EDS 111

Final Thoughts on EDS 111

ejournal 10 / final requirement

Prompt: Go back to the questions for the Introductory Forum in Module 0. Disregarding your prior answers to these questions, respond to these again. After which, compare your current answers to your former responses. Were there any difference? What could be the reasons for the changes (or lack thereof) in your responses?

  • What denotes effective teaching for you?  Provide justification/s for your answer.
  • What do you think are the characteristics and skills that teachers should possess in order to become effective teachers?  Why?
  • What is the role of teachers for you?

Effective teaching is the optimization of classroom atmosphere, strategies, relationships, and approach to create the best possible opportunities to learn, in terms of both quantity and quality. Effective teaching comes from the evolution classroom skills, strategies, and approaches driven by experience and active reflection. Participating in professional development, collaborative learning communities, and ongoing education can be powerful sources for gaining experiential wisdom and relevant new skills. Reflection is a necessary process for assessing strengths, weaknesses, missed opportunities, and successful approaches that will help teachers better prepare for meeting learning goals, and overcome shortcomings in the future.  Necessary knowledge for effective teaching includes content/subject area, pedagogical techniques, and relevant technology. Effective teaching must be founded on sound instructional skills, but also requires skills of classroom management, motivation, working with diverse learners, and interpersonal skills.

An effective teacher must be able to develop learning outcomes, structure and plan suitable lessons and activities, monitor pacing, design appropriate assessments, and reflect upon and modify weak course areas. However, these instructional skills are not enough to denote effective teaching. The ability to relate to and connect with students is a powerful force in effective teaching. Students who elect to engage and want to succeed (whether to please a teacher, satisfy intrinsic motivation, or feel included in the group dynamic) will be better learners. Effective teachers demonstrate reliability and interest in student wellbeing through open discussions with students, approachability, humor, and appropriate challenging of beliefs and ideas. The teacher-student relationship must be cultivated so that both parties feel responsible to one another.

A teacher’s first role is develop a plan for instruction and prepare appropriate materials and learning experiences. A teacher must have a clear idea of the educational journey she expects to guide her students through. A teacher’s next duty is to create a safe space (mentally and physically) for learners to engage with new ideas and knowledge earnestly and authentically. Students who are fearful of making mistakes, expect ridicule from peers or teachers, or do not feel capable of succeeding will not be able to overcome these barriers without support and encouragement from their teacher.

My original response to the above questions:

Effective teaching involves engaging students in a way that appeals to their innate curiosity and addresses and challenges their preconceived thoughts. Effective teaching requires one to be completely present and absorbed in the practice of evoking responses from and interaction with students. Delivery of instructional material is certainly a part of teaching, but to be truly effective, a teacher must inspire students to reach and surpass their potential.

An effective teacher should play to the ability of her students and encourage authentic exploration and discovery of new meaning. For example, a teacher conducting the exact same lesson taught to two different classes would perform and interact with the each group differently because each group of students has unique needs, ideas, and questions.

A teacher’s role is to stimulate the mind and guide students through the discovery process, not just in the academic sense, but holistically – in terms of morality, self-awareness and identity, and the interconnectedness of nature, society, and self. I think teachers play an important role in shaping young community members and have a responsibility to mentor children emotionally, socially, academically, and spiritually.

I think my first response to the Introductory Forum questions were appropriate but focused too heavily on the philosophical role of teachers. I originally emphasized a teacher’s role as a role model and motivator, but I didn’t address the more concrete principles necessary for effective teaching. In both responses, I noted that teaching is more than ‘delivery of instructional material’ and includes an ability to connect with learners on a more personal, human level. Overall, I think this course allowed my to better understand that effective teaching draws from technical skills as well as interpersonal skills relating to how to engage and inspire students.

My first response also failed to acknowledge the ‘collaborative’ component of teaching and the importance of ongoing learning and reflection for improving one’s work year after year. But I can now realize and relate new terminology to my original response. For example, in January I stated that Effective teaching requires one to be completely present and absorbed in the practice of evoking responses from and interaction with students.’ I now recognize this as a description of ‘flow.’

While my original response had some valid points about the importance of appealing to student interest and curiosity, I think my final response was more cohesive and complete. I can refer to this reflection in the future to help keep me focused on creating impactful instruction, a motivating and positive atmosphere, and engaging in meaningful reflection and learning experiences to keep my work sharp, relevant, and effective.

Prompt: Do the same thing (refer to #1) for the TPI.

  • What do your results on the TPI say about your perspectives on teaching?
  • What are their implications on your beliefs, intentions, and actions on teaching?

My TPI results indicate that my dominant perspective is Nurturing, followed closely by Apprenticeship and Developmental. I agree with Pratt that over time and with more experience, my understanding of myself as a teacher will be greater and my dominant perspective will be more readily observable. Pratt commented that experienced teachers know what they are and what they want to be, as well as what they aren’t and don’t want to be. Over the years and with greater reflection and experience, I imagine my beliefs about teaching and my choices in the classroom will be more clearly defined.

My result of a dominant Nurturing perspective stems from my belief that each learner can succeed academically with effort, motivation, and emotional support. I would like to note, however, that my action score was highest in Apprenticeship. This perspective is probably manifested in my use of zones of development. By modifying my instruction and guidance based on learner competence and development, I encourage greater independence as learners grow.

My original response to the above questions:

My results from the TPI show that nurturing is my dominant teaching view, followed closely by apprenticeship.  I feel well represented by these two perspectives and can think of classroom examples in which I demonstrated the values associated with each. 

As a kindergarten teacher, it is difficult to be anything but nurturing. I must provide a of balance academic and emotional support for students in order to make them feel comfortable in the classroom and to trust me as their teacher.  Much of my day-to-day work centers on this nurturing perspective and promoting self-esteem, motivating from a place of unconditional acceptance and support, and valuing sincere effort and personal development.  I’m interested in how each student is progressing individually in terms of confidence, self-assuredness, and effort, as well as how his/her achievement compares to other students and my own expectations.  At the beginning of the school year, I must first develop personal relationships with the students through listening, bonding activities, and a caring demeanor.  Once students begin to feel safe and more expressive in the classroom, they can be directed to more academic goals.  A child who feels threatened, harassed, or stressed (whether from school or home) cannot learn.  A nurturing perspective can be an exhausting physical and emotional commitment for the teacher, but students are given the opportunity to explore the limits of their own ability and effort without fear of failure. (Pratt)

Apprenticeship is another perspective that plays significantly into my teaching.  Even at the kindergarten level, I approach the learning objectives as expressed expectations for the group.  For example, the whole class understands that phonics and basic reading and writing ability are the ultimate academic goals.  I teach to the group as a whole then ask students to practice simple tasks, such as identifying sounds.  Scaffolding is essential, and I think it ties back into building confidence.  Some students need more teacher guidance to practice complex skills before they gain the competence to work independently.  Each student works at a different pace, but they are all working on similar tasks toward the same goal. The students express a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of identity as they learn crucial skills and gain knowledge.  They clearly identify the academic work they do with their own kindergarten class and motivate each other to emulate the skills and work ethic of the community. 

The first time I took the TPI, I think I struggled a bit to focus on one content area and one group of learners. I hemmed and hawed over what response to give because I appreciated the significance of the ideas represented in each statement. Even though I may find validity in many of the statements, they don’t all manifest in my own classroom actions and values. I felt more confident in my answers taking the inventory the second time around. Still, my results were the same and I feel my response was well justified in the first forum discussion.

Prompt: Reflect deeply on how this course has:

  • changed/enhanced/influenced the way you think about the teaching process and the profession of teaching in general; and
  • impacted you as a teacher/pre-service teacher.

This course has influenced the way I think about and define a professional teacher. The fundamental question is who is qualified to be a teacher and what skills and knowledge must they employ to be considered effective? There are many different kinds of teachers, educators, instructors, and tutors, but not all are professional or effective. Considering the knowledge base, principles, skill sets, and values attributed to effective teachers helps me reflect on whether I am meeting the same standards and how I can improve my professional status.  The role of a teacher is complex and multifaceted.  Effective teaching is a craft that takes active reflection, deliberate actions, and open discourse to perfect.

I think this course has helped me be more reflective and intentional in my own teaching. It has also inspired me to pursue further professional development and learning opportunities. Before I had always kind of thought I would be ‘done’ with formal schooling after completing the PTC program. I know realize that seeking out ways to further my professional development and strengthen my skills and strategies as a teacher is an exciting prospect. There is no shame in admitting there is more to learn, and my teaching will be more effective as a result of expanding my knowledge base and learning about emerging issues and techniques.  Professional development, collaboration with peers and mentors, and lifelong learning are signs of strength, not weakness.

EDS 111

The Professional Learning Community as the Driving Force for Professional Growth

ejournal 8 / module 3e

This week’s module emphasized how lifelong learning, SoTL, and being an active member of a professional learning community can improve teacher effectiveness and professionalism.

I think the most important component of professional growth discussed in this module is active membership in a professional learning community. Elements of lifelong learning and scholarship of teaching and learning are necessary for individuals comprising the learning community. However, continuous lifelong learning and employment of SoTL practices does not guarantee that a teacher is contributing to or involved in a professional learning community in a constructive manner.

In the discussion forum for Module 3e, I expressed some disappointment with my schools lack of a solidified and functional learning community. However, as an individual teacher, I have engaged in lifelong learning – both for the benefit of my career and to satiate personal interests and curiosity. The very fact that I am studying for my Professional Teaching Certification is evidence of my ongoing education. My choice to join the PTC program was in part due a desire to strengthen my own skills and qualifications in the classroom and also influenced by a government policy asking for evidence proving my ongoing professional development. Other ways I’ve continued my education include specific training to improve my ability to use the phonics program prescribed in my school’s curriculum. Although I, and probably many of my colleagues (I can’t be sure – we don’t talk about it!) are practicing, lifelong learners, the school as a whole is not benefitting from our experiences because they aren’t being discussed.

DuFour (2004) mentioned several barriers to a successful learning community, which included not giving teachers sufficient time to collaborate and work together. Another impediment to learning communities is the isolation of traditional teaching, in which an educator might feel possessive of ideas, materials, and strategies rather than wanting to share them for the greater good of the learning community.   Teachers who engage in lifelong learning cannot surmount these obstacles alone. There must be a community of sharing, collaborating, support, and accountability.

A pervasive emphasis on the educator as an individual rather than a team member is further seen in SoTL. While SoTL is commendable for its goal of addressing problematic or challenging issues in the classroom through critical review and enquiry, it focuses an individual teacher on his/her own individual classroom rather than promoting a more universal initiative within the grade level or school community. Like continuous, lifelong learning, a teacher’s engagement in SoTL is an independent venture is doesn’t foster a professional learning community without opportunities for teachers to share their values and ideas. School administrators must provide educators with ‘the autonomy, the opportunity, and the time to meet that they need to decide about improving teaching and learning.’ (Roberts, 2009). It is important to note that even with these opportunities in place, staff may feel resistant to opening up and will need time to develop trust and security before they are able to discuss, share, and collaborate in meaningful ways.

I believe fully committing to one’s role as a professional teacher requires letting go of the usual focus on individual teaching and prioritizing universal learning within the school community. A teacher who is part of a PLC is taking her individual knowledge, skills, learning experiences, and ideas and adding them to the collective expertise of the staff. Through collaboration and discussion, the group can transform and multiply the strengths of individual teachers to create a super power that can impact student learning with greater strength on a larger scale.

Center for Engaged Learning (Producer). (2013, August 16). Scholarship of Teaching and Learning vs. Scholarly Teaching [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eedxoj1CPnk

Costa, A. (2008). Teachers as continuous learners. Teachers Matter, 8-10.  PDF retrieved from http://www.escofcentralohio.org/Achievement/Documents/Teachers_as_Continuous_Learners.pdf

DuFour, R. (2004). What is a “Professional Learning Community?” Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6-11.  PDF retrieved from http://www.allthingsplc.info/files/uploads/DuFourWhatIsAProfessionalLearningCommunity.pdf

Haigh, N. (2010). The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning: A practical introduction and critique. Auckland, NZ.  PDF retrieved from https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/download/ng/file/group-4/the-scholarship-of-teaching–learning—a-practical-introduction-and-critique.pdf

Helterbran, V. R. (2005). Lifelong learning: A stratagem for new teachers. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 9(4), 250-254. Retrieved from http://rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/6jan3151z5.htm

Roberts, S. & Pruitt, E. Z. (2009). The Professional Learning Community: An overview (Chapter 1). In Schools as professional learning communities: Collaborative activities and strategies for professional development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, pp. 1-25.  PDF retrieved from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/27683_Roberts_Chapter_1.pdf

Soni, S. (2012). Lifelong learning – Education and training. FIG Working Week 2012, Rome, Italy.  PDF retrieved from https://www.fig.net/pub/fig2012/papers/ts05i/TS05I_soni_5945.pdf

EDS 111

Reflection and Metacognition for Effective Teaching

ejournal 7 / module 3d

Critical reflection and metacognition puts teachers in a position to make pivotal changes to their practices to ensure improvement over time, rather than stagnation. When a teacher takes accountability for her instruction styles, though process, and application, she constructs experiential knowledge that not only improves her effectiveness in the classroom, but also her professionalism.

After reading the ‘level 1’ routine reflection example from Harrison’s work, I was inspired to give critical reflection a try. I imagine this critical reflection would appear in my own teaching journal to be used for personal reference or even, as Harrison notes, as part of a professional portfolio used to indicate my competence to future employers. Most people reportedly chose to record negative critical moments, so I attempted to write about a positive incident.

A few weeks ago, my class of kindergarteners (age 4) was ready to write their first sentence. We had previously learned the 42 basic phonic sounds, how to form letters, some sight words, and discussed basic grammar (capital letters start sentences, period or other punctuation marks end them).   In the past, I have noticed some students struggle to pull together the individual pieces of information they know (about phonics, grammar, letter formation) to see the bigger picture of it all – that this knowledge they have is all they need to write their own sentences about anything they can imagine.

Anticipating that some of the weaker students would struggle, I wanted to build student confidence before we started any writing. As a group, we discussed the picture prompt (a hen sitting on a nest). I asked students to tell me what they could see in the picture. I called on students to share their thoughts, such as ‘I see a hen.’ I elicited further information, asking what the hen was doing, how she felt, and whom she was with. Many students raised their hands and were eager to speak. Some students only listened, and I should have asked them if they wanted to add anything to what was already said. Sometimes in the midst of teaching, I focus too much on the general flow and vibe of the class, but I don’t want to leave the quieter, more introverted students without a voice in our discussion. I have been thinking about compiling a can of Popsicle sticks with each student’s name. To ensure fairness in participation and attention, as well as to keep students engaged, I would pull out a name stick, call on that student, and then return the stick to the can before shaking it up again.

As the students shared thoughts about the picture, I wrote down key words on the whiteboard (such as egg, nest, chick, happy). I asked students to help me sound out the words. We decided on a topic sentence verbally, and then transferred it to writing on the board. I asked students to guide me on how to start. Students told me that I needed a capital letter to start, but did not mention anything about spaces between words or punctuation marks. I wanted to demonstrate why we make spaces and punctuation marks, so I wrote the sentence as the student instructed, with a capital letter but no spaces or punctuation: ‘Thehensitsonhernest’. The students realized this wasn’t the correct way to write, and thought it was terribly funny that I had done it this way. I asked them to read the sentence but they struggled to decipher where one word ended and another began. I explained that this confusion is exactly what is avoided by making a space between words. I asked students to practice making one finger space between the end of one word and the start of another. I rewrote the sentence on the board with proper spacing and punctuation. However, this is another teaching moment that I feel would have been improved if I had called the students to the board to write the sentence one word at a time. Students could have further discussed and practiced letter formation, spacing, and spelling simultaneously. I felt pressed for time and wanted to move on to the bookwork, so I forwent the activity. Sometimes I feel more compelled to meet my own schedule than take advantage of classroom opportunities. But so what if spent 10 extra minutes writing together? Those ten minutes writing as a group could have been very helpful for some students.

Finally, I asked the students to open their books and do their best to copy the sentence from the board, keeping spaces between words in mind. In circling the room, I saw that some students’ letters were hovering above the guideline rather than resting on it. I explained that we don’t want balloon letters that are floating up above the line, but letters that sit like birds on a telephone wire. The children seemed to appreciate the novelty of the similes and made corrections to their work as needed. In general, I feel the students are more eager and motivated when the class atmosphere is jovial and playful. I want students to feel that yes, this task requires effort and concentration, but it’s quite fun when we’re all working together. We wrote two more sentences together, working collaboratively from the board then copying the work to their books.

Upon completing the writing, most students seemed content and I was outright proud. I think the students felt accomplished and happy to hear me say how proud I was of their hard work and focus. I wanted the kids to feel they had achieved a great feat, because they did! This writing task was longer than anything else my students had done, and they met the challenge in earnest and without complaint. My co-teacher and I were able to quickly identify those students that needed additional support and students who felt uncertain about how to proceed raised their hands for guidance. For the next writing lesson, I think some students will be ready to write more on their own.

After writing this reflection, I can imagine how sharing it with a mentor would be powerful starting point for a meaningful conversation about the under workings of what was going on in the classroom. Some of my concerns and weaknesses in the lesson (such as not calling the children to the board to write) would have universal application to other lessons in which I might similarly sacrifice a quality activity for the sake of timeliness. Discussing these issues with a mentor would help me weigh the benefits and consequences and identify a goal for improvement (e.g. grasp on to teachable moments, even if that means you are a little rushed in tomorrow’s lessons. Students witnessing your engagement and creativity in a lesson will react more to your presence than getting the task completed). Furthermore, while I feel my teaching experience was positive overall, there are numerous other ways in which the lesson could have been conducted successfully. A more experienced colleague or mentor could help me explore new approaches to improve my teaching.

Harrison, J. (2012). Professional learning and the reflective practitioner (Chapter 1). In Dymoke, S. (ed) Reflective Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School (2nd ed.). London: SAGE, 6-43.  PDF retrieved from http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/49808_02_Dymoke_Ch_01.pdf

EDS 111

(Lack of) Creativity in Schools

ejournal 6 / module 3c

What is interesting about the discussion of creative teachers and teaching for creativity is that the overwhelming majority of school curricula and structures obstruct and discourage creativity. School curricula are designed to standardize and regulate student progress on a prescribed developmental education path. At age five, students should be showing greater ability in representing ideas and thoughts using words and pictures. At ten, students should be thinking more abstractly and able to employ metaphors and work with fractions. With specific achievement goals in mind, large class sizes, and great variation in student ability, teachers may focus on proficient generic performance standards. How does creativity fit in when the educational establishment has fixed expectations?

As noted by Sternberg, creative individuals don’t permit their creativity to be stifled by an unsupportive environment and teachers are at liberty to interpret the curriculum and apply it in creative ways in the classroom. Still, schools should be fostering creativity in their students and staff through design, flexibility in scheduling, and forums. By transforming the learning space to be more open, flowing, and versatile, students and staff can interact and think more creatively. Re-imagine a classroom without rows of little desks, a blackboard in the front and a coatroom in the back. I don’t mean schools need to fund gimmicky, futuristic architecture, but the factory-style approach to education is dated and doesn’t promote the ideals and creative needs of the next generation. The school environment should reflect the values of innovation, originality, and creativity that society hopes for (but usually doesn’t see). Who is looking for the next generation of business leaders, inventors, and politicians to be really good at following directions and raising their hands? I would hope no one, and that it is clear to see that fostering innovation and creativity in schools propels society forward.

Image result for innovative school outdoor space

I think there is a lot to be said for block scheduling in high school, in which a student takes two or three courses intensely for one term, and two or three different courses intently for the next term. Students and teachers alike are able to probe deeper in the content area and have greater opportunity for long-term and intensive projects and research. Such scheduling allows for more creative assignments, as a lot more can be achieved in a two-and-a-half hour class versus a fifty-minute class. Especially with older students, block scheduling can be very effective in promoting creativity in teachers, who can in turn inspire their students. Student interest can have greater play in directing class activities and instruction.

Furthermore, creative and original thinking could be fostered through open forums and workshops. In my high school, we had a monthly forum featuring local professionals debating a controversial issue. Students attended (some out of enjoyment and others for extra credit) and teachers wanted to be there because the discussions were lively and interesting. Topics could be local or global, ranging from eating local, seasonal food to immigration policy to modern-day slavery. Workshops could be another effective way in getting students involved in new and diverse skill sets and ways of thinking. Workshops could feature skills and subjects not offered as school courses and allow students (and teachers) to explore new interests, such as baking or computer coding. Local businesses could host or sponsor one-time introductory workshops.

These changes do not have to be made overnight. They could be enacted as opportunities for shifts in budget or the development professional relationships present themselves. My point is schools should be actively seeking these changes for the sake of developing creativity in students and staff.  Through the development of a more creative environment, staff can inspire each other and students to explore innovative and original interpretations of the curriculum.

EDS 111

Effective Teaching Skills

ejournal 5 / module 3b

I enjoyed the relevance and applicability of the information provided in Module 3b. We have been studying the teaching skills necessary for effective teaching. Five areas were emphasized:

            Instructional Planning Skills

            Classroom Management Skills

            Motivational Skills

            Interpersonal Skills

            Working Effectively with Diverse learners

At first glance, the breadth of knowledge presented can seem overwhelming. But rather than juggling the five skill sets individually (like some sort of frantic clown), the skills are interrelated and teachers can employ all of these skills quite naturally. For example, motivational strategies such as clearly expressing student expectations for success and offering feedback and encouragement are also strategies necessary for working with diverse learners. This overlap of strategies between skill sets indicates how closely linked they are and why they have such a significant impact on effective teaching when employed collectively.

Effective teachers need to demonstrate all of the above skills in their classrooms, lesson planning, and student relationships, but I would argue that most teachers who truly enjoy working with young people are talented in areas of motivation and interpersonal skills. Connecting with students and wanting them to do well seem like very basic expectations for teachers, but maybe I am just revealing my naivety. I must have been very lucky as a student (or just an intrinsically-motivated goody two-shoes), because I always felt a sense of personal responsibility to meeting my teachers’ expectations. In striving to please my teachers, I performed well in school and learned how to transfer and apply classroom skills and knowledge to other areas of my life.

My favorite teacher was Mr. O. He was funny, challenging, a little bit intimidating (if a student was acting out, Mr. O would play up his own theatrics – perhaps not the most professional, but effective nonetheless), and related lessons not only to student interests, but his own as well. As sixth graders, we students were expected to learn how to write research papers as part of the English curriculum. Mr. O was a bit of music fanatic (which we all knew because he made time to talk to us!); he owned literally thousands of records and cds spanning all imaginable genres. Mr. O played into his own immense music knowledge and asked us each to write down our favorite musician. I chose Michael Jackson. Mr. O came back to each of us with a different musician who preceded and influenced the work of our expressed favorite musician. So while Michael Jackson was my favorite artist, I did a research paper on Frankie Lymon. Some 15 years later, I vividly remember the unit on research papers and the smooth sounds of Frankie Lymon because of Mr. O’s interpersonal skills in building positive teacher-student relationships.  I felt a great deal of respect for my teacher because he took the time to get to know me, invested in my well-being, and believed I could succeed.

Another memory I have from my days learning from Mr. O demonstrates his motivational skills.  At my middle school, the English ‘room’ was an open common space defined by wall dividers. We would spend weeks writing a paper or essay, with drafts and revisions submitted for feedback along the way.  On the Mondays after a final submission was due, I recall the excitement of stretching up on my tiptoes to peer over the divider from the hallway into the commons room. Mr. O would always scrawl the top five scores on the board and we all hoped to see our names featured as the author of one of the top papers.  My teacher used feedback, scaffolding, and socialized motivation to motivate learning in his students.

While motivational and interpersonal skills may be more intuitive, I believe instructional planning, classroom management, and working with diverse learners are the skills that require much more effort and experience before they can be mastered. To be perfectly honest, these are the skills I am focusing on improving during my studies in the PTC program.  Since starting the program a year ago, I feel capable in my instructional planning and classroom management skills because I have a much better understanding of why to use certain techniques and what my actions may (or may not) be indicating about my values.

EDS 111

A Teacher’s Knowledge Base

ejournal 4 / module 3a

This week we read about Shulman’s seven categories of teaching knowledge base. Shulman argued that current assessment of teacher readiness relies too heavily on the assessment of ‘research-approved’ techniques and strategies. The extent to which teachers demonstrate those teaching strategies and classroom processes that correlate to student achievement are not necessarily the most effective or appropriate across all subjects and levels. For example, education students may be encouraged to use (and later assessed on) instructional technology in the classroom. However, a teacher who opts to conduct a lesson without advanced technology did not necessarily have an inferior lesson. There is no ‘magic formula’ for creating a perfect lesson and many factors such as content complexity, student ability, and lesson objectives influence how a teacher will develop and justify her lesson.

Shulman further develops his argument by outlining seven essential categories of a teaching knowledge base. In order for a novice teacher to effectively guide appropriate learning activities and enhance lessons with relevant principles and strategies and ultimately evolve into an effective educator, she must first have a knowledge base built on:

– Content knowledge e.g. English grammar, speech, composition

– General pedagogical knowledge e.g. the effectiveness of constructive positive feedback to motivate further learning

– Curriculum knowledge e.g. the Jolly Phonics or Scholastic curriculum for reading and writing in kindergarten

Pedagogical content knowledge e.g. the use of instructional scaffolding to guide students from amateur level to that of a novice; modeling how to read individual letter sounds then repeating them aloud for the child, allowing him to focus on hearing the sounds and blending them together

– Knowledge of learners e.g. understanding and responding to the individual learning styles, individual needs, and challenges of the class

– Knowledge of educational contexts e.g. how pairs of students, small groups, and whole-class activities function differently; the hierarchy of school governance

– Knowledge of educational ends, purposes, values, and their philosophical and historical grounds e.g. understanding why we teach, the importance of education for society as a whole

So where does all of this knowledge come from? Shulman identifies four sources of the teaching knowledge base as

  • Scholarship in content discipline covering not only the actual skills or concepts but also its relevance and justification as a subject matter. Knowing not only about the structure of cells, but also why biology is an important part of a student’s education.
  • Educational material and structures based within school policies, curriculum, rules, and governance. Teachers need to delve into
  • Formal educational scholarship in the form of research-based findings on learning, development and teaching to better define what is a good education? What theories are gaining support in the most current research about how we can teach more effectively?
  • Wisdom that comes from practice and experience

An extensive teaching knowledge base makes pedagogical reasoning possible. Pedagogical reasoning is teacher’s process of understanding an idea, dissecting it into manageable concepts, restructuring it to appeal and relate to students, guiding learning opportunities and evaluating their effectiveness through thoughtful reflection. Both teacher and student should gain insight from the process and the teacher will be able to act more effectively in the future by reviewing the successes and shortcomings (for teacher and students) of the experience.

Shulman emphasizes that the teaching knowledge based is not fixed. Instead, it is always evolving and continues to be improved upon through further definition, description, and review. Just reflect for a moment on the one-room schoolhouse of 100 years ago. A teacher would have had vast general knowledge but likely lacked specific expertise and pedagogical training. It was a fake-it-till-you-make-it situation in which teachers developed classroom management techniques through trial-and-error and imitation of their own classroom experience as students. A child’s education would vary greatly depending on the nature and education of whatever teacher happened to be assigned to the local schoolhouse. Teaching today is more standardized and teachers must adhere to strict guidelines and policies both in and out of the classroom. The quality of education has certainly made significant progress, but there is much more to be done in terms of overhauling in the school system and further development and refinement of teacher expectations and guidelines, The knowledge base Shulman describes can serve as the base on which later reform can be built.

The standardization of the teaching profession creates more uniform quality and competence in the workforce, but there can certainly be too much standardization. Extensive across-the-board teaching requirements and binding classroom policies can create a constricting red tape that limits teacher creativity and stifles what should be an organic and authentic exchange of knowledge between teacher and student.

I personally think Shulman’s knowledge base would be better developed if it were further defined by subject area and student level. Teachers benefit from open discourse and sharing of ideas and strategies. They can support and advise one another for a stronger teaching community. I do believe that guidelines for the most effective approach for teaching primary English should be discussed and encouraged. They should also differ from guidelines for secondary science. Would this sort of regulation be most appropriate and impactful at a school level rather than a community or national level? For example, teachers could meet by department to discuss theories, principles, and strategies that are most useful and effective in the classroom. Observation, feedback, and reflection could inform on necessary adjustments. Communication within departments should be routine and encouraged. I think all schools would benefit from this kind of collaboration.

EDS 111

Teacher Professionalism

ejournal 3 / module 2

text2mindmapTeacher Professionalism Text 2 Mind Map

I think this week’s topic, what does it mean to be a professional teacher? is difficult to answer. My original definition related mostly to what an individual teacher had to do to be a genuine educator, such as knowledge of teaching methods and principles, understanding of cognitive development, and classroom management and assessment skills. I now realize that so many more factors that play into an evolving definition of professionalism. Some of the points I had not previously considered but now think are very important to connect to teacher professionalism are:

  1. Collaboration, collective autonomy, social capital

A professional teacher must be able to work with students, parents, other teachers, community members, and stakeholders for a common goal that transcends classroom education. A professional teacher recognizes that her work impacts each student’s future opportunities, motivations, and expectations.

  1. State Interference

Schools across the world are regulated by state mandated national curriculum, assessment measures, and achievement goals. Public education relies on state funding and so must comply with the state’s standards and definitions of professionalism. I am working in Thailand and have had to jump through several hoops to meet professional teaching standards. That’s my understanding of professional mandate.

  1. Ongoing professional development, improving one’s craft

As the definition of teacher professionalism is varied and continues to evolve, teachers must keep current on the latest trends, debates, and research in education. A teacher should assess her own strengths and weaknesses and seek ways to streamline her skills.  This reflection will help a teacher improve her craft year upon year.