I know this is too long for a final project. That’s why it is called a rough draft. It is 3200 words, but I’m looking to cut it down to 2500 words for presentation’s sake. An overdose of information is not the correct way to get a concise message across.
My rough draft consists of the four categories I will be writing my final project on. My final project will consist of a more professional, more polished version of the content I am about to post here.
I am creating the ideal learning environment for a grade seven/eight middle school class. I think it is important to target this age group because early adolescence can be the period that makes or breaks a students’ love of school, and by extension, whether they like school enough to want to go to post secondary, or even graduate high school. We know from this nine day course that the current traditional system of educationis not set up for every student to do well. It simply weeds out the students who are excellent at the traditional method of standardized learning, and casts all other students aside. This course has taught me that we can do more (a lot more in fact) to make a students’ life in school an actual place where kids can come to learn.
I am breaking up my ideal classroom into several sections, as I believe that a perfect classroom is not built on one kind of learning approach, one type of good teacher, or one type of perfect student, but a conglomerate of a handful of variables that work together to create a perfect learning environment.
Being A Teacher the Students Deserve:
In my research, I found that one could use all the best teaching methods, and have the best, most talented bunch of students, but none of that matters if the students do not have a teacher who fosters the best learning environment.
In my first article on teacher cognition, the researchers find that there is an empirical link between teacher enjoyment and student enjoyment. The authors examined the relationship between teacher and student enjoyment. Based on social– cognitive approaches to emotions, they hypothesized (a) that teacher enjoyment and student enjoyment within classrooms are positively linked and (b) that teacher enthusiasm mediates the relationship between teacher and student enjoyment. You hear all the time older students who look back and think “*insert here teacher* really made me hate this particular subject in school.” While in most cases it is the student themselves who made the class harder, there are definitely cases where you meet a teacher who you can just feel is steering you in the wrong direction. The researchers got results that showed that an excited teacher will foster excited students. (Frenzel, et al. 2012)
Table 1 shows the effect size of the difference that a teacher who implements positive attitude and enjoyment can have on their students.
One other article that is important for my lesson plan is written by Halverson, R. R., & Clifford, M. A.. The article is titled “Evaluation in the Wild: A Distributed Cognition Perspective on Teacher Assessment.” and discusses a method in which students can give feedback on their teacher’s manner. Essentially, the student fills out a pregnant questionnaire that gets a gauge on their relationship with the teacher, and the school climate that the teacher is fostering. The information that the students provided was organized by hierarchical multiple regression equations that first accounted for the effects of demographic variables (ethnicity, social class, household composition), and then accounted for the variables correlating to the students’ school climate perceptions (self-esteem, academic self concept, exposure to stressful events, and academic performance). Based on the results of the survey. the teachers were able to adjust the manner of their teaching style to better suit the students in their class.
These two sources are important to me because it sets a precedent for two things: constructive criticism of the teacher’s learning style, and an emphasis for the behaviour a teacher has and how it translates to their students. When teachers are in their first few years with a new class, the principal comes in to give the teacher an evaluation. What I don’t see often, however, is a teacher having to adjust to criticism that their students give them. At the end of the day, a teacher’s students will see things a principal will never see (especially when the teacher is on their best behaviour to get a good evaluation). If students give evaluations that are readily available to both the teacher and the administration, the teacher must adjust accordingly in an attempt to make their classroom a place of comfort. The behaviour a teacher has matters too. The saying “if mama ain’t happy, no one is happy” could be easily changed to “If a teacher ain’t happy, no one is happy”. A teacher’s positive outlook can change the perspective of adolescents who at the best of times do not have a positive outlook on life.
A Well Formatted Lesson Plan Generates A Properly Educated Class of Students:
While something as trivial as a teacher’s personal lesson plan seems ridiculous for fostering academic growth, a well formatted lesson plan can cover all the government- based academic curriculum, and add elements of active learning to foster legitimate consolidation of information without wasting any class time. Lesson planning can also cultivate higher order thinking strategies in early adolescence.
Creating a flawless instructional design:
What is instructional design? Instructional design can be defined as the science of creating detailed specifications for the design, development, evaluation, and maintenance of instructional material that facilitates learning and performance. The efficiency of the instructional design of a class can be evaluated by following the ADDIE process. ADDIE stands for analysis, development, design, implementation, and evaluation. (Martin,2011)
A) During the analysis phase, it is up to the teacher to find out where each individual student falls on their existing knowledge, and to set a realistic goal for each individual student to achieve by the end of the class year.
D) The design phase documents specific learning objectives, the instructional material, practice activities, feedback from the practice activities, instructional strategies, and assessments. Essentially, now that an analysis of your students is complete, what are the best learning tools to implement? Depending on the class demographic, certain tools may be beyond comprehension, or too basic.
D) The development phase is considered to be the most important of all. The development phase is the step where all the data collected from the design phase gets put together. For example, certain class groups will show more comfort with project based learning as opposed to the standard learn and regurgitate model. So knowing this, how does the teacher develop projects into their lesson plan?
I) The Implementation phase begins once the school year begins. The implementation phase bears a whole lot of trial and error. Although the teacher might have gone into the school year with this group thinking they would respond to project based learning, perhaps it was discovered with exposure to the lesson plan that the students appear to learn best from discussion and debate. Alter the development plan accordingly. No need to go all the way back to square one, just use the data collected from analysis and design to approach the class in a different development pattern.
E) Last comes the evaluation phase. The evaluation phase consists of two parts: formative and summative. Formative evaluation is present in each stage of the ADDIE process. Constant revision of the ADDIE model. Summative evaluation consists of tests designed for getting feedback from the users. The “users” are the students, as well as the administration. It’s always good to see if your ADDIE model can be used to help other teachers. (instructionaldeign.org,2013)
I believe that the ADDIE method of instructional design should be implemented across all divisions of education, but it is especially effective when implemented in a middle school classroom. It depends a lot on teachers working together, and it seems time consuming, but I think that it would only really be a hassle for the first few years of implementing it into a classroom. The first few years would be the experimental phase where the teacher gets a feel for what has worked in the past three years and what hasn’t. From there, lesson plans will only require minor modification for each consecutive class.
Active Learning in Middle School Fosters Higher Order Thinking For Life.
My research on active learning, and its benefits on developing a good concept of higher order thinking and metacognition later on in adolescence, is some of the best research I conducted in the whole nine days of class. I want to preface this section by acknowledging the fact that metacognition and higher order thinking are not possible in the majority of thirteen to fourteen year old students, but the introduction of active learning in middle school can provide a student with the scaffolding required to approach higher order thinking and metacognition when they are intellectually ready.
What is active learning? Active learning is simply applying the standard curriculum to a system of education in which there is more engagement from the students, and less rigid participation in the lecture -> notes -> revision -> standardized testing format of traditional education. Traditional education has a focus on finding the easiest, and most efficient way to educate children. The truth is that designing a classroom that involved active learning would not take that much more time! Especially when you consider the benefits of how much more learning gets done when teachers choose to promote active learning. (Li & Sethi, 2006)
The best academic articles for active learning are the ones that seek to quantify how much more useful active learning is over the traditional model. Van Amburgh, et al. wrote an academic paper titled “A Tool for Measuring Active Learning in the Classroom.” The article’s introduction states that the researchers involved in the paper already believed that active learning was superior to the traditional model in place. The reachers still carried an interest in figuring out exactly how successful active learning was in the education of a student. The group of researchers developed a fairly simple mechanism called the Active Learning Inventory Tool that was tested and re-tested in nine different post-secondary classrooms, each with over 100 students. Seven of the instructors were interviewed following their lecture using a scripted interview guide to elicit perceptions of their lesson that included: their definition of active learning, the perceived merits of active learning in the classroom, the types of active-learning activities used in the lecture, the rationale for the use of the specific active-learning activities chosen, the estimated amount of class time that was devoted to active-learning activities, the estimated time required to prepare the lesson and active-learning activities, any perceived barriers to the use of active learning, and the impact of using active-learning
techniques on the amount of content covered. The following outcomes were used to measure agreement among the observers using the Active-Learning Inventory Tool and between the observers and each instructor: number of active-learning episodes used, time per active-learning episode, and the number of different active-learning episodes included in each lecture. (Van Amburgh, et al. 2007)
Using the results of the experiment, the researchers were able to create this Active Learning Inventory Tool, which is able to be used at any educational level (primary, secondary, post secondary), and if performed by the administration of the school, can be used to evaluate exactly how well this new system is working. The ALIT also compiled the active learning methods that were most effective for the intake and memorization of information.
Now that I have demonstrated that active learning is indeed empirically superior to lecturing, I want to share the active learning tools I would implement in my classroom. I will do this by first presenting the kind of learning I wish to target. There are four levels of learning. The two most basic levels are the ones focused on in traditional education. How do we reach level three and four?
To begin, level one of learning is recall. This is put to test by your basic multiple choice test. Standardized testing weeds out the students who are best at recall. These students are able to shoot all the way to post secondary with relative ease. The second level of learning is represent. This takes the student through the process of short and long answer style test questions. In my experience, many students dislike this sort of question style because it allows them to “have to think”. Representation is only a step above recall because you can memorize and regurgitate this style of question too.
The last two kinds of learning are much more in depth, and focus on developing the students’ higher order function. The third step is seldom involved in a middle school classroom, let alone a post-secondary institution. Level three is analyze/reason. Grade twelve reading comprehension tests come the closest in standardized testing to achieve analysis and reason. “Given the following passage, write an essay on the connection between character and consciousness.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Here’s an extended list of questions that can be asked at the middle school level to develop this level of learning: Compare and contrast, Determine patterns, analyze relationships, analyze viewpoints, construct argument, evaluate, infer, deduce. The fourth level of learning is seldom even reached. The fourth level of learning is apply. This fosters higher-order thinking. Other examples are: generating ideas, problem solving, decision making, investigating, experimentation. (learningfocussed.com, 2014)
In a grade seven or eight classroom, I would only focus on the activities mentioned in analyze/reason. I want the students to prepare themselves intellectually to be able to participate in the “apply” level of learning in later adolescence.
The Last Section Will Be Elaborated Upon In Depth in my Final Project. This Section is Titled “Every Teenager is an Underdog: How to Bridge the Gap Between High and Low Ability Students:
Sternberg and Davidson wrote a book called “Conceptions of Giftedness”, which covers the way Gifted Children programs are viewed by administration, teachers, parents, and the gifted students themselves. This book is definitely pro-gifted children program, but the authors present perspectives on gifted education from both sides of the proverbial fence of the argument. Chapter Six is titled “Permission to be Gifted” and shows how gifted students who are identified and entered into these programs feel about being labeled “gifted”. Data collected in high, or medium income communities varied drastically from children who were from more humble upbringings. Children that were taken aside from their peers and friends in low income communities and proclaimed gifted faced trouble – especially at the onset of puberty – when it came to fitting in with their peers. When a child is proclaimed “gifted” among a group of children who dislike school, it can create isolating barriers between students and cause a depletion to the child’s self-esteem. As mentioned in my last blog, low self-esteem can lead to disinterest in school, which is the opposite outcome of a gifted program. (Sternberg, 2005)
Being a gifted child in a group of friends who are non-academic can lead to underachievement by gifted students. In an article by Dowdall and Colangello, it was revealed that the group’s with the highest incidence rates of underachievement in gifted students were by females in male dominated classrooms, and by males of colour. A chart below shows the difference in attributes between underachievers, average achievers, and gifted underachievers. Gifted underachievers are dubbed socially immature, anti-social, and have low self-esteem. (Dowdall & Colangelo, 1982)
After researching and analyzing the information on gifted programs, such as the Code 80 program here in Alberta, it became clear that the problem in administration is not getting gifted children the extra stimulus they need to fulfill their intellectual buckets, but the way “gifted” students are separated from the rest of the class and made to feel as if they are odd or disliked because of their differences. So how do we re-frame Code 80 to ensure a positive outlook on students who take part in it? In the article by Dowdall and Colangello, there were two experimental tools for underachieving or disinterested gifted children. The first experimental tool was to seek counselling for the students with low self concept. This was a direct method of solving isolated problems, but it doesn’t solve the institution already in place. The second experimental tool was to manipulate the classroom environment. This experimental tool is more in line with what we are trying to do in this course. It involves A) intervening in elementary school (before the child has a chance to get too comfortable in their self doubt) and B) altering attitudes of collective students on how they view both gifted students, and students with low academic success alike. By fostering a classroom model based on kindness, acceptance, and acknowledgment of intellectual ability (such as the Value Education Program mentioned in my previous blog) Gifted, regular, and under-performing students alike can all find self confidence that comes from respect, or validation.
My Academic Sources: Compilation. On my Final Project, this will be alphabetized all together.