For me as a secondary school teacher, it is first important for me to examine
briefly why I am interested in teaching as a career. Why do I place myself
alone in a room with 25-30 adolescents every day for 5 periods? I personally did
not enjoy high school. I saw it as a pre-requisite to college. I saw it as
a place for socializing and fun. What made me change my outlook on secondary
" influence-power to sway based on prestige, wealth, or position."
I had one high school teacher who saw potential in me. He encouraged my musicianship. He talked to me when other teachers made me feel inadequate. He encouraged me to study hard, even when I thought my classes would have no bearing or use in my life. He built a positive relationship with me that carried on into my college studies. Later in college, I found that I was good at building relationships when doing counseling work at the college counseling center. I find myself now trying to model the same behaviors of my high school teacher to my present students. I know I can influence students in a positive way.
"enthusiasm- excitement for or interest in a subject or cause"
Just over 5 years ago, I discovered the artistic joys of computer digital art and graphic design. While I had always been an accomplished musician, I could never do anything remotely connected to art. A stick-man was the best I could draw. I always colored outside the lines. With computer digital graphic design, I could finally do the artistic posters and drawings I had seen in my creative conscious mind but could not actualize. I then found a professor at my local college who reluctantly took me into his class and let me soak up the knowledge of digital media. He later let me tutor students at the college in digital graphic design. He recognized my enthusiasm for the subject. I now teach high school students digital media techniques. And my enthusiasm continues to spread to my eager students. My teaching in these courses is a high level hands-on facilitation that inspires students to discover their own hidden artistic talents. I believe enthusiasm for teaching is an important component for any student in a secondary-education certification class.
When teaching in a secondary classroom, you must first assess your audience. There will be a wide diversity of students in your class. I personally have found from experience that here in Hawaii, we have one of the most diverse student populations in the U.S.A. In my classes I see students from many cultures from around the world.
So then what are my core beliefs about teaching and learning?
1. That everyone has their own way they learn. Therefore when teaching you need to show much instructional diversity. You need to use a variety of methods (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) to reach your intended audience.
So when teaching a lesson in a secondary classroom, I believe a key thing to do keep in mind is to remember the 3 learning styles and include components into your lesson that will involve all of these learning styles. I make this an integral part of each class period. When teaching a new procedure in my graphics classes, I try to include an overhead visual or Power Point presentation. I also include a typed hand-out of the same information. We read and discuss the information that is on the overhead or graphic organizer. And we always do a hands-on walk through on the computers of the new procedure. In my pre-algebra classes, we first discuss the learning objectives for the day. I then write notes on the board for the students to copy. I then read and go over the notes on the board. I then try to show examples on the overhead projector. I also try to encourage discussion among the students in their groups about the math concept we just learned.
2. The concept of modeling is an important teaching component in a secondary classroom. A good secondary teacher must be a good role model. And they must model the behaviors they expect their students to exhibit.
Adolescent students learn by watching others. They will follow and do the things
their "cool " friends do. Kids in my classes will change their whole
style of dress based on a MTV video they've just seen or a movie they think is
"fly". As a teacher , the goal is not to be cool or fly, but to
consistently model the behaviors you want to see in your students.
You have to tell and model for them what respectful classroom behavior is. You have to show and model for them good listening skills. If you want a class without profanity, you better explain that it is not good behavior to cuss. And then you'd better model this behavior yourself in class. I see too many teachers complaining about poor behaviors in their class, and then I watch the teacher exhibit those very same behaviors themselves.
3. That students will show more motivation and retain more of the information when the lessons are culturally relevant and experiential (hands-on ) in nature.
Show a connection to a student's real world values and they will be more motivated to show attention and retain some of what you are trying to get across. It is best I find to come up with a hands-on way for the students to work with the concepts you are teaching. This also ties into my #1 learning and teaching core belief.
I find that there are a number of concepts we
have discussed about learning and teaching theories that make up my core of
beliefs. One concept I will discuss only briefly is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
I find many times in my classroom, that there are a significant number of
students who are hungry. If they haven't fulfilled their basic physiological
needs, then how can they be expected to work on fulfilling any self-actualizing
needs? For this reason, I keep on hand some healthy snacks to help those
I also incorporate some of the behaviorist conditioning theories into some of my pre-algebra classes. I offer rewards ( ice cream) to a group of students based on their following a rubric that concerns their behavior in class. The kids are in groups of 4. I post which group was the best each day. I started out giving the reward every Friday. Now we have moved to an intermittent schedule, where I randomly announce the winning group. Surprisingly this approach works well with the kids. They self-regulate each other in the groups and keep each other in line. I'm not fond of this approach but it does keep extraneous behaviors to a minimum. It results in a quieter, more focused learning environment.
Bandura's "Social Learning Theory", is the theoretical basis for my beliefs about how modeling the desired behaviors in a classroom is important. I find personal relevance his idea that "Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in outcomes they value". (A. Bandura- 1971-Social Learning Theory- General Learning Press-N.Y. N.Y). I work hard in my classes to model the desired behaviors I would like to see. I also set up a grading system that rewards these desired behaviors. Increasing a student's self-efficacy to do the desired lessons is crucial to maintaining their motivation to attempt these lessons as we progress higher in our learning curriculum.
I find that I have incorporated some of Vygotzky's concepts into my teaching style. In teaching computer graphic procedures, there is definitely a difference in their learning curve when left to absorb a new procedure on their own (read from the book about the procedure) and in their performance when assisted by me and Power Point visuals. (unassisted performance level vs. assisted performance level.) In between is their Zone of Proximal Development. I also have the first students to master a procedure to help instruct the others because I find students relate to each other in a social way and in a language style much different than I would with them. I believe the social interaction between the students allows them to reach a higher level in their Zone of Proximal Development.
I like the ideas that Bruner talks about in his Constructivist Theory. One of his key points is that "cognitive structure provides meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to " go beyond the information given". I believe too that instructor and student should engage in an active dialog of socratic learning. In graphics design class, I teach students the basic procedure of the digital media program. Then once they have learned the procedure, they are encouraged to integrate it into what they have already learned and make new designs by combining their old information and the new. I essentially facilitate them to go to the next step by experimenting with the different procedures. We also discuss at the end of each learning step, what difference the newly learned procedure means to their artistic process. I also show them websites that have different but related tutorials on the procedures we have discussed. I encourage them to find similar websites and tutorials to further their knowledge. We have classroom discussions on the information they have found, thereby having a "socratic dialog" as such. I also try to structure the digital learning procedures into the most effective logical sequences so that the students can build on to what they have previously learned.
I find it is rewarding for the students to discover principles and procedures by themselves through the internet tutorial research. Because they are working with a digital art program and a computer, they get immediate feedback as to whether their artistic approach works for them or not. The hands-on facilitation approach definitely works in my computer graphics classes.
One last theory of human learning and teaching I like is the Experiential Learning Theory by C. Rogers. He makes a nice distinction between cognitive learning and experiential learning. His theory applies and appeals to me as I also find that significant learning does takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student. Relevance again is a key issue as to whether a students is motivated, or has the enthusiasm to learn. Students in my graphics classes are taking the course as an elective. They are essentially choosing to take a course that they are interested in.
They become involved in hands-on or experiential learning. I give them projects that allows them to have personal and practical control over their designs. I work hard to make the class be a positive climate for learning.
By contrast, the pre-algebra classes I teach are required courses. Students often times see no real relevance to their lives even when shown a direct connection. The class is not a hands-on procedure like graphics classes are. Thus their motivation to learn is minimal compared to an experiential learning setting. I am constantly searching for better hands-on lessons to use with these classes. However many I have tried are difficult to manage with a class over 30 students. Take 30 plus kids outside to measure and calculate the slope of the steps, and you end up with a classroom management problem of 15 sneaking off when you turn your back. I do promise to keep trying though!!
How do I feel about assessment strategies in the areas where I teach? In my graphics classes, I have given a few tests early in the course. This has been on the terms and procedures we went over. Once the students learned the basics of the program, I shifted assessment strategies. We do a peer review at the end of each project timeline. Students are required to present their project on a poster or by PowerPoint to the class.
The students use a rubric to effectively assess and grade each other on their projects. I grade all the students on how much effort they put into the peer review assesssment sheets. The students are also required to put together a portfolio of their work that is assessed at the end of each quarter. I find portfolios to be an effective way to gauge student progress over time. I also have students do self-assessments each quarter. I effectively let them explain what they have learned. Self-assessment is important to me as it allows me to hear directly from them.
In my pre-algebra classes, I have the students keep a binder of all their work. This lets them see the logical process of the math concepts that we have covered over time. They are then graded on a rubric on their binders every 2 weeks. This is similar to the portfolio assessment strategy. At the beginning of each new chapter, I have the students make a poster of the new math concepts in that chapter. We then put those around the class. This helps some kids to visualize the math concepts in their head. By having the posters on the wall, students can get used to seeing the math concepts we are studying.
I also use the chapter review quiz and test method to assess student performance. But I weigh these assessments less in their overall grade than I do the binder and poster assessments. I also give these students a daily participation grade that is based on a 3 point rubric that assesses their involvement and exhibiting the desired social behaviors in class. I am working to find more creative ways to assess the students in these pre-algebra classes. I'm presently looking at more project based assessment strategies.
In conclusion, I'd like to say I'm thankful for having this opportunity to assess my personal pedagogy beliefs. By focusing on my teaching and assessment strategies, it makes me resolve to further refine my practices in my current classes. And to continue in the search for better ways to make my secondary students get excited about taking responsibility for their own learning.