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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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.

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).

Resources:

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. Idebate.org

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. http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards

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

Goals, Standards, and Objectives

Goals are important expressions of our values and “give learners, parents, and the community the reasons [we] are teaching the lessons” planned. Effective Teaching Methods: Research-Based Practice by Gary Borich provides five factors worth considering when “establishing goals for what should be learned:

  1. The subject matter we know enough about tot teach (subject-matter mastery)
  2. Societal concerns, which represent what is valued in both the society at large and the local community
  3. Student needs and interests and the abilities and knowledge they bring to school
  4. Your school’s educational philosophy and your community’s priorities
  5. What instructional theory and research tells us can be taught in the classroom” (Borich, 2010, p. 81).

But goals are broad and do not necessarily facilitate or motivate successful learning. From goals, we derive standards which “more specifically identify what must be accomplished and who must do what in order to meet the goals” (Borich, 2010, p. 80). In more recent years, re-evaluations of standards reveal the importance of “commitment to developing a ‘thinking curriculum,’ one that focuses on teaching learner how to think critically, reason, and problem solve in authentic, real-world contexts” (p. 82).

 

From standards, educators derive objectives, “which convey specific behaviors to be attained, the conditions under which the behaviors must be demonstrated, and the proficiency level at which the behaviors are to be performed based on the learning histories, abilities, and current levels of understanding” of the learners (Borich, 2010, p. 80). Practically speaking, the purpose of an objective is to identify the strategies through which standards can be achieved and to express strategies in a way that allows one to measure their effects on students; a “statement that achieves these two purposes is called a behavioral objective” (p. 84). When organizing lesson plans and writing objectives, it is important to remember that using specific, observable, action verbs allows students to easily identify the task at hand and provides measurability of the observable outcome.

 

Borich, G.D. (2010). Effective Teaching Methods (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

EDU 6120–Reflection M9

My mind was immersed in new knowledge this quarter in American Education: Past and Present, and to write a brief summary seems implausible. I learned a host of new acronyms—too many to count—some of which include:

  • OSPI: Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • NCATE: The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • AFT: American Federation of Teachers
  • NEA: National Education Association
  • AFL: American Federation of Labor
  • PEA: The Progressive Education Association

In addition to this laundry list of offices, federations and associations, I was particularly interested in learning about America 2000. America 2000 was a program advocated for by the Bush administration consisting of “a series of goals, published in pamphlet form, which the political leaders had agreed constituted a needed educational agenda for the nation” (Urban and Wagoner, 2009, p. 408). The core of the national agenda according to Urban and Wagoner, included a “statement of the need for national standards as the key aspect of educational improvement” as well as emphasis in preparing students and communities to become “lifelong learners” (2009, p. 2008). The original six educational goals of America 2000 include:

  1. All children in America will start school ready to learn
  2. Rate of highschool graduation must increase to 90 percent
  3. Students must demonstrate competency leaving grades 4,8, and 12
  4. Students of the United States must lead the world in science and math
  5. Every adult must be literate and posses necessary skills to be a responsible citizen
  6. Every American school must be safe, drug and alcohol free (Urban and Wagoner, 2009, p. 409).

One reason this program originally interested me, was the clear and unabashed national, political agenda. Its fascinating how the public responds when in fear. National fears of the increasing development and power of other nations, made many comfortable with allowing the national government to push political agenda in the classroom. Aside from this, I admire the ideals represented by these goals, but as is the classic problem in educational reform, implementation of these goals was lacking. Having read and discussed many events in the development of education, I most strongly recognize that ideals and goals are admirable, but without detailed and organized ways in which adjustments can be implemented, little reform actually takes place.

Reference:

Urban, Wayne J., Jennings L. Wagoner, Jr.  (2009) American Education: A History.
New York: Routledge.