Past vs. Present

How do I know that I am making a difference in my student’s lives? This was a question that was a reply post on my bPortfolio and made me start to try and answer it. Some days I know that I am making a difference from the interactions that I have with my students, simply through the students exclaiming, “Oh, I get it!” Since teaching is an up and down battle, some days make me feel quite the opposite from my previous statement. However, the knowledge of a teacher’s positive effect in the classroom does not simply ride on daily interactions. We are coming up on the first quarter of school being finished and I can already see a big difference between my classes on the first day of school and where we stand today. The students have grown not only in their knowledge about technology, but also in critical thinking and social interaction with each other. There is a large amount of my students taking the technology projects and really putting their hearts into it. I not only see a change in many of my student’s attitudes, but also in the quality of their work. This comparison from the past to the present is very rewarding.

In both of my technology classes we started off the semester with students raising their hands every five seconds saying that they didn’t understand something that we were doing on the computer. Do I still have students who get lost sometimes? Yes, but I now have something that I did not have in the beginning: students who can problem solve for themselves and find the answer without giving up. This skill is crucial when using technology because there are honestly a lot of things that can go wrong. I have earnestly tried to teach my students this skill through instruction, practice and helpful reminders. It is truly exciting to see a student say that they have a technical problem, and by the time I get to answer their question the student replies, “I don’t have a problem anymore because I figured it out on my own.”

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Reading Reflection #4: Binary Choice, Multiple Choice, Matching, Short Answer and Essay

Ch6 p. 161 #1: If you were asked to take part in a mini-debate about the respective virtues of selected-response items versus constructed response items, what do you think would be your major points if you were supporting the use of selected response test items?

To start off, I would say that selected response items leaves more time for students to engage with the test material. With that said, if more students are able to complete more of a test in the time given, then the results would be even more reliable. Selected response test items create an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge through the use of comparing and contrasting the information. This situation not only furthers the students’ learning to better understand the subject matter, but also provides the teacher with a clear assessment of where students might be confused. For example, if students continue to mark the same wrong answer on a multiple choice test, the teacher would then be able to see where students’ misconceptions might have occurred. Finally, the use of selected response test items gives room for a great deal of information to be covered in an assessment. The more material that is given to students to test their understanding, the more results a teacher then has to learn from.

#3: Why do you think that multiple-choice tests have been so widely used in nationally standardized norm references achievement tests during the past half-century?

I think that multiple-choice tests have been used as the nationally standardized norm references achievement tests because it is a highly efficient way of collecting a mass amount of student data. As the reading explained, this method is also more reliable than other selected-response items. I realize that there are multiple opportunities for holes in multiple-choice tests, but they are still the most dependable option that currently exists for mass distribution. Another reason that I believe why multiple-choice tests have been widely used in nationally standardized norm references achievement tests is because it creates a consistent grading system. As long as a multiple-choice test has been effectively created with no accidental hints, it will be a reliable base for grading.

Ch7 p. 184 #1: What do you think has been the instructional impact, if any, of the widespread incorporation of student writing samples in the high stakes educational achievement tests used in numerous states?

I would guess that the incorporation of student writing samples in the high stakes educational achievement tests has been effective for some students, but for other students it might have a negative impact. The reason that I bring this up is that some schools may not focus on the students’ use of writing samples. If students have not been given adequate practice and instruction of what a good essay looks like on the platform of a test, then I feel that would have a different effect on the test results. With that said, the implementation of student writing samples in the high stakes educational achievement tests would cause teachers to see a need that would have to be addressed. Teachers would probably then focus a great deal of attention of classroom instruction on how to produce a good writing sample on a test. Writing sample assessments would be incorporated into lesson plans and daily instruction so that students are prepared for the achievement tests.

#2: How would you contrast short-answer items and essay items with respect to their elicited levels of cognitive behavior? Are there differences in the kinds of cognitive demands called for by the two item types? If so, what are they?

After the reading described the different variations of challenges that short-answer items and essay items create, I feel that there is more room available for error with essay items. This is not to say that essay items are not an excellent tool, but it is instead to say that the implementation of essay items must be carefully put forth. I feel that the cognitive demands of essay items is a wider range because it not only asks students to use their knowledge of the subject matter, but also to use their writing skills (or lack there of). Should good writing and correct English be expected from seniors? Yes, but should it be expected from freshmen? No, because freshmen have not gone through the 3 years of English that they are required to take in high school.  Are some students inherently gifted in writing and would thus perform better in an essay test? Possibly. A short-answer item does not require the student to display good use of sentence structure, but instead has the main focus on the information that is being assessed.  This is not to say that I do not expect students to learn and implement English writing skills in school, but instead to show that there are differences in the kinds of cognitive demands called for by short-answer items and essay items.

Module 1: Becoming A Better Teacher

            How can I become a better teacher? This question, although simple, is one of the most important inquiries made by a teacher, especially a new teacher. In order to answer this question, I sought to learn, practice, and reflect on the wisdom and experience of others.  By adopting the idea of “teaching for appreciation” from Brophy (2010) in “On Excellence Of Teaching, I was able to apply this idea in my own classroom (p. 313).  I saw a void in my instruction and realized that my students not only need to understand ideas but they also need to see purpose. This is a simple idea for a new teacher to grasp, but it is also easily overlooked. In the beginning, my classes would fly by, and I was not making an effort to connect what we were doing in class with my students’ lives.  I wrongly assumed that my students would make those connections between what we learn and what they do. After implementing the idea of teaching for appreciation, I have seen a change in my student’s effort that they are putting into class projects. For instance, in my Technology Information Literacy class, students went above and beyond the expectations for the last project after I showed them that there were very good reasons for learning it. Once I connected the dots to how the assignment actually applied to their lives, the students then turned around and put their heart into completing the project.

            As an incoming teacher, I knew that teachers play an important role not only in a student’s learning, but also in his or her personal growth as a person. However, knowing this was different than when I actually experienced it. Since I hope to lead students to grow into men and women of character, morals, and values, I see an important connection between these desires and Kohlberg’s (2009) moral stages explained in “Educational Psychology: A Global Text”. It was interesting to read how a person’s perception of values could change based on what stage of life they were currently in and how the definition of “good” can vary in so many different ways. Through this realization, I have found that I cannot rush my students through these stages or force them to make the decisions that I think are good. However, I can model what a moral person looks like and encourage students to rise to their potential.

            During these stages of development, it is important for teachers to be looking for different learning styles in their students as students develop learning skills. I had previously heard about learning styles, but I was excited to learn more and apply the ideas in my classroom. At first, these ideas had me anxiously wondering, “How can I meet every learning style every class period?” In Educational Psychology: A Global Text”, Seifert and Sutton’s (2009) response to this conundrum is to remember that even though teachers need to support all learning styles when possible, is not necessary for every situation (p. 65). To go deeper into these ideas, I consulted Shannon’s (2008) article “Using Metacognitive Strategies and Learning Styles to Create Self-Directed Learners.” Shannon used the seven perceptual learning styles that the Institute for Learning Styles Research had catagorized: Print (written words), aural (listening), interactive (verbalization), visual (depictions), haptic (touch), kinesthetic (body movement), and olfactory (smell and taste) (p. 20).  I applied this research to my classroom by using as many learning styles as possible in each lesson. Rather than simply verbally giving the students instructions, I also had the words written on the board alongside a visual example when applicable. What did I find from these efforts? The students that tended to get distracted easily were following directions! This was a breath of fresh air because my students are better understanding information and engaging with the subject rather than disengaging from the classroom.

            In my research of learning styles, I also looked to see how Silver, Strong and Perini (2010) interpreted the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to explain the sources of student motivation in the classroom (p. 325-326). After learning about the four natural human drives, I began to apply this knowledge to my classes to see if the outcome would give me a different view than my understanding of the seven perceptual learning styles previously discussed.  I soon saw that a large amount of my junior high students fell into the “mastery style” category and learned best through step-by-step practical instructions. On the other hand, my high school classes leaned closer to the “understanding style” because they liked working with comprehending larger ideas that they could apply in their learning. I see the self-expressive style in a few specific students as they take projects to a whole new level in their artistic creativity. These results interest me because I would naturally assume that a group of highly-social junior high and high school students would primarily tend towards the interpersonal style.

            This new awareness of the four natural human drives in my classroom soon bore fruit. In the high school class, I introduced each unit with a larger overarching theme for them to grasp, and in return, my students showed a faster rate of comprehending the information.  I also started implementing a few of the “Eight C’s” and soon found that it takes a large amount of effort and planning to include all eight in the technology classes that I teach (Silver, Strong, and Perini 2010, pg 326-329). However, this challenge does not mean that I should not try; it simply means that I need to deliberately motivate my students to engage in class. Both approaches to differentiated learning that I experimented with are similar but have allowed me to see different angles of this subject. I not only have tangible practices to use in class, but I also have a new awareness of student learning that has become second nature in how I communicate with my students.

            After reading through Seifert and Sutton’s (2009) chapter on  “Students with special educational needs”, I looked at my classroom and immediately saw behaviorism issues and metacognition failures (p. 91). With this newfound information, I decided to collaborate with the special education teachers at my school in order to establish a better learning environment in my class. My school has dedicated much effort to creating a stable system for students with 504 plans or IEP’s. In this system, we have these students interlaced throughout our classes, while they have specialists that they work with alongside our classes. After my first meeting with the SAS department at my school, I soon realized that the success of these specific students would not only be an outcome of my effort in the classroom but also the relationship that I had with the special education teachers. In this newfound collaboration, the teachers believed that the first order of action should be for me to see through my student’s point of view. These teachers had me observe their one-on-one learning sessions with my students to better understand the challenges that these students face. The situations that shocked me the most were the students who could not understand social interaction and could not attach meaning to communication. As I was able to see from my student’s perspectives, I soon realized where some of my blind spots were. To fill in the gap, I have started an open communication line with the SAS instructors of my students. I am constantly updating them on what is going on in class, so that they can then work one-on-one with the students to ensure understanding. These instructors are in return giving me feedback of what is working, what is not and what should be reevaluated in my classroom.

            For students to learn, they must find some source of motivation. This was a challenge in my high school Technology Information Literacy class because the class was solely dedicated to teaching the Microsoft Office suite, which students had already labeled as boring. In this case, I have had difficulty getting students engaged with the subject matter. When we got to the Publisher Unit, I decided at try Seifert and Sutton’s (2009) “motives as interest” approach with both situational interests and personal interests (p. 113). In this approach, I created a project called the Apprentice: Parts I, II, and III that would grab student’s interest and feed into our other units. In Part I, students must create a personal business and design their brand identity in Publisher. In Part II, students will “pitch” their business to me, “Donald Trump”, through a dynamic Powerpoint presentation. Donald Trump will then agree to fund their business and the project will end in Part III where students will create an Excel spreadsheet of their needed expenses to get their business off the ground. Through this project, I have allowed room for students to engage with the Office Suite through their personal interests, and it is clearly evident in their newfound excitement for the subject matter.  Concurrently, I also plan on creating situational interest in the classroom through use of video examples, visuals, and even props to explain how these computer programs can be effectively used.

                        How do I focus on keeping my students engaged in the classroom, motivated to learn and interested in the subject? To answer that question, Silver and Perini (2010) gave me a powerful statement that has stuck with me, “…if we do not design lessons and units that will strengthen student’s commitment to learn, then we cannot expect them to take an active or in-depth approach to learning” (p.324).  Therefore, it is my responsibility as a teacher to design my classroom and instruction around my students’ needs, interests and personal growth. This information will continue to help me see a new perspective on students, focus my attention on honoring student diversity and development, and hopefully become a better teacher year by year.

References

Brophy, J. (2010). On Excellence In Teaching. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Seifert, K., & Sutton, R. (2009). Educational Psychology: A Global Text. Zurich,                         Switzerland: Jacobs Foundation.  Retrieved from https://learn.spu.edu/webapp              /portal/frameset.

Shannon, S. V. (2008). Using Metacognitive Strategies and Learning Styles to Create.                  Institute For Learning Styles Journal, 1. Retrieved from http://www.learningstyles                .org

Learning Styles

After studying about learning styles through Module 1 of our Learners In Context class, I have been building up an awareness of how my students learn differently. This information has not only proved to by useful but also necessary. My question that I am wrestling with is how can I as a teacher include a variety of learning styles in my lessons, activities, projects, and assessments?  Would it be logically sound for students to have different projects to choose from where they all have the same curricular goals but different processes of getting there? If this was the case would it be students picking the best way that they learn or would it be students picking what they thought would be the easiest to execute?

I saw an example for this approach of differentiated learning flexibility through classroom projects/formative assessments from a teacher at a conference I went to. The teacher had an end goal that she wanted students to reach but many different ways that they could choose to reach that goal. The following are the choices that the students had to create: a picture board, a skit, a map/flow chart, a paper, a poem, and a presentation. The students could then utilize not only their skill sets but also interact with the subject matter through their individual learning styles. I love this idea, but it creates a number of challenges. How would the teacher award grades to the six different projects? How would the teacher adequately show the students the expectations for each of these projects? These questions should not silence this wonderful idea of incorporating differentiated learning, but should instead refine the implementation of it.

As I work towards finding tangible ways to include the variety of learning styles that exist in my classroom, I have also worked to be mindfully aware of these styles. I think that teachers who are practicing an awareness of learning styles will inevitably impact student’s learning in a deeper and enduring way. With that said, I hope that this is a skill that begins to be an automatic unconscious action of thought.

Reading Reflection #3: Bias, Directions

Ch5 p. 135-136 #1: If you were asked to support a high school graduation test you know would result in more minority than majority youngsters being denied a diploma, could you do it? If so, under what circumstances?

To adequately answer this question, I would first look at the test to see why it would result in more minorities being denied a diploma. Is this outcome being expected because the test contains bias against minorities? Does it contain language and questions that one group of people would better relate to than another? If the answers to these questions continue to be “yes”, then I would not support that high school graduation test. The next step would probably be to talk to my administration and present my opinion. Hopefully they would have ears to listen and then the necessary changes could then be implemented. I think that a challenge would occur if this test were a statewide requirement because the powers that be would be much harder to get a hold of. On the other hand, after careful study of the test, what if no biases were found? If the students have been correctly taught the information but choose not to utilize it, then that is on the student’s shoulders. Under these circumstances, I think that it would be completely fine for students to take this test. However, it seems like this is a fine line that is being walked on between the existence of bias and the absence of bias. I think that the answer is for testing specialists to devote time and effort into taking these tests apart piece by piece, and teachers also need to be aware of these circumstances.

#5: What is your view about how much effort a classroom teacher should devote to bias detection and bias elimination?

I think that teachers should put a great deal of effort into bias detections and bias elimination. America is a diverse nation, and our schools hold so many different groups of people. All students should have an equal opportunity to do well on a test. If a student does badly on an assessment, if should not be because of any bias in the classroom. I think that this starts with teachers being aware of their classroom and unassuming of their students. It takes time and effort to go over assessment devices with a fine-tooth comb, but it is well worth it. If teachers truly want their students to succeed, then they need to give them every possible opportunity to do so. Bias detection and bias elimination is going to help students reach the high expectations that teachers are laying before them; why wouldn’t teachers want to put effort towards that?

#6: What kind of overall educational assessment strategy can you think of that might make the testing of students with disabilities more fair? How about LEP students?

When discussing the educational assessment strategies that teachers should take concerning students with disabilities, I think that it is important to make sure that the assessments are still aligned with the curricular goals for the rest of the class. The text made an important point about the testing of students with disabilities by explaining that teachers need to understand that “…the education of all but a very small group of those children must be aimed at precisely the same curricular targets as the curricular targets teachers have for all other students” (Popham, 2011, p. 124). I believe that educators easily fall short in this area and lower the classroom expectations for students with disabilities or LEPs because they do not want those students to fail. I would challenge teachers to develop assessments that allow for flexibility in it’s implementation, but the different forms would still align with the overall curricular goals. I think that formative assessment lends a helping hand to educators with this challenge. Formative assessment would allow teachers to have the same end goal to an assessment, but have different forms  it comes in that would work for students with disabilities and LEPs. I think that the word “fair” is a really hard thing to reach in education. Honestly, it is not all “fair”.  If all students are given the same test across the board, then it is not fair for students with learning disabilities and LEPs. If some students are given one test and then other students are given a different tests with accommodations that is also technically not fair. I think that we should move away from the focus being on fairness and move it towards answering the question, “How are all of my students learning and growing?”

#7: Can bias in educational assessment devices be totally eliminated? Why or why not?

I believe that steps to eliminate bias in educational assessment devices should always be taken. Since we live in a broken world with flawed humans running things, I honestly do not know if bias will ever be totally eliminated. On the other hand, I do think that we can get pretty close. The more effort that teachers, administration, and assessment specialists put into eliminating bias, the better assessment is going to be. Since society is always changing and growing, I think that it is a bit unrealistic to say that we can eliminate bias both now and forever more.  The text said that the more that teachers work to become “sensitive to the existence of assessment bias and the need to eliminate it”, the closer that we will come to the end goal (Popham, 2011, p. 119). Do I think that we will reach that goal and stay there? No, but do I think that an effort to reach that goal will be highly effective in changing student’s lives for the better? Yes.

Mountaintops and Valleys

I know that teachers constantly feel that some days are good and some days are bad. Life in the classroom can make a teacher feel like they are on a mountaintop in one class and then in a valley in another. I experienced the extremes this week. The beginning of the week was my mountaintop. Both of my classes finally figured out that “class participation” did not include them staring at their computers when they should actually be engaging in class discussion. I have been experimenting with my instruction when teaching students specific workflows that they need to follow to fully utilize the software programs that I am teaching. From these experiments, I have found that my classes respond best when I verbally explain the procedures while also visually showing them each step in the program. But that is not enough! I need to then repeat the workflow two more times, and finally make the students do it on their own while I circle the room and double-check their work. I had many moments of pure joy when I saw my students engage in an advanced assignment in Photoshop and do it without training wheels.

I was soon knocked off of my mountaintop by the middle of the week when I corrected the last Excel project that my Junior High Technology class had just turned in. Two of my student’s projects looked identical and it was evident that one student had copied another. This was my first time dealing with cheating and I soon found that it is not black and white. I talked to both students outside of class and showed them the evidence. The student with the mirrored image of the other students work completely agreed and fully accepted a 0 on the project. However, the student whose work was copied and clearly had done more work had a difficult time with the news. He had exceeded expectations on the assignment and was on task throughout every class period, showing a great deal of effort. It was only after the other student left that I heard how all of the information had been exchanged verbally. The student said that his friend kept asking him for ideas and he did not know that his friend was in exchange, putting them down word for word. With junior high tears coming down his cheeks, I could see peer pressure, remorse, broken trust, and a kid with a good heart and good intentions. This was a gray area; I was torn and had knots in my stomach. Some teachers might draw a clear line and say that no matter how that line is crossed, it will still amount to a 0. But I’m not that teacher. In this situation I was not dealing with numbers, I was dealing with a human being who is growing into a person of character that will someday play a role in the greater society that we live in. With that said, I lowered that student’s grade on the project by one letter and told him to better choose his friends.

Reading Reflection #2: Reliability and Validity

Ch3 p. 80 #3: What kinds of educational assessment procedures do you think should definitely require the assembly of reliability evidence? Why?

I was going over this question for a while to try and decide what my opinion is on this subject. I think that I agree with the author when reliability in the classroom was brought up. I do not think that it is absolutely crucial that a teacher involves all three types of reliability evidence because all three may not fit into every classroom situation. Teachers should focus on knowing what reliability is but do not need to get carried away with every specific test. Teachers should understand the concept so that they can then take the truth of reliable assessment and apply it in their own classrooms. Teachers need to continuously measure student’s growth and they need to understand what works and what doesn’t in terms of assessment. I think that the statewide tests that are a requirement for schools should absolutely require the assembly of reliability evidence. Since so much importance is placed upon student test scores, I think that evidence should always be presented on how reliable the tests are in the first place.

#5: What is your reaction to classification consistency as an approach to the determination of reliability?

I understand the argument with classification consistency that is being placed on the table but I do not completely agree. I do agree that a test’s reliability and consistency should be based on much more then a one time test. This is especially true if the test is exempting qualified students from a topic of study because of their scores. However, I think that a test would lose a large portion of its validity when it is taken a second time by the same students who have already gone through the test once.  I understand that a student’s achievement on a test is not going to only reflect their knowledge, but also their mood, emotions, physical health, and so much more. However, the evidence of a test’s consistency will be skewed if the results are coming from students who have gone through the same test twice.

Ch4  p. 109 #2: It was suggested that some measurement specialists regard all forms of validity evidence as construct-related validity evidence. Do you agree? If so, or if not, why?

After studying this subject, I think that I agree with the connection between all forms of validity evidence and construct-related validity evidence. The reason for this belief is that construct-related validity evidence is the original idea of creating a hypothesis that then leads to an experiment that then leads to results. The construct-related validity evidence answers the important question of, “Is the test accurately measuring what it was created to measure?” This specific result comes from careful study and planning that is put into a hypothesis before the testing actually begins. The end result is then studied and the test is measured for its effectiveness. All of these components are important elements of the validity evidence that I have studied so far. I agree that there are still some specific differences that make different types of validity evidence stand apart from each other. However, on a larger scale, I think that the overall idea of construct-related validity evidence can be found in the other forms of validity evidence.

#5: What kind(s) of validity evidence do you think classroom teachers need to assemble regarding their classroom assessment devices?

I believe that the necessary validity evidence will be different based on the teacher and the classroom. Since I have started my teaching program, I have noticed that teachers have so many different ways of teaching. In this realization, I have found that different teachers also have differing opinions on which assessment devices they prefer to use in the classroom. I would say that when teachers put together their classroom assessment devices, they probably look to use the content-related evidence of validity in most situations. I think that the construct–related validity evidence would also work, but that the content-related evidence would still be most applicable in classroom settings.  The content-related evidence would work in tests and quizzes that assess student’s knowledge of the subject matter. This would allow teachers to see if the tests results match up with the curricular aims of the class. I like how the text said, “ The only reason teachers should assess their students is to make better educational decisions about those students.” (Popham, 2011, p. 87).  The content-related validity evidence allows teachers to plan out where they want their class to end up and the steps they need to take to get there.