We got right down to it for the first week in EDU 6526 Survey of Instructional Strategies. The focus for this week was learning objectives and feedback. For this class we are working with the text Classroom Instruction That Works, by Dean, Hubble & Stone. There is also a workbook that accompanies this text.
According to Dean et al., there are four key elements to setting objectives. The learning objectives should find the sweet spot, not too restrictive to prohibit learning and not too broad so as to lack a clear focus. The learning objectives should be communicated to parents and students. I really like the idea of doing this to increase parental involvement. All learning objectives should build or make connections to previous and future learning objectives. Finally, as teachers we should involve students in the process of setting these learning objectives (p5). Students involved in creating learning goals will by nature be more invested and engaged in the learning. I think this is a great idea and the text mentions using the K-W-L strategy.
After using the self-assessment tool provided by the instructor, there are a few areas that do jump to mind. The first challenge that is difficult to overcome is designing learning targets that reach all of my learners at their level. The self-contained special education classroom that I was student teaching in had learners with a very wide range of abilities. Some students were reading at the 6th grade level and others were at the 1st grade level. I really had to break my language down into simple words to accomplish this. Another area that I could continue to improve on is getting the students to process the learning target in their own minds. Several of my classmates suggested that it would be helpful to have the students personalize the learning target. I think I could do this by asking the question, How does what we are learning connect to the learning target? Who can verbalize this for me? Another suggestion from a classmate was having students write down the learning target. I will also use this strategy in the future.
Dean et al., provide four recommendations for providing feedback. In brief, let students know what is right and where they need to be headed, give timely feedback, make it criterion referenced, and engaging (p11). What I have learned in the SPU ARC program and through my experiences working with special education students, is that feedback also needs to be very positive and praising of effort. That is how I strive to provide feedback. I like the texts ideas of utilizing peers to create engagement through feedback because students learn well from each other and also because it allows the teacher to circulate more and reach more students. I also like the example they include of modeling this behavior. During my student teaching, I reallyenjoyed using writing prompts or questions that students could work on in their journals. There were times where I tried the think-pair-share strategy and this also worked well. By providing the students with time to think or write, I was able to circle the room and assess what the different learners in the room were thinking and their ability to communicate this through writing and/or verbalization.
The self-assessment tool for providing feedback left me thinking that it is extremely important to provide the students with learning activities that allow them to work with the lesson material. In social studies this can be a bit more challenging than a subject like mathematics. A classmate of mine suggested providing examples for students to be able to self-assess and also be aware of the expectations for their work. For the students that I was working with I found this to be extremely beneficial to their learning.
As a teacher endorsed in special education, I have the advantage of utilizing students IEP’s to make sure I am providing each student with lesson material that is at the appropriate level, engaging, and facilitating growth towards their individual goals. I am currently in the process of searching for my first teaching job and I look forward to establishing positive learning environment for all students with a focus towards their goals.
Dean, C. B., Hubble, E. R., Pitler, H. and Stone, B. (20012). Classroom Instruction That Works. 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.