The intent behind everything I do as an educator is to promote student growth. Teaching and learning are each complex skills. The relationship between teaching and learning, also, is complex. Effective teaching that promotes student growth requires a great deal of analysis. Second by second, teachers are teaching, collecting data, analyzing that data, sometimes at length or sometimes in an instant, making conclusions, and reacting accordingly to meet the ever-changing needs of their students. This may be why many say “teaching is both a science and an art.” When teachers and students, alike, engage in analysis of learning, student growth is maximized.
In EDU 6980 Applying Research to the School Settings, I to examine, analyze, and critiquing research articles. EDU 6980 gave me the tools necessary to evaluate whether or not the methodology and findings of a study in fact support the authors’ claims. In my Research Article Critique, I analyzed two studies’ research designs, hypotheses, variables, assumptions, limitations, reliability and validity, data analyses, and conclusions. Because of my new learning, I can interpret statistical data in a study and determine if the researchers are accurately portraying it to support their argument. Just because a published article says a strategy is “best practice,” doesn’t mean it is proven to be true, nor will it necessarily be best practice in my classroom setting.
I was able to explore and apply the action research process in my own classroom during the course, EDU 6979 Action Research, by conducting an Action Research Project. What makes action research effective is that it is entirely personalized to the individual’s classroom and students and is driven by the researcher herself. I loved being in the driver’s seat for every step of the action research process. Ultimately I got to know my students on a deeper level and felt empowered by the impact I was able to make by being intentional in the classroom. This experience has had a lasting impact on me as a teacher and has strengthened my teaching practices as I’ve continued to use this process to solve problems in my classroom with my particular students.
Student growth is promoted when students analyze and reflect on their own learning. I provided opportunities for my students to assess themselves and peers, using templates because Hattie (2012) suggests that, “learners must be taught know how to plan and monitor their learning, how to set their own learning goals, and how to correct errors” (p. 108).
The image above is an example of one form I created to support students as they learned how to give meaningful peer feedback. Students reported that this was very helpful in keeping them focused and knowing what to listen for from their partner. Chan, Konrad, Gonzalez, Peters, and Ressa (2014) recommend “involving students in the assessment process” by setting their “own academic expectations, track[ing] their learning, provid[ing] feedback to their peers, and self-assess[ing] their own performance” (p. 100). Another way to facilitate student self-assessment and reflection is a goal accounting template (Goal Accounting Template). I will continue to use this strategy in my teaching practice.
When teachers engage in effective professional development centered on student growth, student learning increases. In my project, Leveraging Collaboration Between General Educators and Specialists to Meet the Needs of All Students, I demonstrate knowledge of effective professional practices. When analyzing the context and needs at my school, I found that communication and collaboration between classroom teachers and specialists (EL, Safety Net, and Special Education), if strengthened, would benefit all students and could help close the achievement gap. Based on careful analysis of student achievement data, qualitative data from teachers, and prior experiences, I designed a long-term professional development plan that offers differentiated learning opportunities, teacher choice, and ongoing evaluation. Theories of context-based learning posit that when knowledge is viewed as held by every person, every teacher, “adult educators and program planners [can] create or enhance contexts for adult learning that allows learners to share in the design, process, and evaluation of their learning activities” (Hansman, 2001, p.49). The two-year plan outlines appropriate actions for learning about and implementing co-teaching practices as a service delivery model.
These new learnings have prepared me to be a teacher leader in guiding others to analyze learning to promote student growth. As a teacher leader, I must remember to keep clear intentions behind my decisions to ensure my actions are always centered on student growth.
Chan, P.E., Konrad, M., Gonzalez, V., Peters, M.T., & Ressa, V.A. (2014). The Critical Role of Feedback in Formative Instructional Practices. Intervention in School and Clinic, 50(2), 96-104.
Hansman, C. (2001). Context-based adult learning. In The new update on adult learning theory (41-49). Jossey-Bass.
Hattie, John (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers. New York, NY: Routledge.