Artifact: AR Pres
One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching is the annual challenge of customizing your curricular approach and classroom practices / environment to the unique group of students that are in your class each year. Some approaches and practices transfer very smoothly from one year to the next, and can be gradually revised and improved with only minor considerations for the specific cohort of students. However, I find that many approaches that were very successful the previous year need to be significantly altered to meet the needs of the current year’s student group. This is one of the reasons that teaching the same grade level or subject stays interesting and challenging for many years.
My learning during this program has further enhanced my ongoing efforts to appropriately adjust my practices for each year’s student cohort. I will discuss two specific experiences that will impact my future work.
Action Research Project
One was the Action Research project I completed during my EDU 6979 course (see artifact: AR Pres attached). The project focused on 5th graders and the skill of multiplying and dividing decimals, an area of annual struggle for my 5th grade cohorts. To prepare for this project, I completed a literature review. I had been thinking about using more games to improve student understanding, but decided against it after the indeterminate results obtained by Bragg (2012).
One idea that caught my attention was from Ramdass and Zimmerman (2008), who claimed that “Teachers need to show the connection between strategy training and self-efficacy judgements” and that “Students who utilize strategies in problem solving will develop higher efficacy compared to those who do not”. (p. 19) By self-efficacy, the authors are referring to a “predictive measure of one’s capability to perform on a future task.” (p. 20)
This concept caught my attention because of the makeup of the group of 5th grade students I was working with. This particular group had many who were either under- or over-confident in their abilities in math. As part of the formative assessments students did during the lessons, I added a piece where students predicted how many problems they thought they got correct out of a set to help them better assess the accuracy of their self-efficacy judgements. This reflective exercise turned out to be very helpful in increasing student self-awareness. As the unit progressed, they could more accurately determine if they needed more help or not. I plan to include more self-efficacy questions like this in future math units, as opposed to only having students rate themselves versus a learning target.
In the future, I expect to continue to use the action research approach when I run into an aspect of my teaching where I am struggling, or where student outcomes are not what I would like them to be. These literature reviews are a key part of ongoing, individual reflective practice (York and Barr, 2006, p. 63).
I will also always look to share the results of my research with other teachers. In the case of my decimal project, I already shared the results with the 5th grade team at my building. I also plan to encourage my teammates to use the action research process when we come up against a team challenge that has no immediate answers.
Accomplished Teaching Connections
Our review of the Marzano framework reinforced an important parameter that I need to adjust based on my specific student cohorts: “withitness”. “Withitness” comes from the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model under criterion 5 (Fostering and Managing a safe, positive learning environment). Component 5.3 is Demonstrating “withitness”. Component 5.3 defines withitness as “the teacher demonstrates awareness of the classroom at all times”. Further diving into the Marzano center website yields several interesting articles about withitness, including one from their blog titled “Classroom Monitoring by Walking Around: Part 1”. This blog cites the benefits of shifting location in the room constantly throughout the lesson, and how this results in higher student engagement.
These readings helped remind me that each class need varying amounts of withitness and teacher motion to function successfully. With some groups, a teacher needs to go beyond their default level; the students just need more support to be on-task and involved. As a former day-dreamer (I was nicknamed “space cadet” by my own mother), I know how helpful it can be if the teacher gets close to your location, or provides a quick, straightforward, yet respectful reminder to pay attention. In fact, I happen to have my most needy class this year (out of ten years so far) with regards to lack of self-management. The admonishments of Marzano’s framework and blog resonate in my head on a daily basis, as I adjust my practices to help the students maintain a higher level of engagement.
Moving forward, I will remind myself not to use my own default level of withitness and movement. Rather, I will adjust to best serve my specific student cohort each year. While I believe (and tell my own children) that students do need to be flexible and make adjustments based on teacher approach, I believe there is an equal burden of the responsibility for the teacher to make adjustments on behalf of their students. In an ideal setting, both sides work together to maximize the engagement and learning of the group.
Bragg, L. L. (2012). Testing the Effectiveness of Mathematical Games as a Pedagogical Tool for Children’s Learning. International Journal Of Science & Mathematics Education, 10(6), 1445-1467.
Classroom Monitoring by Walking Around: Part 1. (2012, October 11). In Learning Sciences Marzano Center. Retrieved from http://www.marzanocenter.com/blog/article/monitoring-by-walking-around-part-1-withitness/
The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model by Washington State Criteria Version 1.1. (2014, August 13). In Washington State Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project. Retrieved from http://tpep-wa.org/wp-content/uploads/Marzano-Rubrics-by-criteria.pdf
Ramdass, D., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2008). Effects of Self-Correction Strategy Training on Middle School Students’ Self-Efficacy, Self-Evaluation, and Mathematics Division Learning. Journal Of Advanced Academics, 20(1), 18-41.
York-Barr, J., Sommers, W. A., Ghere, G. S., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide For Teachers (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.