Week Three Reflection for EDET 677
By Aleta May
I have thought much about this topic as it relates to finding the students’ instructional level. This comes from my initial graduate school focus on diagnostic special education teaching. After thinking about how much to step back and allow students to struggle to figure things out for themselves, I still tend to believe that we need to push them to the top edge of their instructional range; with support. I am there for support. My role changes to facilitator. I think with my teaching style, I want to be sure to be there for them, but not do it for them. What will it communicate to students if I just jump in there to teach them if I have not first given them what many lack already, space to try and trust that they do care about their own education. Sometimes this means moving in briefly to show the concept with some tools—as with math, I love to use cuisennaire rods to help students visualize math concepts, or dominoes to see patterns. I believe the reason I reach for these to explain a concept to students is that this is how I see it.
I am a constructivist teacher at heart. One reason I am in the specialized areas of education (special education, reading specialist and now technology) is because I could not possibly see any other way to teach than to begin with students’ interests, prior knowledge, begin believing in oneself, and finally, to reach them at the highest reaches of their instructional level through engaging their interests.
Students are constructionist in learning—if we do not reach to them through a window with tools and gentle nudging forward, we will lose them to all sorts of devices that await our students who have made a self-determination that they are not quite smart enough, artistic enough, or creative enough. They are more than enough and it is time for educators to rise to the real needs of our students and walk with them, teaching them by day like walking in the orchard to teach about apple trees.
Here are responses I provided this week to readings in class this week:
I loved that quote as well—as it ended in “have a cup of tea.” When we stop to take a mind break, this is when our minds can reflect, process all the pieces of the tinkering experience (failures, unsolved problems, as well as what worked). Tea time, or even just going outside to the garden are examples of ways to reflect; think about prior thinking.
One of the most important teaching “tools” we can give to our students is a safe environment to learn. Sometimes, students need to be shown what this looks like; or for younger students, providing actual sentence stems may help learn how to give and receive meaningful feedback. Older students can learn that discussion is another word for arguing.
How interesting that there was a study comparing intensive instruction with scaffolding, to talking with classmates for solving a math problem; and to find that the second group greatly outperformed the first.
In Think, Make and Improve activities that are scaffolded for elementary students, they may spend time just writing about what they did that day, this using what they wrote for discussion with peers to compare notes. Maybe they could Think (reflect by writing)-Pair (with a peer to share notes with each other)-Share (share with the rest of the class.
When students learn perseverance, they are learning to keep trying, but they may also need some support like a website link with questions to ask as they research a site. Where education has gone off base is when they struggle at something that they don’t have enough background understanding of to build on. This creates frustration and leads to a fixed mindset where the student repeats to his/herself that ‘I cannot do this; I’m not smart enough . . .’ Carol Dweck wrote, “. . . students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset), (2015).
Dweck, C. (2015). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mindset.’ Education Week. Retrieved 6-3-16: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html
The target is such a great depiction of showing what is independent (easy), instructional, and what is too frustrating. The middle circle, being the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), is the place where the student is going beyond what he/she can do independently. Maybe, then, what we need to do is to push them to the outer edge of their ZPD; finding the just right balance of struggle and support. What I find to be personally motivational is when I am provided with an opportunity to learn skills on my own, with the gift of time to do so.
The graph (2nd picture) is so unique and helpful for explaining this concept. This graph could be used as a writing prompt for explaining ideas for guiding students to work in a setting where they are free to stretch out in an environment that is safe to take risks.