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.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 5.37.10 PM

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.

Unit Outline and Goals

For the overarching concept for this unit, I am focusing on “Learning a Key Strategy:” the strategy of argumentation through debate. As sophomores in high school, my students are approaching adulthood and are crafting their own unique identities and perspectives. Many have very strong feelings and opinions about different topics, and love to engage in discussion. The goal for this unit is to teach students the art and craft of argumentation—how to present their ideas in a well-informed, logical, respectful way. This unit is important because each student needs to understand how to, differentiate between credible and unsupported information, and understand the logic and structure behind persuasive/ argumentative writing and speaking. Regardless of where life takes them, these students will be interact with people and information all their lives, information that will contradict their own perspectives and people that will try to manipulate, persuade, or argue for and against the thoughts and feelings of these students. They need to be able to identify when this is happening, so as to be sure to respond to explicit and implicit messages in a way that is consistent with what they truly believe or intend. The goals for this unit are 1. to consider different perspectives/points of view and 2. to develop a well-reasoned and supported argument.

The justification for these goals and for teaching debate as a key strategy fosters higher-level thinking skills and is justified by a focus on “Civic Awareness.” Debate emphasizes important real-world skills such as critical thinking, effective communication, independent research and teamwork. Additionally, debate requires the development and practice of higher level thinking according to Bloom’s taxonomy as described in Effective Teaching Methods: analysis (requiring students to differentiate between credible sources, compare and contrast, recognize and support relationships between ideas and outline arguments), synthesis (requiring students to compile information from a variety of sources to form a unique solution to a problem or question, to formulate a logical and well-supported argument, and to predict and compose counterarguments) and evaluation (requiring students to assess the credibility of source material, judge the credibility of an argument based on specific criteria, defend and support their position on a topic or issue) (Borich, 2007, pp. 92-96). These skills not only contribute to the success of students within the classroom, but also in their future workplaces, in their social and political lives and in their responsibilities as citizens of democratic societies.

The development of these individual skills impacts the larger society by allowing individuals the opportunity to actively engage in a “more equitable, democratic, and dynamic society”—key justifications of a unit centered on developing civic awareness and navigating difficult social issues according to Smagorinsky, author of Teaching English by Design (Smagorinsky, 2008, p. 143). A debater must consider and study both sides of an argument of question. IDEA suggests that in this way, debate inherently “teaches the principles of tolerance, nonviolence and respect for different points of view.” Training in open-mindedness and the patient and purposeful consideration of varying perspectives is essential to developing well-informed opinions and views. In Carroll Lahman’s Debate Coaching, a Handbook for Teachers and Coaches, she quotes John Stuart Mill commenting on the process of developing informed judgments about crucial issues: “No man [or woman] understands his [or her] own side until he [or she] understands the other side” (1930, pg. 13). Debating fosters an energetic exchange of ideas and has the power to “break down national, economic, cultural and ethnic boundaries, showing that opposing views can be explored in a way that connects rather than divides people” (IDEA). Teaching debate is a worthwhile focus for a conceptual unit because the framework and skills developed extend far beyond the classroom experience, contributing to the development of responsible, respectful and reasoned individuals.

Unit Goal Assessments:

IN-Process Texts/Activities:

• Pro/Con Packet and Cornell Notes : Students are required to gather at least 10 articles as research for their debate. For the first four articles (2 pro and 2 con), students must complete a series of questions evaluating the credibility of each source. This in-process activity is meant to train students to critically evaluate sources before they do the majority of their research. For the remaining 6+ articles that students gather, they will incorporate their learning about the credibility of sources and build on that knowledge by practicing Cornell style note taking in preparation to synthesize these sources to produce the outline for their debate.

* I will read through the pro/con packets and respond to students regarding areas of strength and weakness. Packets are graded according to a check plus, check, check minus, check minus minus scale. I will also grade the Cornell Notes according to this scale and provide students with feedback.

• -Speech Outline: Students will draft an outline of their speech. This activity is used to scaffold the rough draft of the debate. The goal is to ensure that all students include the necessary elements of argumentation and debate.

*Students will work in groups of two and peer-edit another classmate’s outline according to handout with questions on one side and a rubric aligned with Common Core.

Culminating Texts and Activities:

• Rough draft of debate: Students will complete a rough draft of their debate speech including all the necessary elements and based on the outlines they have already completed. This will be a fleshed out version and the last opportunity for feedback before the final culminating activity.

* I will review the rough drafts and respond with comments so as to continue to support and aid students in refining their debates before the deliver their speeches in front of the class. I will provide feedback based on the Debate Rubric/Score Sheet that will be used to assess the culminating activity—the performance of the debate.

• Debate: Students will complete a final draft and participate in a debate—two teams of two arguing opposite sides of a controversial issue/topic.

*I will evaluate the debates as they are performed in accordance with the Debate Rubric/Score Sheet also used to assess the debate drafts.

This learning we will be facilitated and guided by three Common Core State Standards regarding research and evidence for supporting claims (pro/con packets & Cornell Notes), synthesizing multiple sources to formulate a stance or opinion on a topic or question (outline/rough draft), and finally, presenting that information, supported by evidence in a logical format suitable for a particular audience and purpose (debate): CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7 and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010).

While the process of researching and developing a well-informed opinion on any topic is clearly valuable, some worry that debate teaches students to be argumentative or combative when they disagree with one another. While this is a legitimate concern, the purpose of debate is to teach students how to think (rather than argue), how to analyze information and logically process and articulately present that information. While students will defend different positions on a topic, in order to defend their position, they must first consider and have researched the opposing view. This process shows students the ineffectiveness of blind argumentation and teaches students that in order to formulate a reasoned understanding or opinion requires considering and analyzing different perspectives. It is inevitable that students will interact with people who think, act and feel differently than they do and in preparation, it is vitally important that we equip students with a tools and skills so that they can interact in meaningful, respectful, well-reasoned, constructive exchanges. Without active engagement with whom we disagree, it is likely that elements of truth remain uncovered, as explained by Mahatma Ghandi: “honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress” (IDEA).


Borich, G. D. (2007). Effective teaching methods: research-based practice (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Merrill/Prentice Hall.

IDEA. “WHY DEBATE?” International Debate Education Association. 2011. Web.

Lahman, Carroll Polock. “Chapter I WHY DEBATE?” Debate Coaching, a Handbook for Teachers and Coaches. Vol. I. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1930. 11-17. Print. IV.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts). National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. Web.

Smagorinsky, P. (2008). Teaching English by design: how to create and carry out instructional units. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Forces Against Disruption

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 12.36.10 PM

In this week’s reading of Christensen (2011), discusses some of the forces that limit the disruptive products that could transform our current, monolithic K-12 system. The production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials limits student-centric disruptions because a text is usually written by a few experts and caters to a “’dominant intelligence’ for the type of brain whose wiring is most consistent with the methods used to solve problems in the field” (pg. 128-129). Additionally, smaller production companies who may want to produce texts and materials that appeal to different types of learners are unable to do so because it is currently too expensive; Bigger companies can spread cost out by volume and eventually small companies are folded into the big companies that are focused on producing top-selling, fixed and static textbooks (pg. 129-130). Another prevailing force against a major disruption is the current system for the sale and distribution of teaching materials, cementing “the system in monolithic, large-scale products” (p. 130). A few curriculum experts at the district and state level make textbook adoption decisions and “once a few large boards have made an ‘adoption decision,’ many other states and school districts tend to follow their lead rather than go through their own evaluation processes” (p.130).

Furthermore, a school’s reputation and funding hinges upon students’ ability on standardized and high-stakes tests and if a text does not explicitly prepare students for these tests, they can not be adopted (p.131). Although administrators do understand that one textbook will not meet the varying needs and learning styles of different students, but student-centric products are unsustainable and will not be adopted within the current mainstream school system because they do “not fit the criterion of addressing the dominant intelligence in the field, as well as the economic and test-score appeal of one-size-fits-as-many-as-possible” (131).

While this is our current climate, data analysis suggests that despite these opposing forces and even without “explicit administrative decisions ever having been made, student-centric learning will have become mainstream” around 2014 when 25% of high school classes will be offered online (p.143). We as teachers need to be looking for innovative ways to incorporate available technology. Additionally, while our current system is on the verge of a major shift, we need to be flexible, willing to adapt, and creatively supplement our “one-size-fits-most” textbooks and curriculums with interactive, collaborative and student-centric activities and materials whenever possible.

Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., & Horn, M.B. (2011). Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (kindle). McGraw-Hill.

While using the Kindle App to complete my reading this week, I highlighted many passages. Perhaps I over highlight, but upon completing the reading, I wanted to peruse through the chapter 5 highlights before writing my reflection, so I selected the “Notes & Marks” button. While I appreciate the highlighting option, I had to scroll through a long list of highlights from previous chapters before finding the highlights for chapter 5. While it wasn’t extremely time consuming, viewing options could be improved for this feature to provide more organized and efficient access to the passages. The page number is provided at the bottom of each highlight listed, which really isn’t particularly helpful considering you don’t know what chapter it’s from—so maybe that simple addition, next to the page number would be helpful!

Inclusive Education and Differentiated Instruction

EDSP-Literature Review

A Reflection on What This Paper Means to Me

After reading the articles for this assignment, what impacted me most was an expanded definition of inclusion; a definition that focuses on resisting “the many ways students experience marginalization and exclusion in schools” (Broderick, Mehta-Parekh & Reid, p.195). Homogeneity exists neither in “mainstream” nor in segregated special-education classrooms. In my reading, I discovered specific ways of creating a positive and collaborative learning environment, as well as practical examples of what differentiating instruction looks like in general education classrooms. A teacher must employ strategies that make each individual feel included and differentiated instructional practices to cater to the heterogeneous group.

In my literature review paper, I discuss the importance of creating an inclusive classroom environment and provide strategies and specific examples of what that might look like in a general education classroom. Additionally I discuss what differentiated instruction is and how it can be implemented to ensure that all students have access to the content and processes of daily learning. This topic is extremely important and relevant to me, because as a future teacher, I want and need to do everything possible to ensure that all students, including students with special needs or disabilities are able to succeed socially and academically in my classroom. I also explore what it looks like to implement differentiation of instruction and content in order to attend to the unique learning needs and preferences of students.

If a student feels isolated or does not have the necessary support or access to learning materials, they will not succeed. My hope is that my students will not only succeed, but they will thrive and that is why the strategies and perspectives in this paper will positively impact my future teaching practices.

Alicia Broderick, Heeral Mehta-Parekh & D. Kim Reid (2005): Differentiating Instruction for Disabled Students in Inclusive Classrooms, Theory into Practice, 44:3, pp.194-202. Accessed through JSTOR on May 1, 2013

Discovery: Facts vs. Concepts

Facts are observable tid-bits of information confirmed to be true whereas a concept is a general idea, more abstract, and requires thought and understanding. According to the educational psychologist Jerome Bruner, there are many routine techniques that require a student to collect and present a “long list of information” or facts. However, in his essay “Some Elements of Discovery,” Bruner states that this laundry list is “no good” because a “child will use it in a single situation and possibly not even effectively…” and then the information will likely be abandoned or forgotten. This is not effective teaching. As future educators, we must guide students in connecting information to larger concepts, making learning relevant and increasing the likelihood of transfer and retention.

Collecting and even memorizing fact-based information does not require comprehension or reflection, necessary elements of the discovery process. As students discover “neighboring elements,” and connect ideas, “the concept that emerges is like a rope in which no single fiber runs all the way through.” Students are able to make personal and compatible connections, enhancing their knowledge base and expanding their perspective and understanding. Guiding students in the proper application of simple facts and information provides them the opportunity not only to test the limits of their concepts, but also to develop “skills related to the use of information and problem-solving.”

In light of this focus on discovery, I wanted to share this poem by Dr. John Edwards. I am quite confident these will be questions and thoughts I will sincerely consider throughout the entirety of my future teaching career.
After returning home from a lecture, Edward’s wife asked him: And what did you steal from your students today?” He was quite thrown off and after thoughtful reflection, he and his wife wrote the following:

If I am always the one to think of where to go next.
If where we go is always the decision of the curriculum or my curiosity and not theirs,
If motivation is mine,
If I always decide on the topic to be studied, the title of the story, the problem to be worked on,
If I am always the one who has reviewed their work and decided what they need,
How will they ever know how to begin?

If I am the one who is always monitoring progress.
If I set the pace of all working discussions,
If I always look ahead, foresee problems and endeavour to eliminate them,
If I swoop in and save them from cognitive conflict,
If I never allow them to feel and use the energy from confusion and frustration,
If things are always broken into short working periods,
If myself and others are allowed to break into their concentration,
If bells and I are always in control of the pace and flow of work,
How will they learn to continue their own work?

If all the marking and editing is done by me,
If the selection of which work is to be published or evaluated is made by me,
If what is valued and valuable is always decided by external sources or by me,
If there is no forum to discuss what delights them in their task, what is working,
what is not working, what they plan to do about it,
If they have not learned a language of self-assessment,
If ways of communicating their work are always controlled by me,
If our assessments are mainly summative rather then formative,
If they do not plan their way forward to further action,
How will they find ownership, direction and delight in what they do?

If I speak of individuals but present learning as if they are all the same,
If I am never seen to reflect and reflection time is never provided,
If we never speak together about reflection and thinking and never develop a vocabulary for such discussion,
If we do not take opportunities to think about our thinking,
If I constantly set them exercises that do not intellectually challenge them,
If I set up learning environments that interfere with them learning from their own actions,
If I give them recipes to follow,
If I only expect the one right conclusion,
If I signify that there are always right and wrong answers,
If I never let them persevere with something
really difficult which they cannot master,
If I make all work serious work and discourage playfulness,
If there is no time to explore,
If I lock them into adult time constraints too early,
How will they get to know themselves as a thinker?

If they never get to help anyone else,
If we force them to always work and play with children of the same age,
If I do not teach them the skills of working co-operatively,
If collaboration can be seen as cheating,
If all classroom activities are based on competitiveness,
If everything is seen to be for marks,
How will they learn to work with others?

For if they…
have never experienced being challenged in a safe environment,
have had all of their creative thoughts explained away,
are unaware what catches their interest and how then to have confidence in that interest,
have never followed something they are passionate about to a satisfying conclusion,
have not clarified the way they sabotage their own learning,
are afraid to seek help and do not know who or how to ask,
have not experienced overcoming their own inertia,
are paralysed by the need to know everything before writing or acting,
have never got bogged down,
have never failed,
have always played it safe,
How will they ever know who they are?

Lee S. Shulman and Evan R. Keislar, editors. Learning By Discovery: A Critical Appraisal (1966).   children/