feelings and emotions into account.  This is one reason why relationship building with students is so important.  There are certain feelings that can negatively impact student learning.  A perfect example of this is stress which is detrimental to short term memory.  According to Medina,  “Stressed people don’t do math very well. They don’t process language very efficiently. They have poorer memories, both short and long forms. Stressed people do not generalize or adapt old pieces of information to new scenarios as well as non-stressed individuals. They can’t concentrate. In almost every way it can be tested, chronic stress hurts our ability to learn” (Medina, p.65).  Clearly, emotions are something teachers need to consider to ensure their students are acquiring knowledge.

Teaching is commonly thought of as teachers broadcasting information and students receiving it.  However, if all teachers did was lecture and talk at the students there would be very little learning occurring.  It is essential that students be active participants in their own learning.

In non-directive teaching approaches the teacher takes on the role of a learning facilitator, rather than decision-maker.   They cultivate an ideal learning environment and provide guidance.  This type of teaching lets students know that teachers are not the only one with answers, and that everyone has something of value to contribute.  This model is designed to help students become more effective, better at self-evaluation, and to achieve greater personal integration.  The teacher gives students the freedom to come up with their own problems and solutions.  This self-directed learning process can be very effective.

Joyce describes four components of this teaching model.  The first aspect involves the teacher.  The educator must exhibit genuine interest in the students, and be friendly and responsive.  Secondly, the teacher should maintain neutrality and not criticize or judge the students’ feelings.  the third component is that students can freely express their feelings within reason.  The fourth component is that the teacher does not pressure or coerce the students in any way.  They avoid indicating any personal bias.  In this way, students have the chance to grow.

The five phases of this model are:

  1. Defining and helping the situation
  2. Exploring the problem
  3. Developing insight
  4. Planning and decision making
  5. Integration


Gardner came up with the groundbreaking theory of multiple intelligences.  They are visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical.  He emphasizes the importance of teaching content in a variety of ways.  An image illustrating the components of his theory can be found in figure one.  Everyone has different strengths which can be best utilized in specific  ways.  That being said, it is good for students to get accustomed to challenges and improve in the process.  Gardner says ” When children 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”.  In non-directive teaching, students are encouraged to pursue their interests and ask questions.  This can serve as a tool to improve areas of strength as well as weakness.  They are also required to evaluate what they know and what they do not know, which informs their own inquiry and investigation.


Figure 1

Everyone has different learning preferences and it would be impossible for a teacher to simultaneously cater to all the diverse wants of their entire classroom in a single lesson.  There is also evidence that suggest this is not best practice even if it were reasonable.  “When instructional style matches the nature of the content, all learners learn better, regardless of their differing preferences for how the material is taught” (Brown, p.146).While teachers may choose to alternate between different teaching styles that suit the various learning styles and material, students possess the lion’s share of the responsibility for their own learning.  It is important that students take charge of their own learning.  Being able to identify the knowledge you need and to independently pursue it is a valuable life skill.  Teachers need to allow students to struggle and make mistakes.  Deeper learning occurs when the students expend effort trying to puzzle it out themselves instead of having it spoon fed to them by the teacher.  Mistakes teach us significant lessons and are opportunities for learning.  Students need to take responsibility and learn to advocate for themselves.



Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Ostwald-Kowald, T. (n.d.). Understanding Your Student’s Learning Style: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved from

Edwards, O. (n.d.). An interview with Howard Gardner, Father of Multiple Intelligence.

Citizenship in the Classroom

How can citizenship be promoted in the classroom?

Teachers know that content is only one part of their job, they are also shaping youth who will one day be members of larger public.  Educators try to impart good values to their students in hopes that they will be positive and contributing members of society.  One of the goals of education is to help our students develop into good citizens.   This can be done accomplished in many ways.

First and foremost, the teacher themselves can and should model good citizenship.  Teachers have an incredible amount of influence upon their students, and they should be mindful of their actions because they are being actively observed.  Educators should aim to exemplify positive qualities.

Another way of promoting citizenship is through classroom rules.  The teacher can work with the students to create a classroom charter that everyone will follow.  Through the cultivation of a positive learning environment, teachers can establish classroom expectations that support good citizenship.  Educators can also actively look for teachable moments in which they can promote good citizenship in a tangible way.

Role-playing is an effective way to model positive interactions and teach kids how to handle conflict.  It is an excellent example of experienced-based learning, which means that this process will make learning more meaningful to students.  They become familiar with the how to interact with and disagree with others in a respectful way.  Additionally, this can help students develop empathy which is valuable component of relationship-building they can use in their everyday lives.  Being able to understand another person’s point of view and put themselves in their shoes are both significant abilities.  In other words, role-playing has practical real life applications.  We want our students to be comfortable with and capable of advocating for themselves and others.

There are several important aims of role-playing.  They are:

  • Exploration of feelings and emotions
  • Gaining understanding of attitudes, values, and worldviews
  • Improving problem-solving skills
  • Exploring content in a variety of ways

Another positive outcome of role-playing is that “…individuals can gain some measure of control over their belief systems if they recognize their values and attitudes and test them against the views of others” (Joyce, p.263).  This technique can improve students’ self-awareness as well as interpersonal relations.  This undoubtedly shows how useful this method can be when done effectively.

Teamwork is an important aspect of good citizenship.  As teachers, we can facilitate the growth of cooperation among our students.  As adults, they will need to be able to have positive working relationships with their coworkers, neighbors, and many other people in their lives.  We want to instill in children that there is great value in sharing ideas, and that group work has potential to enhance our thinking and learning.  Being able to listen and learn from their classmates is a good foundation for teamwork.

Teachers can incorporate positive values associated with citizenship into their lesson plans.  This can be done through intentional selections of reading materials and learning activities.  The world we live in is globalized and diverse.  This necessitates that we are also transforming students into global citizens.   Students need to be aware of world events, and current news on a global scale.  Banks says “There are many opportunities in school curriculum to link multicultural education and global education, and to help students view international events, concepts, and issues from the perspectives of the ethnic and racial groups that live in the various nations of the world” (Banks, p. 23).  Including this in your curriculum will promote multicultural citizenship and global identity. Teaching citizenship to students means that they can fight for social justice.

Another type of citizenship that is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world is digital citizenship.  Students in schools today are often using technology inside and outside of the classroom.  Teachers should have discussions regarding appropriate conduct while using technology and also about what students say and do online.  Due to the fact that digital citizenship is a relatively new concept, many students are not learning from their families what is appropriate and what is not.

We want students to not simply be morally literate, meaning that they understand what is right and wrong.  We want them to be people of action who can make a positive difference in the world.  As a future teacher, I know that teaching content is only one aspect of my job.  I also need to instill positive values in my students so they can be knowledgeable and good citizens.



Banks, J. A. (2009). Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Dean, C. B., Pitler, H., Stone, B., & Hubbell, E. R. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, Dean, Ceri B.; Hubbell, Elizabeth Ross; Pitler, Howard; Stone, Bj (2012-01-05). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). McREL.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Weissbourd, R. (2012, February). Promoting Moral Development in Schools. Retrieved from

Cooperative Learning as a Means of Socially Constructing Knowledge

What is meant by “knowledge is socially constructed”?

As teachers, we cannot control all the outside factors that influence students and their learning.  However, we can control what happens within the walls of our classrooms.  Educators have the power to cultivate a safe learning environment and foster a positive community of learners.  They can ensure their classroom is characterized by respect and compassion, and that everyone is comfortable sharing ideas.

Incorporating cooperative learning into your lesson plans may seem daunting, but can be done in a number of ways.  Some differences between a typical classroom and one with cooperative learning is illustrated in figure one.


Figure 1

This may result in a significant culture change in your classroom, but with the certain gains in student learning it is worth the effort.  One of the goals of education is to facilitate the growth of students who ideally will someday become active contributing members of society.  Dewey argues that school experiences should more accurately reflect real life.  “In the layers of a complex world, the students of today need to possess not only intellectual capabilities but also the ability to function effectively in an environment that requires working with others to accomplish a variety of tasks” (Dean).  It is important for kids to learn how to work and play well with others because when they enter the real world as working adults they will be expected to collaborate and problem-solve with others.  This is why there was been a push in recent years to include non general education students (such as English language learners and students receiving special education services) within the classrooms alongside their peers.  Students who are not a part of the general education population often experience feelings of isolation and alienation as a result of being seperated from the rest of the school.  It is also a disservice to the general education students because as an adult they will need to posses the knowledge and skills to have fruitful and constructive interactions with others regardless of their differing development or abilities.  It is mutually beneficial for all students to work with others who are different and to build positive relationships with them.  Having everyone together as much as possible, in the least restrictive environment, increases the sense of community among the students.  Figure two shows some concrete ways in which instruction changes in this type of learning process.


Figure 2

Studies have found that cooperative learning techniques consistently cause great gains in student achievement.  Cooperative learning is a practice backed by data.


Figure 3

Figure three shows the difference in achievement in a traditional classroom compared to a cooperative learning classroom structure.  It leads to gains in both white and African American students.  The gains are even more substantial for African American students.  Utilizing cooperative learning can be one way of working towards closing the achievement gap among students.

Cooperative learning allows students to learn from and help one another.  Working as part of team in the classroom setting helps kids develop problem-solving and social skills that are fundamental to their futures.  Tasks that are completed cooperatively tend to motivate students more than solo assignments, while still holding all group members accountable. “Interacting with one another produces cognitive as well as social complexity, creating more intellectual activity that increases learning when contrasted with solitary study” (Joyce, p. 234).  This shows that cooperative learning results in higher-quality learning.  Figure four shows some  additional aspects of the cooperative learning model.

Cooperative Learning

Figure 4

The statement that knowledge is socially constructed is connected to this idea of cooperative learning.  Learning is a very social process, which is why cooperative learning can be a great tool for educators.  Social progress has roots in schools where social order is maintained.  Learning relies heavily on social interaction with others.  Students are a culmination of many outside influences inside and outside their schools.  They have ideas and thoughts of value to contribute.  Students can have useful insights that the teacher did not consider.  When the focus shifts from the teacher to the students, everyone, including the educator, learns together.


Dean, C. B., Pitler, H., Stone, B., & Hubbell, E. R. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, Dean, Ceri B.; Hubbell, Elizabeth Ross; Pitler, Howard; Stone, Bj (2012-01-05). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). McREL.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Kagan, S., & Kagan, M. (2009). Kagan Cooperative Learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing

Social Constructivism. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Value and Application of Advance Organizers

How can you make practical use of an advance organizer?

            At some point, everyone has the unfortunate experience of being on the receiving end of an “information dump” in which we are bombarded with a ton of new information in such quick succession that we cannot possible remember everything we are told.  It is overwhelming, and not conducive to successful learning.

As teachers, we want students to be able to learn in a meaningful way, and remember their newly acquired knowledge in the process.  An educational theorist, David Ausubel, argues that the best way of accomplishing differentiation and integration of content is to use advance organizers.  He is a strong promoter of presentational instruction.  In this type of teaching, the educator must organize and present information to students.  This can be accomplished through lectures, readings, and learning activities that lead students to integrate what they have learned.  Advance organizers are organizational cues.  These help learners build connections between what they know and do not yet know.  It is essentially a framework that assists students in understanding what they will learn.

Prior to introducing new material, teachers should provide relevant introductory resources.  Cultivating student connections between the known and the unknown increases their retention of information.  The objective of an advance organizer is tostrengthen the cognitive structures of students.  This is their knowledge of something, how clear their understanding of it is, and how well organized their knowledge is. “Ausubel maintains that a person’s preexisting cognitive structure is the foremost factor governing whether new material will be meaningful and how well it can be acquired and maintained” (Joyce, p.200).  This means that preparing students for knowledge is essential.  When content is presented in an organized way, it helps learners better organize information in their minds.

Advance Organizer

Figure 1

There are three phases in this model of teaching.  In phase one, the teacher clarifies the lesson goals.  They present the organizer during which they point out the defining characteristics, provide examples, and give context.  In this phase, the teacher is aware of and makes use of the pre existing knowledge their students possess that is relevant to the new content. This concept is illustrated in the diagram in figure one.  In phase two, the teacher presents the materials.  They keep the students engaged, are very clear in their organization, and finally ensure the information is in an order that makes sense.  The third phase is when the educator makes the cognitive organization of the students stronger.  This involves providing clarification, fostering critical thinking about the subject, and ensuring that the new information sticks in the students’  minds.

Advance Organizer Flow Chart

Figure 2

Figure two shows how advance organizers incorporate three important aspects of the learning process.  Advance organizers facilitate a mental framework for the students to incorporate new learning.  It is presented at the beginning of a lesson, and is more broad and global.  Ausubel states that “it makes good organization sense if the presentation of more detailed or specific information is preceded by a more general or inclusive principle to which it can be related or under which it can be subsumed”.  In this way, new information is made more meaningful to students and cements specifics to generalizations.  It integrates relevant facts under common ideologies.

KWL chart

Figure 3

Examples of advance organizers that I have observed are learning objectives and KWL charts.  Learning objectives are posted on the board in the classroom and are frequently updated, usually on a daily basis. It covers success criteria, the daily agenda and the goal of the lesson.  KWL charts are graphic organizers in which students write down what they know about a topic, what they would like to know, and then after the lesson they fill in what they have learned.  For example, in a social studies classroom the teacher may ask the students to do a KWL chart when they are starting a new unit. An example of a KWL chart can be found in figure 3.

As a student, my way of providing myself an advance organizer is to go over questions and prompts prior to doing an assigned reading so that I know what to pay attention to.  Advance organizers are a mutually beneficial practice for teachers and their students.  Teachers are more systematic in the way they transmit new content, and students are more organized in their reception and internalization of it.  In this way, advance organizers set the stage for learning.



Dees, J. (2011, September 7). Why Advance Organizers Are A Crucial Learning Strategy (and 5 Examples). Retrieved from

[figure 1]

Joyce, B. R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching 9th Edition. New Jersey: Pearson.

Advance Organizer Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[figure 2]