The Learner and Learning
- Standard 1: Learner Development The teacher understands how learners grow and develop, recognizing that patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical areas, and designs and implements developmentally appropriate and challenging learning experiences.
- Standard 2: Learning Differences The teacher uses understanding of individual differences and diverse cultures and communities to ensure inclusive learning environments that enable each learner to meet high standards.
- Standard 3: Learning Environments The teacher works with others to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, and that encourage positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.
As an educator, “growth” is one of the biggest buzzwords today. I work to make sure that my students are demonstrating growth, but through this probral I am also constantly working to make sure that I am demonstrating growth as a teacher. Since I began teaching, I have worked on ensuring that I understand not only my students needs, but also their strengths in the classroom. My vision is rooted in the idea of helping my students understand what it means to be self directed learners and quality producers, and guiding them to embody these traits in their work. The students who are able to identify what needs to be done, act on it, and independently monitor themselves and their behavior, are the students who are going to be the most successful. In order to guide my practice, I need to have a solid understanding of my students’ cognitive, and developmental levels and skills at the foundational level. Throughout the process of shaping my teaching skills, and understanding my students’ needs as learners, I have used resources such as the book Yardsticks by Chip Wood, as well as activities through the Johns Hopkins program, to gain a better understanding of my students’ developmental stages and how to appeal to their needs and enable them to succeed. By encouraging my students to gain a stronger understanding of themselves as individuals, and by developing an understanding of my students, I can help them to grow into strong, successful students. In order to achieve this, and to support student growth, I must take their needs into account and reflect on my practice with regards to learner development, learning differences in the classroom, and the learning environments that I create for my students.
Assessing the needs of my students as eleven year old students is critical to ensuring that I am meeting them where they are developmentally, and encouraging their growth throughout their developmental stage. Eleven year olds tend to need movement, social interaction, and opportunities to express themselves and be heard. Because of this I frequently work to incorporate opportunities for sharing and discussing in my classroom. To demonstrate this I would like to highlight my InTASC #1 deliverable: cognitively appropriate task. For this task, I organized a discussion last year about the idea of compulsory voting. This was a situation that was in the news a lot at the time and some students were aware of it and had questions about it, so I provided them with this opportunity. I organized the class in such a way that students had the opportunity to move around with a hot seat for the discussion, students were encouraged to debate and argue, and students were able to act on their developmental needs. It was also a useful process for me to analyze my students in a way that I could see the differences between my students who were developmentally at age level, above, and below.
While I came into that activity with a general understanding that it is “cognitively appropriate”, it was an opportunity to get a better grasp of what is actually cognitively appropriate for my actual student population. To demonstrate my growth with regards to learner development, and giving students opportunities to grow and develop by recognizing patterns of learning and development, as well as opportunities to act on their cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional needs, I want to highlight my second piece of evidence for InTASC standard #1 where I did a similar lesson to the discussion in my first evidence piece, but took into account the learner needs and developmental stages even more. After having played around with different types of discussion opportunities last year, I finally was able to figure out what does and doesn’t work (for the most part) for my class of 11-year-olds. My key takeaways from my first activity on discussions was that I didn’t scaffold it enough, and I didn’t give my students enough time to individually prep before working with their classmates. Going into my second year, I was able to coordinate a similar discussion, except this time I identified that my students needed more time to prepare and get their opinions before discussing. In these handouts you can see opportunities for annotation, as well as question responses in preparation for a discussion. This turned into students creating their own sentence stems, and then opinions on the topic. Going back to the idea of learner development, it is imperative that 11-year-olds have opportunities to “challenge many of the adult parameters they have previously accepted as relatively clear and just” (Wood p. 112). This discussion was particularly interesting to see my students’ responses to because you could tell who had discussed it with their parents and were articulating their parents’ thoughts, and those who challenged the thoughts of their parents and adults. Throughout this activity, with the right amount of scaffolding, I was able to give students opportunities to push their developmental parameters, and be exposed to challenging yet developmentally appropriate learning experiences.
Learning differences also play a key role in my understanding of my students’ needs and how I adjust my instruction accordingly. Throughout the program with Johns Hopkins University, I have been prompted to take into account my students’ needs and abilities at different levels. In addition to taking their general age appropriate development trends into account according to their cognitive, physical, and social development, I have also been encouraged to take into account their individual learning differences. Through my Teaching for Transformation I course, I was guided through the process of analyzing individual students to assess learning differences. This assignment prompted me to take into account three different students at different stages in their development with different learning needs. As evidence for InTASC Standard #2 I would like to reference the student profiles assignment that I did where I evaluated my students’ learning differences within the same age range. This was beneficial for me to gain a better understanding of my students not just within what is cognitively appropriate for them, but also what is within their individual learning needs. By actively bringing my attention to the individual differences within my student population, I was made more aware of my other students as well and their individual needs. This assignment was a solid foundation for me to start being more aware of individual students’ needs and differences, and this has carried with me throughout the program and throughout my teaching.
Once I started becoming more aware of my students as individuals, I noticed that I was gaining a better understanding of what they need as students. This was a skill that I began to develop better throughout the end of last year, and which has carried into this year. For my Effective Practices II class I had to create a differentiated lesson for my students where I took into account their learning differences and needs. Being in the mindset of looking at my students as individuals, and what they contribute to the class, I chose to differentiate in a slightly nontraditional way. I differentiated for my high students in an effort to create a trickle down effect. To show this I would like to highlight my last two pieces of evidence for InTASC #2, my differentiated lesson as well as video footage that I captured during the experience. To meet the needs of high performing students, I chose 5 of my highest performing students to effectively “teach” the lesson to their classmates. They preread their assigned section and brainstormed questions they would ask their classmates to engage them in the learning. The change of pace of the lesson, with a different teacher, created a higher degree of interest and engagement from the class as a whole. This appeared to lead to a better understanding of the material for when it came to the written part as evidenced in the student work following the differentiated lesson. I want to point out that the student teacher’s notes on her slide show, the questions at the top of the page, show that she was able to guide the discussion in a way that lead to student understanding as noted in the response from a generally low performing student. This is a student who has a hard time producing work in class due to a diagnosis for ADHD, but because I had student teachers, I was able to work individually with him more often than I usually am. You can see evidence of this individualized attention that I was able to give this student in the video in the third piece of evidence from 1:20 - 2:20 where I was able to specifically work with him while there was a student teacher and student discussion. While I have a student teaching the section, I am then able to float and help meet the needs of more students on the floor. While the student is teaching, I am able to help other students with sentence stems, questions to ask, how to mark the text for important information, and other needs that they may have. Differentiating in this way, taking into account individual needs and learner differences, I was able to create an inclusive learning environment that enabled all of my students to meet high standards, and I was able to meet them where they were and push them all equally.
The third aspect of the learner and learning, the learning environment, is the aspect that teachers seem to think about the most at the beginning of the year and then it slowly falls by the wayside. Personally, I find it to be extremely fun to set up my classroom and go through the process of thinking of what is physically in my classroom and why, as well as what are my students engaging with on a daily basis. It is important for me that my students see a classroom every day that is visually nurturing and encouraging, but developmentally appropriate as well. To demonstrate my understanding of InTASC standard #3 I want to highlight my piece of evidence, the layout of my classroom. My students as 11-year-olds are at a stage where they still want to feel validated but not in a cheesy way. Because of this I try to create a more maturely laid out environment while still encouraging fun and student collaboration which is a need for their age group. Because of this, you can see on slides 3 and 4 that I set my class up into groups of pairs, so that students can be self directed when it is independent work time, but also easily able to work with pairs or groups depending on the activity. On slide 5 you can see that I make sure to highlight student work to validate students’ presence and ownership in the classroom, which is an important part of creating a learning environment that is conducive to student learning. I have taken into account information from books such as Harry Wong’s First Days of School, as well as Brain Targeted Teaching, to constantly reevaluate and think about what I include in my learning environment. Slide 6 of my evidence demonstrates how my classroom environment encourages individual as well as collaborative learning through an open space with lots of opportunities for students to explore the space outside of their desk pods. I often incorporate gallery walks and movement-oriented activities into my classroom because I am a firm believer that total physical response and physical movement can help to not only reinforce learning, but also to encourage active engagement in learning and increased self motivation and self direction.
All three of these components, learner development, learning differences, and the learning environment, contribute to the success of my students on a regular basis, and as a result the success of myself as a teacher. By being aware of my students’ needs for successful performance in the classroom, as well as being aware of how I am helping or hindering that in the classroom, and constantly reevaluating and assessing myself, contributes to making my classroom environment a healthy learning environment. When focusing in on the learners in the classroom, and the learning that is occurring, it is vital that I remember that I am the one facilitating it and I need to make sure that I am as successful as possible in establishing that. The evidence that I have given and my interpretations reflect this and show my growth as a teacher with regards to what steps I take to ensure that I am fully embodying and implementing the strategies and methods that I am learning throughout this masters program.
Standard 1 Evidence 1
Standard 1 Evidence 2
Standard 2 Evidence 1
Standard 2 Evidence 2
Standard 2 Evidence 3
Standard 3 Evidence 1