Meta-Reflection: What Have I Learned?

I came into the Survey of Instructional Strategies course with past knowledge of popular teaching strategies but I did not realize how extensive these strategies could be. This course helped me to not only understand these approaches, but to be able to implement them in my classroom. The examples that we were provided with throughout this course gave me clearer vision on the best ways to use these tools with my students, meeting the standards of “E1-Exemplify professionally informed, growth-centered practice”. In our first module, we were asked to think about how to design instruction to meet the needs of all students. In the article, “Closing Opportunity Gaps in Washington’s Public Education System”, the authors write, “All students can succeed, but they need highly effective teachers, exemplary curriculum and materials, and appropriate academic and social support” (2010). These thoughts have stayed with me throughout this class because I feel that every piece of this quote is necessary to help students succeed.

In the beginning of the class we read through “Classroom Instruction that Works” and this gave me a chance to think about some of the strategies that were new to me as I considered how I could utilize them in the future. This was also a chance for me to look at strategies that I was already using and evaluate what changes could be made that would make them more effective. An example would be this LESSON PLAN Artifact where I implemented the strategy of “Non-linguistic Representations” and “Assigning Homework and Providing Practice”. In this lesson, the strategies were productive but as I reflect on what I now know I realize that I could have used these approaches to take the students deeper into their learning. The strategies are not meant to simply convey knowledge, they are rather a means to get students to evaluate, question and discover the content material in a manner that will stick with them. Concerning Nonlinguistic Representations, Dean et al (2012) states, “Imagery is expressed as mental pictures or physical sensations, such as smell, taste, touch, kinesthetic association, and sound” (p. 63).  In the future, I plan on using this short video about TROUBLESHOOTING TECHNOLOGY that I made as a Non-linguistic Representation to introduce students to problem solving with technological materials.

As we continued through each module in this course, we were given the opportunity to role-play the strategies that we were learning about. In MY VIDEO PROJECT, I learned a great deal about Cooperative Learning and discovered new ways to implement this strategy in future Video Production classes. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) state, “Cooperative learning is an approach to instruction that provides both the opportunity and the organization for balanced, successful, and satisfying group learning experiences” (p. 246). This is a fantastic approach that puts students in the driver’s seat rather than me with a white board. Bruner’s approach to teaching points the students to self-discovery of the content material. The author (1966) writes, “Discovery teaching involves not so much the process of leading students to discover what is ‘out there,’ but, rather, their discovering what is in their own heads” (p. 1). This is where I learned that teaching is not all up front; it is instead walking beside students and helping them discover the world around them.

I enjoyed the hands-on based approaches throughout this course because they work so well in my technology classes where students are constantly working with cameras, computers and software programs. Strategies such as Cooperative Learning, Concept Attainment, Advance Organizers and Role Playing all allow significant visual components to their implementation. An example of the Role Playing approach can be viewed in artifact 1 and 2 (see below) from a graphic design class that I taught. In this class, I had students create a personal business complete with a purpose, vision statement, and an extensive brand identity by using Office Word and Adobe Photoshop. Through the strategy of Role Playing, students were completely invested into the project because they got to play the role of a marketer in the business world.

As I reflect on my progress throughout this course, I realize that my approach to teaching has grown. I am not simply thinking about making a curriculum to meet the end goal of delivering knowledge to my students. Instead, I am delicately crafting a curriculum that utilizes an array of instructional strategies to meet the needs of a diverse room of learners. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) bring up this example of my paradigm shift through the use of the Inductive Model by stating, “…the teacher is to continue asking students questions to facilitate their thinking, as opposed to providing praise for the ‘right’ answers” (p.160). As a result of my learning throughout this course, I will be not only a better teacher but also a better learner. I discovered that there are a multitude of instructional strategies and I need to continue to test these approaches in my classroom, evaluate the outcomes, make any necessary changes and then continue to implement.

References

Artifact 1:

Publisher

Artifact 2:

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Discovering Similarities and Differences In Cinematography

Classroom Context:

As previously stated in my first implementation of an instructional strategy, the school that I have taught at is a private Christian school. Since I teach elective classes, they allow me to create my own curriculum by basing it around the school’s vision and goals. I have implemented the strategy of Identifying Similarities and Differences in my junior high technology class and my review of this strategy can be viewed here: https://joannakharmon.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/strategy-2-identifying-similarities-and-differences/

This class is filled with 7th and 8th grade students and the majority of the class is boys with an exception of a few girls. The goal of this junior high elective is for students to see a range of creative technologies such as the Office suite, graphic design, and videography. The objective is that students learn an overview of specific tools and programs that they can then dig deeper in through high school classes, which they will have the opportunity to take in the future. The students are coming into class with an understanding of technological devices but almost every student has no experience with the editing programs. Some students have used aspects of the Office suite but it is amazing to see how basic their understanding of these everyday programs are. The class is highly energetic and it is important to hold their attention so that they don’t miss any important information that they will need when stepping into class projects.

In this unit, I am introducing the art form of cinematography and begin by teaching students the basics of what makes a well-framed shot. I am implementing the strategy of Identifying Similarities and Differences by showing the students a range of different example clips. I will continue to allow time after each clips for students to point out the similarities and differences that they are seeing in these clips. Note that some of these examples will be beautiful shots, while others will be proof of what not to do.

Learning Goal Specification:

EALR 2. Visual Arts: The student uses the artistic processes of creating, performing/presenting, and responding to demonstrate thinking skills in visual arts.

GLE 2.3.1 Applies a responding process to visual arts.

Supportive Description:

This class has already learned about Office Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Adobe Photoshop. The students have been given many opportunities to express their unique perspectives by applying their growing knowledge and skills of these programs. Since the art of cinematography is quite different compared to the tangible programs that they have previously learned, this will be a concept that they will need to grasp that they can then put into practice. The strategy of Identifying Similarities and Differences is an excellent approach in this situation because it will help students better understand this new concept of being a good cinematographer. Dean et al (2012) states, “These strategies help move students from existing knowledge to new knowledge, concrete to abstract, and separate to connected ideas” (p. 119). Students will not only learn the main components of cinematography, but also how to create a good shot.

Outcomes Predicted:

The strategy of Identifying Similarities and Differences was actually applied in the context described above and did indeed have positive effects. I had the students watch a various amount of clips that not only showed styles of cinematography but also shots that were poorly executed. I utilized the white board and had students tell me what shots were similar and which ones were different. We then branched out from these similarities and differences and discussed the attributes that these clips did or did not have in common. Students discussed a variety of components such as close up dialogue shots that were framed well compared to scenes that had a tilted camera to create the effect of unease.

The students were also able to pick out the shots that were examples of what not to do. I was actually surprised by how easily students were able to recognize these and I think it is because students are very exposed to professionally made movies and television and naturally expect a certain look. I found that they could see that something was wrong, but could not fully express why because we had yet to introduce all of the proper academic language for cinematography. This provided an opportunity for me to guide the students through a series of questions that helped them discover the specific aspects of these poorly framed shots that had a negative effect on the end product. Students were then able to move into their first video assignment with an understanding of what to do and what not to do. In conclusion, the strategy of Identifying Similarities and Differences was an impactful approach in this junior high technology class because it gave students a context for the newly introduced skill of cinematography.

Artifacts:

  • Powerpoint Example: This is the Powerpoint presentation that I used to first introduce students to the concept of cinematography. It starts with some key terms and then ends at the segment where I showed cinematography examples for students to identify similarities and differences.
  • Strategy 2 Sample Lesson: View this sample lesson plan from my cinematography unit to see how I planned to implement the strategy of Identifying Similarities and Differences in this context.

References

Blog #3: Attaining Knowledge

This week we studied the Concept Attainment model, which I found to be quite interesting. This model could be very useful when teaching new concepts to students who have no previous basis to build their knowledge on. When students compare, contrast and categorize new knowledge, they can better understand the subject matter. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) state, “The Concept Attainment model allows students to categorize items based on an analysis of their characteristics, or critical attributes” (p. 114). This approach can be an important tool in my graphic design and video production classes because there are many concepts that are very foreign to students. Most students are familiar with social media and every day technological devices, but they have no basis to understand why you would manually need to color correct a video camera or what settings your editing timeline should be in. If I could help students categorize new concepts, they would better understand how to use them and why they need to know this information in the first place.

In our small group discussion, we talked about how to plan for different types of knowledge and the many challenges that arise from that goal. My classmate Hugo Molina said that effective instruction is “…engaging, measurable, student-centered, careful to scaffold learning, relevant, rigorous, and facilitated.” We agreed that these elements are crucial to reach the many different learners who are in our classrooms. We found that it was difficult to elevate one element since it is the combination of instructional strategies that truly creates a place where learning can thrive. One of my favorites quotes from this week was from Bruner when he states, “Discovery teaching involves not so much the process of leading students to discover what is ‘out there,’ but, rather, their discovering what is in their own heads” (p. 1).  So much of teaching is not merely getting information into the students. Rather it is allowing them to soak it up through careful instruction and then teaching them to evaluate and discover through their own personal lens.

References

What’s My Job?

In the first chapter entitled, “What’s My Job? Defining the Role of the Classroom Teacher,” Grant Wiggins (2010) focuses on eliminating “the glaring absence of true accountability in education” (p. 7). He asks the all-important question: “What’s my Job?” In other words, what are the key goals and desired outcomes of my teaching? Although this seems to be obvious, Wiggins (2010) explains that these key goals and desired outcomes are rarely communicated by hiring institutions in job descriptions (pp. 8-9). He compares and contrasts a job description from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development with the usual job description given most educators in order to illustrate that most education job descriptions focus on the immediate instead of long-term desired outcomes (Wiggins, 2010, pp. 10-11). Although I understand how many schools could be like this, I must say from my personal experience of teaching in a private, Christian school that the desired outcomes and goals were not only communicated to me, but the curriculum for my classes was highly based on these goals. The nature of the Christian Worldview class I taught necessitated this because the goals were clearly outlined in our school’s mission and vision statements. Because of this, my experience stands in stark contrast to the disconnect between school purpose and teacher practice that Wiggins (2010) describes throughout the chapter.

Wiggins (2010) later describes what he believes will span the gap between goals and teaching. He outlines the key goals of every teacher:  “Causing successful learning,” “Causing greater interest,” and “Causing greater confidence” (Wiggins, 2010, p. 11). In order to determine what type of learning is successful, Wiggins (2010) believes we must derive our course lessons and testing from our course goals (p. 12). This results-based teaching focuses less on covering topics and more on helping learners succeed in life. Wiggins (2010) later suggests that this must therefore influence which chapters of a textbook teachers stress, which they skim, and which they omit from their course lessons based on the overall course goals (p. 20). I think this point is highly important because textbooks should not guide our lesson plans as much as our students do. In his description of how to cause confidence in students, Wiggins (2010) asks how many teachers are taking an inventory of their class before designing their lesson plans (pp. 14-15). Although the teaching calendar makes this difficult, I would love to see schools allow for less assignments at the beginning of the school year in order to establish rapport and design lessons around the class. I have to admit that I have sometimes tried to fit my junior high classes into my lessons instead of considering how to adapt the lesson to their learning styles.

Later in the chapter, Wiggins (2010) describes shaping lessons to class goals by stating, “If transfer is the goal, then spending the most time in class lecturing is inappropriate; if meaning making is the goal, then instructional strategies have to involve students” engaging in more than just listening (p. 26). What a breath of fresh air! I believe that if more teachers heard this type of thing early on, their lessons, their student’s test scores and even their overall happiness would reflect the freedom of this statement. Because the goals of my classes were communicated so clearly to me, it was easy to design curriculum with students in mind, and it was easy to design tasks that engaged learners in ways that would impact them more than simply lecturing for an hour. After reading this chapter, I have a clearer understanding of the job of teaching and what that means for the way I will approach each aspect of my job as an educator.