3. Educators understand and apply knowledge of student growth and development.
Educators are knowledgeable about how children develop as learners and as social beings, and demonstrate an understanding of individual learning differences and special needs. This knowledge is used to assist educators in making decisions about curriculum, instruction, assessment and classroom management.
The evidence for this standard is a Descriptive Paragraph lesson for grade 7 class.
Students share their paragraphs and the class guesses which photo is being described.
Initially, I had planned this as a one-day lesson, but after the students had written their first draft I realized it would be more beneficial for the class to have an extra day so I could provide specific advice on how to achieve the desired goal. So at the end of the first part of the lesson, I collected all the draft copies, I reviewed them and then I gave individual feedback on how to improve their work based on their own skill levels.
Interestingly, low achieving students were not the only ones who benefited from such feedback. High achievers believed there drafts were satisfactory enough and had no “mistakes”. After explaining that there is always room for personal growth, I encouraged them to work with their partners to find ways to improve their first drafts. In the case of struggling students, the feedback provided included specific goals they could reasonable achieve and that would lead them to improvement as well. It was a pleasant surprise when in the end, the entire class, high and low achievers alike, was eager to share their final paragraph with their classmates.
As a result of teaching this lesson I have come to understand that at times we might have a plan for the day, but students might need something different than what was scheduled on the agenda. In addition, I realized that simply because a student performs well it does not mean they do not require specific advice on how to continue to grow. In fact, in this example, both low and high achieving students alike benefited from differentiated learning.
This experience has influenced my teaching deeply in the context of TRB 3, because it has helped me comprehend that the teacher is a facilitator, who must always remain alert to students needs and adapt lessons accordingly even when the lesson is already in progress. Standard 3 states that educators “demonstrate an understanding of individual learning differences and special needs,” so as a future educator I will strive to observe my students performance, regularly searching for indicators of their constantly evolving needs and growth.
This evidence reveals the importance of implementing differentiated learning in the classroom. By teaching this lesson I have experienced firsthand how not all students learn at the same speed and in the same way, how one approach or goal might not fit all students. Therefore, when planning lessons I will remember to consider the different needs and strengths of the classroom, aiming to provide opportunities for improvement to all students by presenting goals that are achievable in each specific case.
This descriptive paragraph lesson is a solid example of the positive effects of differentiated learning, because even low achievers were able to experience success to the point they felt confident enough to share their work with their classmates. As a teacher it is my responsibility to understand the needs, learning styles and strengths of my students so I can make instructional decisions that offer all learners the opportunity to succeed and grow. Adhering to TRB 3 will help me improve my teaching on an ongoing basis so that high achievers are not the only ones who have a successful learning experience. Identifying the special needs of high and low achievers alike and incorporating this understanding into my planning will result in a more inclusive classroom environment that offers increased chances of success, which in turn leads to more motivated students.
The second evidence piece for this standard consists of the culminating activity options offered in a grade 4 Social Studies unit
Note: The PDF document contains the criteria and the form for the letter. No students opted for this alternative.
During my practicum at Queen of Angels, I taught a unit on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In order to include the content required by the curriculum, the unit was planned based the children’s book The Kids Book of Canada’s Railway and How the CPR was Built by Deborah Hodge, primary evidence and other material obtained online and from the CPR’s website. The students were offered a number of options for the culminating assessment activity. They had a choice to make a poster, a comic strip or writing a letter to a friend or family member telling them about what they had learned.
The different choices allowed students to show what they had learned in a way that best suited their learning styles, their strengths and skill levels. Although most students chose an assessment activity that was appropriate for their learning style and abilities, others required a little bit more support in making the decision and completing their projects.
One of the most important lessons this experience has taught me was to identify and handle situations in which students make choices that are outside of their skill levels. I have always been able to find ways to challenge students and encourage them to grow and push themselves within their abilities, but helping students choose a project that is not outside their learning capabilities was a new experience for me. At first I was not so sure how to handle it as I did not want to convey a negative and discouraging message to the students. Fortunately, my sponsor teacher who helped me identify the instances in which students had chosen an assessment option that was too difficult for them, also assisted me in “talking students out of their choices” in a way that did not hurt their feelings or conveyed a message of lack of trust in their abilities. I wanted all students to have an opportunity to succeed and feel proud of their project. Choosing the right activity was the first step towards achieving this.
As a result of creating and implementing this culminating assessment, I have also come to understand that when we make decisions about planning, instruction and assessment based on the learning styles and abilities of our students and then we give these students opportunities to make choices in their learning experience, we must still ensure their choices are not beyond their abilities, preventing them from achieving success.
The assessment alternatives included in this unit incorporated a number of learning styles and skill levels. The comic strip offered students who were not strong writers and opportunity to show their learning without struggling with words. However, students working on comic strips required additional ongoing support throughout the project with the organization of ideas. Students who did not feel comfortable drawing, but were strong writers had the option to write a letter. Finally, the poster was a good alternative for students who required more structure, but still wished to have some freedom in the amount of content and drawing they wanted to include.
This experience has influenced my teaching deeply in the context of TRB 3, because it has helped me comprehend that the teacher is a facilitator, who must always remain alert to students’ needs not only while planning the lesson, but when students are making choices and working on projects of their choice. Allowing students to make choices in their learning process is not enough. Teachers must also guide them in the decision they make to ensure their choices are within their learning abilities. Standard 3 states that educators “demonstrate an understanding of individual learning differences and special needs,” so as a future educator I will strive to observe my students’ performance, regularly searching for indicators of their constantly evolving needs and growth. By doing this, I will be able to guide them and support them in making choices that can lead them to a successful outcome.
This evidence reveals that teacher support and guidance is a crucial element in the implementation of differentiated learning in the classroom. By teaching this lesson I have experienced firsthand how a teacher must remain alert to the decisions students make when given choices in their learning experience. Therefore, when planning lessons I will remember to consider the different needs and strengths of the classroom, presenting goals that are achievable in each specific case and ensuring students make choices that award them higher chances of success.
This culminating assessment activity is a solid example of the importance of differentiated learning, because understanding different learning styles and needs does not apply exclusively to planning or instructional decisions. Just because students have options based on different levels and learning styles, teachers are not released from the responsibility of making sure the needs of each learner will be met by the choices they have made.
As a teacher it is my responsibility to understand the needs, learning styles and strengths of my students so I can make instructional decisions that offer all learners the opportunity to succeed and grow. Adhering to TRB 3 will help me improve my teaching on an ongoing basis so that all students have a successful learning experience. Making sure students make choices that address their own personal learning needs will result in a more inclusive classroom environment that offers increased chances of success, which in turn leads to more motivated students.