Final Reflection

Over the course of this semester, my Human Abilities and Learning class has challenged me to really consider what it takes to effectively teach a class. When I first started this class I had a pretty good image in my mind about what being a good teacher means. That idea hasn’t changed, but now I have a better understanding of what it takes to achieve that level and what steps need to be taken in order to have a fulfilling lesson. I’ve realized that the behaviors and mind sets of the students play a big role in the classroom as well. If a student isn’t taking in the material you are teaching, it is up to me to find out whether the student has a hard time learning it or if they feel unmotivated to do so. Looking a the Wisconsin Standards for Teaching, this class has really helped me with learning how to teach a class effectively. I learned how a teach has to thoroughly plan for instruction before starting a lesson and how detail you have to be in order for it to relay back to the original goal. Instructional strategies play a big role in helping students to adopt critical thinking and problem solving skills. All of these were covered in great detail and really helped me to think of new ways to assist future students. Perhaps most importantly, I have now learned that goal is the center point at which you craft your lesson around as it is the most essential piece that brings it all together.

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Thanks to this blog, I now have a firm ground to base my digital identity on and I’ve had a great time posting my ideas. In the future, I hope to continue blogging and refining my materials for when I’m looking to teach in the near future. Hopefully, this blog will help to improve my odds looking for a job, but it was fun to do this either way. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful time.

What’s My Motivation?

We ask this question every time we find ourselves having to accomplish a task set before us. Why am I doing this and why should I care? For many students this is firm question in their minds when they come to school and wonder why they have to sit through class, do homework, or finish a project. In many ways, students today feel unmotivated to excel in school because they can’t find a reason why it would interest them to put so much work into something that only amounts to a letter grade. Its a tough aspect of teaching to deal with as this factor is something the teacher can not directly control, but is integral for making a lesson successful. In order for students to learn, they must put in the effort to pay attention to what the teacher is teaching and actively participate in the lesson to take any information out of it. Thus, getting your students do want to do those things and do a good job at them is very important because no student will be able to learn anything if they do not have the motivation to do so. Even the most well crafted and detailed lessons will completely fail if the students are not at all interested into taking anything from it. It is the teacher’s responsibility to try to make his or her lessons as attention grabbing as possible for their students, but even so they can only hope to that the students willingly pay attention and that can be hard for some students. I really want to delve in to this topic because it is an aspect of teaching that a lot of instructors have trouble with, but those who master motivating their students have a much easier time connecting their students to their lesson and will be wildly more successful in their lessons.

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First, as a teacher we must come to understand what our students may be motivated by in order to make our lessons feel fulfilling to them. In an article from the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching call Motivating Students highlights the different incentives students are motivated and strategies for addressing them. This also relate back to our textbooks as it goes into intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivates are tailored to individual students as it gives them great personal reward. A good example is when a student feels that math really makes sense to them or when a student is genuinely interested in reading novels. A person feels a sense of accomplishment because the activity is fulfilling to them. Teachers help students to build on these motivations so that they find what truly interests them. This could require you as the teacher to get to know your students and this can be quite a slow to accomplish. Extrinsic motivators work by having an outside incentive the student desires and pushes them to work harder in order to obtain it. This could involve a student trying to get exemplary grades in order to get a scholarship or a teacher rewarding her students with no homework for doing well on their exams. They can be quick ways of gaining students attention to a task that you are presenting to them. These motivations don’t last however, as once they are obtained the student no longer feels interested in the lesson. Both motivations have their strengths and weaknesses, but they are worth understanding as a teacher in order to connect what you want out of your students and what students want out of your lessons.

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The next step is to craft a lesson that incorporates the motivations of then students and to inspire interest in the material that you are presenting. In class, we talked about backwards design and how it can be used to construct lessons by starting where the lesson ends. In an article by the Tasmanian Department of Education, Principles of Backwards Design outlines that you start with the end goal of the lesson, define what evidence that the goal is being achieved and then working out how that it is achieved. It is quite strange, but establishing what you want your students to learn and it relates to them is the foundation for which your lesson is built on. Something to also consider is how you plan on incorporating learner-centered strategies in classes. By getting your students more involved in the concepts and relating them back to the students in a practical way. In an article by the Committee on Academic Programs and Teaching, it details how you can create a learner-centered environment so that students are motivated through the interest that you as the teacher fosters. In understanding how to get your students attention and crafting exciting, interactive can motivate them to perform at their best. Motivation can mean the world in performing a challenge and in school, even more so.

Articles:

https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/motivating-students/

https://www.wku.edu/library/dlps/infolit/documents/designing_lesson_plans_using_backward_design.pdf

http://cet.usc.edu/resources/teaching_learning/docs/LearnerCentered_Resource_final.pdf

Technology in the Classroom

As time moves forward, teaching evolves to incorporate new technologies and modern skills in order for students for students to function in an ever advancing society. This integration can take the form of using interactive smart-boards, having more assignments done digitally, or having laptops in class to augment the lesson. If anything, technology should be more encouraged to be used in and outside of class since new generations of students have grown up being able to use modern forms of it. If our classes begin to fall behind on modern applications of technology that that would leave students unable to use the resources at their disposal. Additionally, technology can be used as a useful tool for students struggling with outside school work. An example would be that if you introduce online homework, then students could get instant feedback on questions that they missed, find out why they got them wrong, and then instantly retry the problem. This reinforces how assignments are not about whether you get the answer right or wrong like on a worksheet, but how can you learn from your mistakes and have another shot at the problem. Teachers would also be benefited from this advancement at well, as getting results from quizzes and assignments would happen automatically so that they would have more time to work on lessons. Below is a video by a Youtuber call CGP Grey who has worked in education and a few ideas of how the future of education may look like.

Though technology a lot of benefits, there are noticeable issues that really pose a problem. One issue is that it can be a distracting element in the classroom. From my personal experience in a classroom that was entirely paperless, students on their laptops can be easily distracted. Some students would be playing games, on social media, or looking on websites when they should be listening to the teacher. It gets to the point where the teacher must monitor the students to make sure they are following along and that can be an unnecessary burden on the instructor. Another pitfall that comes with technology is the reality that not all students have the same easy access to technology. Highlighted in the article “Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor”, it stresses how those in lower income areas don’t have the opportunities to use technologies in their schools due to their background. This will lead to a polarizing division between those who have learned to use new resources and those who haven’t. It will be some time before these issues find a workable solution, but I would still argue that technology needs to be incorporated in the classroom more than ever. Teaching is just as evolving as our devices and it needs to progress in order to stay relevant to more technologically savvy students.

Article: Digital Divide

Plans for Instruction

Instructing a class isn’t something that a teacher does of the top of their head, it requires meticulous planning in order to successfully pass on knowledge to a younger generation. One day, I hope to be a chemistry teacher and that means I’ll have to craft my lessons so that my students will be able to see first hand how the chemistry concepts learned in class apply in the laboratory. However, students vary in their reception to the material as they have different levels of motivation and ways of learning. Introducing students to concepts in an exciting way can draw a students interest for the subject. An example would be performing demonstrations of chemical reactions in class to link those experiences to the overall class. By drawing interest, it makes it easier for students to retain lessons and perform well on assessments. Though these assessments shouldn’t be the objective, they are still an important part of assisting students. Using formative assessments between lessons can help me to see where the students are achieving and lacking in order to make adjustments to the lessons accommodate the overall class. Small scale quizzes once a week will incentivize students to keep up with the materials while organized labs make up the practical assessment where students execute what they’ve learned.

Though what ties all of these parts of a lesson together is the goal the lesson is working towards. Having a set goal organizes what the students learn and how it builds to mastery and overall understanding. Backwards design can be a great tool in this aspect as you take the lesson on in steps. I made my own lesson plan using this method, of which the link is down below. It was a great help to structure how a lesson that centers around a set goal. First, setting up a goal for the lesson an establishing the questions you expect your students to answer. Then, look at the evidence that signals the students are taking the lesson well. Finally, fill in the tasks that challenge your students to achieve the goals you set for them. It may be odd to start at the end goal, but having it makes all the parts to your lesson fall into place.

sample-backwards-lesson-plan

Behavioral vs. Cognative

When looking at how humans learn what they do, we can view them from two distinct perspectives. Cognitive learning is all about the fundamentals of bringing in new knowledge, retaining that information, and apply it to future problems and situations. It’s all about how we come to remember what we do, and how best to make an event or piece of information memorable. Behavioral works a bit differently as learning is viewed as a change in behavior by using external stimuli. This can be seen when you teach someone through conditioning and suggested actions. One example would be if you wanted to keep students from interfering with other students’ work, so you associate the action with a punishment to influence them no to do the negative action. Both are very important in teaching and how they apply to the student is a crucial part of their learning experience. However these concepts come with weaknesses that must be addressed. When it comes to cognitive learning, no student will learn if they don’t want to. Any information that you try to teach your class is worthless if the students are not attentively taking it in or do not care to learn what is being presented. Were as in behavioral, you may encounter active resistance to the conditioning you are trying to set and this leaves you in the same place as before with a student continuing to do a negative action and no motivation to stop it.

Overall, I see myself as having a more cognitive view of learning. A teacher should give examples of strategies that have been implemented in a problem so students can remember how to execute the strategy more clearly. They have to make their lessons memorable to make them last in their students’ heads. A student has the obligation to be active in their learning and should know that they are expected to apply this information in future problems. What I consider an effective lesson is one that assists in distinguishing and organizing information so that it can be easily understood and recall. When I teach a class, I would walk through examples to give students a better understanding of the material and reflect each lesson on their real lives to make the class more intriguing. I would also encourage my students to test their knowledge because it helps to incentives the student use that information rather than just obtaining it. To remember your lessons is the ultimate goal of any class and hopefully remembering what you taught your students will help them in future situations. Here’s a video to help you make your studies more memorable in the future.

Learning Disabilities

When you become a teacher, you may think that just one explanation of a piece of content is enough for the entire class to understand that information and master it. Reality isn’t that simple because some students may hear your explanation and understand it right away, but others are still lost or can’t completely grasp the information presented to them. Student learn at different speeds, processes and levels that can fracture a classroom into your high performing students and those who perform poorly. I isn’t entirely the students fault if they don’t understand something and even with their best effort put forth, some students can’t keep up. This is a key difference that teachers must face in their future careers and its one that a lot struggle with. Learning disabilities can affect how much a student can pay attention to a subject, take in the information, and understand it. You can get more specific forms of learning disabilities from the video below.

When you are a teacher, these differences can be quite apparent when you see a student needing significantly more effort to complete a task than others or see a student consistently underperform in certain area. It is imperative that we recognize these students as quickly as possible in order to better help them in their tasks. We can first help them find strategies to help them learn like if they have trouble with reading comprehension, help them sound out words and piece them together. Sometimes even a little more time to perform an assignment can give them the freedom to go at their own thinking pace and not be anxious of getting it done. Though, in extreme cases of learning disabilities, we must inform the school and the parents to give the student what they need. Overall, it is our responsibility to recognize how differently student learn in order for none to be left behind because if this keeps up, these students have less of a chance to be successful outside of school.

Developing Knowledge

Change is one of the most crucial parts of life itself. It helps us to grow and evolve in order to conquer new problems that face you. Cognitive development is the change that occurs as you get try to form new ideas from experiences and expand on your understanding of the world around you. Everyone goes through this process from the day we are born to the day we die. Not even a year old and babies are already trying to gather new information by touching, grabbing, and fiddling with things in order to know more about them. This is one of the stages of development described in Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s theory on how children form more complex thought processes. His theory can be divided into four stages called sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. Sensorimotor occurs when you are a baby and you go down the line as you grow into more logical and complex systems explained further in the video below created by a YouTube channel called CrashCourse. The only problem with this theory is that it is more complex than just getting older and levels of development can be a spectrum rather than just groups.

Another theory that can gleam insight into cognitive development is Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory in which children learn through their social interactions with their friends and their more knowledgeable elders. It postulates that kids learn through interactions around them and we adults help them to understand new ideas through our support. Basically, we are teaching them how to form methods of learning and understanding. Though there are gaps in this theory as well in which some kids can do a variety of things before are formally taught and in a lot of ways. Even so, it gives us a good idea of what we need to do in order to foster learning habits in our youth so that we can give the best chance to succeed.  We do this through tools called scaffolding and assisted learning. Scaffolding is method in which students build on prior knowledge in order to learn more efficiently like providing examples or linking to something the student has already mastered. Assisted teaching, on the other hand, is a more personal way of helping the student if they don’t understand something by giving them clues, hints, and clarifications in order for the student to eventually pick it up themselves and do it on their own.

One more thing I’d like to talk about is the role of the parents in a child’s development. How children are raised is a very crucial part in their development as it can influence their perspective and their understanding on different experiences. The child may adopt how their parents handle problems or can learn through the dynamics of their interaction. A child could adopt a more rebellious way of thinking in response to a stern parental figure or another can have a greater respect for authority if introduced to the same parenting. A lot of kids respond differently, but I’d like to share from my experience with my parents. They were very permissive in their parenting and normally let me keep to myself, but they were strict when I need a heavy hand. Through them, I’ve learned how to refine my interactions with others and formed my own methods of solving problems through facing them head on instead of being afraid of them. I hope you’ve benefited from this and leave a comment to express your thoughts.

Practice, Research, and Homework

In a classroom, the teacher must be as knowledgeable as possible in order to instruct there class efficiently and productively. In order to gain knowledge on how best to teach their classes, teachers must gain both experience through practice and research from outside sources. Practice and research are very important parts of your refinement as a teacher as they give someone insight into how they can improve their endeavors to educate the class. Practice is to learn from one’s own experiences, seeing what works and what doesn’t work from their point of view and correcting themselves appropriately. In a lot of fields, practice is the best way to get better at something like in sports, music, videogames, and more. The only downside is that it takes a lot of time and effort to achieve any measurable results.

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Research, on the other hand, is a tool in which you gather information from the experiences of others and apply it to you own situation. Learning through this medium is in many ways faster than practice as someone else has already taken the time and effort to gather this information for others to benefit from. Though, the downside of this is that research may not universally apply to everyone. An example would be if research suggests that this way of teaching works is a lot of classrooms, but when you try it in your class, it doesn’t work at all. Just because a method or action worked in this situation doesn’t mean that it will automatically in other similar incidences. That is why practice and research mesh so well together, it gives one insight in two ways that compensate each other. Research can help fill in the gaps from your own experiences any vice versa. A good teacher needs both in order to become a better teacher.

Homework, in my personal opinion, isn’t as good of a tool to help kids as most might believe. Thinking about this debate between parents and their kid’s teacher, I think it is an opportunity to take a different approach to helping kids learn the material. If all after school work was what you hadn’t completed in class, than it gives the student time to work at their own pace and have more free time on their hands. I can see were the parents are coming from though. If students didn’t have homework, than how would they be able to help their kid’s things they don’t understand? Though, we have to remember that it the students’ responsibility to learn from the class as much as it is the teachers’ responsibility to teach it. This way, students can learn mostly in class without the extra burden outside work places on them. Some parents can even be too involved with students’ homework and make it their responsibility. This can be addressed further in an article by Judith Y. Locke called “Over parenting and Homework: the Student’s Task, but Everyone’s Responsibility”. The link is down below. Overall, there is reason behind both sides, but I think no homework and everything in class is worth a try.

 Parenting and Homework

Who is am

My name is Samuel Newton and in the future I hope to be a secondary school chemistry teacher. For most people, chemistry is a complicated subject that most students tend to shy away from because of how difficult it is to grasp some of its concepts. Even I have had troubles learning and applying it in class when I just couldn’t wrap head around the steps to figure out the mechanics of a chemical equation. I would even sometimes dread going through my assignment, the fear of failure would keep me from trying to enjoy what I was learning. However, my chemistry teacher during my junior year was able to help us with these obstacles by working through example problems every time we covered some area that was new to us. I was able to see how rules and procedure were acted out when trying to figure out whether or not a reaction would work or naming compunds when given a picture of them. He took the time to help us in any way we need and was able to get us to work through our problems in group discussions. Also, understanding that chemistry was a difficult subject for most students, when he gave us our tests back he allowed us to make up for the things we missed so as to understand why we got the wrong answer. He inspired me because he made learning chemistry and find interest in the field instead of just getting us to pass the class. An example of a poor way to teach is from that clip from the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, in which the economics teacher just bored his students to death as he not only made what he was saying sound boring, but also didn’t recognize how badly the class wasn’t paying attention. He even answered his own questions when the class didn’t answer. Like my chemistry teacher, I want to help people through there problems and allowing them to make up for there mistakes is how I wish to teach student one day as well. To make learning fun and inspirational instead of a burden or worse a fear, is what I believe a good teacher should do. Also, take a look at the video below by Extra Credit. They mostly tackle subject about games and game development, but in this video they address a very interesting topic about education in the present day. I hope that this can give you some ideas to reflect on. Thank you very much.