An Outstanding Teacher

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Most people leave school having a favorite teacher. This person was someone who stood out to them above the rest and had a positive influence on their lives. Some people’s opinions of an outstanding teacher may vary slightly; however, I believe most times all centralize around certain concepts. In my opinion, the difference between a great teacher and an outstanding teacher all comes down to the relationships formed. An outstanding teacher is one who listens just as much as they talk, if not more. From experience, I have discovered that I can learn just as much from my students as they can from me. Being receptive and open to students and their input builds trust as well as respect. An outstanding teacher knows his/her students, focuses on their individual strengths and builds on weaknesses. Because of this knowledge, teachers are able to demand the best from each student and make individual adaptations to nurture student success by first meeting at the student’s unique level.

An outstanding teacher is someone who not only teaches, but demonstrates, generosity, mastery, independence, and belonging (Circle of Courage). They are enthusiastic about what they are teaching and make learning both engaging and fun. An outstanding teacher models self-reflection and self-advocacy and assists students in doing the same. They believe in each and every student and facilitate a safe, welcoming, and judgement-free classroom. Inclusive practices and a variety of teaching styles are part of this teacher’s professional repertoire and get used on a daily basis. An outstanding teacher is not just aware, but utilizes to benefit learning, the fact that each student has their own personal story and brings “baggage” and experiences (good and bad) to school each day with them. An outstanding teacher uses their passion, leadership skills, and flexibility to foster student learning. This teacher is resourceful and collaborative, as well as, organized (but allows for organized chaos). This teacher relates curriculum to everyday life, is fair and honest, and makes his/her students feel valued, important and smart. An outstanding teacher has a sense of humour; is relatable; never gives up helping; and recognizes the importance of a positive school community, consequently is involved in many school activities. The reason a teacher is outstanding is because they value professional development and educational growth as well as demonstrate lifelong learning.

ECS 410- Demonstration of Learning Interview

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My philosophy of assessment and evaluation has only started to develop. From my Education Assessment class, as well as pre-internship, my philosophy has grown and developed drastically from where it has started. I believe grades should be as close to a representation of a student’s understanding as possible. That means, not giving zeros for assignments and exams not completed. This is not an accurate evaluation of their knowledge and therefore should not be shown as one. Although this is a great concept, it is not always easy to accomplish. Because of this, I believe the teacher should try their hardest to get the proper grade of the students and, if this can’t happen, to simply omit this mark (so long as there are other grades that assess the outcome). Also, I believe that every lesson should include some form of assessment- primarily being diagnostic, and formative. This allows students to have feedback and learn from their mistakes which ultimately increases their opportunity for success. One of the most important concepts of my philosophy is that less emphasis should be spend on grades, and more should be spent on the actual learning. This is something a lot of people struggle to understand; however, from experience I’ve learned that it is more important to teach life-long learning rather than memorization of facts. I’ve also learned the importance of giving students options and variety in the way they show their knowledge. This allows all students equal opportunities to succeed as well as help develop areas students struggle with.

I used various methods of assessment during pre-internship. I used a lot of formative assessment to gauge how well my students were learning the material I taught. This was very important because a concept I thought would take a few days, ended up taking a week. Without the formative assessment I would have moved on and most of them wouldn’t have learned the important concept. After I was sure they knew the material, I used summative assessment to document how well they understood it. For my formative assessment I did a few EXIT slips, thumbs up/down, discussion, and checking assignments/homework. For my summative evaluations I did a quiz, lab handout, and an exam. I had spent a lot of time differentiating my quiz and exam by using simpler language, helpful reminders, student choice, and graphics. I noticed a lot more of my students had done better with the adaptations than they had initially when I didn’t include them.

I felt that my philosophy had really developed through this experience whether it was re-emphasizing the importance of concepts or learning through mistakes. While I was there, I did end up giving two zeros to two of my students. They had only showed up to 3 classes during the three weeks that I was there. I realized in those situations the problems absences create. Both students I knew, just from those three days, were capable of getting good marks if they only spent the time learning the material. I always made sure to have some form of assessment in my lessons and this I found to really help me when planning for the next day and understanding what my students understood and what needed to be re-taught. I did also find it hard to really develop my philosophy when I was working with the conditions set up by my coop. While I thought he was a great teacher, I would have done things a little differently when setting up the grading scheme. I felt there was too much weight on the exams and not much chance for students to progress and demonstrate their knowledge of the outcomes in ways other than exams. When I am in my internship, this is an area I hope to really challenge myself. I would like to present a lot more student choice with regards to the way they demonstrate their knowledge as well as allow for students to progress in meeting the outcomes- this may mean evaluating students more than once on certain outcomes. While I do realize this will take a lot more time to develop, I am excited to try and see how much this helps my students to succeed.

Three things I learned about assessment/evaluation from pre-internship:

  1. Absences are very frustrating. I was shocked to see how often students were absent from class and had trouble keeping up with what students had missed. This was especially tricky when students missed a day in which summative evaluation took place. When I had 6 students who missed the quiz, and 8 different students who needed to hand in their lab handout that was to be graded, it was very difficult to stay on top of students and accommodate all their needs. This is important to my teaching practice because this is a problem that will more than likely always exist. I need to come up with a strategy that better addresses this problem and takes stress away from both me and my students.
  2. There’s no reason to make tests super formal. Although its great to have a common layout to the exam, there was no reason to use higher vocabulary and scientific jargon. I found I was much more successful when I directly related the exams to instances that happened in previous lessons. While I completely agree in critical thinking, I don’t see the point in making an exam tougher than it needs to be- and in ways that don’t contribute to the learning outcome. I also learned how long it took to make exams and learned the care that is needed to ensure the test is meeting its objective in assessing the outcomes. This is important because in subjects like science and math, tests and quizzes cannot be entirely avoided- and nor should they. It will be very important to further develop my test-making skills as it often reflects how well my students will do on that exam.
  3. Cheating is more common that I had initially thought. The first week I was there I had caught a student cheating on a quiz. This both surprised and upset me. I felt like I had not prepared that student enough to feel confident in their own skills and was also disappointed that such pressure was put on grades that that student felt the need to cheat. I have learned that it’s a tough situation to handle, especially when this was a summative assessment. On my next exam, I had made two different copies. This was a preventative way of not having to deal with students copying. By doing this, I ended up catching a different student cheating but did not have to discipline them as their marks were the ones to be impacted. They ended up getting a lot of questions wrong which resulted in a poor mark (they were not allowed a re-write in this case). This is important because my classroom management philosophy stresses the importance of taking preventative measures rather than always having to deal with the problems. By making two different copies of the test, not allowing cell-phones, and having the class spread out, I didn’t have to worry about disciplining a student for cheating on an exam.

Broadening my teaching philosophy

“When we give students the impression that we value the right answer more than critical thinking, we may drive them to take shortcuts and cheat.”

~Cris Tovani

 This is a very interesting quote as I can relate easily to it and find it is very true. When we give students the impression we only care about right answers, that’s all they will focus on. This is opposite approach to science that I would like to take. Science concepts that seemed so concrete decades ago has been proven wrong with new technology- this is why it is much more important to focus on critical thinking and inquiry than it is to right answers. This leads into one of the topics covered in last weeks class: inquiry. 

Inquiry-based learning is the foundation of science education. Based on previous experiene, inquiry is the best way to get students engaged and motivated about certain concepts. To use inquiry-based learning efficiently and appropriately, it needs to be scaffolded using the 4 levels of inquiry. The first level of inquiry is confirmation. This level students are given the question, procedure, and know the results in advance. This is to get students familiar with the process of inquiry. The second level of inquiry is known as structured. This allows a little more freedom as students are presented with a teacher-provided question and procedure of investigation but need to find the result on their own. The third level is guided- this is the level I would like to get all of my students to as it is a big step of learning to think critically. Students are provided a question but must come up with their own procedure to find the result. This is shifting the classroom from simply doing experiments and not being required to think, to setting up students to think for themselves and gain problem solving skills necessary for life. The final level of inquiry is open. This is a level that may not be reached in highschool, but is the goal of inquiry. Students come up with their own questions, procedure, and results. Teachers are simply present to ask guiding questions and get the student thinking critically. According to the textbook “Comprehension and Collaboration” there are 4 steps that make up inquiry-based learning: immerse (building background knowledge; finding topics), investigate (develop questioning; search and research), coalesce ( refine research, synthesize information), and finally ‘go public’ (share learning, take action by activism, awareness, and aid) (2009). Inquiry-based learning on a large scale should not be overused; however, inquiry can be applied to everyday lessons to help scaffold. 

Another topic last week was around student contracts and student opinion. Similar to inquiry-based learning, we dove into the importance of providing students options for showing their evidence of learning. When students are able to learn/show evidence of a curriculum outcome the way they want, they are more highly motivated to do their best. One of the examples I’ve been shown for student choice is choiceboards (like a tic-tac-toe board) and the 100 point projects (students have a list of choices that are made up of different points and must choose enough assignments to reach 100 points). With these I’ve seen student contracts used. These are usually documents, similar to rubrics, that specify what type of work completed gets the corresponding marks. This shifts the responsability to primarily the student. 

Finally, I watched a video by Rich Wormeli about Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs. This helped open my mind to redos and see importance of them. I was always that student wh did good on tests the first time and got mad when students were able to re-take a test, after failing, and do better than me. After watching this video I know how to chnge that for my teaching profession. I do believe students should  be able to show progress and grow in their understanding- this philosophy supports the use of redos. This is a very delicate process that can leave some students very upset and respecting you less if they find you unfair. One of the ways of going about this making sure the student had to work and put in efort before the redo- an example of this is requiring students to redo their practice worksheets before being able to redo the exam; or, creating a student contract of the way they are going to prepare differently for the redo such as creating flashcards and studying well in advance. I think its important to not include that initial mark, the one they did poorly on, if they put in the work and effort to redo and use the new mark to replace the first. 

Rubrics as an Assessment Tool

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During last week’s class we had a presentation from Cory Antonini who is the owner and developer of Digital Learner Solutions. This is a free site/app that has two main purposes: to help teachers build units as well as rubrics. The rubric maker can be done on any Android or Apple product and even contain’s speech-to-text technology to make the job that much easier. The rubric portion of his app takes a new approach to rubrics than I have seen before. The rubrics are designed using the desired outcome (either Saskatchewan, Ontario or Treaty Education) and having 4 levels in meeting it: level one-beginning; level two- progressing; level three- meeting; and level 4- established. In the examples he had shown us, he had only filled in level three- meeting, as described by the outcome, and left the other levels with only their title (ex. progressing, established, and beginning). This was nice to see that, depending on what it is being used for, you don’t need to have ever level filled in- this is great because it’s a very time consuming process in which students don’t always end up reading anyways.

It was also very interesting in the discussion we had about established vs. exceeding. Many of the rubrics that I have been given in my education have used the word exceeding as their level four title. This created two opinions that were both negative to my learning. First, I was upset that I had to exceed the task/lesson that was expected of me to get full marks. Shouldn’t exceeding be worth 110% instead? The second problem I had with it was that it completely took away my motivation to reach that level. I would be satisfied with my work if I met the outcome being asked.

The next beneficial discussion we had was deciding what we thought each level looked like. What was the difference in work that resulted in a progressing rather than meeting? What did being established in an outcome even look like? This seemed to be somewhat defined but also at the discretion of the teacher. Based on the discussion, and my own understandings, I currently believe the levels to be defined as:

1. Beginning- the student is still learning the main idea/concept and requires teacher assistance. Without help, the student would not be able to reach the outcome.

2. Progressing- the student is on their way to meeting the outcome but still requires assistance. The quality isn’t as expected but shows the student has some grasp on the concept.

3. Meeting- the student reaches the outcome with little teacher assistance in an acceptable quality.

4. Established- the student can reach the outcome independently, in good quality, and could teach it to other students successfully.

This is important because students can become confused if one teacher’s idea of meeting an outcome and being established is different from another.

The format of Cory’s rubrics are done in “I can” statements which results in student-friendly and easily understandable language. Although this does require time by the educator for some decoding, both the teacher and student will benefit from these statements. This is a similar understanding to what the magazine, “The Science Teacher”, has as they state “rubrics need to be designed to direct the teacher and the student to the outcome in language that the student can understand” (K. Jensen, May 1995). If the students are unable to understand the rubric then it is pointless to be given to them prior. Likewise, I believe students should know what is expected of them beforehand so they are able to set goals they can work towards.

The discussion we had in Cory’s presentation had broadened my understanding of rubrics and left me feeling more excited about using rubrics in my future classroom. Not only can it show snapshots of where students are in their understanding, but it also can show progression if the same rubric is used repeatedly (Cory had stated he would use different colored pens to show the progression of the students’ knowledge). Anne Davies, in her textbook “Making Classroom Assessment Work”, compares these progressive snapshots to height marks on the door; both show a student growing whether it be physically or intellectually (p. 80).

Response to Intervention

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http://studentservices.nesd.ca/1files/handbooks/NESD%20RtI%20handbook.pdf

In February 5th’s assessment class we discussed something that is close to my heart. One of the reasons I wanted to be a teacher was to ensure all children were given equal opportunities and follow the motto of “no child being left behind”. I attended Naicam School which is a part of the North East School Division and so this is a concept I am quite familiar with. Likewise, my minor is inclusive education. Many of my inclusive ed. classes go over response to intervention and the applications for classroom and my teaching career.

So what is response to intervention?

RTI is a three tiered approach to allowing all students a chance at success. Most people express this approach using a pyramid (or circle). The bottom of the pyramid is green and makes up 80-90% of the student population and is known as Tier One. Tier One is greatly known for differentiation– adaptations that can occur with product, process, content, and the learning environment.

Most students will only require these supports in order to succeed. However, 5-10% of students will require more resources and support. Interventions in this level are “more targeted, intense and focused” (NESD). Even this amount of support will still not reach 1-5% of learners. This is where students are then Tier three which includes creating a plan with a team for a personalized and detailed approach.

“The list of standards or learning outcomes seem to assume that all students start in the same place, at the same time, and proceed to learn in the same way” (Davies, p. 26). This couldn’t be more true and couldn’t prove the necessity of the RTI approach any further. Every student brings their own strengths and weaknesses into a class- the school system does not fit every need students may have. But, by using the RTI approach it takes the pressure off the students of adapting to the already existing system by adapting to their needs and allowing for success.

I can…. write this post

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Last week, we talked about “I can” statements. These are statements revolving around the educational outcomes and indicators in student-friendly words. At first, I thought this sounded like it would work great for elementary and middle years, but not for high school. This is because I struggled with the idea of getting teenagers to to use the phrase “I can….”; however, the more I looked into it, the more I seen it didn’t have to sound so childish. For example, most teachers were writing on the boards, prior to class, the objective for the day (for example: February 3-differentiate and classify ecosystems); likewise, instead of this writing it in the “I can” format (ex. I can compare and organize ecosystems). After looking at it like this, I started to see how much more beneficial it was to write it in student-friendly language- “while an education system may define the learning in broad terms throughout its documents, teachers much translate and summarize the hundred of statements into language that students and parents can understand (Davies, 2011, p. 27). Also, I noticed when we did examples in class, although they sound easy, they can sometimes be tough to make; conversely, some need barely any adaptions.

So why are these statements important?

Educational jargon can intimidate the students and impact learning. If a student hears that the objective for the day is to comprehend and utilize dimensional analysis to complete stoichiometry questions, they may already be telling themselves they cannot do it. I can statements start students off in the positive.

When I had done further research about the topic, I found the most useful high school content on Pintrest. There was a lot of ideas here about what this would look like in the class- there was great visual ideas as well as how to write them. It was also mentioned that “I can” statements don’t just need to be about the outcome; realistically, they can just be about behavioural or academic goals. Students are the ones in control of their learning, they need to know and feel empowered by that.

As a future educator, and from previous experiences, I know the importance of letting students know the concepts for the day and major topics that are being covered. After this lesson, I am more prepared to present these ideas in a “I can” format. Likewise, I have an inquiry goal of creating good student-teacher relationships- the positivity of “I can” statements will only benefit this.

Don’t leave your students guessing

During the last two classes of ECS 410, we discussed how feedback influences a student’s quality of work. From this discussion it become even more obvious the necessity for detailed and timely feedback.

We started the discussion by describing the 3 types of assessment: assessment for learning, assessment of learning and assessment as learning. With this discussion, and from reading Kenji Takahashi’s Resource Site: Assessment for/of/as learning, I am aware of the following:

1. Assessment for learning: this is assessment done to understand student progress and prior understanding of a topic. This is also known as Diagnostic Assessment (pre-assessment) and Formative Assessment and if not for marks.
2. Assessment of Learning: this is assessment used to record, and report a student’s achievement of the expected outcome. Also known as Summative Assessment. and used to for marks.
3. Assessment as Learning: this is assessment that is used help students further their own learning such as peer or self assessment. This type is often not used for marks as it came sometimes contain biases.

These different types of assessment are all crucial to the growth of students’ learning. Each type allows students to use their mistakes as opportunities to learn from and improve. Although, it would be more beneficial to learning from assessment for and as learning because they won’t impact the final mark of the student. Likewise, it becomes apparent where the use of feedback would be most beneficial. Feedback should be used throughout all three types of assessment, but should be most detailed during the assessment for learning, just as Anne Davies suggests in her book Making Classroom Assessment Work (p. 2, 2011). This is because it is less useful to know after finishing a unit what you could have done to improve instead of during the unit when you can change and adapt to improve right away- this is the same concept for returning feedback in a timely manner.

Another interesting concept I had learned from class is called the “cookie” method or “sandwich” method- this method involves giving feedback in the order or good-bad-good. What this means is providing two positive comments to help students accept the comment used for constructive feedback. It is the teacher’s responsibility to provide useful, descriptive feedback for students to learn and grow from: “[d]escriptive feedback gives information that enables the learner to adjust what he or she is doing in order to improve” (Gibbs and Stobart 1993; Hattie 1993, 2005). Students learn much more from useful comments than from a big red X across the page.

As a future educator, I have learned the importance of spending the time to provide descriptive feedback; especially, during the assessment for learning. How can I expect my students to know what they are doing wrong if I don’t tell them and help them improve?

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

~ Bill Gates

Assessment Class 1

I am very interested in what this class will teach me. I am not only left feeling motivated and ready to learn; but, I am also left realizing how little I know about the smaller detail of assessment. That assessment is much more then a simple check mark or x. I hope to learn from this class how I can offer my students the best assessment methods in each situation and to broaden my understanding about assessment for learning, assessmen as learning, and assessment of learning!