Mary Ewart's bPortfolio

EDU 6990 – Teacher Leadership Capstone – Metareflection

Standard 8: Teacher leaders present professional practice for the review of colleagues.

 

“When teachers build networks to support their need for professional learning, their effectiveness can grow over a career.” (Fisher & Frey, 2016, p. 85)

When I started this program, in all honesty, my intention was to complete a Masters degree. I began with no intention of leaving the classroom in the foreseeable future, and rather, was hoping the program would provide me with some new tools and information that would better my practice as a secondary math teacher. Being in the classroom and working with students, seeing them reach understanding on a difficult concept, watching them engage in academic discourse about mathematics; all of those things make my job very fulfilling, and when I started this program I couldn’t imagine leaving the classroom and walking away from the students. I have spent 12 years working in public education, as a teacher, and have never doubted that I belong here, with students.

Throughout the first year of the program, I really focused on learning what I could to better my craft in the classroom. The work in our human development class was something I could apply instantly to my classroom to work with students and try to meet them the way they learn. During the Spring quarter, we took an administration class, Engaging Communities. This was the first time when I considered what my career might look like if I wasn’t in a classroom until I retire. Being in administration was not something I had spent any time considering prior to this course, but it really opened my eyes to the power that leaders have in education – whether they are teacher leaders, administrators, or leaders at a more central level.

Moving into the second year of the program, I spent the summer working on curriculum and assessment work, as well as considering how morals impact education – especially in a public school. This was an interesting quarter for me, as I truly felt my view shift from looking for immediate tools to apply in my classroom to looking at the information and considering how I could share it at the largest level to have the greatest impact for all students in my building rather than just my own. Although I still wasn’t sure that I was done in the classroom for any time in the near future, I was definitely shifting to thinking about how I could expand the impact of my learning. As the new math department chair in my building, that was an obvious way, and I began to create informative blurbs that I could send out, linked to research, that would provide members of my department with key learning from my courses that could be digested in quick and easy ways.

The last three quarters have really seen my thinking shift in even larger ways. Another administration course, Leadership in Education, continued to challenge my thinking with the idea of being able to impact more students than just those in my classroom. Then the Applying Action Research class really showed me how much my understanding of data and statistics that comes from being a math teacher can benefit others in the profession by simply being able to evaluate research to determine whether or not that data makes sense. Lastly, as I explored career options in the Capstone course, I was truly challenged to consider whether I will, in fact, remain in the classroom for the next 20+ years.

Now, as I am finished with my coursework, I have come to a crossroads, of sorts, in my career. My belief that being a public school teacher was my calling for my entire career has been confronted, and I have a lot of excitement and anticipation about where I should go next. Although the administration classes have been some of my favorites, I also think that is because those were the classes where I had the smallest set of prior knowledge, so I was able to learn the most in those classes about topics that were entirely new to me. Prior to this experience I would have never considered administration as a choice for me, but now, I am considering administration as a potential future branch in my career, although I am not ready to move into that yet. Where I have become more and more convicted about is to be able to share my knowledge with current and future teachers. Ideally, this would be in a position where I could stay in the classroom part-time, and coach/mentor teachers in-building part-time. Unfortunately, that is not a position that exists in my current district. Teaching is something that is important to me, but what if I could make a greater impact by teaching future or current teachers? This is a question that has been going through my head frequently the last 6 months or so. Based on that, I am hoping I will be able to take my experience in the classroom, and new learning from this program, and find a position with a university as an adjunct professor in a school of education. I would love to be able to teach about the best methods for instruction, how to evaluate research and curriculum, and how our students truly think and learn. I would also love to be able to teach about teaching math specifically, as I truly believe the ability to tell the story of mathematics is key in successful mathematics instruction, and that is not something everyone who wants to be a teacher understands. I also am considering looking into positions within my district that would allow me to work with other teachers, and considering looking at ways to make a larger impact on education as a whole. I love to learn about current trends in education and analyzing data on the true impact of those trends. With so many universities around the area, I might be able to find a position like this as well. Do I still feel passionately about serving students? Absolutely. My professional greatest joy over the last 12 years has come from student interaction. I am sure I will miss that if I move into a new career path. However, the main thing this program has taught me is how much of an impact leaders can make in education, not just for a class of students each year, but for classes of students each year in the future.

 

Source:

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2016) Getting Better Every Year. Educational Leadership, 73(8), 85-86.

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EDU 6980 – Applying Research in School Settings – Meta Reflection – Standard 3

EDU 6980 Applying Action Research in School Settings – Meta Reflection – Standard 3

 

Standard 3 – Teacher leaders improve teaching and learning through the use of education research at the classroom and school levels.

“Teacher-led professional learning is critical for supporting teachers to innovate, own, share and spread their professional knowledge and practices” (Campbell, 2015, p. 58)

            This class was one that I was very much looking forward to taking from the moment that I learned I was going to need a book about statistics in education! As a math teacher, the idea of thinking about the role that statistics could play in an educational setting was very intriguing, and I must admit, something that I had not fully considered until now. Thinking about my learning and understanding at the beginning of the course, I realize that I understood the importance of using research, both action research at a local level, as well as published professional research, when making decisions for my classroom, department, and school, but I had never thought or been taught about how to make critical decisions about the research and or whether a secondary source article used primary research appropriately.

At the beginning of the course, we worked to create a basic understanding of statistics, how different statistical measures are found, and how to use them appropriately. For me, this was a review of mathematical understand I already had, but it was interesting to put it into application when considering it as it related to educational research. We also chose a secondary source article that we would be critiquing by the end of the course. Although it probably should not have been, even considering the difference between a primary and secondary source article was something new to me. Prior to the start of this course, research had always been something I searched for, found the articles that were on the topic I was researching, and then used as needed. I had never put much thought into whether an article was primary or secondary, or how a secondary source article used the primary source research.

Then we moved on to the beginning critique of a primary source article. Reading a researcher article critically, with a focus on the actual data and how it was used was one of the most interesting pieces of learning throughout this program to me. I really appreciated the idea of working through an article considering each step along the way. This also helped me consider what I would do if I ever attempt to write or publish a formal article. We also interviewed an administrator to determine how they used research in their professional responsibilities.

After we began our critique of a primary source article, we spent time analyzing provided data and considering the implications of the data. That was done in my data analysis paper. This assignment opened my eyes to what type of data is useful in an educational study, and how it can be best used.

Then we put together all the pieces and completed my critique of the original primary source article we started with as a whole class. The process of reading the article, considering the critique questions, working with our cohort to answer the questions, fine-tuning our understanding, and then putting the whole thing into writing was a process that left me with a much greater understanding of what appropriate data and research is, as well as how I can use that understanding to promote learning in my classroom, as well as my department and building.

Lastly, we returned to the secondary source article that we picked at the beginning of the course. My article was How Mathematics Counts by Lynn Arthur Steen and published in Educational Leadership. Originally, the article was interesting, and seemed to have a lot of appropriate sources to back up the claims made by the author. For the final paper, I was asked to read the article, identify a primary source article used by the author of the secondary source article, and then critique the primary source article and how the secondary source author used it. Imagine my surprise when I found that the article I originally chose and felt so positively about, did not even have a true primary source article behind it! My critique of the one primary source research article and the way it was used can be found here.

Reflecting on my learning this quarter has caused me to consider many aspects I did not originally expect. With a math background, the actual statistics was not as much of a stretch for me as it was for others of my colleagues, however, the real learning for me came from realizing just exactly how much published research is actually lacking many important requirements to be making the connections that authors make. As I move forward in my role as a teacher leader, I will be working to do two things: make sure any research I present is appropriate, that the data provided is used correctly and that the researchers made appropriate determinations from the data, and I will be working to make sure my colleagues understand the concerns that are associated with research. Learning how to be critical readers of educational research and data will allow myself and my colleagues to use research in the most appropriate way to make the best educational decisions for students. Making the best educational decisions for my own students, and helping my colleagues do the same for their students is a primary goal that I have developed for myself as a teacher leader as I have worked through this program.

 

References:

Bok, D. (2005). Our underachieving colleges. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Campbell, C. (2015). Teachers as leaders of professional learning. Education Canada, 55(1), 54-59.

Lutsky, N. (2006). Quirks of rhetoric: A quantitative analysis of quantitative reasoning in student

writing. Proceedings of the section on statistical education, American Statistical Association, 2319-2322. Retrieved from http://statlit.org/pdf/2006LutskyASA.pdf

Mergendoller, J. R., Maxwell, N. L, & Bellisimo, Y. (2006). The Effectiveness of Problem-Based

Instruction: A Comparative Study of Instructional Methods And Student Characteristics. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based  Learning, 1(2).

Ravid, R. (2011). Practical Statistics for Educators (4th Edition). Landham, MD:

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc

Steen, L.A. (2007). How mathematics counts. Educational Leadership, 65(3). Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=f3a15feb3591-4b26-93a6-9028482c366c%40sessionmgr4005&vid=24&hid=4106

Stigler, S. M. (1999). Statistics on the table. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

 

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EDAD 6580 Leadership in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 7

EDAD 6580 Leadership in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 7

 

Standard 7: Teacher leaders utilize instructional frames to improve teaching.

 

“Enlightened leadership is not an end in itself. It is a means – a means of bringing more wisdom to the world and of shaping a better future for our organizations and the children we serve” (Houston, Blankstein, & Cole, 2008, p. 34)

 

Leadership is always something that has come naturally to me, without even really trying. The process of considering what it means to be a leader, what qualities make a leader enlightened, and how to use leadership principles in an educational setting is very interesting to me. That being said, as I started this course, I knew very little about what it meant to really be a leader, in the sense of an administrator, and what kind of thought process goes into each and every decision that an administrator has to make. Although I do not have any desire to move into school administration, I do feel that as a teacher leader it is important to understand what it takes to be a good administrator, as being a teacher leader requires many of the same requirements. At the beginning of the course, I had really only considered what it takes to engage a community in a school setting, because of the previous coursework I completed as part of this program.

This course followed two pathways that continued to weave in and out of each other. One thing that we did every week was focus on one of the eight principles of leadership that are covered in Spirituality in Educational Leadership: intention, attention, unique gifts and talents, gratitude, unique life lessons, holistic perspective, openness and trust (Houston, Blankstein, & Cole, 2008). By focusing on a topic each week, and considering how that impacts us as teacher leaders now, and potentially future administrators, we were able to have both virtual and in-person discussions about how these principles will impact us all as leaders. Although I feel that trust is, perhaps, the most important principle, I loved discussing gratitude. Being grateful and expressing gratitude can go so far when it comes to developing trust and respect between people and leaders.

The second pathway that the course followed was working through Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School Reform by Owens, R., & Valesky, T. and considering the more nuts and bolts of leadership in education. Through this text and several supplemental resources, we considered the development of organizational behavior in education, how and why it has changed, what different types of management styles there are, and how that impacts both leaders and people who are working for the leaders. We also took the Jung Personality Test to determine our personalities, and then had a large discussion as how that personality will effect us as leaders, as well as how different personality types might be best suited for different roles. I am personally an ISFJ, which is a change from when I was in high school and was an ISTJ. ISFJ is Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. This means that I am a person who gains my energy from quiet, alone time that is organized and loves lists, and bases decisions on things I can sense, as well as how it will make others feel. Although the SFJ portion of my personality was shared by many, there was only one person in the cohort who was also introverted and shared the other three aspects. As a leader this means that I will have to do my best to make sure I get the time alone that I need to think and reflect throughout my days in order to do the best job I can do.

 

Another part of this pathway was a project where I picked an area of education that can be controversial, and engaged in a literature critique (Ewart Research Critique)and presentation (Research Presentation). I chose to research co-teaching as an intervention and inclusion strategy because I currently work in two co-teaching classrooms that we use as an intervention strategy. Although I have seen a great deal of success with this, it is not without its challenges, and can be very controversial for administrators to implement because it is costly and causes major master schedule challenges. Other topics covered by class members are technology, school uniforms, year-round school, inclusion, restraint, and universal preschool. It was very interesting to see how many of us ended up changing our opinion on our chosen topic based on the critique of the literature.

 

An underlying theme we discussed for most of the first portion of the class is the importance of a leader creating a shared mission and vision for all stakeholders in their school building. We learned about why this was necessary and how to use it to best achieve a functioning school with student success for all students. Then we used this learning on mission, vision, and leadership dispositions, and completed a Visionary Leadership Analysis (VLA Ewart) of a school of our choice. I considered the community and data surrounding past performance, and used that to analyze the work the school is doing. Then I compared what is currently happening in the school to what I would be doing as a future leader. Considering the work a school building is doing as a reflection of the school’s mission and vision is a perspective I had not previously considered, but one that impacted my thinking a great deal.

 

As a teacher leader, I need to consider how my personal mission and vision for what I want to achieve will impact those that I am leading. It is important for me to keep that mission at the heart of my work, to be a leader who is open, intentional, and grateful. Making sure that I trust and am trustworthy, and am aware of my personality strengths and management styles are also necessary as I form relationships as a leader.

 

References:

Cook, L., & Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practices. Focus

on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 1-16.

Dieker, L. A., & Murawski, W. W. (2003). Co-teaching at the secondary level: Unique issues,

current trends, and suggestions for success. High School Journal, 86(4), 1-13.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Public Law No. 105-17. (1997). 20 U.S. Code

Section 1400 et. Seq.

Houston, P., Blankstein, A., & Cole, R. (2008). Spirituality in Educational Leadership.

Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Jung, B. (1998(. Mainstreaming and fixing things: secondary teachers and inclusion. The

            Educational Forum, 62(2), 131-138.

Keefe, E. B., & Moore, V. (2004). The challenge of co-teaching in inclusive classrooms at the

high school level: What the teachers told us. American Secondary Education, 32(3), 77-88.

Nierengarten, G. (2013). Supporting co-teaching teams in high schools: Twenty research-based

Practices. American Secondary Education, 42(1), 73-83.

Owens, R., & Valesky, T. (2015). Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School

            Reform (Eleventh ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Ploessi, D., Rock, M., Schoenfeld, N., & Blanks, B. (2010). On the same page: Practical

techniques to enhance co-teaching interactions. Intervention in school and clinic, 45(3),

158-168.

Shaffer, L., & Thomas-Brown, K. (2015) Enhancing teacher competency through co-teaching

and embedded professional development. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3(3), 117-123.

Weiss, M. P., & Lloyd, J. (2003). Conditions for co-teaching: Lessons from a case study. Teaher

            Education and Special Education, 26(1), 27-41.

Zigmond, N. & Magiera, K. (2001) A focus on co-teaching. Current Practice Alerts, 6, 1-4.

 

 

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EDU 6528 Accomplished Teaching– Meta Reflection – Standard 4

EDU 6528 Accomplished Teaching– Meta Reflection – Standard 4

 

Standard 4: Teacher leaders engage in analysis of teaching and collaborative practice.

 

“Although much of educational practice occurs in the fast lane, educators must locate a rest area to reflect on past practice and to determine adjustments for future practice” (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, & Montie, 2006, p. 3)

 

I have always felt that reflection is a key process to continual improvement in my teaching, but as the above quote describes, teaching has always felt like the “fast lane”, or maybe, the game Frogger, where the frog is desperately trying to cross the river that is full of obstacles. It seems rare that there is time to complete that critical component of accomplished teaching: reflection. Extending that reflection to include reflecting with others seemed like something that would be impossible to do.

As we began this course, we started by considering something that we wanted to change or focus on in our classroom as well as the framework by which we would be evaluating the teaching change. The Lake Washington School District uses the Danielson Framework for assessing instruction, so that is the framework that I will be referencing through the work in this course. At the beginning of this course, I decided that, based on reflection on my classroom in previous years, and area of growth I wanted to explore was introducing more student-choice assignments. This is something that I have observed being done really well in others’ classrooms, although none of them math, and I wanted to see if I could find ways to introduce it in mine as well.

After I prepared a focus and considered how I would be evaluating the instruction, the class started working on appropriate ways to collaborate and reflect upon teaching. The text, Reflective Practice to Improve Schools, started by focusing on individual collaboration, and then moved into strategies and justification for partner and group reflection. This was to prepare us for our major assignment of this course, a videotaped lesson and then partner/group reflection on the lesson using the framework that is used in our district. Based on the timing of this activity, I was unable to work a student-choice assignment into my Formal Lesson Plan, but originally planned on working with my partner to determine what I could change in order to add something that was a student-choice activity. We met as partners to discuss the lesson plans that we created, and then prepared to teach the lesson. Our partners were intentionally chosen to be teacher who were not in the same age level/content area to encourage the type of collaboration and reflection that was discussed in our course text. It is a very challenging and rewarding activity to collaborate with teachers who are in different grades and content areas; the focus of those discussions truly becomes about the framework and instructional strategies rather than things a teacher may have tried to use during the same lesson.

After I taught and video-taped the chosen lesson, I met again with my partner to use the framework and evaluate the lesson. Although my original focus was student-choice, I determined after reviewing the lesson that I needed to change my focus for my Safety Net Algebra 1 classes. Rather than focusing on student-choice opportunities, I decided I needed to brainstorm some ways to get my students focused and engaged in deeper thinking, class and small-group discussions. As a result of this reflection, I focused my efforts in my Elements of Accomplished Teaching Paper to finding current research and practice on questioning to inspire discussion, and deeper thinking.

As a result of this class, my view on Accomplished Teaching has deepened and matured. Teaching is a skill that is able to be continually improved upon. Being an accomplished teacher is more than effective lesson planning, aligning standards, and using instructional strategies. Accomplished teaching is also about formative assessments, responding to the needs of your students, and reflecting at multiple points along the way. Reflection is something that can be done independently, with a partner, or group, and can be done both synchronously or asynchronously. When you make the time, as a teacher, to collaborate with others at multiple stages of the lesson plan, and then meet together to reflect upon your successes and areas of growth, you – as the teacher – grows as well.

As I move forward as a teacher leader, I will work hard to make time in my day to collaborate throughout all processes of the lesson planning and teaching process. This is an element that I feel is best taught to others by example. By starting with my Algebra 1 content team, I will be able to work with three other teachers on the processes we practiced in this course. From there, after those three teachers have experienced the benefits of this practice, they can bring them to their other content teams (Algebra 2H, Algebra 3 with Trig, and 9th grade Physical Science). From there, it can only continue to spread. Additionally, I will continue to lead the efforts to collaborate between the English and Math departments to focus on consistent writing instruction in math classrooms as well. The collaborative and reflective process that we followed during this course will be beneficial to the working inter-departmental relationships as well.

 

References:

Billings, L. & Roberts, T. (2014). From mindless to meaningful. Educational Leadership, 72(3),

60-65.

Clark, K. (2015) The Effects of the Flipped Model of Instruction on Student Engagement and

Performance in the Secondary Mathematics Classroom

Journal of Educators Online, 12(1), 91-115

Downs, D. (2015). Using open questions to engage pupils in mathematics. Mathematics

Teaching, 247, 41-42.

The Danielson Group (2013). The Framework. Retrieved from

http://www.danielsongroup.org/framework/

Goodwin, B. (2014). Get all students to speak up. Educational Leadership, 72(3), 82-83.

Tovani, C. (2015). Let’s switch questioning around. Educational Leadership, 73(1), 30-35.

Pratt, N. (2002). Mathematics as thinking. Mathematics Teaching, 181, ­34-37.

York-Barr, J., Sommers, W., Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective practice to improve

schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

 

 

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Initial Reflection for EDU6528 – Accomplished Teaching

Reflecting upon my teaching was not something that was stressed when I went through my teacher certification program and, to be completely honest, was not something that I really put much intentional time into as I started teaching. I did consider what went well, and what needed to change during and after each period I taught a lesson, and often changed things during the day that did not go well the first time I did them, but I never sat down and intentionally and purposefully reflected on my practice. As I have matured in my teaching, and especially as I have moved to the high school level and worked under a principal who really believes in the power of reflection, I have started to spend a great deal more time intentionally reflecting on both my teaching practice, and collaborating with my content teams on our practice as a group. This has become an incredibly important piece in my planning component of teaching as well. This does not mean that I do this perfectly, and it is certainly an area where easy to “put off” because it is not critical to the day-to-day requirements of making a classroom run.

As I consider my strengths in teaching, the area I am most proud of is my ability to create a classroom environment where everyone feels safe, respected, challenged and able to take risks. This is an area that I feel is even more important because at least half of my day is spent teaching math to students who have been chronically unsuccessful in math. Many of those students haven’t been successful in math since some time during elementary school, if ever, and I see them starting in 9th grade. Another of my strengths is developing coherent, organized, well-structured lessons that use effective questioning and levels of understanding to bring all students to a defined minimum level of understanding. I have had students and administrators note for years that my lessons are organized in a way that benefits students, and many previous students have come back to me to tell me that using their notes and the note-taking skills they learned from my class has helped them in future math classes – all the way up to and including college.

There are two areas of teaching that I have identified as challenge areas I need to focus on to continue to grow as a professional. One is providing authentic feedback to students in a timely manner. Verbal feedback is easy for me to provide, and I do that on a regular basis, but providing written feedback on assignments/assessments becomes very daunting when I grade a minimum of 40 of each assignment at a time, and grading often takes me 3-5 minutes per assignment before written feedback. This year, I am trying a standards-based rubric with specific levels of success criteria for each problem in my Algebra 1 classes. My hope is this will provide students with more feedback on their assessment performance, and allow them to learn the steps necessary for additional success, but I am still looking for more ways to do this on assignments more regularly. The second area I am focusing on is extending my classroom from a teacher-directed classroom to a more student-directed classroom. Along this line, I am specifically focusing on incorporating more student-choice assignments and assessment opportunities. It is hard for me to come up with these types of activities, partly because I have never seen this modeled in a math classroom. I have, and have in the past, used these types of assignments in science classrooms, and have seen examples in most other subject areas, but math is an area where this seems to be something that is often not done. I will be actively researching and looking for ways to incorporate this into my instruction as I move on in my teaching career.

Considering the Danielson Model for evaluating teacher performance, I see many strengths and weaknesses. The strengths as I see them, are as follows:

It becomes very difficult to evaluate anything without a set of defined success criteria before starting the evaluation. Danielson provides a very comprehensive set of success criteria, with very clearly defined standards to achieve each level of proficiency. Having worked for multiple administrators, and with teachers who have worked for multiple administrators, I can say that having a consistent set of criteria is just as valuable when assessing teachers as it is when assessing student work. The criteria Danielson provides is expertly and thoughtfully woven together, and structured in a way that clearly identifies how to move from one level to another. Creating a common language to use amongst administrators and teachers is also a strength of the Danielson model. This allows both the evaluator and the teacher to speak with an understood set of terms.

The weaknesses also exist, and primarily, in my opinion, center on the assumption that good teaching is something that can be quantified and leveled on a rubric and pre-defined set of criteria. Any observation is going to be simply one snapshot into a teacher’s classroom. There are so many things that can go wrong on any given day that have nothing to do with the teacher’s effectiveness on a broad scale. There is an element of teaching that, in my opinion, is not teachable or quantifiable, it is an art form in its truest sense. You can learn the elements of it, and you can implement the techniques you’re given, but there is a part that is as beautiful as a piece of music or oil painting. In this way, any model of effective teaching is going to fall short, as you can’t truly standardize excellence.

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EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

Standard 1: Teacher leaders model ethical and moral behavior.

 

After 11 years of teaching, I realized I never really considered the why behind many of the practices I hold to be paramount in my classroom. Practices not related to my content area, or to the school where I teach; instead, practices directly related to the adolescents who sit in front of me every day. Practices like sharing stories of my years of growing up, or reading thought-provoking articles and discussing what this might mean to people individually, or writing thank you notes to each student throughout the year to thank them for unique qualities that make each student an individual, or exploring novels together – when I teach math.   There must be a reason why “Respect” is the only rule in my classroom, and why it is the only rule I have ever needed to have. There must be a reason why I strive to make sure each student in my classroom knows that I value each student as an individual, and that getting to know them, and helping them become better thinkers, inventors, creators, and learners is my number one priority each year. Throughout this course, I have been asked to consider what morals are: where they come from, why they matter, and what place they hold in today’s education system. From this self-examination, I have concluded that my values — my subconscious understandings of how the world works, and how people work best within it — drive every decision I make when I consider my vision of a classroom and my role in achieving that vision.

The process to come to this conclusion has been a journey, to say the least. The majority of the learning in this course came from reading multiple texts, creating discussion board posts in response to the texts, and then reading and responding to other’s posts on the same topics. This virtual discussion allowed us to consider our responses to the content and express it in ways that you don’t always have in a class that meets in person on a regular basis, and I value the chances I have to interact with people from multiple advanced degree education programs, not just the Teacher Leadership focus that my degree has. Additionally, we had to consider our own background and ethics, to determine where our individual moral framework came from and how it impacts us as educators.

The class began with an exploration of Christian ethics, which was a challenging start to the class. Although we ultimately focused on ethics and morality as it relates to educators, the first text challenged me to consider where my own beliefs and morals have come from. I found repeatedly that many of my basic beliefs that I have simply never considered the origin of have come from biblical principals. Although I am a Christian, I was not raised in the church, so this section of the course led me to really consider how I developed those ideals without a biblical background as a young child and how that can translate to students who are sitting in my classroom on a daily basis.

Next we read a text that focused on the history of how moral education has been handled in America. This was an interesting focus for me, and somewhat of a struggle because I don’t love history. However, I found that when it was related to something that I care very much about – educating children – that I was more interested in the topics of study. My take away from this section of the course was that the definition of moral education is going to be ever changing. As our world changes and our societies adapt, the definition of what is important, who is in charge of teaching it, and how to best teach it will continue to change. It is important, as educators, that we are aware of this, and continue to learn and grow as the world around us does.

The third text of study focused on how to help students find character and compassion and connection in the public school setting. This was written from the eyes of an educator without a connection to religion, but instead with a consideration of what our students need on a daily basis to feel like they have an emotional connection and support system within the public school. This book truly touched on what it means to be an educator to me – not just a math teacher. It is imperative that I continue to reach out and support my students, that I educate their entire person and not just their mathematical ability. There are certainly colleagues I have who would disagree, but this text really validated my belief in educating the whole child rather than just the subject matter of my classroom. One chapter of this book discussed joy, and how to teach and share joy with students. This was a really interesting chapter for me. First, the definition of joy provided by the author, “..a delight and gratitude in being alive” (Kessler, 2000, p.73). I realized I have never really thought about what joy means to me, or how I would define it, but I love that definition. Then the section about how teenagers often hide their joy was also quite thought provoking for me. I see this often; my students can share about things that went wrong, or injustice that has been done to them by their parents/peers/pets/etc., but they struggle to really celebrate and be thankful for what they have experienced and all that has gone right. Even though I am a math teacher, I can easily incorporate joy into my classroom. I always share events about my life with my students, and I often share events that went well or caused joy. I can easily do more of that. I can also take a little time to ask students what went well, or what they are thankful for. It is easy for me to take a bit of time to touch base with students and see how they are doing, and to encourage them to celebrate and be joyful. Even just greeting the class with music playing can be enough to create joy for some students.

Last, we studied a text that discusses how to take religion seriously regardless of the curriculum area. This book did not have a section on religion in the math classroom, which was disappointing to me, but did offer insight on how religion fits into education, and the role of the teacher.

This course gave me reason to pause and consider why I believe what I do and how that impacts my job as a public school teacher. I feel very strongly that my place as an educator remains in the public school classroom, and that my job is more than just teaching math to high school students. Being challenged to consider why that is, and how it fits in the broader idea of moral education as a whole was a unique experience for me. In the future, I plan to continue to research and learn about ways to teach the whole child, and how to support emotional and spiritual growth without it coming from a Christian perspective (as it is public school, and I have many students who have a different religious background).

Resources:

Bennett, C. A. (2014). Creating Cultures of Participation to Promote Mathematical

Discourse. Middle School Journal, 46 (2), 20-25.

Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality.

Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Haynes, C.C. & Nord, W.A. (1998). Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum.

Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Kessler, R. (2000). The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and

Character at School. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

McClellan, B.E. (1999). Moral Education in America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Miller, R. & Pedro, J. (2006). Creating Respectful Classroom Environments. Early

Childhood Education Journal, 33 (5), 293-299. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10643-006-0091-1

Sammons, P., Kington, A., Lindorff-Vijayendran, A., & Ortega, L. (2014). Inspiring Teachers:

Perspectives and Practices Summary Report. CfBT Education Trust.

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EDU 6613 – Standards Based Assessment – Meta Reflection – Standard 11

EDU 6613 – Standards Based Assessment – Meta Reflection – Standard 11

Standard 11: Teacher leaders utilize formative and summative assessment in a standards based environment.

“…how deeply ingrained into our practice is the idea that assessment should allow us to sort, rank, and grade students, rather than inform the teacher what needs to be done next” (Wiliam, 2011, p.77)

Over the last 11 years as a teacher, my understanding of assessment and its value has evolved. To be completely truthful, when I started teaching, I gave quizzes and tests because it was expected. Quizzes and tests were supposed to be used to generate a large portion of a student’s grade, and it was important that I give them regularly. In all fairness, I have always written my own tests, first, before planning the lessons that will be taught to prepare for the test, but at the beginning I did not put much effort into using the assessment for any instructional decision-making. After the first few years of teaching, my district started working on collaborative teams and PLCs, and gave the math department all a common prep period to work on common assessments and data analysis, and that was when I started changing my opinion on what a test is for. It is also when I started to really be made aware of what an assessment should not be used for.

I have found that many teachers view an assessment as a “gotcha”, or a chance to present students with a very challenging problem set, loosely based on what was taught during the unit that “only the smart kids” will be able to be successful on. Because, after all, if students don’t do their homework then they shouldn’t be able to be successful on an assessment, right? The longer I have taught, and the more I have learned about assessment, the more this attitude frustrates me. The question in my mind as I entered this course then became, “How do I use assessment to truly drive my instruction, and as a tool for students rather than a punishment?” Thankfully, I was able to bring a lot of learning away from this course to help me answer my question.

The course began with a study into the question, “Why formative assessment?” This question becomes so much more valid when you have had the experiences I have had where I have worked with colleagues who would never consider assessment to be a learning tool for the students and the teacher. One of the best quotes I read in our study of this came from Wiliams (2011), and says, “The teacher’s job is not to transmit knowledge, nor facilitate learning. It is to engineer effective learning environments for the students” (p. 50). This quote really gets down to the heart of this question. If you do not formatively assess, if you do not know where all your students are on the range of understanding, then you cannot engineer a learning environment for ALL students. You might be able to get most of the students, but you certainly cannot address all learners, and that is not good teaching.

Then the course moved into consideration of shared learning intentions, or learning targets. This is an area I have had a lot of experience with as a teacher and felt I had a good grasp on before the course. A learning target, or learning objective, to me has never just been something to put on the board, but is instead something to teach students about intentionally, just as any other aspect of a lesson. A previous principal of mine that I respect a great day said that if he were to walk into any classroom and ask a student what they were learning and why, the student should be able to answer. He did not care if the target was posted or written (although I do require that the learning targets be written in my students’ notes each day), he simply cared if students understood what was being taught that day, and why it was important to learn it. Reflecting on my own learning experiences, there were plenty of times I sat through a class period, or entire day, or week of school and had no idea what I was supposed to gather from that learning experience. For this reason, I have always focused on intentional shared learning targets. A new area for me to reflect and grow is sharing success criteria with my students as well. I need to make sure I am intentional and explicit in making sure my students understand not just what we are learning and why, but what success looks like once they have mastered that particular concept.

Next the course moved into an examination of how to determine what students know and have learned. We focused on many different types of questioning, and a variety of instructional strategies and tools that can be beneficial when trying to determine what students know at a given point during instruction. One easy change for me to implement this year is to change my questioning to “why” questions. For instance, instead of asking students, “Is this equation a quadratic?” I can change my question to, “Why is this equation a quadratic?” This will allow the learners to describe their understanding of a topic better and allow me to understand the reasoning behind the response more completely. During this portion of the course, we created the formative assessment portion of our Learning Progression, which really allowed me to consider how to intentionally ask questions that will give me the most amount of insight into students’ understanding instead of just their ability to memorize what the right answer should be.

Feedback was the next topic of student, and what I chose to use as a topic for my Assessment Into Action research paper. Feedback is something that I struggle with in a secondary setting. I struggle with what all teachers say they struggle with in this area: 150+ students each day, 54 minutes with each group of students, huge amount of papers to look at and grade, etc. It becomes an issue of time. With the importance of feedback really made clear to me through this course, and a few others in the program previously, I have made it a goal of mine to continue to focus on this as an area of improvement. Some ideas I am going to try next year include: remembering that verbal feedback is as valuable as written feedback, creating and using more rubrics to allow for students to gather feedback, focusing on a certain group of students each day to provide feedback to, focusing on a particular topic or concept each time to provide feedback regarding, providing recorded audio feedback, and using more 1:1 conferencing where the student records the feedback during the conference.

Lastly, we looked at peer and self-assessment. This is an area where I also acknowledge that I have room to grow as an educator. The course gave me many suggestions for ways to implement this type of assessment and reflection that do not feel like they will take away from important instructional time without engaging students. I am looking forward to trying the “traffic lights” approach for my students to allow students to consider who needs additional instructional time, and for my students to work together to create the best possible answer to a question by discussing individual responses with the table group to assess which peer has the best answer for each portion of the question. I am also looking for opportunities to incorporate ways to allow my students to help me create rubrics for assignments or projects and then use them to evaluate their understanding.

Finally, I am going to try to use my summative assessments as formative learning tools for my students. I plan on giving my students a copy of the summative assessment at the beginning of each unit and a rubric that explains the scoring guide. I am going to teach my students how to use this to assess their own learning throughout the unit, and then when I give the summative assessment at the end of the unit, it will be very similar, just with different numbers, and perhaps a slightly different order. There is no reason for an assessment to be a punishment. I look forward to seeing how my students learn and grow next year with these changes in effect, and hopefully will be able to use their success to help my colleagues understand the validity of formative assessment as something to learn from rather than a punishment for not studying hard enough.

Resources:

Dwek, C. S. (2007). The Perils and Promises of Praise. Educational Leadership (65), 2, 34-

39.

Hicks, T. (2014, October 14). Make It Count: Providing Feedback as Formative Assessment.

Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/providing-feedback-as-formative-assessment-troy-hicks

National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics & Association of Mathematics Teacher

Educators. (2013). Improving Student Achievement in Mathematics Through

Formative Assessment in Instruction. Retrieved from https://www.mathedleadership.org/docs/resources/jumpstart/NCSM_JumpStart_Overview_Position_Paper.pdf

Sabramowicz, A. (2012, March 3) How-to Give Feedback to Students the Right Way

[Video File]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012). Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership, 70 (1).

Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx

Wiliam, D. (2011) Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Wolpert-Gawson, H. (2011, March 3). 20 Ways To Provide Effective Feedback For Learning.

Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/20-ways-to-provide-effective-feedback-for-learning/

Wolpert-Gawsom, H. (2011, March 3). Tips For Grading and Giving Students Feedback.

Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/grading-tips-student-feedback-heather-wolpert-gawron

Wray, E. (2013). Rise Model For Meaningful Feedback. Retrieved from

http://www.risemodel.com

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EDU 6524 Curriculum Design – Meta Reflection – Standard 9

EDU 6524 Curriculum Design – Meta Reflection – Standard 9

Standard 9: Teacher leaders evaluate and use effective curriculum design.

“A teacher who looks at students as individuals – no matter what their cultural experiences are – will attend to their varied points of readiness, their interests, their exceptionalities, their status among peers, and so on when planning curriculum and instruction” (Dack & Tomlinson, 2015, p.13)

At the beginning of this course, I was aware of the importance of considering the learner in every aspect of instructional and curriculum planning, but the processes to do this can often be challenging, time consuming, and overwhelming. The above quote reminds me of the importance of remembering who my students are: as learners, as problem solvers, as thinkers, and as people. When I worked through this course, and designed an entire unit of study from beginning to end, I was continually reminded of the importance of considering my learner and deliberately assessing their understanding throughout the instructional process. Designing curriculum with this in mind from the very beginning creates instructional units that are cohesive, student-centered, and full of a variety of instructional strategies that will address all learners in the classroom.

This course hit the ground running by creating a unit map that developed the Unit Learning Target, as well as identified the important concepts of the unit, and the types of skills a student will have after the unit is complete. Then it asked for ways to engage students, how to pre-assess, formatively assess, and summatively assess students’ understanding. The first main change to my thinking regarding curriculum design was the concept of a Unit Learning Target. I have always written Learning Targets for each individual lesson, and always considered those to combine to create the Learning Targets for the unit. Having to really think and delve into the essential understanding required for the unit as a whole changed my way of thinking about creating an instructional sequence. By creating the Unit Learning Target first, I was challenged to keep that at the forefront of my mind when doing all additional planning, which developed a very cohesive and challenging unit all centered on mastering that target.

After defining the unit focus and creating a curriculum map, the course transitioned to a focus on the standards, vocabulary, how to teach the learning target to students, and how to pre-assess students’ prior understanding. A major change for my thinking that came about from this section of the course is the idea of teaching the learning target for the unit to students and assessing that they understand it. I have always taught the lesson learning targets to my students, and evaluated their understanding in an informal way – generally a quick “thumbs up/to the side/down” approach, but considering how to teach the overall learning target and assess that students understand what they are going to be asked to do is new for me. I foresee myself using this regularly; the idea that students truly understand the overall goal of a unit brings about so much more student buy-in during the daily instructional activities (as long as they relate to the understood goal).

Considering how to differentiate the lesson for each student is always a challenge, but by considering the common misconceptions, as well as ways to differentiate, before beginning to teach the unit allows for more intentional assessment and instruction. Although this will likely remain a challenging task, I feel more prepared to differentiate for all learners after considering this before each individual lesson as I used to do. Again, considering the unit as a whole rather than as each individual lesson, it is easier to think about the ways to successfully differentiate. I will be continuing to do this with all courses that I teach, before I start a new unit.

One of the best aspects of this course was the ability to tie so many of our previous and current course work with the work being done here. For instance, considering at what points technology could be used during our lessons, and how to best use it was a great connection to our EDTC 6433 – Teaching with Technology course that we started the program with during our first fall quarter. I was able to consider how I can use technology for instruction, as well as assessment and enrichment. Additionally, the EDU 6525 – Culturally Responsive Teaching course that we took during the first winter quarter provided a lot of insight when considering how to connect the unit with the learner, and how to potentially tie into students’ families and the local and/or global community. Lastly, EDU 6613 – Standards Based Assessment which I took at the same time as this course really provided me with a lot of excellent resources when considering formative assessment and how to best understand what my students know and how they know it, beyond just a quiz or a test.

Working through the course to create a unit plan that is driven by an overarching learning target and a focus on assessing where students are at every point along the way provides a truly rigorous curriculum.

As Ainsworth (2010) states:

A rigorous curriculum is an inclusive set of intentionally aligned components – clear learning outcomes with matching    assessments, engaging learning experiences, and instructional strategies – organized into sequences units of study that serve as both the detailed road map and the high-quality delivery system for ensuring that all students achieve the desired end: the attainment of their designated grade – or course-specific standards within a particular content area. (p. 8)

When students are provided with a rigorous curriculum that uses appropriate instructional strategies, formative assessment and keeps the students at the center of the planning, students will not be able to help but learn the material. In the future, as I continue my path as a teacher leader, I will make a point to not only continue to plan my curriculum in this way, but to help others in my department and building shift their planning as well.

Resources:

Ainsworth, L. (201). Rigorous Curriculum Design. Englewood, CO: Lead + Learn Press.

Cherkas, B. M. (1992). A Personal Essay in Math? Getting to Know Your Students.

            College Teaching, 40(3), 83-86.

Dack, H. & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015). Inviting All Students to Learn. Educational

            Leadership, 11 – 15.

Frederick, K. (2013). Fostering Digital Citizenship. School Library Monthly, 29(4), 20-21.

Handler, B. (201). Teacher as Curriculum Leader: A Consideration of the Appropriateness of that Role Assignment to

Classroom-Based Practitioners. International Journal of Teacher Leadership, 3 (3), 32 – 42.

Manners Matter Infographic.” Manners Matter Infographic. (2014). Retrieved July 31, 2015, from

http://www.knowthenet.org.uk/infographic/be-careful-trolling-can-happen-anyone

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EDAD 6589 – Engaging Communities – Meta Reflection – Standard 6

Standard 6 – Teacher leaders communicate and collaborate with a variety of stakeholders.

“This journey that we are about to embark upon together is about the children, their families, and communities that we both will serve” (Haddix, 2014).

If I were to be completely truthful, I have to say that my experience and effort with engaging the community around my school has varied greatly depending on the school and my position. As a teacher in a small, rural, K-8 school where each grade level had between 50 and 65 students, I was very active and engaged in the community, and worked hard to provide opportunities for the community to come in to our school and feel comfortable in participating in their child’s school experience. However, as a secondary teacher in a high school building that has almost 2000 students enrolled, I have not reached out in any measurable active way. Beyond myself, I think this is something that many of my colleagues fall short on as well. With a school as large as it is, it becomes difficult to come up with ways to help connect families with the school; combine that with the fact that many families choose high school as the time to start disengaging with their children’s school to prepare them for college and what you end up with is a school full of teachers who aren’t engaged with the community around the school in any meaningful way. Entering into this course, my previous energy in this position has been put into being a leader within my school community and specifically my content department rather than connecting and engaging the community outside my classroom door.

One of the first understandings this course brought to light is what it must feel like to interact with a school where the teachers and administration looks so totally different from the majority of the student body. Our school population does have approximately 65% of students who are Caucasian, but that means that the other 35% of students do not match the majority of teachers in the school. Many of our students come to our school every year after moving to the country from other countries due to a parent’s job opportunity (for many this opportunity is in the technology field). The differences and expectations in the school culture are dramatic in instances like these, and it is the job of the school leaders and teachers to create a school community that is opening and engaging to the communities outside of it.

Moving from this understanding came the focus on what teachers can do to reach out to parents and to create opportunities for parents to come in to schools. Some key take away points from this are that it is important for teachers to connect with parents whenever, and however, they can. There are many families where families work during the traditional school day and they cannot take time off to interact in the school. There are many families that have one or more members who did not have a positive school experience so they are reluctant to try to engage in the school as a parent. Finally, there are many families who do not know how to be a part of the school community. One of the most powerful things a teacher or administer can do is to be aware of those hurdles and provide opportunities for families to engage. This can be as simple as meeting parents outside when they are dropping off their children to say hello and check in on progress, or coming up with events to invite the community to that will not interfere with traditional working hours.

It is important to not lose sight of the importance of forming relationships within the school community as well. It is very important for teachers to work together to create relationships with students, parents, and community members. An example of this with teachers working together with administration and parents to create a welcoming community is the ELL Parent Night that Redmond High Schools sponsors. At this event, all families are invited who have recently moved into the community from another country. Teachers, administrators, the attendance secretary, and a member of the counseling staff attend, along with interpreters in as many languages as possible. Parents and family members sit with the appropriate interpreter, and the staff members rotate through the tables, welcoming them to our school and inviting them to ask as many questions as they need to ask in the given amount of time. Childcare and transportation for families without are provided free of charge, and food is also provided. This is an example of an event where all stakeholders are working together to create a school community.

In the process of this learning, I created a community engagement plan. This was created by looking at the current work of the administration and teachers at the school, and considering what types of activities are working to engage the community around the school. An important difference to consider here is the difference between simply involving the community and actively engaging the community in the quest to provide a positive learning experience for every student and their families. It is necessary to not just let the community know what is going on and invite them to participate, but rather to engage them in the process of creating an extended school community with the intentional goal of creating the best learning experience and environment for all students.

I also considered a situation that has recently occurred at our school. In my case study I focused on the most recently administered Smarter Balanced Assessment, and how many students actually attended to take the test. I looked at this through the lens of a teacher leader, or administrator tasked with improving what happened. This year, only approximately 40 students completed all four days of testing. I analyzed the way the testing was handled by the school this year and worked to come up with a plan that would generate a better outcome in the years to come.

In the future, as a teacher and teacher leader, I have a few ideas to implement that can improve my school community. To begin with, I am going to make a conscious effort to reach out to each of my student’s families at the beginning of each year. If I need to use an interpreter, I will do so. Secondly I will survey my parents and families at multiple points in the year to determine if their needs are being met. Third, I will continue to participate in events like the ELL parent night to make myself available and approachable by the community. Lastly, I will encourage my colleagues to do the same. In an ideal world, all teachers would participate in these types of activities regularly, but it is so easy to get lost in the day-to-day work of the classroom and forget about the world outside. Our job as teachers and teacher leaders is to serve our students, and that means more than just the 54 minutes they are in our classrooms.

Resources

Agbo, S. A. (2007). Addressing School-Community Relations in a Cross-Cultural Context: A Collaborative Action to Bridge the Gap Between First Nations and the School. Journal of Research in Rural Educatoin, 22(8), 1-14.

Castagno, A. E. (2013). Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness. American Journal of Education, 120(1), 101-128. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/673121.

Elias, M. (2013). The School-to-Prison Pipeline. Teaching Tolerance, 39-43.

Haddix, M. (2015). Preparing Community-Engaged Teachers. Theory Into Practice, 54:1, 63-70, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2015.977664

Madsen, J. & Mabokela, R. (2014). Leadership Challenges in Addressing Changing Demographics in Schools. NASSP Bulletin, 98(1), 75-96, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0192636513514110

Robbins, C. & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams, School Community Journal, 23(2), 113-136.

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EDU 6526 Survey of Instructional Strategies – Meta Reflection – Standard 10

Standard 10: Teacher leaders understand effective use of research based instructional practices.

“Passionately committed teachers are those who absolutely love what they do. They are constantly searching for more effective ways to reach their children, to master the content and methods of their craft…” (Zehm & Kottler, 1993).

The portion of that description addressing a teacher continually searching for more effective ways to reach children is the best description of who I was as a teacher before this course. Over the last 11 years of teaching, I have spent a lot of time taking additional coursework, participating in workshops, and attending conferences, all related to the goal of increasing my instructional effectiveness to make the math I teach more accessible to my students. That being said, the major flaw in my process was a lack of measurable effectiveness. I would learn and try new things, and I would consider student data before and after implementation, as well as empirical evidence on how the students were reacting to the strategy and I even included student surveys, but I never had a quantifiable way to determine what the best strategies were, or why.

The first evening of this class, we discussed a variety of strategies and considered their importance in terms of instructional effectiveness. I’ve included my Instructional Effectiveness Survey, adapted from John Hattie’s (2012) book Visible Learning For Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. This survey was highly impactful and caused me to consider many of my previous understandings. One portion of this survey that I would love to have a conversation with John Hattie about is the idea that a teacher’s level of subject matter knowledge is something that has a very low instructional impact. This is something I end up butting up against regularly; I am not a math major, but I teach in a single subject math classroom. I have worked with many colleagues throughout the years who feel that my lack of a major in mathematics is something that will harm my students. I have always maintained that I have enough of a level of mathematical content understanding to be able to successfully teach my students, but I do believe that the more a teacher understands a subject, the more they can identify common misconceptions, understanding the conceptual basis for theorems and rules, and explain connections across coursework and into other subjects, thereby making their instruction more impactful. I would really like to learn if there is a level of understanding that is a required minimum in order for any additional knowledge to not matter when considering a teacher’s subject matter knowledge and how it relates to instructional effectiveness.

Throughout the course we were challenged to learn about different, highly-effective, instructional strategies and to create lesson plans to implement those strategies. A traditional math classroom has students in rows facing the front, with the teacher working through example problems and the students dutifully copying them down. Then a significant amount of time is spent allowing the students to work through more problems on their own for homework. This process is repeated daily, and is only interrupted by formal assessments. This traditional method is not effective, and must change. Although I had already started to make changes, this course provided me with multiple effective ways to implement the changes. One of the strategies that I took the most away from was collaborative groups. However, due to the traditional method of math instruction, I also chose to research direct instruction as an instructional strategy as well to determine its effectiveness and place in a classroom. A link to my collaborative groups lesson plan can be found here and my direct instruction lesson plan can be found here. What I learned in research and implementation of both strategies is those both are highly effective and have a place in the mathematics classroom.

My most successful lessons are lessons that implement multiple strategies from this course within the 54-minute class period. It is imperative that my students know what they are learning and why what they are learning is important. The most effective way to do this is through the use of intentional learning targets that are revisited throughout the lesson and to close the lesson. Many of the lesson plans I created as part of this course included direct instruction, and at least one additional strategy. Graphic organizers, summaries and note taking, and cooperative groups became very normal in my instruction. A wonderful resource for secondary math teachers when looking for examples of graphic organizers can be found here. My classroom is organized in intentionally assigned groups of four students. Students in each group have an assigned role in group activities that rotates so all students have an opportunity to be in each assigned role. Often, the most effective way to introduce a new math topic is by direct instruction, but this does not mean it is the only thing that happens in my classroom. I regularly use graphic organizers to activate schema before introducing the new concept, or as a method to compare or index the new material with prior knowledge. Students are given opportunities to “think-pair-share”, or to “rally coach” when working through problems. An example of a lesson plan where I implemented the rally coach strategy is available here. I often question student responses, asking them why they answered the way they did, and then calling on other students to critique the response and provide additional support or to challenge the answer with support of their own. When I do these types of activities, I am striving to create a dialogic classroom. Hattie (2012) states, “Dialogue is seen as an essential tool for learning, student involvement is what happens during and not ‘at the end’ of an exchange, and teachers can learn so much about their effect on student learning by listening to students thinking aloud” (p. 83).

Another main focus of this course that was very valuable to my development as a teacher leader is the importance of feedback. As a teacher who has worked in a small rural school where I had 50 students all day, and in a large departmentalized school where I have 150 students each day, I know the challenges that are faced by all teachers when attempting to provide authentic, meaningful and appropriate feedback. Shute (2008) created nine guidelines for teachers to use when providing feedback to enhance or improve the learning:

  1. focus feedback on the task not the learner;
  2. provided elaborated feedback (describing the ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’);
  3. present elaborated feedback in manageable units for example, avoid cognitive overload);
  4. be specific and clear with feedback messages;
  5. keep feedback as simple as possible, but no simpler (based on leaner needs and instructional constraints);
  6. reduce uncertainty between performance and goals;
  7. give unbiased, objective feedback, written or via computer (more trustworthy sources are more likely to be received);
  8. promote a learning goal orientation via feedback (move focus from performance to the learning, welcome errors); and
  9. provided feedback after learners have attempted a solution (leading to more self-regulation). (as cited in Hattie, 2012, p. 152)

These nine guidelines are very helpful when trying to wrap my head around a task that can be very challenging. As a result of our readings and discussions on feedback, I have made it a focus of my teaching, but in a way that I feel is more manageable. For instance, I will work to give 5-7 students task feedback in each class a day for a week. By the end of the week, every student has received at least one instance of feedback from me in this way. Then the next week I will give 5-7 students process feedback on each day in each class. I will continue to do this until all students have received at least one instance of process feedback. Hopefully as I intentionally do this daily, it will become easily and more natural for me to work this into my daily routine.

In conclusion, as Hattie (2012) states, “Our role is not to enable students to reach their potential, or to meet their needs; our role is to find out what students can do, and make them exceed their potential and needs” (p. 93). The only way to do this is through intentional creation of daily lessons and activities that use a multitude of instructional strategies. Relying on only one method of instruction will not allow all your students to grasp the material, nor will it engage all students and help each exceed their potential. As I continue to be a teacher who is constantly striving to find the most effective strategies to instruct my students and engage them in learning, I will continue to work to find ways to implement the strategies covered in this course. I will continue to make my math classroom stretch and work away from what is traditional to a way that engages all students most effectively.

References:

Dean, C., Hubbell, E. , Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012) Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Donohoo, J (2010) Learning How to Learn: Cornell Notes as an Example. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 54 (3), 224 – 227. http://dx.doi.org/10.1598/JAAL.54.3.9

Hattie, J. (2012) Visible Learning For Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That AllTeachers Should Know. American Educator, 12-19, 39. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Rosenshine.pdf

Tovani, C. (2012). Feedback is a Two Way Street. Educational Leadership, 70(1), 48 – 51.

Zehm, S. J, & Kottler, J. A. (1993) On being a teacher: The human dimension. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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