A question posed in the screencast by Dr. Williams this week was “Is teaching a science or an art?” Although it is a rhetorical question to get our brains thinking about teaching methods, it poses a relationship between two different aspects of life and how they collide in the field of teaching. For me, teaching is both an art and a science. It is an art because instruction can be beautifully crafted into great experiences and learning being done by both the students and the teachers. Being an artist requires dedication to something you love and having a vision. This can be said for educators as well. Teachers should have high expectations for their students, along with being able to have a goal in mind and a rough plan as to how to accomplish that. It is a science in that there are formulas and experiments being conducted every day to fine tune the classroom environment so that it is consistently a safe and orderly one, working on how to approach behavioral issues, reaching the various learning styles and even figuring out what works and does not work. By being both an artist and a scientist, a teacher can become very effective in how they approach the learning styles of the students and curriculum of the school.
Upon watching the “Conversation with Ceri Dean” video from The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) I have learned that, like many other newer editions of books, there have been improvements from the previous edition. The key improvement is how they structured the framework to help teachers become more effective in using the nine strategies, including a checklist that can be used. The examples and research are more current. By reading this book, I can structure which strategies I have used and know can be effective, and be able to incorporate newer strategies that I have either not tried or did not know enough about. In organizing the nine strategies by usage, I can then structure my instruction based on my strengths and the strengths of the students I am working on, so that they are getting the most out of the lessons and I can feel accomplished.
In reading the discussion blogs this week, a few of the strategies have popped out in my mind as being more prominent in my field of Special Education. One of these is reinforcing effort and providing recognition. This come in all shapes and sizes in the education world. For me, the reinforcing and recognizing is both tangible and verbal. Someone pointed out that they used to use stickers for students who completed work but no longer do so because someone had pointed out that using incentives in one classroom but not in another then creates issues of compliance because the student works towards the incentives and how it was unfair. I have seen a little of this in my couple years as a paraeducator, in that the students preferred working with certain people because of the rewards they received. But if monitored and given only when appropriate then the tangible or the verbal praise is effective in aiding in the progress of the student’s academics. Dean, Hubbell, Pitler and Stone (2012) point out that with reinforcing there needs to be a balanced relationship between the effort and the achievement (p. 23). Working with Special Education students, however, those tangibles can mean either getting a student to do their work or even progressing towards an IEP goal. I agree with what another peer said about using tangibles greatly at first to achieve the compliance factor, but then fading them out so as not to let the students become dependent upon them. This is a great way to get the students enticed and interested in doing things that they do not necessarily prefer doing but then slowing taking away the tangible and replacing it with verbal praise and self-monitoring. What I have always practiced in reinforcing and recognizing is being specific and not generalizing the praise, thus making it more personal to the individual student, along with pairing a tangible, if needed.
In my internship, I have been using the strategy of setting objectives and providing feedback more. Every morning, I adjust what the “big ideas” are for the students for that particular day. I could do a better job of discussing them at the beginning. As we go into each lesson, we look at our “big idea” and I let the students know what the objective is, such as “I can visualize/take mental pictures to enjoy a poem”. During the beginning of the lesson, we talked about what visualizing is and how it is like watching a movie in your head, they are images that show up when listening to a story or a poem. Setting objectives gives me a personal sense of where the lesson is going, it is sort of like a roadmap as to where the journey should go. Along with objectives, I have been more conscious about providing feedback for my students, it is mostly verbal. I am one to give smiley faces on tests or stickers as well. An example of this is a new thing I have started with the students at the end of the day. We take a sight word quiz (only five words). After they finish, I correct the quiz with them. If they wrote a wrong word, I write the correct one next to it and point out one good thing about the wrong answer (i.e. “you wrote ‘th’ for ‘that’. Nice getting the ‘th’ blend”). After the quiz they get to pack up to go home. But before they are dismissed to gather their belongings, I have begun to ask the students to tell me one thing they learned about. If they give me a generic answer such as “math” or “spelling,” I ask them to elaborate a little and give me one specific thing about math or spelling that they learned. It has been great doing this because the students are then giving me feedback as to what they enjoyed or what stuck out in their mind as being important to them.
By presenting the objectives and providing feedback, along with prompting them to give me feedback, and reinforcing effort and providing recognition, I have been able to explore some of Carl Roger’s educational priorities mentioned in Dell’Olio and Donk, T (2007). These include nurturing enthusiasm about learning processes, nurturing the teacher’s personal development, establishing and sustaining a trusting and positive environment filled with high expectations and positive interactions (Dell’Olio and Donk, p. 39). Having the standards of student expectations at a higher level, gives the students a personal goal to work for, they want to please the teacher and do their best. So presenting them with a higher level of what is expected of them allows for them to grow more holistically into a proud citizen of the community.
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (2013). A conversation with Ceri Dean. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/classroom-instruction-that-works.aspx
Dean, C. B., Hubble, E. R., Pitler, H. and Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works. 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Dell’Olio, J. M., Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Williams, Tracy. (Producer). (Accessed 2013, January 13). Classroom Instruction That Works. Podcast retrieved from http://www.screencast.com/t/geEyT0GSmUDA.