EDC 613 Final Portfolio

Christa Meenan * Fall 2012

Does the "Role" of the developmentally oriented teacher in the teaching/learning process better reflect the teacher or the student?

Introduction

Focusing on a well structured essential question can be a catalyst for insightful conversation and student-lead discovery in classrooms at any level. When examining the complex role of the teacher in the teaching and learning process, the role of the student and the teacher should not be looked at as mutually exclusive components, but rather as intersecting pieces of a multifaceted puzzle. As public education becomes increasingly scrutinized by politicians and the public, it is important to keep the intangible relationships among members of a classroom in mind as the sacred process of transmitting knowledge from one generation to the next continues to ensure our society’s stability over time.


In the classroom setting, using a thought provoking essential question can allow students to uncover information in a meaningful way rather than the teacher dictating the means of delivery. Rather than memorizing information on the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, students are given unending, controversial statements to grapple with, promoting higher levels of thinking and interaction with their peers and instructor on a deeper level. This instructional best practice, useful in K-12 education, transfers to higher education as well. By fixating around such an issue, members of EDC 613 began to construct their own answers to the course essential question, “does the role of the developmentally oriented teacher in the teaching/learning process better reflect the teacher or the student?”


Throughout the course, the role of the teacher has been examined with a variety of lenses. Research based instructional strategies, strategic teaching and planning, and reflective practices will all aid each member of the course in his or her educational journey. In my opinion, the developmentally oriented teacher must not separate the roles of teacher and student, but rather will reflect on his or her experience as a dual role of teacher and student, gathering feedback from students while planning for future learning. The following artifacts support my growth within this essential question over the past semester.

Domain 1: A cognitive based strategic teaching and planning model

Artifact 1: When planning for strategic teaching, the teacher must first establish content priorities and later link these to desired student outcomes. After helping to develop my curriculum over the past four summers, I have had the fortunate opportunity to shape some of the essential questions that students work to answer throughout each unit. I examined not only that document, but also the two textbook series I have access to as well as the prior knowledge and needs of my students. In the picture below, I included an exit ticket used in my Microteach #2 assignment, meant to help me assess the students' immediate understanding of a two day lesson.


Domain 2: Developmentally appropriate age-level characteristics including social categories, class and gender differences.

Artifact 1: Within each classroom, there are diverse opinions and backgrounds that can help to create a more dynamic learning experience for all learners. When preparing groups for a sub unit on Ancient Greece, I created a survey for students to fill out with statements to agree/disagree with based on their own personalities. What this allowed me to do was group the students based on their self-reported opinions, with resulting groups actually more diverse by gender, family structure, and interests than I would have otherwise thought. I used these groupings in my Microteach #2 assignment, allowing each group to function as their own independent "city-state " within assorted classroom experiences. Below is that student survey.

Domain 3: Teaching styles that reflect the diversity of student's learning styles and multiple intelligences.

Artifact 1: Something that I found to be effective early on in the course was the use of Anthony Gregorc's style inventory. By identifying my strengths and weaknesses within these four styles, found in nearly every classroom, I can be more mindful of which learning styles are being addressed in each activity. Additionally, I can help my students work through situations that they are not naturally inclined to choose, arming them with transferable skills for their lives beyond high school into college and their careers.
Artifact 2: Another example of highlighting different student intelligences is the use of video clips in lessons. For my Microteach #1 assignment, I compared the Electoral College to the World Series, with runs functioning as votes and games functioning as states. In one World Series in particular, 1960's battle between the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Yankees scored about twice as many runs as the Pirates despite losing the overall series in a decisive game seven. In order to engage my visual learners as well as my kinesthetic students, we watched the final at bat of the series instead of just reading about it. Additionally, using video as one "chunk" of memory in IPT helps get a larger amount of information stored more efficiently.
The Greatest Homerun Ever: Bill Mazeroski (Longer Version)

Domain 4: Research based best practices that lead to positive student outcomes and achievement for both handicapped and non-handicapped children.

Artifact 1: Research now provides support for instructional best practices that mindful teachers have developed over the past several decades. Among these are activating prior knowledge, cooperative learning, identifying similarities and differences, and setting goals and providing feedback. Another proven best practice is using summarizing and note-taking strategies when dealing with new information. In my midterm challenge, I developed a graphic organizer for students to use when encountering new forms of government, an otherwise difficult concept for many adolescents to grasp. By using such an organizer in conjunction with engaging classroom activities, more students are able to connect with the information in a meaningful way while still comprehending the basics of each form of government. Using this building block allowed them to later digest higher concepts like justice and efficiency when rating each form of government.

Domain 5: Itegration of effective classroom management and discipline systems that help prevent classroom behavior problems and to encourage a positive learning environment.

Artifact 1: During most lessons, I will make use of a free online service that uses an online countdown clock. Both the students and I find it an effective self-monitoring tool to stay on schedule and understand in-class deadlines. Since using this tool, my students are more willing to ask for help with several minutes left instead of sitting blankly and waiting for answers to be posted as a class. In both Microteach assignments, I made use of this free and easy tool. A moment from a microteach is featured in the picture below.
Artifact 2: Another ongoing classroom management tool that I recently implemented for my sub unit on Ancient Greece involves keeping a scoreboard of the achievements of the different city-states. What I have changed from similar activities in the past is that I am striving to only add points for positive achievements, rather than erasing points for negative behaviors. While it is difficult, I will try to add points for six of seven groups if one is not following directions rather than erasing the one group who may be off task. The message is still delivered, but the positive behaviors are the ones being reinforced. A picture of my scorecard from the time of my microteach #2, where students gained points based on their exit ticket score, is pictured below. (The full class version, on the side dry-erase board, is used but off the screen during my microteach.)

Domain 6: Reflective practice that truly synthesizes the many powerful instructional and assessment strategies (as demonstrated in weekly assignments, microteach projects, and the final portfolio) that lead to student achievement.

Artifacts 1 and 2: In each microteach, the practicing teacher is asked to give critical insight into his or her reflection. Even the best planned lessons have their flaws and shortcomings, and the dedicated educator must have the humility to examine each lesson for effectiveness and potential revisions for future implementation. Included below are my two reflections from each microteach assignment.

Conclusion

This course, my final requirement to obtain my Master’s Degree through LaSalle University, allowed me to reflect on my first five years of teaching while still planning for all of the places my educational journey may take me. What I found most rewarding was the intriguing dialogue conducted amongst a seasoned administrator, practicing teachers in a variety of disciplines and specialties, and graduate students who were experiencing their first taste of teaching live in a classroom. This rich tapestry of backgrounds, opinions, and experiences allowed conversation to naturally develop around the core concepts of the course, allowing each member of the class the ability to walk away with some new perspectives on what it means to be an effective educator in the 21st century. Deeply held beliefs were also respectfully challenged as each student in the class had to confront their own experience as a learner to better understand who they might become as a teacher.

One of the biggest areas where I experienced personal growth was in the area of research-based best practices. For years, I had been doing certain activities with my students because I believed that they were effective in the classroom. Until this course, I had not really connected the the positive results I experienced with my students to educational research on best practices. Examining each of these strategies and using them in even more purposeful ways is helping me to better target student engagement by presenting opportunities for my students to guide their learning in a personally meaningful way. While I have always been a proponent of giving different options for summative assessments, as I once wrote a song to function as a soundtrack for a remake of To Kill a Mockingbird in lieu of a paper, I am now also attempting to work such options into my formative assessment. If I am using a standard format of formative assessment, am I truly assessing what the student knows? What makes sense in my learning style may not transfer for other learning styles present within my classroom. This is still a work in progress, however, as it requires a significantly greater amount of time and effort as well as a bit of trial and error in my implementation. It will also need to change over time with the needs of my students.

As I look toward my future in the education, I have a great desire to remain in the field for my entire career. I know that this will be a challenging goal in itself, as the profession is at a crossroads with the emergence of charter schools, online learning, individualized educational programs, and standardized state assessments. I will need to learn new technologies on the fly while my students will grow up as technology natives. Something that has been prominent in my mind over these past five years is a burnout rate mentioned by several of my undergraduate professors at Penn State. Statistically, many teachers decide to leave their jobs by the end of the fifth year. As I near this milestone, I am more aware than ever that it feels like a personal crossroads. I am preparing to buy my first home with my fiance, also a teacher. This financial commitment is directly tied to not only having a job, but also the location of the home based largely on the school district. In short, we are planning our whole lives around the process of schooling in one way or another. I will have so much of my future hopes invested in education, and armed with research and driven by data, I believe that I will be able to adapt to the changing nature of the teacher’s role in a developmentally oriented classroom.