Knowledge of teaching
Teacher candidates positively impact student learning that is:
1. Informed by standards-based assessment. All students benefit from learning that is systematically analyzed using multiple formative, summative, and self-assessment strategies.
2. Intentionally planned. All students benefit from standards-based planning that is personalized.
3. Influenced by multiple instructional strategies. All students benefit from personalized instruction that addresses their ability levels and cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
4. Informed by technology. All students benefit from instruction that utilizes effective technologies and is designed to create technologically proficient learners.
My understanding of Standard T:
This standard ensures that teachers are intentional with every aspect of their profession. We must be aware of our students’ strengths and weaknesses so that we can create lessons and assessments that reach our entire class population. I must vary my instruction and assessment for students of different learning styles, as well as backgrounds. At the same time, I must ensure that I incorporate technology into the classroom so that students are prepared for life after high school.
Meta-Reflection on Standard T
Informed by Standards-Based Assessment. All students benefit from learning that is systematically analyzed using multiple formative, summative, and self-assessment strategies.
My ability to provide varied and multiple assessments to my students continues to be one of my biggest strengths as a teacher. Thanks to some great mentors in my school over the past few years and some fantastic team teachers, I believe my students benefit from a wide variety of assessments that allow them to thrive no matter their cultural background, ability level or interest.
In my freshmen Collegio class (integrated World History and English), I vary the assessments in each unit and throughout the year to involve the strengths of all students. For example, students completed an assessment during the Greek unit concerning the famous Plato/Socrates conversation regarding The Allegory of the Cave. This assignment originated a few years ago by another history teacher at Seattle Prep. Through meeting with him and discussing the assignment a couple years ago, I decided it would be a perfect fit in the Greek unit. The Allegory story is a required part of our curriculum, but I added the effort rubric as part of this year’s assignment. The work from this assignment that I attached is evidence of student work and achieving the objectives, as well as the standards.
There were a number of assessments that matched up with the lesson in this case. Students had an opportunity to self-assess using the effort and achievement rubric. Before they turned in their work, I reminded them that I asked them to work on this assignment despite adversity they may have encountered. I then provided them with a rubric that featured two columns: one for effort and one for achievement. I asked the students to rate themselves on this assignment; to see if their effort correlated with the achievement on the objectives that I provided for them. They had a good understanding of the allegory after we worked on it in class more. Most students enjoyed rating themselves and some were even a little hard on themselves I would say.
They evaluated not only their visual representation, but also their achievement of the objectives for the lesson. At the same time, I had the chance to ensure they understood the material by collecting their group work on questions regarding the allegory. This ensured that they understood the contribution to history that Plato and Socrates made and thus matched the Washington State standard.
Allowing students to self-assess proves to be critical in the creation of a positive classroom environment. I must give students a voice, not only to express their concerns, but to evaluate themselves. When they do this, they own their grades. Students often, as they did with the Allegory assignment, evaluate themselves harsher than I would. Yet it allows for more reflection that simply seeing the grade I give them and throwing it in their backpack. Additionally, if all of my assessments are tests or quizzes, I am not allowing for those students who thrive on writing or artistically. The varying of assessments ensures that all students of all levels CAN achieve success in my class. They may not all get there, but it provides the opportunity.
Intentionally planned. All students benefit from standards-based planning that is personalized. (Also: Informed by technology. All students benefit from instruction that utilizes effective technologies and is designed to create technologically proficient learners).
I created this lesson on using the online discussion board Moodle and the causes of the Civil War partly from a SPU class and partly on my own. The Issues and Advances in Education Technology class at SPU brought Moodle to my attention, but the school also began using Moodle before I came up with the idea to use it in my class. The manner in which I utilized the technology (and thus reaching the criterion for that aspect of Standard T) came from my original creation. As students analyzed the causes of the Civil War and responded to each other, this allowed them to demonstrate their competency toward the various written and historical standards (as well as understanding of content). Obviously a great part of this lesson dealt with creating technologically fluent students while creating historical arguments. The attached artifacts showed their understanding of the material clearly in their Moodle responses.
One of the primary focuses of the first semester at Seattle Prep for juniors involves the National History Day paper. This research paper challenges and pushes students to work toward a historical analysis of an innovation in American history. Teaching students to create a paper around a centralized argument (thesis) rather than a collection of facts can be difficult for students. This skill requires a great deal of practice for even the most sophisticated students. Thus I create many assignments that require students to generate topic sentences or thesis statements so they can practice this kind of analysis. This particular lesson requires students to do the same kind of analysis that they must do for their research paper.
I believe that this lesson does a great job in terms of homework and practice. While I wanted my students to succeed on this particular assignment and lesson, I really wanted them to practice for their research paper. This lesson accomplishes this practice very well. I wouldn’t change much, if anything, concerning this instructional strategy.
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.
It is clear that through these two assignments that students receive learning that is personalized and they have the opportunity to not only work towards standards, but make an argument in the process. When students pick a historical argument and back it up with evidence they are preparing themselves for future success. Much of college work will be involving writing papers with similar skills needed and students will need these skills in the workplace as well. When a student can provide evidence for their argument, they are ultimately prepared for any situation. Additionally, it helps them “own” the content, thus students become more engaged.
Influenced by multiple instructional strategies. All students benefit from personalized instruction that addresses their ability levels and cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Throughout the course of the year, I utilized all nine of Robert Marzano’s Instructional Strategies. For my evidence, I will provide artifacts and explanations of some of those strategies used in my classroom.
This lesson plan regarding the Minoans/Myceneans and the myth allows students to meet standard T.
While a colleague of mine created the original paragraph assignment, I adapted it to be a peer edit and topic sentence work. It originated mostly because freshmen need as much work as possible on writing, and in particular on historical arguments. With this in mind, the positive impact on student learning can be viewed through the attached artifacts. In the first version of the paragraphs, students created rough versions of topic sentence, but through the peer edit process the end result improved greatly. By connecting directly to written, historical, and reading standards, while remaining in the Greek unit in the curriculum, the work shows clear competency of the standard. The students work improved through the process and they achieved good results with their topic sentences in the end.
Summarizing and Note Taking
As Robert Marzano states in Instructional Strategies that Work, part of the note taking process involves comprehending what parts are most important. Students in my class are continually pushed to not only take notes, but answer the question: why does that matter? History cannot be viewed as a list of events and people if students are to become critical thinkers. Marzano highlights the strategy developed by Brown, Campione, and Day in 1981 that includes the following when it comes to note taking:
- Delete trivial material that is unnecessary to understanding
- Delete redundant material
- Substitute superordinate terms for lists
- Select a topic sentence, or invent one if it is missing (Marzano, 2001).
By taking notes on my PowerPoint presentation, the students are forced to discern the most important aspects of the material. We practiced this skill earlier in the year through note checks on their text reading and in class work. After gathering info and reading the myth, the students then create their own topic sentence in a comparison of the two. This allows students to put the notes into practice.
If I had to change something about this lesson it would be to be more specific with my direction in regards to summarizing and note taking. I think it could be helpful during the PowerPoint to call on random students to read their notes on the last slide out loud. If not that, have students share with each other what they took down for notes on the last slide. I would simply create “check points” for the notes to ensure students are really taking down the right, crucial information.
Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback
By allowing students to peer edit and focusing on a specific skill in this lesson, I provided varied forms of feedback for students. When reading Marzano’s chapter on feedback, this lesson fits the criteria very well. For example, Marzano states that feedback “provides students with an explanation of what they are doing that is correct and what they are doing that is not correct” (Marzano, 2001). By focusing this lesson exclusively on the topic sentence aspect of the paragraph, students and myself were allowed to narrow in on the following:
- Is the topic sentence an argument?
- Does the topic sentence avoid 1st or 2nd person?
- Does the topic sentence address the “why” question? (Meaning is there a because following the argument).
By focusing on these elements, students receive corrective feedback that allows them to change for the final product (after peer edit) or for the next time (after my grade). Additionally, the feedback is timely especially with the peer edit. Marzano states that “the timing of feedback appears to be critical to its effectiveness” (Marzano, 2001). By having students peer edit each other the day the paragraph was originally due, the feedback is immediate. Lastly, the feedback is specific to criterion. Since the lesson focuses on a specific skill that they need to be developed, there isn’t a comparison to other students. The central point of the lesson involves creating effective topic sentences solely.
While I think this lesson really does a great job in terms of feedback, I can alter the lesson to be more effective. I think in the future I will do a few things differently. First, I would have students bring in a copy without their name on it so the focus remains specific on the work rather than the person they edit. Second, I will be more explicit in my explanation that the focus is on topic sentences rather than the whole paragraph in the first draft. This allows students to work on stronger topic sentences and worry less on grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Third, I will give my feedback the next day rather than a few days later to ensure effectiveness.
The Allegory of the Cave assignment referenced earlier achieved some of the other Marzano strategies.
Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
Robert Marzano notes in Instructional Strategies that Work that “not all students realize the importance of believing in effort” (Marzano, 2001). At Seattle Prep, effort stands as the norm most of the time. Almost all students work extremely hard which provides for great opportunities as a teacher to lead class discussions and other activities. At the same time, this can be discouraging for some students as they feel like their effort doesn’t really get them anywhere. With this in mind, I targeted the Allegory of the Cave assignment in my freshmen class as an effort assignment and lesson.
The Allegory of the Cave can be daunting for many high school students, especially freshmen. Many of them can do part of the assignment in depicting the literal version of the story into a visual. Yet not many can interpret the allegory for its underlying meaning regarding Socrates and his view of the enlightened versus the unenlightened. While we set up the reading in class, I challenged the students to take time and really work toward understanding the story. I encouraged them to keep working even when things got difficult as they took on this assignment.
Many of my lessons involve cooperative learning. I will often give some information, provide a reading, worksheet or primary source document and have students work in pairs or groups. The Allegory of the Cave assignment wasn’t much different.
I anticipated students struggling with the meaning of the allegory so I created some questions that went along with the reading. Knowing that I intended to provide them with an effort rubric, I left them to struggle with the assignment a bit. The next day I gave them the questions and grouped them according to the seating chart in groups of four. This avoids homogeneous grouping which Marzano points out can be detrimental to the process (Marzano, 2001). I used a number of Marzano ideas in grouping students throughout the semester including birthdays, height, color of clothes, and alphabetically. This not only gets students out of their seats, but also provides some needed variety.
The rigorous curriculum at Seattle Prep does not always allow for nonlinguistic representations in the classroom. In fact, there are teachers who flat out look down upon this type of learning unfortunately. I attempt to incorporate nonlinguistic representations at least once a unit, but should probably be doing it more often. In this case, students drew a visual representation of the Allegory of the Cave story as part of the assignment. As Marzano points out, “drawing pictures or pictographs to represent knowledge is a powerful way to generate nonlinguistic representations in the mind” (Marzano, 2001). While it allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the story in visual form, it also allows students to prepare themselves to interpret the story. In other words, it elaborates on the knowledge they already have concerning the story.
When reflecting on this assignment, I do think there is a way to have students elaborate even more. In addition to having them visually represent the story, I could have them draw a similar example from their own life. This would allow them to think more critically about the allegory rather than only literally in their nonlinguistic representation.
There are a couple other nonlinguistic representation assignments this year that really reinforced learning for my students. Recently, my freshmen created maps during the Age of Exploration unit in which they needed to graphically represent the colonization by the Spanish and Portuguese of the Americas, as well as routes of many famous explorers. This map assignment stood as part of the larger unit in which we contrasted the indigenous people of the Americas with the explorers. Students did not just complete maps, they also began to visually see how the exploration impacted people all over the world, most of all the people who already lived in those areas.
Informed by technology. All students benefit from instruction that utilizes effective technologies and is designed to create technologically proficient learners.
As students embrace technology in their daily lives with the use of social networking sites and cell phones, it seems inevitable that teachers will need to catch up in the classroom. Luckily for me, Seattle Prep allows the freedom to try new 2.0 technologies in the curriculum and in daily lessons. Throughout this school year, I utilized a number of different technologies including PowerPoint, the discussion board Moodle, and the digital narrative site entitled VoiceThread.
I use PowerPoint as a lecture tool that allows those who learn visually or those who simply need that organization to provide clarity in lessons. Not only that, but I can use appropriate humor to keep students engaged through PowerPoint as well. In teaching the students about the Battle of Bull Run in the Civil War unit, I used PowerPoint to teach the lesson. After visiting the site a couple years ago, I took pictures of myself coming out of the woods where General Stonewall Jackson first screamed the “Rebel Yell”. I show this picture of myself to supplement the material they need to know.
Students also complete PowerPoints in both my junior and freshmen Collegios. In the junior class, the students work in groups on a topic in the 1920s, while in freshmen Collegio they design a PowerPoint after researching an artist of the Renaissance. This project fits as part of the larger unit in which students learn about the Renaissance and the Reformation. By working in groups on PowerPoints, not only are students learning the technology but they are learning group dynamics. In completing this task together, the students are better preparing themselves for life beyond high school. They also are learning to coexist outside the classroom through academic work. These skills prove to be more valuable than the learning of technology.
Additionally, I used VoiceThread as an alternative way to teach material in class. I created my own VoiceThread to explain the origins of the Cold War. As I presented this in class it provided material for students to take notes on, but also an example of what I wanted students to complete as well.
The use of VoiceThread not only allows students to experiment with another 2.0 technology, it also allows those who are more visual or creative thinkers to flourish. The more opportunities I can provide for varied assessments, the better engaged my students will be in the classroom. This is a student example of VoiceThread on a battle in the Vietnam War.
Students who learn to utilize technology effectively in the classroom and their work will be better prepared for the workplace in the future (and college). The world is not going to become less technological anytime soon. In fact, those who can’t keep up will simply be passed for opportunities. In using these technologies in the classroom, I am not only varying instruction but ensuring students have the chance for success in the future.