Week 4

This is the first time I feel comfortable with an assignment. We are tasked with applying a theory-based teaching method into a daily class lesson and assessing its effectiveness. I am not a teacher, so I chose the option to watch one of the videos instead. I watched eight videos before finding the perfect one. Before I talk about the video, I must talk about the reading assignment. Ladison-Billings’ Culturally Relevant Pedagogy 2.0: a.k.a. the Remix (2014) was mind-blowing. I have never heard anyone connecting culture to pedagogy in this way. When I thought about different learning styles, my first thought was to consider cognitive abilities, not necessarily culture. That was always attached to socioeconomic structures and typically comes up when discussing gaps. Ladison-Billings contends that culture is the proverbial elephant in the room. While working with students from First Wave at the University of Wisconsin, Ladison-Billings discovered that African American students were deeply interested and motivated to become teachers when they could bring their culture with them. Similarly, the video Great Expectations (2005), part of the UK Department of Education series Teaching with Bayley, echoed the role of culture in learning. 

To summarize the video, Deborah Robinson is a middle school black English teacher to students the narrator describes as a mixed ability group. Ms. Robinson is introducing her students to a book where the protagonist is homeless. While reviewing the recorded class with the host, John Bayley, they discover that most of her black students seem uninterested in the subject. Bayley asks musician Paul Gabriel to look at the footage, and he suggests that the boys feel they already understand homelessness conditions and may not see a need to read about it. After brainstorming, the panel urged Ms. Robinson to include more culturally relevant questions to allow students to see homelessness from different perspectives.

Ms. Robinson uses direct instruction, a teacher-centered teaching style, throughout most of the video. Direct instruction is a simple, effective strategy used to clearly and unambiguously share information with the entire class. This method typically involves the practice of demonstration, guided practice, and feedback. Direct instruction is based on behaviorism and is probably one of the oldest teaching strategies because of its simplicity. Behaviorism’s primary driver is the association between the stimulus and the response. Behaviorist teaching strategies like direct instruction focus on changes in the observable behavior using positive and negative feedback. Ms. Robinson demonstrates this when asking questions. If the student gave a correct answer, Ms. Robinson responded with immediate praise. If the student did not provide a correct answer, Ms. Robinson would rephrase it or ask another student to assist until the question was answered correctly. All the information comes from the teacher, and the student is a passive participant in the learning process. Direct instruction is best for teaching specific concepts and skills. Assessing learning is more straightforward because of its behaviorist structure. The disadvantage of direct instruction is its restriction on teacher creativity and its failure to consider each student’s learning style and pace.

There is anecdotal evidence that teacher-centered instruction is not Ms. Robinson’s dominant method. During one interview scene, she voiced frustration with the lack of participation and feedback from the students. In another scene, she stated she usually spoke only 40 percent of the time, and the students contributed the remainder. In three scenes, Ms. Robinson practices student-centered teaching strategies. Her classroom was arranged for small groups, and there is active small group collaboration and role-playing. Both role play and small group collaboration have roots in Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory (1978). Vygotsky held that learning was done through social interaction. His assertion that the learner requires the assistance of a more knowledgeable other (MKO) to help him/her accomplish a task that he/she could not do on their own is the basis for the concept of apprenticeship and scaffolding. Collaborative learning and role-play develop oral communication and social interaction skills and promote empathy. These were the skills that Ms. Robinson appeared to be coaching from the students. During her introduction of the book, she randomly asked students about their ideas of the causes of homelessness. Ms. Robinson praised the ideas that were appropriate and redirected the ones that were not. In her second assignment, role play, she had one student play an interviewer and the other a homeless person. As anticipated, the answers were much more insightful.

The period between the book’s introduction and its questions about homelessness and the role-play exercise is where Mr. Gabriel intervenes. He suggested framing the activity through the lens of history and culture. The experience of being disadvantaged in a wealthy society allowed the black students to provide personal insight to the discussion of a book about a homeless man in a capital city. The role-play, in simpler terms, was an opportunity to explore the culture. The students who understood the struggle of the protagonist became MKO in the group discussion.

The idea that culture plays such a significant role in learning is honestly new to me. I have spent the last year or so trying to tie cognition to learning styles. I think that part of this is because most of the references that I have read during this program never add culture to the list of things that affect learning. The happy coincidence of watching this video after reading Ladison-Billings’ essay is the one best thing that I’ve gotten from this course so far. It puts learning theory in a different light. For example, behaviorism was a dominant strategy because early education was designed to teach religion and socioeconomic status. Our current academic assessment system is based on behaviorism. If you do well, you get an A, and you can go to a nice university.

Conversely, if you do not, your choices are limited. But Ladison-Billings argued a valid point, each generation responds differently. Brick and mortar school buildings and textbooks are no longer the only places students learn. In my last assignment, Beck (2001) argued that teachers tend to use teaching styles to teach them. This supports Ladison-Billings’ assertion that tradition overshadows culture.  In the video, Ms. Gabriel became frustrated that she could not get her students to respond to her lesson, but it was not until Mr. Bayley showed her that she needed to look at the problem differently. I would summarize this by saying that direct instruction is both appropriate and practical, but if it does not work, maybe another approach will.

References

Beck, C. (2001). Matching teaching strategies to learning style preferences. The Teacher Educator, 37(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/08878730109555276

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. https://books.google.com/books

Week 2

Video Summary

I reviewed the 2013 video, STEM Your School, as part of this assignment. The video highlighted the importance of integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in the curriculum beginning in Kindergarten through high school. The common thread throughout the video was connecting each subject with STEM. Each classroom was organized in small groups facilitated by co-teachers. There are examples of reflective teaching throughout the video. One teacher commented on using mistakes as teachable moments. This thought process can be incorporated in teaching students to see problems as opportunities to do things differently. I am not sure if I am supposed to write from one of the teachers’ perspectives in the video or a personal experience, so I choose the latter. Shortly before the COVID 19 pandemic canceled in-class instruction, I taught a class on branding. There is no formal testing, so homework is an important assessment tool. The homework was for each participant to create an idea for a brand and present it to the class the following week. In the next class, each participant presented their idea except one. He had the best design idea, but he said he did not feel comfortable with public speaking. I spent a few minutes trying to encourage him but soon found myself becoming angry with him. This is the one experience that I keep coming back to when I think about how it could have been handled differently.

How has reading about reflective practice affected you, and how has this changed your beliefs about the ways you teach?

In his book, Becoming a Reflective Practitioner, Johns (2017) advocates journaling as a dialogical tool for enabling reflection (22). This approach’s premise is that journaling forces the individual to deliberately set aside time and resources to reflect on his /her performance and be self-critical. This exercise allows for the examination of events, feelings, and preconceptions that accompany an action. Documenting them provides a history that can be interrogated and applied to making improvements in future efforts. My observation of the reading, so far, is that reflective teaching is the practice of learning by doing. It provides a safe space for teachers to look at a mistake or an unplanned event, learn from it, and apply that knowledge in the future. In an earlier chapter, Johns refers to this as a contradiction (p. 3). Instead of relying on memory, journaling creates a document that portrays the event and its reactions more accurately.

Some of the examples in the reading celebrate journaling as cathartic (p. 30). Reflection appears to have similar therapeutic benefits to mindfulness (p. 8), and journaling improves higher-level functions (p. 30). Journaling allows one to express ideas and thoughts that would otherwise remain locked away or forgotten. In the past, I have written notes to myself after teaching a class, but I never considered it journaling. After completing the reading assignment, I feel that journaling is something worth expanding. Aside from notes on things I may have left out or suggestions to improve things the next day, I could add information on how the class went. The reading has shown me that teaching should be more deliberative and less mechanical. Referring to the branding homework experience, I believe that journaling could have allowed me to document different ways to handle this situation.

What specific parts of the readings changed, or did not change, how you think about your teaching?

On the previous assignment, I identified the indicator, Observes self in the process of thinking, on the Larrivee Survey of Reflective Practice (2008).  Johns suggests that journaling provides a path to becoming more self-aware and attentive to one’s environment (p. 32). In another section, the author says that writing helps us break free of our habitual ways of seeing (p. 23). I believe that forming a journaling habit predisposes one to be more deliberate with one’s actions because they know that those actions will become part of a journal. In other words, if I know that I am going to make notes about my day, I will be more mindful of the things I do and assess them more frequently.

How will what you have learned change or not change the way you approach teaching?

The descriptive phase of The Models for Structured Reflection (MSR) states that response is linked to intent (p. 38). Having reviewed the video and reflected on my experience, I can make structural changes in the way I need to teach. The reflective phase of the MSR guides one to dissect decisions and their associated actions in the context of achieving a positive outcome. I believe that it is necessary to align desired results with intentions, meaning I should be more mindful of how I respond.  

Were you effective in terms of consequences for others and yourself?

Johns labels the conflict between the expectations of self and others’ expectations as influencing factors (p. 41). He attributed these factors to habits that are reinforced daily by tradition and practice (p. 43). A code of ethics and a positive attitude are essential social tools, but conflicts will always arise.  After completing the reading and reflecting on the homework incident, I feel that I was not effective in terms of consequences for others or myself.

What factors influenced your response?

The factors that influenced my response were the expectation from myself and others. My expectations in the homework incident were that the student would feel proud to show his classmates how great a job he did. His expectations of me, I would assume, was that I should have respected his desire for privacy. Johns points out that a conflict of values is the primary cause of contradictions (p. 41).

How were you feeling?

During the incident, my initial feelings were mixed. Initially, I felt proud of the participant but became angry after he refused my request.

How were others feeling?

The participant felt upset about the incident, and some of the other participants did as well.

How does this situation connect with previous experiences?

As a child, I had a problem with cluttering, and I didn’t particularly appreciate speaking in class. I should have connected this experience with the participants.

What would be the consequences of alternative actions for the students and yourself?

As the teacher, I feel that it is my responsibility to provide students with a safe, inclusive environment. This incident disturbs me because I failed to do that. The consequences of my actions were to cause emotional harm to a student.

What Factors might stop you from responding differently?

It is difficult to say what factor(s) would prevent me from acting differently. I have an instinctive propensity to control my environment, so that would be a place to start. I believe that I spend a lot of time running on autopilot, and journaling may be an excellent way to present my decision-making.

How do you now feel about the situation?

I feel that this was a good exercise. I have thought a lot about the student’s situation and have even considered trying to contact him to apologize. This is the first time that I have put my thoughts down on paper, and now I think that maybe I will reach out to him.

Hi. Hello. Olive water.

Hi, My name is Darwin. Just so you know, I’m not a technophile. This is my first attempt at blogging and it literally took me 5 days to create this monstrosity. I am doing this as part of my Med program so it’s going to be pretty bland. Hopefully by the time the class ends, I should have this thing figured out.

Still, welcome and feel free to comment.

Me

My name is Darwin

This blog is part of a MEd assignment on reflective teaching. I am not an educator so I cannot share any experiences or advice. Instead, I’ll be the observant notetaker.

Let’s see where this takes us.

Week 1

This is my first assignment.

I’m not a blogger. As you may notice, my page is quite spartan. Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” I have spent the better part of the week trying to figure out how to blog from information found on the NCU Community Forum. However, as time goes by, I will attempt to make this a more entertaining and pleasant place to visit. I wish that this could have been done in the Commons.

I am not a trained educator. I was a substitute teacher for six months, and for the past four years, I have taught small business development classes for entrepreneurs at my community center. The latter venture is the reason for obtaining my master’s in education. I want to be better at what I do, and I need to have the tools to achieve this. My goal is to teach business courses at a community college to reach a bigger audience. The courses in this program have been enlightening and challenging. I have three teachers in my family, and I finally understand some of their terms.

The first assignment is titled “Asking the hard questions.”  Having completed the Larrivee survey, I found that I do not have too many hard questions. Since I lack the experience and classroom training, this course will serve as a benchmark and provide a set of goals for me to achieve. Larrivee created an assessment tool for preservice and working teachers to determine their level of reflective teaching.  Reflective teaching is the practice of being responsible for providing each student the opportunity to be an active participant in their learning experience. Each student interaction is seen as a chance to assess how and if students are learning. Teaching strategies and methods are based on research and align with best practices.

Larrivee’s Survey of Reflective Practice is divided into pre-reflection, surface reflection, pedagogical reflection, and critical reflection. Pre-reflection is defined as the “knee-jerk” response to teaching. The teacher has not collected the appropriate experience or teaching strategies to connect theory with practice.

Surface reflection is the decision to be a better practitioner. Teaching strategies are more selectively engaged, and there is a shift towards being responsible for what is taught. Surface reflection comes from making mistakes and learning from them. It also comes from attempting new things to be more inclusive. Larrivee’s definition of surface reflection connotes a focus on methods and goals.

Pedagogical reflection is a progression of the practice of including the learner’s perspectives and ideas in instruction. It includes applying theory and research to teaching methods. Pedagogical reflection appears to be the Nirvana of Larrivee’s construct. At this level, teachers are more inclusive and sensitive to the various learning methods of their students. Goal setting is long-term and has social and ethical attachments.

I have chosen these three indicators to improve during this course: it operates on survival mode, supports beliefs only with evidence of experience, and observes self in the process of thinking. The tally of answers for each level was important in my choice of indicators. In level 1, Pre-reflection, a majority (8) of the responses were in the “sometimes” column. Operates in survival mode and enforces preset standards were the only “frequent” indicators. My answers on Larrivee’s survey are reflective of my teaching experience. Having no formal training in teaching, I contend that I practice at the pre-reflection level. Before taking this class, my only teaching strategy was survival. Making sure that the students were given the appropriate information was my primary goal. Reviewing my past performance as an instructor, most of my students were adults, and I felt they had an invested interest in learning about the subject.

Majority (9) of the answers in level 2, Surface Reflection, was “frequently.” I chose the indicator regarding supporting beliefs only with experience because I feel that it can hinder going forward. Before enrolling in this program, I was not aware of teaching theories or strategies. Having been enrolled in this program over the past few months, I see how vital learning theory is and how it affects curriculum, assessment, and instruction.

In level 3, Pedagogical reflection, indicators were almost evenly divided between frequently (6) and sometimes (7). I believe that my most recent time in front of a class was successful. I worked as a substitute teacher for a year, both in middle and high school, and I prefer teaching adult students. They appear to be more focused; classroom management was not an issue, and the students provided immediate feedback throughout the course.

The majority (9) of the indicators in level 4, Critical reflection, were in the “infrequent” column. Critical reflection is when the teacher uses what was learned in the past to set goals and actions for future instruction. I would argue that the reason for my answers is because of my lack of professional teacher training.  The process requires collecting data to improve teaching. Student assessments are an essential indicator of learning and how effective the teacher presented the information. The courses that I taught did not have formal grades. Students attended if they wanted, and in class, feedback was the only assessment we used. If a student had difficulty grasping a concept, we worked it out as a group, ensuring everyone understood the same thing. I chose the indicator “observe self in the process of thinking” because I believe that I have not done this well concerning teaching. My understanding of this indicator involves thinking about motives and outcomes related to the subject to be taught.

As this course progresses, I desire to learn more about the four reflective teaching levels and grow accordingly. And I hope to learn more about blogging as well. Larrivee’s survey serves as a starting point to improve teaching skills. My plan to work on the three indicators that I chose is as follows:

Level 1. Operates in survival mode, reacting automatically without consideration of alternative responses. (Frequently).  I believe that survival mode is the default, especially if one is not trained. As this course progresses, I will learn better how to not act in survival mode and search out alternative responses. I like reading and communicating with students on the Commons because they provide me with insight about teaching that I don’t have. Part of my goal is to expand the number of people I communicate with within the course.

Level 2. Supports beliefs only with evidence from experience. (Frequently). Personal beliefs are essential, but it’s more important to have input from other sources. Listening to different points of view can challenge and change long-held beliefs. I plan to listen more and consider other sources of input.

Level 4. Observes self in the process of thinking. (Sometimes).  I’m not sure where to start. This will be a process of learning as I go.