The Teacher’s Toolkit

EDU 6526 Survey of Instructional Strategies – Course Meta-Reflection

It is important for educators to be equipped with a variety of tools to most effectively teach.  These tools can take many forms including strategies, instructional models, and techniques.  Teachers have many methods at their disposal from many different resources such as their teacher preparation program content, their coworkers, and the vast amount of literature that exists on teaching.  Following a teaching model may seem limiting, but exemplary educators are able to make them their own while still maintaining the essence of what makes the model effective.  They are also able to enlist an assortment of approaches so that both the teacher and their students stay active and engaged.  We know there is no one-size-fits-all in education, and within any model an instructor uses there will be accommodations and modifications when appropriate.

Student-centered approaches are a particularly potent device in the teacher’s arsenal.  This tactic takes into account the diverse needs of students.  Essentially the teacher personalizes and tailors instruction to accommodate student needs, level of ability and skills, and areas of interest. In today’s classrooms that include ELL, SE, SA and students with IEPs alongside general education students, this is especially relevant This approach involves scaffolding and differentiation content and support so that all students are learning and growing.  This method is characterized by equity, students all get what they need to achieve learning outcomes.  Teachers empower their students to take ownership of their learning and advocate for themselves.  An illustration showing this method can be found in figure one.

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Figure 1

A fundamental question teachers must frequently ask themselves is “are students learning?”.  If the answer is not clearly affirmative, then the teacher should use this opportunity to delve into their tool box and try something different.   Sometimes learning is happening but not at the level we were hoping to achieve.  In this situation it is important to consider Bloom’s taxonomy of learning.  We as teachers need to evaluate where students fall so that we can help facilitate deeper, lasting learning.  It can also be helpful with older students to ask them to self-evaluate where they are.  A visual representation of Bloom’s ideology can be found in figure two.

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Figure 2

Teachers should not waste their own time or their students time.  This means that educators should give meaningful assignments and then provide detailed feedback.  There is no point in giving students “busy work” which will not assist any learning.  By the same token, if you are not willing to provide responses to student work, then the student will not know what they did well and what they need to work on.  Ultimately, a grade with no explanation is not helpful to learners.  This means more work for teachers, but also student growth and progress.

In a similar fashion, any type of assessment should be strategic.  The students should be able to look at their score on a test and see what they did well on and what they need to work on.  Teachers should look at their students test scores as a whole as their own form of self-evaluation.  If a lot of students missed the same question, then that is a sign that the teacher needs to re-teach that specific piece of content.   Perhaps this means the teacher will also decide to change their approach since their initial attempt was not effective.  Some strategies we looked at over the course of this quarter included asking students questions, making a distinction between concepts and facts, and using advance organizers.  All of these can be incorporated into a unit of study.

Teachers understand  the value of educating the whole student, in other words not only meeting their academic needs but also their emotional needs.  Teachers must help students develop good citizenship and the ability to work effectively with others.  We want our students to be equipped with important life skills for their futures.  Good teachers recognize and take into consideration the different personalities, intelligences and abilities that coexist within their classrooms.  They foster a sense of community and make their rooms a safe and inclusive place of learning for everyone.

This course caused me to reflect upon my experiences as a student, both good and bad.  I thought about teachers I have had that I want to be like and some others that serve as examples of what I do not want to be.   This class has given me yet another lens to examine effective educators.

Sources:

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.

Students at the Center: Teaching and Learning in the Era of the Common Core. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.studentsatthecenter.org/about

Using a Learning Taxonomy to Align Your Course. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ucdenver.edu/faculty_staff/faculty/center-for-faculty-development/Documents/Tutorials/Assessment/module2/index.htm