One day, not so long ago, we were attempting to predict the new initiatives that the 2011-2012 school year would bring to our district. While we paused for a moment, my friend in the backseat starts to laugh and says, “If there were any non-teachers in the car, they would have no idea what we were talking about!” I looked at my friend next to me and started to laugh as well. “Hahaha…Teacher Talk!” we exclaimed.
As I thought about it more, there has been a major learning curve during my first year of teaching. I work in a progressive district, so not only was there technology to learn, but I learned about teaching methods that I had never really heard about before.
So, it’s also currently job-hunting season for the new graduates of Marquette University College of Education (Congrats!). If you want a leg-up on the competition, just mention a few of these ideas during your interview and they’ll think you’re a genius:
(1) Essential Question – This should focus on the current content. It must be worded to be student-friendly, be arguable (not have a yes or no answer) and enhance student understanding of the material. It should make the student feel more “responsible” for their learning. For example, in a physics unit covering Forces, an essential question would be “How doNewton’s Laws affect everyday life?” Likewise, in a chemistry unit covering Chemical Bonding, an essential question would be, “What would happen to the world if there was no chemical bonding?”
(2) Enduring Understanding – This is what the student will “walk away” with at the end of the unit. For example, at the end of the Motion physics unit, “students will walk away with an understanding of how scientists interpret and analyze the motion of everyday objects.”
(3) Standard – This is what needs to be assessed. So, for example, for the semester that we cover physics, there are currently only four standards for the semester. However, those standards cover all the units that we teach. For example, “Explain the mathematical relationships and interdependence of motion, forces, andNewton’s Three Laws.” This allows us to assess their understanding of mathematical relationships in all three content units for the semester.
(4) Learning Target – This is the end goal of your teaching. In this, the teacher will utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to promote higher order thinking (HOT). For example, using the standard above:
1. Student will differentiate between speed and velocity using appropriate unit terms.
2. Student will differentiate between velocity and acceleration using appropriate unit terms.
3. Student will calculate speed using the equation v = d/t.
4. Student will calculate acceleration using the equation a = v/t
5. Student will differentiate between all types of forces.
6. Student will explain Newton’s Three Laws.
7. Student will analyze Newton’s Three Laws in everyday scenarios.
8. Student will calculate Newton’s Second Law using F = ma.
9. Student will combine Newton’s Second Law and acceleration using F = m(v/t).
(5) Standards Based Grading – This is relatively new to the science department (as I get to attend a meeting about it on June 8th. However, this is grading based on the learning targets. Students are graded on the individual learning target on a 0-4 point scale. Thus, this allows the student to see their weak points and not an overall score. This system also allows for re-takes so that students may improve their understanding of the learning target.
(6) PBL – This stands for Problem Based Learning. At the beginning of the physics semester, the science department will pose a question regarding the physics of roller coasters. Throughout the semester, while the student learns content, they will also apply their physics knowledge directly to the problem by designing, and then building a roller coaster. They will create a 3D model and use specialized equipment to take data. The three science teachers in my department did this PBL this past semester and it was a smashing success. We had local engineers come in and judge the student’s 3D models and calculations and the students were engaged. They also learned quite a bit about working as a group and collaborating – a difficult lesson for a high school freshman.
(7) AFL – This stands for Assessment For Learning. Basically, it means that teachers should implement many formative assessments and fewer summative assessments to really judge a students learning. This allows the student to make mistakes without it feeling like “high-stakes”.
Current educators – Have you used any of this? Have you had any problems? Any successes? What are your thoughts?
Future educators – How do you think you would use this in your classroom? Do you see any benefit in implementing the above teaching strategies? Any doubts? Any excitement?
Above all else, enjoy the job hunt, let it be an adventure and never, ever, give up on your dreams of being the educator you want to be. Good luck!