Knowledge of learners and their development in social contexts
Evidence of teacher candidate practice reflects planning, instruction and communication that is:
1. Learner centered. All students engage in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.
2. Classroom/school centered. Student learning is connected to communities within the classroom and the school, including knowledge and skills for working with others.
3. Family/neighborhood centered. Student learning is informed by collaboration with families and neighborhoods.
4. Contextual community centered. All students are prepared to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society.
My understanding of Standard L:
This standard demonstrates that students don’t live in a vaccuum. They don’t simply go to school and that life exists outside of the rest of their world. It is all connected and in order for us to be effective teachers, we must find ways to bring it all together. We must teach students that their community and their world around them is part of the learning process. Yet at the heart of all of it is the learner – the student. We must continually find ways to reach students and ensure that learning is taking place.
Meta-Reflection on Standard L
Learner centered. All students engage in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.
All of education should strive to be learner centered. This standard might as well be THE standard for education in the United States. Being a learner centered educator means building relationships with your students to ensure that you provide the time, resource, and energy into improving their level of achievement. In order to do this, a teacher must vary instruction to age and developmental levels. Additionally, teachers must present all sides in being culturally responsive to the needs of students. This is what I do in my classroom.
Being learner centered at Seattle Prep as a history teacher proves to be different than being learner centered at other schools. As a college preparatory school, the learners at our school treat receiving a “C’ as the bubonic plague. Their parents hold high expectations for their work and the peer pressure creates a classroom environment of achievement and participation (for the most part). This means that I must not think about what is age appropriate in general for juniors or freshmen, but what is age appropriate at Seattle Prep for juniors or freshmen.
As a teacher I demonstrate my proficiency in the standard of being learner centered through varied instruction and assessments within the same unit. I vary my instructional strategies to include partner work, group work, visuals such as PowerPoint or creative art, and class discussions. My assessments vary as well to benefit those who write well versus those who test better. It also includes some creative work for those who don’t perform well on “traditional” assessments. This caters to all learners in the classroom.
For example, in the 1920s and Great Depression unit I provided varied assessments to be both age appropriate and reach all learners. This included an assignment in which students created a soup can describing one of the New Deal programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a paragraph comparing a modern photo and one from the Great Depression after viewing a PowerPoint from Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans (two New Deal photographers), group presentations on topics of the 1920s where students are graded on presentation skills as well as content, and a test on the unit as well. I include examples of the first three, but will leave the test off for security purposes.
These examples show that I vary my instruction to meet all learners no matter what level or skill set they possess. It also meets all learners (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), as well as moving through the various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
As students, Seattle Prep juniors produce a National History Day paper in addition the great work they did on the assignments described above. This assignment, while traditional in approach as it is part of the curriculum, allows itself to be learner centered because the students choose their area of interest. Students are not required to choose a particular topic; they simply must choose anything from American History within a given theme. This year’s theme was: Innovation in History.
The following example shows one student’s passion toward environmentalism and the National Parks. Despite the fact that we spend only ten minutes on Teddy Roosevelt and the creation of the parks system, this student spent hours upon hours working on this paper for a topic that he chose and enjoyed researching. This is the essence of learner centered education. Students can choose a topic such as democracy or something more related to their culture depending on their interests. This allows for a student to follow his or her passion and learn more about their own culture. Throughout the process, this student refined his thesis, added more research, created an outline and then this finished product.
Classroom/school centered. Student learning is connected to communities within the classroom and the school, including knowledge and skills for working with others.
Many of my lessons involve students working with others at one point or another. I believe strongly in partner or group work for a number of different reasons. In order to break up the monotony or to keep students engaged (ala John Medina’s 10 minute segment idea in Brain Rules), I move students from class discussion to groups or partners and then back to the class discussion. This allows for a break, as well as engaging more students in the material than a whole class discussion will. Some students simply do not want to participate with that many faces looking at them. Additionally when students teach each other material in partners or groups, they learn the content much more clearly.
In my freshmen Collegio (integrated history and English), we are currently engaged in a unit on the Reformation and the Renaissance (world history). While studying the various reformation movements including Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and Protestant England, I had students read a selection and teach each other the highlights of the movement. By doing this work in groups, students must teach each other and thus they learn more.
My second example involves comparing the acts during the Revolutionary Era in junior American history with a dance competition. While it sounds odd and a little random, by comparing something pretty unfamiliar (the acts) with something very familiar (school dances), students will be more likely to remember the content. They work on this in groups in order to make decisions and practice skills they need for group presentations later in the year.
While I provide ample opportunities for students to work in partners or groups in class, I also want them to work with groups on more in depth projects. This provides me with some great student evidence of achieving this standard. One group assignment involved a creative writing immigration assignment. The group received a picture of immigrants from the time period we studied in the Gilded Age (1880-1920). They then needed to create a creative writing piece to depict the interaction of this family in their travels. The following result shows a group that divided up work and turned in a very creative finished product.
The second example is a PowerPoint presentation by a group on the 1920s in junior American history. Each group needed to create a presentation for their classmates highlighting the important facts, as well as the significance of their particular topic. This example is a group who needed to present on consumerism in the 1920s. They show their understanding of the time period through analyzing how consumerism impacted the 1920s. Each member presented in class and received a grade for their presentation skills.
Family/neighborhood centered. Student learning is informed by collaboration with families and neighborhoods.
Contextual community centered. All students are prepared to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society.
In order to create a more sustainable and better world for the future, we at Seattle Prep aim to help students become “men and women for others”. This is a school motto and part of the Jesuit tradition. The two standards of being family/neighborhood centered and contextual community centered fit right in with the creation of a new course that I helped originate. The course is a senior class called senior seminar. As a member of the committee evaluating senior year, along with six other faculty members, we created the idea of an integrated senior year course that would also help them become men and women for others.
From this spawned the course I teach now called Ecology, Economics, and Ethics: The Global Water Crisis. As a member of the teaching team and a member of the committee creating the curriculum, I remained hands on throughout the process. Thus my evidence of proficiency in this realm is clear. I created a plan that involved both community and families. Students learn how the world is interconnected and how to keep their environment sustainable. Students must involve their families in their progress toward a change in thinking around the global water crisis. The class, and in particular the two field trips we take, involve the community as well. Students visit the Cedar River watershed and learn from the educators there on how the water cycle and pollution impacts drinking water. By taking students to the source of the water, we are showing how the classroom walls do not have to be limits to their education. Additionally, we take students to the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse and the Duwamish River to learn about the impact of industry on indigenous people and the environment. Again, students are engaged in their community and can take what they learned back home to their families.
I provide the syllabus for the course, a description of the trip to the Cedar River watershed, and a picture of our class on top of the dam at the watershed.
Students in this course reflect and write a lot on how their perception of water changes and how it impacts their lives. One example of this comes from a take home portion of a test we gave on the first unit in our class on the significance of water. Students were asked to write, using specific evidence from class and readings, about their changing view of water and the water crisis. A number of students wrote how they already convinced their parents to make changes. This made me very proud as an educator. Students involved their families in their education, but more importantly made real changes! For example, one student convinced her parents to install a rain barrel in the backyard and to use the washing machine less. This creates students who are family and community centered, as well as sustainable, forward thinking citizens.