P

P – Practice effective teaching: inquiry, planning, instruction & assessment.

There are so many pieces that go into effective teaching. Practice has been a theme for me this year in my internship. I believe that practice means that I make a consistent effort to grow and take steps to move forward. I have learned that practice means that there will be failures and mistakes, but I use those circumstances to learn and grow into a better teacher. Every good teacher is first and foremost a lifetime learner. This means that they are intentional about asking questions, digging deeper, and looking for answers. This principle shows that practice also means that action is taken. I practice effective teaching by researching and learning best teaching practices and assessments that I can then implement into my classroom. I take time to carefully plan each class period, and then assess and reflect on the outcome. This constant reflection helps me continually look for how I can better support student learning. I believe that a constant assessment of a teacher’s instruction will cause growth, and in the end, a better teacher.

P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. 

How do I practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction?

Throughout this internship, I have been given the opportunity to explore various teaching strategies and methods to reach student learning. I was excited to try these strategies in my own classroom with the expectation that some will work better than others because every classroom is different. It is important for me as a teacher to constantly assess who my students are so that I can plan my instruction around how my students learn best. I do this by devoting time and effort into developing relationships with my students.

I put careful planning and research into implementing new teaching strategies. In my Junior High Visual Arts class, I applied three of Robert Marzano’s teaching strategies in the video production unit and found positive results. In this Lesson Plan, students learned how to import music as a soundtrack into Adobe’s video editing software, Premiere Elements, and they also began to comprehend the difference between good and bad video footage. I used Marzano’s strategies of “Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback” and “Cooperative Learning”.

The scaffolding approach that I used worked very well. While I presented the information verbally and visually through words in Powerpoint, students followed along in their “Editing Your Music Video” handouts. Students were then able to practice their newfound knowledge by using their notes on the handouts to complete the learning objective through their collaborative learning groups. Marzano’s strategy of “Setting Objectives” laid a strong foundation for the students to follow. Marzano’s strategy was not only helpful for students to be continually reminded of the goals that they were trying to reach, but also because the “Objective” required specific actions that they could easily comprehend. Consequently, I found that the act of setting goals in this lesson created a certain feeling of accomplishment when the goals had actually been met. By the end of class, when each group successfully imported music into their timeline, the students felt like they had each achieved something. There was a sense of pride and ownership in the air.

I realize that Marzano encourages readers to keep goals flexible, but I found this to be particularly difficult in the everyday goals of a technology class where students rely on step-by-step detailed instruction in order to find success with the software. Even still, I maintained flexible goals on a more heuristic scale for an entire project rather than for a single lesson. I was able to follow Marzano’s (2001) advice in my second goal when he states, “…students should be encouraged to adapt them (goals) to their personal needs and desires” (p. 95). When I introduced the section on “Good vs. Bad Shots” in the handout, students were excited to hear that they were meant to complete it by applying their own experience. In the discussion, students were able to express what their best shots were, and they were also able to articulate why.

Marzano’s strategy of providing “Feedback” to students was probably what went the best in this lesson. The check-ins that I had with each group proved to an important time to ensure that students were on the right track. Certain groups asked clarifying questions which enabled them to accomplish the class’s objectives. I also used Marzano’s (2001) strategy of “Student-Led Feedback” (101) through the “Clear vs. Unclear” section of the handout. This was very helpful because students were able to tell me what went well in the lesson, and also what they are still having trouble grasping. From reading the students’ feedback, I found that almost every student wrote that they understood how to import music into their timeline. The reoccurring clarity that students were asking for in the “Unclear” section was primarily how to edit their project once the music was in. The assessment also showed that while most students very much understood the step-by-step process that they needed to go through, they still comprehended larger technological concepts. The next lesson involved going over what students said was still unclear. Through this lesson, students were able to relearn the information and continue with their projects. I further applied Marzano’s strategy by giving written feedback on the students’ “Editing Your Music Video” (Lesson Plan, pg. 1) handouts. This proved to be quite useful when I saw students’ responses as they used the feedback to improve the “Music Video Project” (Lesson Plan, pg. 2) summative assessment. My written feedback encouraged students to better understand the content. Incorrect answers were not only marked incorrect, but students were also given written feedback to better explain to why the answer was incorrect and how they could continue to grow in this area. Students were redirected to the learning targets and encouraged to better utilize the “Clear and Unclear” feedback sections to express misunderstandings.

I applied Marzano’s strategy of “Cooperative Learning” which greatly enhanced my lesson because students were able to encourage each other towards achieving the learning targets. For the summative assessment, students were placed in “Formal” groups and I divided the tasks into the following videography positions: cinematographer, director, and editor. In previous lessons, we had already established the expectation that each member will continue to rotate each position. To build up to this showcase lesson, previous lessons included components of Marzano’s cooperative learning: “Positive interdependence, group processing, appropriate use of social skills, face-to-face promotive interaction and individual and group accountability” (p. 90). I used these guidelines to teach students what cooperative learning looks like, and was able to remind them of these standards in this showcase lesson. The main challenge of the group learning was that students had a difficulty staying on task. This is in large part because only one student can use the computer’s mouse and keyboard at a time. Through this experience, I learned that students collaborate well but get distracted very easily when working in groups with technology. To try to counteract this challenge, I had groups continue to rotate positions, so that everyone had a chance to be in charge of editing while the other members gave instructions. I firmly agree with Marzano’s (2001) suggestion concerning groups, “Cooperative groups should be kept rather small in size” (p. 88, 91). At this point, we do not have enough available computers to have smaller groups, but I now have reason to ask for more resources. The challenges of working with technology are definitely worth the outcome because it is so rewarding to see students use their gifts and creativity to make original works of digital art. This lesson displayed the student’s growing knowledge in videography and video editing, and was also a space for students to utilize their creativity while collaborating with other students.

 References

Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom Instruction That Works. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

P2 – Practice differentiated instruction. 

How do I practice differentiated instruction?

Differentiated instruction is so important in my visual art classes because students are learning how to use technology to express themselves through design. There are layer upon layers of technical language, elaborate concepts, and evaluative decisions that students have to comprehend. Students then have to connect these concepts with actions as they use technology to create their own digital art. To meet students where they are, I use differentiated instruction to help them understand the material through their own perspective so that it can then be put to action.

An example of my use of differentiated instruction can be seen in the “Troubleshooting Technology” unit that I immediately created after seeing an immense need for students in my Junior High Visual Arts class to develop this skill. Problem solving is important in so many different aspects of life and that is why it is also focused on in education. Since we have a large amount of technical problems in my visual art classes, I decided that it was important to teach students how to problem solve with technology.

I first taught students how to “think outside of the box” by describing the process of problem solving. Many students are honestly used to not having to think for themselves because whenever they do not understand something they just raise their hand for a teacher. Teachers are of course an important resource and support for students, however I believe that this relationship should enable students rather than creating a crutch for them to lean on. With that said, I wanted to teach students how to problem solve on their own and I did this through differentiated instruction. I created the following short video to introduce the steps that I wanted students to take when faced with technological problems:

The visual video helped engage the students by mixing humor with the steps that I wanted them to then practice. After a lesson on what problem solving with technology looks like, I gave them a list of common computer problems that can easily occur. I then asked students to start troubleshooting and thinking through how they would react to the scenarios. The class period ended in a thoughtful class discussion which gave students the opportunity to verbalize what they were learning.

In the middle of this unit, I had the students do “The Marshmallow Challenge” that I learned from Chad Donohue’s class at SPU. I wanted the students to recognize that they use problem-solving skills in their everyday lives, in and outside of the classroom. In this challenge students were given 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 marshmallow and 18 minutes. In these 18 minutes, students got in groups to create the highest tower with the marshmallow at the top. Students learned to create a plan, test the plan and the re-evaluate their approach if it failed. They also learned that there is more than one way to find a solution to a problem. I put together a quick video that can be viewed below to visually show students what their problem solving process looked like in this experience. After the students viewed this video, we then had a class discussion where they had the opportunity to reflect on what they are learning. The students are now able to practice their growing troubleshooting skills in our class and I am very pleased with their progress. This example of differentiated instruction shows how I am engaging the verbal, written, visual and tactile learners. I am dedicated to my students not only receiving knowledge, but also evaluating, analyzing and comprehending it so that they can then use that knowledge to enrich society.

P3 – Practice standards-based assessment. 

How do I practice standards-based assessment?

It is my job as an educator to practice standards-based assessment and implement instructional strategies that will support student growth. I use formative and summative assessment to monitor student progress towards the learning targets. This also allows students to reflect on their own growth, which I use as motivation and encouragement in the classroom. Since I had the opportunity to create curriculum for the visual art classes that I taught during my internship, I was able to implement the importance of assessment. To do this, I based the curriculum on the standards of the private Christian school that I teach at and then aligned it with the over-all state standards. Throughout this year I have learned that it is important to be flexible while making sure that the focus of my classes is always the students.

In my “Applied Inquiry, Teaching and Assessment” class at SPU, I learned about the in-depth process that goes into creating solid assessments in education. I first need a lot of time and effort invested into knowing my students and their individual learning processes. My relationally based teaching strategy is seen in how well I communicate with students, which is a major strength that I use to make a positive impact on students’ lives.

I am constantly researching and collaborating with other teachers to create and find the right assessments for my students. After careful planning, I implement the assessment in my classroom and then receive the results. It is then my job to analyze, evaluate, and reflect on the outcome of the assessment. An example is a Distractor Analysis that I made for a Photoshop quiz that I gave my Junior High Visual Arts class. The findings of this analysis were very important because it showed me holes in the assessment that I needed to fix. For instance, question 8’s variety of answers show that the choices could be more clear for them to choose from. Question 4 reveals the need for more of a challenge as the analysis revealed that everyone answered correctly. The data that I found through this analysis allowed me to see mistakes and misconceptions that had a negative effect on the students learning. After reflecting on what went well and what needs to change, I was then able to make necessary changes to this quiz for my next Junior High Visual Arts class. This analysis once again confirmed that assessments need to be both clear and challenging for students if it is to be a valid representation of their learning.

I know that my careful research, planning and evaluation of the assessments are making a difference in my students’ learning. These assessments show me a representation of students’ progress which then guides my instruction and planning of class time. I am constantly evaluating and reflecting on the practice and use of my standards-based assessments to continue to make them better and better.  I take intentional action to grow as a teacher and use whatever means of instruction and assessment that will best support students in reaching the learning targets.

P4 – Practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction.

How do I practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction?

This is an easier question for me because I teach technology driven visual art classes, but I feel that the key word here is “appropriate”. As we go into a new age of growing technology, I see many teachers slap a ton of information onto a PowerPoint slide and then say that they have met their quota for instructional technology usage. With that said, I don’t believe that technology in the classroom should be something to simply check off your list. The use of technology in teaching should be answering the question, “Does this improve my students learning?”

I believe that technology can be a major asset to learning, especially with this next generation basically growing up with an iPhone in their cradle. Since these students are constantly being bombarded with new pieces of technology, I have been shocked to find that many students know specifics but not general truths about technology. For instance, students know how to download an app to their phone, but they do not know that the computer monitor is actually connected to their computer. In the first week of school, I had to teach my students how to correctly export a flash drive. After this realization of what students have skipped over in their learning of technology, I realized that they needed to know the universal truths that can be found throughout the technological world. Teachers shouldn’t just be finding ways to cram technology into the classroom, but should instead find where it is appropriate and then teach students how to correctly utilize it both in school and throughout society.

An example of how I integrate technology with instruction is the Photoshop Powerpoint that I created to introduce the Photoshop unit to my Junior High Visual Arts class. This class is dedicated to students learning design through technology while exploring their unique perspectives and gifts. In this presentation, students were able to read ideas in short statements while also listening to my instruction. They also got to visually see the tools that I was explaining to them. Students were able to follow along since I had them download the Powerpoint from a teaching resource that I use called Moodle. This example shows my use of technology as a tool that enriches instruction rather than replacing it. The slides helped me guide the students through these new ideas but also kept them engaged with the material. It is important for me as a growing teacher to continue to incorporate appropriate technology with instruction because I know that it truly does have a positive impact on student learning.


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