Being a life long learner..

Pic Source: https://www.pinterest.com/kareneblachford/quotes/

“Once you stop learning, you start dying’ – Einstein

This was my motivation behind joining PTC.

I have been teaching for the last 7 years but then I realized that a formal course/training would help me in improving my teaching practices and hence benefit my students.

A good teacher is a good student first.  This journey of PTC has taught me a lot. I have not only learned about better and more efficient teaching practices but it has also reaffirmed my faith in my existing practices.

Change is the only constant, and being an open-minded learner is the only way of surviving this constant change. Along with the module readings in PTC, the discussion and feedback from my peers is a great source of learning.

Having a closely knit formal PLC at my work place would also be  a great source of learning. This module has taught me the importance and the benefit of having a PLC and I hope, my school can start on this project. Presently,  we do collaborate across grade levels and often meet as an elementary school but we do not have a formal structure nor accountability for it. It is more driven by individual teacher’s needs and desire to learn and grow.

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A reflection a day, grows my practice in every way..

IMG_2012

Pic Source: http://www.newteachercenter.org/blog/reflection-ain%E2%80%99t-nobody-got-time

Teachers are like actors on stage who need to perform to the best of their ability each and every time.  Any fault/shortcoming during a session can be troublesome for a teacher. Hence, it is crucial that a teacher must regularly reflect critically on her/his teaching practices.

taxonomy of reflection

Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, Peter Pappas has developed ‘A taxonomy of Reflection’.  This taxonomy gives a step by step guide for teachers to reflect on their practices. A novice teacher can start at the lowest level and slowly,gradually ask higher level questions.

Starting from the lowest level of reflection:

Bloom’s Remembering: What did I do?
Teacher Reflection: What was my lesson all about? Was I able to cover the required curriculum content? Was I able to manage my time?

Bloom’s Understanding: What was important about what I did?
Teacher Reflection: Can I explain the connection of what I have taught with the bigger curriculum goals? What strategies/learning engagements did I use?  Did I explain the objectives to my students? Did I achieve my goals?

Bloom’s Application: When did I do this before? Where could I use this again?
Teacher Reflection:  Did I use the content/skills/concepts taught in the previous lessons? How will this lesson be in continuity to the next lesson? Am I following a plan? Hw can I differentiate in this lesson to keep in mind the different needs/abilities of my learners?

Bloom’s Analysis: Do I see any patterns or relationships in what I did?
Teacher Reflection: Have I done a pre-assessment to assess the prior knowledge of my students in terms of skills/abilities/content knowledge? Did the engagements match the goals ?

Bloom’s Evaluation: How well did I do? What worked? What do I need to improve?
Teacher Reflection:  What are the goals? How are the goals of this lesson connected with the objectives?  Were the learning engagements matched with the students’ abilities/skill set? Which aspects of the lesson were effective? Which areas need improvement? Was I able to involve all the students and able to meet their needs? Have I done my SWOT analysis?

Bloom’s Creation: What should I do next? What’s my plan / design?
Teacher Reflection:  How will I use this reflection to make improvements in my teaching practices? What changes will I make in lesson delivery and planning of engagements? How can I ensure more effective differentiation?

References:

http://www.peterpappas.com/2010/01/reflective-teacher-taxonomy-reflection.html

Creativity as the lifeline for learning

pic (for both) source : http://imaginationsoup.net/2012/08/5-steps-to-raising-a-creative-child/

Sir Ken Robinson says that as educators we need to prepare our students for the future which is a complete mystery for us. We don’t know , how the world will be like in future and what kind of skills will be required by our learners. This make “creativity” inside the classroom all the more imperative.

According to him, our schools kill creativity. “Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with status”. All children are creative but our educational system slowly and surely kills this creativity.  Children are not afraid of making mistakes but as we grow up, we stop being creative as we are afraid of making mistakes.  The schools and the society at large looks down upon mistakes and stigmatizes failures.

Nurturing creativity inside the classrooms is a process.  Educators must make a conscious decision so that the learners learn creatively.  Any teacher can develop and nurture this creative attitude. Creating Innovators author, Tony Wagner writes that creative innovators need certain personality traits:

  • perseverance
  • willingness to experiment and take calculated risks
  • tolerance of failure
  • the capacity for design thinking
  • critical thinking

If teachers can create an open,safe environment in the class, teaches relevant content and helps the students to make connections with their real life, encourage and model curiosity and questioning stance, then the students will be willing to take risks as they know that mistakes are fine and failures are like stepping stones towards learning.

References:

  • Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?:

On the road to become an effective teacher…..

Skills mentioned in Module 3B are the key to effective teaching.

The lessons learned in this module reaffirmed my faith in certain strategies that I have been following in my classroom and taught me some new ones. Armed with the tried & tested and new strategies, I feel more confident in teaching my students and ensuring meaningful learning by them.

The skills that a teacher needs to be effective are:

  • Planning instruction:A teacher goes in the class with the intention to teach and educate the students.  Planning instruction which is of value for the learners becomes a top priority for the teachers. But this can happen only when the teacher knows the students well.

At the beginning of every academic year, I emply various methods to gather as much information about my students as possible. First and foremost, I meet the previous year’s teachers and the school counselors to know more about the strengths/weaknesses/needs of my students. Then, I send a detailed questionnaire to the parents of my students to find out their concerns and expectations from their children and from me. All the data gathered helps me in knowing the background of my students.

Once I have this information, I try to modify my lessons (though it is not possibe nor desirable to create individual plans to suit the requirements of each student).

In our school, we try to follow ‘Backward by Design”. So According to the curriculum, we design what we want our students to learn at the end of the unit, how to teach so that those outcomes can be acheived. The unit starts with pre-assessment and formative assessments happen throughout followed by the summative task.

  • Class management- all lesson planning is ineffective if a teacher cant manage the class. An unruly class can never learn. In the 1st week of the school year, I make ‘essential agreements’ with my students. I pass the onus to make these on my students so that they feel the ownership and will follow the same more diligently.   I am still experimenting with the procedure for tracking HW submissions.
  • Motivation- A motivated class learns willingly and this learning becomes life-long. Knowing my students, treating them as intelligent and capable individuals, spending free time with them, keeping the content relevant and meaningful, giving appropriate challenges are some of the ways in which I try to keep my class motivated. However, I still have to learn to let the intrinsic motivation run deep as rewards/recognitions dont go well in the long run. A student must learn for the sake of learning and not for the rewards.
  • Communication skills- I try to maintain open channels of communication with my students. This means that I make them feel comfortable and valued so that they can come and talk to me anytime. Non-verbal communication is as important as verbal communication.
  • Managing diversity in the class- A group of students bring them diversity in terms of gender, religion, race, needs,etc. A teacher must know about these and manage them well in the class to maintain harmony. I do not encourage gender differences in my class as I feel, there are really not many differences as far as learning is considered. I encouarge cultural differences as my students can learn more about others and become tolerant and open-minded.

Being an effective teacher……..its a work – in – progress

Picture source:

http://www.ncate.org/public/researchreports/teacherpreparationresearch/whatmakesateachereffective/tabid/361/default.aspx

A million $ question with equal worth for the society. A question that weighs heavily on every teacher’s mind- whether a novice or a 20 yr experienced expert.

What qualities make a teacher effective is a difficult question to answer. It is a very broad and deep area which covers various facets of teaching and the teacher’s personality.

In Module 3A, I learnt about Teaching Knowledge Base which primarily is made up of 3 components- Content Knowledge (CK), Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) and Technological Knowledge (TK) and off course the intermingling of this which create PCK, TPK and TCK. And finally, when all these three come together to create the framework for TPCK.

Since the primary job of a teacher is to teach, s/he must have good knowledge about the subject/content that s/he teaches. This includes not just mastery over the subject but an effective teacher is one who is able to teach and guide the students in critically evaluating the various aspects of the subject matter , its connection with other subjects (to make the curriculum transdiciplinary) and most important, its connection with their lives.

It is not enough to teach the subject well. It is equally important that your students understand and are able to learn from you, which means that an effective teacher will use appropriate teaching strategies to ensure engagement from the students. Here, pedagogy comes into play. An elementary teacher will teach history in a different way than a high school history teacher will do. Each age group responds differently to different strategies. An effective teacher will match the content and teaching style to the learners.

The third component, TK (which did not get much weight-age under Shulman (1997) came into prominence with Koehler and Mishra (2006). Since technology has heavily pervaded all aspects of modern society, it is befitting that it plays a prominent role in teaching and learning process.

Since technology is a new area and a dynamic one too, many teachers face problems in adopting it in their classrooms. Lack of training, lack of guidance and (sometimes) lack of interest/time deters the teachers to adopt newer technology in their class. I don’t have to look far for this. I face similar issues when it comes to technology. I am not a novice in this area and can say that I am fairly comfortable with technology and am able to use it for my day to day affairs. So for, eg, I am comfortable using ppt but now wanna move to prezi. But find it difficult as need guidance to create one. Another personal example is use of ‘Storybird’. It is a program for ‘artful storytelling’. I know, I can effectively use this to teach my students (9-10 yrs old) creative writing and even the not-so-good-writers will be able to use it efficiently. However, I need time to first understand it myself and then teach my students, how to use it. I wish, I could have someone to guide me through this 😦

To sum it up, an effective teacher is one who is able to use TPCK effectively and also displays the following characteristics:

  • Builds relationship with the students
  • Setting of goals- expert teachers teach with a purpose.
  • Giving information- expert teachers provide less information but in a more effective manner
  • Keeping students involved- a passive student is a passive learner. Expert teachers ensure that the learners remain actively involved in the sessions.
  • Student/ teacher interaction- the interaction between the students and a effective teacher is positive-both gaining from such a relationship.
  • Concluding the session- an effective teacher will close a session by reviewing the key points discussed during the session.

An effective teacher is :

picture source: http://agreenblatt.blogspot.com/2014/09/being-effective-teacher.html

For me, it is still a WIP (work in progress), especially in terms of integrating TK with CK and PK and arrive at TPCK. This course has made me learn many things (in terms of technology) and now I feel more comfortable in trying out new technologies ……

So here to more learning……

Remember,

A good teacher is first a good student 🙂 🙂

‘Agents of Change’ – Professionalism in teaching- reflections on Module 2 – EDS 111

Image sourced from http://www.newsrealblog.com/2010/04/08/do-we-want-teachers-or-progressive-%E2%80%9Cchange-agents%E2%80%9D/

What is professionalism in teaching?

“According to me, a professional teacher would mean someone who has the required qualifications and skill set to teach; the aptitude to work with different ability learners;who works with other stakeholders like the parents, other teachers, education institution, government and society at large for the betterment of the learners; who is constantly willing to learn and adapt to the changing social scenarios; who takes moral responsibility for shaping the lives of the learners and who maintains high ethical values” – As quoted by me in the reply for Discussion 1 for Module 2.

Teachers hold a very special position in the scheme of things in our world. Its the teachers who can make or mar the lives of the students that they touch. A teacher is not just the upholder of knowledge but s/he is also to one who teaches values, ethics and skills that make a good human being.

In this module, I learnt that a teacher’s position is greatly affected by the political, socio-economic factors of the concerned nation and in the present era of connectivity, the world. Since education is a priority for almost all the nations, various governments try to control and manage the education policy. So depending on the political party in power, there has been less or more autonomy for the teachers.

As compared to the past, there is more regulation on teaching.

I feel, the expectations that the parents, schools and the society has from the teachers has increased many folds.

I remember, during my school days (1980s), teachers’ primary job was to come and teach and prepare us for the tests. Other than the occasional chat with the teacher, the boundaries were clearly defined and the rarely did the world of the teacher and the student intermingled.  One of the big reasons for this could have been the big class sizes (40 was considered a decent average). A teacher possibly couldn’t connect with with such a  huge number. In those days, teaching with the text-books was a norm and project- based learning was just a newly coined term.

Now, the class sizes have shrunk (in my school, the average is 20). Textbooks are shunned down upon, teachers are expected to get more creative and engage in hands-on activities. Now-a-days, teachers are expected to not only follow the academic path of the learner but also be mindful of his socio-pshyco-emotional health. These days, the teachers get more opportunities to  connect with their learners and this helps them in understanding their students better.

Overall, I would say that it is a challenging yet exciting time to be into this profession as times/technologies are changing very fast and it is up to us to prepare the learners for the future challenges.

Reflections on Module 1- EDS 111- SWOT Analysis

MODULE 1: PERSPECTIVES ON TEACHING AND TEACHING STYLES

During this module, I did a lot of ‘soul-searching’ and faced many ‘honest truths’ about myself as a person and as a teacher.

A good teacher is a good learner first – Keeping this mind, I went through the various tests trying to figure out my teaching perspectives and teaching styles. Agreed with some,,while others came as a surprise (even though I knew them to be true 😉 )

As far as perspectives go, it came as no surprise that my dominant and back-up perspectives are social reform and nurturing.

 I am a firm believer of this adage. A teacher’s job is not just to come to a class, teach a subject, assess the students, give scores and leave. A teacher has much greater impact in the lives of the students. Through my lessons and my time spent with my learners, I want them to not only gain knowledge into various topics but also grow and become better human beings with good values and skills.

While keeping my strengths in mind, I also need to work on my weaknesses. Transmission came as my recessive perspective. So now, being a good learner, I must work on gaining and passing on more mastery of the subject.

The quiz about the teaching styles showed my prominent style to be that of a ‘personal model’.  Very close came the styles of ‘facilitator’ and ‘expert’. I have always thought of myself as a strict teacher who has set standards and expect the students to live up to those (off course, I also maintain close and warm connections with my students and ensure that they understand the rationale behind my expectations). I do see myself as a role-model and as and when appropriate use examples from personal life. I feel, this way, my students (9-10 years old) get more connected with me. While teaching also, I model my expectations and then let the students work into small/big groups.

‘Facilitator’ style came on high for me was a surprise. I have always had the intentions of being more a facilitator and less of an expert in the class but felt that I still have a long-long way to go.

The area that I really need to work on is delegate more tasks to me students, to trust them to do well.

An effective teacher will be able to maintain a good balance between the various teaching perspectives and will be able to blend different teaching styles keeping in mind the needs of the learners.

The Learners are what matter the most and that is why we are all in this profession.

Beginning of a new chapter- EDS 111

  • What do the results of the tests say about you as a learner?
  • What aspects of studying and learning do you find yourself lacking?
  • Are you willing to make changes on how you study?
  • How can you further enhance your skills in studying and learning?

After a long holiday (around a month), its time for me to get back to my books. This is my 2nd trimester and am glad that the 1st trimester ended on a good note (even though, there were moments where I felt, I couldn’t go on any more 😦 )

Its a new year, a new beginning (at least a new trimester with new course ;-))

Starting with new hopes, new resolutions (and new fears,too) Wanna work on the mistakes that I had made in the last trimester and wish to do better this time.

The various tests under ‘Know Thyself’ have given a good start to this course. I have always enjoyed such tests, where I get to know more about myself, my strengths, weaknesses,etc.

SWOT Analysis- Thinking about your own strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats is not an easy thing to do. My biggest strength is I am able to grasp new content easily (anything to do with numbers/graphs is a different story, though). Repeated reading helps more than rote-learning. I am able to analyse things.

The biggest challenge for me during this course is time-management. Full time work as a teacher and managing a home with a 7 year old, who demands constant attention, takes away most of my time. Also, online studies puts the onus of studying on me, rather than a physical class where I have to follow the schedule. During my 1st trimester, I had struggled a lot with this. Most of the times, I was able to meet the deadlines, though few submissions saw me in a panic state, struggling to complete the tasks. This time, around, I plan to distribute my work evenly through the week so that I can use some part of my weekends for leisure.

My score from SARC

Your Score Benchmark
Textbooks 32 30
Notetaking 16 20
Memory 32 30
Test Prep 47 40
Concentration 40 35
Time Management 17 20

Source: http://sarc.sdes.ucf.edu/form-studyskills

In terms of a learner, I must increase the use of visual aids and also focus more on extra readings which will broaden my understanding and give me different perspectives. I must also improve in note-taking and reviewing. I usually take down notes but the notes are always brief.

SRQ score– 216  [Intermediate (moderate) self-regulation capacity (middle quartiles)]

Time management Score- 59    [56 – 100 = Poor time manager]

In an online course, the onus of discipline, time management and organisation falls on the student. These various tests have taught me more about my self and I will use this knowledge to learn deeper and apply myself fully to this course.

Amen to that 😀

Team Work…a great teacher

What lessons did I learn from Assignment 2?

How would I like to have a similar experience in the future?
Will I want to do this again?
Shall I do something like it in a class that I (shall) teach?

Was approaching the end of course on ‘Assessment’. It had been good 3 months learning about ‘Assessment’. Only Assignment 2 was left (and off course the Final Exam). Then Ms. Malou posted the details about the course. And the stress took over…..First, it took me a while to understood the requirements of the assignment. And once I understood them, it caused me more stress ;-). Joining a group was the easiest part though it brought along a lot of apprehensions (about fellow group members).
For the 1st few days, nothing happened in my group and I started freaking out. I didnt know, whether my understanding of the task was correct or was I completely off the charts.

Then, one fine day, Sun finally shone….Irish (one of my group members) posted her views on our group. It was such a great relief, in more ways than one. I was relieved that at least, one other person was active in my group and the bigger relief was that her ideas confirmed my understanding 🙂
The discussion started, ideas kept going back and forth……it was just two of us…but the discussion was lively and meaningful….we were on the same page, almost instantaneously….both of us wanted to wrap up things well ahead of time…..(Irish, it was great working with you)

Then on another fine day, another bright star became visible on our group’s sky…..Queennie joined the discussion and brought along with her fresh insights….discussions got a new life….more questions, arguments, counter arguments……(but all in a respectful tone) Finally, we agreed on the TOS, tool and peer/self assessment rubrics.
Then we individually started working on our tasks and finally Asst 2 got over……What a relief !!!!! 🙂
Thanks a ton to Irish and Queenie, without whom crossing this bridge would have been extremely difficult.

Looking back on the entire process of Asst 2, I feel happy and contented. Initially, I had my apprehensions about working in a group, especially since we hardly know our peers from this e-community. I felt, I will be able to greater justice to the task by working alone. And yes, the initial phase did confirm my apprehensions. We worked in different time zones, had different schedules..but finally, we got around these hurdles and worked together as a team. This team work has taught me many things. In this highly connected world, we must become a good team-player and an effective communicator if we wish to convey our ideas and succeed. Through this task, I came to see Assessment through different perspectives…Each one of us brought different strengths to the table and together we were able to cook a delicious meal. It was not a smooth sailing throughout……but that’s what is life….We worked out our differences, saw other person’s perspective, respected each others’ ideas and reached our goal.

And yes, if given an opportunity, I would want to work like this again…

As an elementary school teacher, I often use group work during formative/summative assessments. Group work helps students in working on their social/self-management skills. This also helps those students who might not have the confidence but have the content knowledge. Other students can help them out in this. Sometimes, I allow my students to choose their group members. Other times, I make the groups. This ensures that students get to work with different people and learn to adjust accordingly. This also ensures that no group becomes too strong or is left with under-performers.

Thanks to Ms Malou for giving us this opportunity to work with others.

Meaning of Scores for teachers and students…

Based on your personal experience, are scores able to effectively inform both teachers and students about learning progress in class?  Do teachers and students share common interpretations of scores? Or has it been a more common case that scores are mere numbers that are processed to fill in report cards?  

Tests….exams….quizzes…all these take me back into my school/college days where the result days used to be filled with anxiety , apprehensions, feeling of being sick :-(( In those days, traditional schooling was the norm and a student’s entire life was dependent only on numbers, the so called scores.  High scores meant that the student was intelligent, hard working, smart and so on. Low scores meant that the student was dumb, lazy, good for nothing chap. The scores divided the class into haves….and the have nots…:-( This system did not recognize that a student might be bright but is not good in writing a test, or is not fast enough to follow the time limit, or would perform better in more student friendly scenario.

Now since I am on the other side of the fence (as an educator), I feel, scores tell me so little about my students. Each year, my class is filled with students who not only come from different backgrounds but also learn in different styles and at different paces (something that was unknown to us in the past). A simple paper-pencil test cannot truthfully display my learners knowledge and depth of their understanding.

I understand that scores have a value and certain situations demand paper-pencil tests. However, these tests should hold a very small part in a teacher’s repertoire.

A formative/summative project/performance etc give a better understanding about a student’s learning as they assess not only theoretical knowledge but also skills like social skills, being able to work with others, communication skills, etc. These formative/summative tasks use rubrics and these rubrics are not that fearsome for students. For eg, in my school, all our rubrics/checklist contain the following four standards- exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, approaching expectations and needs further improvement. Even if a student gets a mark under the last two categories, it softens the blow as it is descriptive.

I do give tests/quiz to my students, but these have a minuscule weight in deciding the progression of the student.