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.

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