E1—Exemplify professionally informed, growth-centered practice. To me, E1 means having a grading philosophy that is consistent and reflective of my educational philosophy so that my rationale and approach to grading reflects the learning priorities of my classroom. Throughout this quarter in EDU 6160, I have continued to revisit and develop my own educational philosophy based on mastery learning. Mastery learning is a method of teaching that involves the student reaching a predetermined level of mastery on units of instruction before progressing to the next. The philosophy is rooted in the idea that although students taught according to the mastery method may require more time, remediation, additional practice, support and multiple attempts to reach proficiency in the beginning of a course or unit, they will likely need less time to master increasingly advanced material because they have developed such a strong foundation.
The text we used throughout this course, Classroom Assessment—supporting teaching and learning in real classrooms, contains many useful examples of how to design and implement different strategies and assessments. Figure 1, below, is evidence of an aspect of grading policy reflective of a mastery approach to learning.
Figure 1 (pg. 386):
Ms. Henry’s gives more weight to the work her students do later in the unit or quarter rather than their first attempts because she values the improvement of skills and learning growth over time. In addition to weighting grades based on the skills and knowledge at the end of a grading period, aspects of a grading philosophy that I will employ as a proponent of mastery learning include providing detailed feedback on student work, structuring my curriculum to allow for multiple attempts and student growth over time including allowing students opportunities to revise and resubmit their work (pg. 402).
The philosophy of mastery learning is a very new understanding I will try to model my teaching practices after, in part because it starkly contrasts my private school learning experience where grades were based on initial success or failure and multiple opportunities to revisit material and revise assignments were not common practices. A mastery approach to learning appeals to me because it honors student diversity and rewards achievement.
I believe that every student is capable of achievement and proficiency if he or she is properly supported. The mastery learning approach honors the fact that students are capable, but that they do not necessarily learn at the same pace. I’ve come to understand that grading and educational philosophies should not punish students for not learning as if in an assembly line, but rather should provide the necessary structure, tools and support to ensure success—especially because success encourages confidence and motivates effort and achievement. Inviting student feedback and suggestions gives students a stake in their achievement and is an important next step in ensuring that practices remain effective in addressing student needs.
Reference: Taylor, C. S., & Nolen, S. B. (2008). Classroom assessment: supporting teaching and learning in real classrooms (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.
E3 – Exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies. To me, E3 spans broadly to include an understanding of all responsibilities and policies necessary to keeping students safe and providing a rich and challenging learning environment so that students have every possible chance to grow and succeed. Part of ensuring that students are safe and healthy includes my ability to identify signs of abuse and understand the policies for reporting abuse or neglect, which is part of my professional responsibility. Figure 1 is a screen shot of page 1 of one of our course readings for EDU 6942, Protecting the Abused & Neglected Child, A Guide for Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect by the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services—Children’s Administration. This passage explains that as a teacher in Washington State, I am required by law to be a “mandated reporter.” Being a “mandated reporter,” means I must report or cause a report to be written for suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to Child Protective Services or a law enforcement agency. Later on page 7, the reading states that I am required to report within 48 hours and also that it is very important to keep a record of my suspicion.
Throughout the reading, I was also reminded of different types of abuse, as well as different situations that may warrant suspicion of abuse. The reading proposed that in general, the following signs may suggest abuse and neglect: sudden change in behavior or school performance, not having received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention, learning problems not attributed to specific physical or psychological causes, watchfulness as though the student is preparing for something bad to happen, excessive compliance, passivity, withdrawal, or an avoidance of going home (p.3). While it is important to be cognizant and vigilant, the presence of one of the mentioned signs does not necessarily prove child abuse. If there are multiple signs present or a sign repeatedly appears, it is particularly important to consider the likelihood of abuse.
It is my responsibility to be familiar with and able to recognize signs of abuse and neglect in order to adhere to my responsibilities as both a teacher and a “mandated reporter.” In order to prioritize the safety of a child by ensuring the proper authorities are notified in a timely manner, it is my responsibility to understand and strictly adhere to not only the state’s policies for reporting, but also, the specific policies my school has in place.
In order for students to have the best chance of developing, learning and growing within the classroom, they must first be safe both inside and outside of school. My classroom must always be a place where students feel safe and comfortable to be themselves. It is important for teachers to really get to know their students, to be invested in their lives and interests; in so doing, teachers have a unique and enhanced opportunity to notice and intervene on the behalf of a student if necessary.
Reference: Washington State DSHS (2012). Protecting the Abused & Neglected Child. http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/publications/22-163.pdf