Hope Reflection: E1–Goal Setting

E1 – Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice. In order to ensure that my teaching practice is both professionally-informed and growth centered means engaging in constant self-assessment and reflection. But more importantly than reflecting on the effectiveness of my instructional strategies or classroom management techniques, pursuing professionally-informed growth means setting goals and making specific plans for improvement. It is so easy to be consumed by the many daily and weekly tasks of planning, grading and teaching, but throughout this program and my internship, I have learned the absolute necessity of taking time for personal reflection as a means to setting attainable, measurable goals and benchmarks to signpost my personal and professional growth and development.
A specific example of reflection and goal setting is the draft I made of my Professional Growth Plan for Residency Teacher Certification:

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By assessing myself according to different rubrics in different areas: effective communication of expectations, differentiating instruction, using multiple data elements to plan and adjust instruction, and collaboration with families and community members concerning student learning, I was able to assign a numeric value to my skill level and performance before identifying goal, specific goals or skills needed to meet my goals, specific actions steps I could take toward the accomplishment of my goal, as well as what types of evidence I could use to demonstrate improvement. Goal setting not only directs attention and behavior, but demands action because one must rely first on the knowledge or skills he or she already has, in order to then identify and pursue the new knowledge or skills required to achieve the goal (Locke & Latham, 2002). Goal setting fosters patience and persistence, a “stick-to-it-ness,” acknowledging that growth and change is a process, an accomplishment that requires seeking. I recognize that especially as a teacher, I must always be seeking, pursuing ways in which to improve my thinking, my organization, my communication, my strategies, my classroom management, my instruction. Moving forward, I will continue to set both personal and professional goals, both independently and in conjunction with my peers and administration in order to be a relevant, dynamic and effective educator.

Reference:
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35–year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.

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Standards-Based Assessments

P3: Practice standards-based assessment. This standard means not only aligning assessments to standards, but also using a variety of informal as well as formal assessments to elicit student voice and measure student progress toward learning targets and standards. During my internship, I frequently used both “Exit Tickets” as a way of encouraging students to self-asses their participation and personal progress toward the learning objective, but also to elicit student voice and receive feedback regarding what students learned during the lesson as well as where students feel they still need support or clarification. After reading through each “Exit Ticket,” I had a better understanding of where students were in relation to the learning objective and how I might tweak my lesson or activity for the following day in order to fill in gaps in academic knowledge or provide additional support or practice for the development of particular skills. When used effectively, student voice and feedback should inform teaching practices to improve student understanding.

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The example above is an “Exit Ticket” written by a junior student during our study of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. During the “Entrance Ticket” from the beginning of the lesson, students expressed confusion over the differences between themes and subjects, so I gave a mini-lesson on theme before we analyzed the first short story in the novel for potential themes. This student believes she successfully met the learning objective, evaluates her participation in the practice activity, and then explains how her understanding of truth was expanded, challenged, or changed as a result of the lesson activities and discussion. Moving forward, I will continue to use a variety of informal and formal assessments in order to monitor student progress toward standards and goals. It was encouraging to me watching students come to the realization that I was reading their “Entrance Tickets” and “Exit Tickets,” listening to what they needed and providing specific support. These informal pre and post assessments employ student voice in order to inform my teaching, but also teach students how to self-asses, giving them a stake in their own learning and achievement.

Professionally-Informed, Growth-Centered Practices

E1: Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice. Seeking to continually improve and grow has been a key practice for me as a student teacher these last four months. It is easy to become so consumed with the many daily and weekly tasks of planning, grading, teaching that often I would get to the end of a week and realize that I had not taken time to really reflect on why or why not certain aspects of my lessons did or did not go well. In asking for feedback from my mentor teacher, I often was given a short list of teaching-related things to consider adjusting for improvement. Along with personal reflection, I used this constructive criticism to set attainable daily goals for myself which not only allowed me to have small benchmarks to mark my own growth and development, but also created opportunities for me to have small professional successes such as improving my classroom management which contributed to the overall success of my students.

A specific example of feedback and goal setting emerged toward the end of my internship when my mentor teachers gave me feedback by way of a disposition assessment. Because effective teachers should exhibit dispositions that produce positive, constructive interaction with others, this assessment provides teacher candidates the opportunity to reflect and receive input regarding personality, temperament and outlook all of which contribute to actions and patterns of conduct. After receiving feedback from my mentor teachers, I was then able to set some professional goals for myself. With these newly set goals, I have the opportunity to monitor my personal progress, growth and development in these specific areas, moving forward.

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Willingness to seek-out and gracefully receive constructive criticism from colleagues is the mark of a teacher who is always seeking self-improvement and professional development. Moving forward, setting personal and professional goals and taking the time to self-reflect on my progress toward those goals will prevent me from becoming stagnant, too comfortable or unobservant of what does and does not work in the classroom.

Differentiating Instruction

P2: Practice differentiated instruction. A teacher who differentiates instruction understands that homogeneity does not exist within any classroom and thus he or she provides instruction that addresses the diverse needs of students “when planning and delivering rigorous and relevant, yet flexible and response instruction” (Broderick, Mehta-Parekh & Reid, 2005, p. 196). One way I tried to differentiate instruction during my internship was to integrate a variety of learning styles, giving students choices, mixing up the structure of my lessons, and creating opportunities for students to learn and respond to material in different ways. Practicing these aspects of differentiated instruction kept me from favoring a dominant culture or learning styles, engaging my students and motivating them to excel in areas of strength and familiarity while challenging them in areas of weakness or uncertainty. When designing and teaching a unit on the Shakespearean tragedy Othello, I did my best to honor personal development through learner-centered approaches, recognizing that students do not learn the same material in the same ways.

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As we studied the play, I tried to incorporate activities that catered to a variety of learning styles: we listened to audio recording and followed along in the text, students read the text aloud, we watched scenes from a film version of the tragedy, students read and acted out scenes, then some students read while different students acted, we analyzed soliloquys for rhetorical effectiveness and we practiced interpreting and summarizing difficult passages. Throughout the unit, I performed a variety of informal assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the different learning activities and at times would allow students to choose how we would study the text for a particular scene. Moving forward, I will continue to plan lessons and curriculum that honors the diverse ways in which students learn by differentiating instruction. It was really interesting to see what learning styles were most successful in each class and to make adjustments based on the student feedback I received regarding how students felt they learned best. They were good sports as we experimented with different learning styles and activities. Many students enjoyed the variety of learning approaches as well as the opportunity to provide input based on their own needs and as a result it was not only a valuable learning experience for the students, but also for me as well.

Creating Organized Curriculum Aligned to Standards and Outcomes

O1: Offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes. Organizing a curriculum around Common Core standards and outcomes, means choosing the standards and goals for the unit, as well as the desired end result or outcome, then planning lessons, activities, and multiples ways of assessing progress toward the chosen standards and goals. I had the opportunity to practice creating organized curriculum during my internship this year. Before beginning a unit on Debate—persuasive writing and speaking—I designed a unit outline identifying the three standards, skills I wanted to students to develop throughout the unit, and the way in which students would show evidence of learned skills.

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Mentally mapping out an entire unit in this way was challenging, but knowing what the end goal was, helped keep my lessons focused. Additionally, centering each lesson on specific learning targets kept lessons aligned with my chosen Common Core standards and ensured that each lesson was purposefully constructed to meet that learning objective. Furthermore, including learning objectives or measurable goals for each lesson helped make me aware of when to scaffold certain concepts or activities as well as to build on skills and deepen understanding as lesson progressed. Not only were daily learning targets beneficial to me as an instructor, but they also provided students with clear, purposeful, and measurable expectations for each day’s lesson. When students understand what is expected of them and why, they not only become responsible for their own learning, but also, they are able to self-assess their progress toward each learning goal. This opportunity for self-assessment teaches valuable skills in reflection and self-analysis by giving students a stake in their own education.

Honoring Family Involvement in the Learning Process

H4: Honor family/community involvement in the learning process. During my internship, honoring family involvement in student learning meant responding and meeting with parents who were concerned about their student’s progress, especially as my internship ended and the academic year came to a close. I received many emails from parents, wanting to discuss options and different strategies to ensure that their student finished out the school year well, which often also meant bringing up his or her grade in the class. Although on days when I was at school late, and had grading and planning to do, it felt overwhelming to also need to maintain communication with parents of multiple students from multiple different class periods. However, parents provide the key support for students outside the classroom, and in order to be successful, they must be provided with an understanding of how their student is performing. I found it rewarding to collaborate with parents to create strategic plans to support the needs of their sons and daughters. Parent support makes a significance impact on student success and supporting parents as they support their student at home not only honors the role of parent involvement in the learning process, but also honors the potential achievement of my students—one of my key goals and responsibilities as their teacher.

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Another way I was able to support parent involvement in the success of their students, was to keep the online gradebook up to date. When a parent would email and inquire about what assignments his or her student was missing or the status of his or her student’s grade, I was able to point them directly to the gradebook, a concrete record of his or her student’s progress. Parents were very appreciative of this, as well as my religious updating of the class’ “Fusion page.” On the “Fusion page” I would post different assignments, activities, and deadlines for projects, so parents could access information about what was done in class, as well as print the actual assignments in order to support their student’s completion of class work.

Honoring the Diverse Ways Students Learn and Develop

H1: Honoring student diversity and development. Honoring student diversity and development means respecting that students are at different stages in the learning process and need varying levels of support in order to develop and be successful. During my internship, two instructional strategies I incorporated to honor the diverse ways in which students develop were scaffolding and constructivist learning activities. For example, while teaching Othello to sophomores, I and another student teacher taught students how to analyze a soliloquy and write a rhetorical analysis. Only two students had written rhetorical analyses before, so we started from the beginning. We dusted off our understanding of the persuasive appeals in order to evaluate their effectiveness within each soliloquy. In order to scaffold this writing assessment, we designed questions to guide student thinking, as well as an essay outline, so students could practice writing according to the essay structure that would be expected of them for their final writing assessment.

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As a class, we annotated a soliloquy for the appeals and then drafted the outline of an argument together. As their second writing assessment, students were given a new soliloquy, and asked to annotate and construct their rhetorical analysis with a partner. Finally, after two scaffolded, constructivist practice attempts, students were responsible for annotating a third soliloquy on their own and then writing a complete rhetorical analysis essay. For this third attempt, students were given the outline graphic organizer, just as they used in their previous two practice rhetorical analyses. An emphasis on constructivist, cooperative learning is founded on the philosophy that learning in isolation limits understanding, but working with a partner or group allows student the opportunity to navigate different social dynamics, while constructing new knowledge by learning from one another. According to John Dewey, while the school is “primarily a social institution,” a concentrated form of community life, constructivist ideology centers on unity and cooperative learning while still maintaining an emphasis on individual accountability (Dewey, 1897, p.2). With each scaffolded, practice attempt, students became more responsible and accountable for the process of annotating and writing their rhetorical analyses, until they were held completely responsible for completing the writing assessment on their own. When asked, majority of students felt this process prepared them for success—the result of effective scaffolding and collaboration. Moving forward, I will continue to use scaffolding and collaborative learning strategies, as well as seek additional and varied ways in order to support the unique and diverse ways in which students learn and develop.

Providing Students with Multiple Ways of Accessing Content Materials.

H2: Honor student access to content material. Honor students’ right to learn means providing students with every opportunity to succeed. This includes making content materials accessible and available in different ways, to all students, not just those who happen to make it to class on any given day. During my internship, this meant creating a system so that all students, especially those who were absent, knew where and how to go about getting the work they missed. As part of this system, I accessed and frequently updated and uploaded documents to the high school’s “Fusion” page, so students and parents alike were able to access assignments and activities from home. For example, when I began teaching a unit on the novel, The Things They Carried, I posted the reading schedule for the unit on the “Fusion page” in addition to make “reading schedule” bookmarks, which I handed out in class. That way, if students were absent and did not receive a bookmark, or lost their bookmark, they would be able to access the Fusion page and see which chapters were due which days. In addition to the reading schedule, and other materials such as daily discussion questions, I created and posted an online discussion, so that those who were absent for our in-class Socratic Seminar, were able to have a mini, make-up seminar online.

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In this way, students were able to have a discussion, explore content topics of interest and make up the points for the discussion. According to Issues in Web-Based Pedagogy, online learning not only allows for flexibility of access, from anywhere and usually at anytime, but also allows participants to collapse time and space (Cole, 2000). Not only were students given multiple ways to participate in the learning activity, but, they were able to do so remotely and at a time of their own choosing, as long as they met the designated deadline. For students who did not have access to a computer at home, they were able to make-up seminars on the computers at school and for those who preferred to have hard copies of the work they missed, I designated a bin, in which I would place extra copies of the days assignment labeled with the date it was assigned, so students were able to quickly and easily access those materials. In these ways, not only are students given multiple ways to access content materials, but also are given the opportunity for agency and responsibility to seek out and complete missed work. Supporting students in taking ownership of their own education is a key part of the learning process, and I was encouraged to see students taking personal responsibility and accessing content materials when given the opportunity through established policies and procedures.

Resource: Cole, R. A. (2000). Issues in Web-based pedagogy: A critical primer. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Exemplifying my Understanding of Professional Responsibilities and Policies

E3: Exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies. As a part of making sure that all students are safe and accounted for, it is imperative that I am not only aware of my professional responsibilities and the various policies in place, but that I am prepared and able to actuate those responsibilities and procedures when necessary. During the course of my internship, on several occasions, I had the opportunity to become familiar with my responsibilities and the procedures in place to ensure student safety in case of fire. The first time the fire alarm went off during my first few weeks, I did not know what was expected of me—my mentor teacher and I had not discussed what to do incase of different emergencies. My mentor teacher walked me through what my responsibilities as a lead teacher would be: making sure all students exit the classroom, locking the door, taking a bright red clipboard, exiting the building and meeting at a designated place on the football field, holding up the red clip board so students know where to meet, taking attendance to ensure that all students are safe and accounted for and then passing the attendance to the appointed individual.

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After this first fire drill, my mentor teacher and I discussed the various policies and procedures in place for a variety of potential situations and emergencies that could arise. After the initial panic and uncertainty of my role, our discussion of my responsibilities and the policies in place, increased my confidence and my ability to navigate potentially stressful and even dangerous situations calmly and responsibly. Although it was only a drill, this was the first time I really felt the weight of responsibility for my students’ safety. As I begin my teaching career, I am keenly aware of the importance of understanding all of my professional responsibilities, including familiarity with the policies my school has in place, particularly for emergencies. While I will daily feel the weight of responsibility for my students’ learning and development, I must also understand how to navigate and follow procedures according to policy for potentially dangerous, chaotic or unusual situations, in order to protect and ensure the safety of all students.

Incorporating Intentional Inquiry

P1: Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. In my opinion, this standard has to do with reversing the top-down teacher to student relationship. Instead of assuming we know what students need, even if those assumptions are well-informed, intentional inquiry suggests that we employ student voice when planning for instruction. This can be done in a variety of different ways, but during my internship, I used entrance and exit tickets as ways to encourage students to initiate prior learning, reflect, and self-assess, as well as to inform my lesson planning. I would ask students to weigh in on strategies and activities that worked well for them, specific ways in which lesson clarified their understanding, ways in which they were still confused, and specific content areas or skills in which students felt they still needed support or clarification. For example, after concluding the reading of the novel, The Things They Carried, my junior classes were to complete an essay as their final writing assessment of the year. BHS and these classes in particular, heavily emphasize the development of writing skills through practice, so my students had already written multiple essays in response to various texts studied throughout the year. These students are very familiar with the essay writing process now, and are growing more confident in their ability to develop, organize and present their own ideas. As is her habit, my mentor teacher handed back the previous essay the students had written the day before they were to begin crafting their final essay for the year. As an exit ticket for the day, I had students evaluate their essays by identifying two areas of strength and two areas of weakness or areas they needed additional support before writing their last essay.

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This intentional inquiry not only provided students with an opportunity for reflection and self-assessment, but also provided me the opportunity to tailor and differentiate instruction, so as to support the unique needs of the students in each class. Not only did students receive specific support, but also, they felt they had agency in their education and were actively engaged during my support lessons because they recognized that I trusted their self-assessments, I listened and responded, and when given the opportunity, they wanted to improve. Intentional inquiry allows educators to make learner-centered decisions about how best to tailor and differentiate instruction. According to Models of Teaching by Bruce Joyce, Marsha Weil, and Emily Calhoun, research suggests that “inquiry-oriented curriculums appear to stimulate growth in other; apparently unconnected areas” (2009, pg. 88). Intentional inquiry not only initiates prior learning and encourages the making of new connections through reflection and critical thinking, but also invites students to be more actively engaged in their own learning. When students participate as active members of the discovery process, they are more likely to remember the information taught and apply critical thinking skills in the future, which are key reasons that I will continue to use intentional inquiry as a means of providing purposefully designed lessons and activities.