Week 7 Breadcrumbs (Chapter 10)

Phew, what a week and what a chapter. My school was visited by the superintendent on Monday and I had to plan my lesson for a formal observation. In addition to that, Chapter 10 is probably the richest chapter I have read since starting this course so there is a lot to reflect on in this post. The chapter started with an outline of what is required of teachers in the classroom. Two key takeaways were thinking on the fly and wait time. Before I got into teaching, I took a class on improvisational theater and was in my school's improv troupe. I never realized it would help so much for teaching. When I am being observed or the end of the lesson is drawing near, I always find myself having to rearrange plans so that the lesson can run as smoothly as possible. At least once a week, I will invariably have to cut some material from the end of a lesson or extend an activity that is proving beneficial.

The other big idea from the beginning of the chapter was wait time. I feel that I need to improve on extending my wait time. What feels like thirty seconds can really be five. I've also noticed that, when I increase wait time, the range of students that participates also increases.

While this post focuses on designing learning environments, I had quite a few ideas while reading about the three different types of thinking described in Chapter 10 (i.e., critical, creative & problem solving). When talking about critical thinking, the textbook stressed the importance of assessing reliability and validity. Even with my honors level seniors, most of my students cannot assess the reliability of online information. I think, for 21st-century students who have had the internet their entire life, it is so important to learn about assessing validity. We live in an age of information overload and students must be able to decode whether texts are factual or not. I really appreciated the dichotomy presented of whether to teach critical thinking as a stand-alone or embedded in content. I think students should learn critical thinking as part of larger course unless the skill gap is very large. In that case, they should have a stand alone course. In terms of creative thinking, I try to include as many opportunities for divergent thinking as possible. Finally, for problem-solving, I try to have as many well-structured problems as possible because problem-solving is crucial to understanding how new scientific understandings are generated. 

When reading about some studies on students, I realized that educational psychology is almost like meta-ethology. Ethology studies behavior in natural habitats and educational psychology studies students studying. It is so daunting because there are so many variables at play. I would like to create a data-driven research study on students sometime in my teaching career. 

The second half of Chapter 10 was much more rich for designing learning environments. I loved that teacher-directed instruction was not presented in a negative light. I often feel very frustrated with the Danielson rubric as an assessment of teaching. I strongly believe that lecturing is sometimes the optimal way to deliver content. Also, my seniors will be in college next year and most colleges give lectures as the main teaching method. If I do not lecture at all, my students will be completely unprepared for their lectures in college. That being said, I do understand why student-centered learning is favored for younger ages. I just wish I could deliver a lecture for a formal observation and not be rated negatively. 

I was very proud of my teaching methods after reading this chapter. I have taught or used note-taking, outlining, and concept maps in all my classes. My school does mastery learning so I think my instruction is very current. I also incorporate most of Madeline Hunter's model in my classroom. I think I prepare students to learn through a variety of methods. I use their fresh energy at the beginning of class by showing videos of what will be taught so they have a visual that will stick. I also provide them with learning targets (objectives) and an agenda so they know what to expect. I present information explicitly, however, I could work on using more familiar terms. I forget that my vocabulary is not always colloquial. I also think I have solid checks for understanding, but, I could use more independent practice in my senior classes. 

The sections on student-centered learning and inquiry learning were both very brief, but I do want to incorporate more self-reflection into my classes. The cooperative learning subsection was very interesting. I find that my students are often challenged with the restricted space of our classrooms while doing group work. Some classes are over thirty students and it can be very difficult to hear with 9 or 10 simultaneous conversations. I also think I need to prepare my students for group work better. I think conversation starters and norms are key. We did concept maps this week and there was a lot of freeloading despite students being given a rich group task. Finally, the examples of cooperative learning were very timely. I will be using jigsaw reading for my formal observation on Tuesday. 

    • Alexa Tanglis
      Alexa Tanglis

      Also, my seniors will be in college next year and most colleges give lectures as the main teaching method. If I do not lecture at all, my students will be completely unprepared for their lectures in college. That being said, I do understand why student-centered learning is favored for younger ages. I just wish I could deliver a lecture for a formal observation and not be rated negatively.

      Ditto.  I've made this same point/concern to many teachers in my school.  I understand that student centered learning is ideal for freshman cause it gets them engaged ( even though I'm still not entirely convinced the focus point of school is to be fun and engaging) and I've seen it.  My question though is if the admin is pushing this all the way through 12th grade, and requesting more scaffolded versions of texts and graphic organizers are you really helping these college bound students? If our schools goal really is to send students off to college how are we preparing them for the 100% teacher centered environment they are about to enter.  They will not know what do if they aren't given a worksheet to take notes with or guided questions, forget about sitting through a two hour lecture.  Every time I bring this up I'm met with a shrug or a 'that's really not what were focusing on in this meeting' and i'm like okay, push the responsibility off onto the kid and have no accountability for when you didn't prepare them enough.  It frustrates me to no end. 

      End rant.  

      • Gerald Ardito
        Gerald Ardito

        Sam and Alexa,

        I am really intrigued by the discussion you are having here.

        I agree that we do not need to demonize lectures or other teacher-centric strategies. This is as arbitrary as say, 7 minute workshop sessions.

        More importantly, I hear you both saying that we have an obligation to teach our students about how learning works so that they can manage themselves in whatever setting they find themselves.

        What do you think?

        • Alexa Tanglis
          Alexa Tanglis

          I agree, I also think it's important to teach them a variety of useful skills.  Being able to write down your thoughts in a clear, and coherent manner (lets say in a graphic organizer) is certainly a skill.  But that doesn't mean we should also be teaching how to listen to a lecture, identify key information, and be able to take notes in such a way that you'll be able to access it later.  I don't think we need to shift the focus away from student -centered classrooms necessarily, we just have to incorporate other teaching strategies and show our students how to be successful in every possible teaching environment.  

          • Sam Miake-Lye
            Sam Miake-Lye

            I think Alexa hit the nail on the head with this last comment. We need to teach our students how to be successful and prepare them for the future. Engaging class discussion makes learning fun, however, that is not going to be the delivery of lessons all the time. I think using the Danielson rubric as the singular assessment tool for DOE teachers makes it really difficult to lecture in an observation. From this year, I know how to play the game and get good observation scores. I just wish I could have a more frank discussion about lectures with my supervisors without feeling guilty for lecturing. I think lecturing is getting demonized, like Dr. Ardito already said. It's definitely not the only option for teaching, but it is an option and our students should be able to learn through lectures when asked. That's my opinion anyway.

          ED 631 - Educational Psychology - Spring 2017

          ED 631 - Educational Psychology - Spring 2017

          Here is our online home for ED 631 for Spring 2017.

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