This course, Survey of Instructional Strategies, was essentially an overview of a variety of strategies that teachers apply in the classroom, with in-depth looks being given to a few choice strategies such as collaborative grouping, direct instruction, nonlinguistic representation, note taking strategies and advance schemas. We focused on two main texts for this course, Classroom Instruction that Works by Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone and Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie, but also learned from independent research articles.
At the beginning of this course I already had an awareness of a variety of strategies, and had used or attempted to use most of the strategies focused on in this course. The main learning I thus took away from this course was a deeper appreciation for more meaningful application of strategies. Reading John Hattie’s book Visible Learning gave me a deeper insight into the need for intentionality, specific learning targets, and creating a reflective classroom with students at the center. As Hattie says “ ‘Everything works’: if the criterion of success is ‘enhancing achievement’ , then 95 per cent of all effect sizes in education are positive…because virtually everything works.” (p. 2) We must then ask ourselves as educators if the strategies we are employing are effective enough to be worth our time and worth our students’ time. Are we making as significant an impact as we can? Could we be teaching a specific topic in a more effective way, with a more impactful strategy? From this class I learned to ask this question, and then how to look for an answer.
This course has helped reinforce the importance of utilizing specific learning targets and collaborative practices amongst my colleagues. I have made some direct changes in my practice due to this. I have been refocusing on using Learning Goals in class. Although I was using them to some degree last year, I did not carry this practice through to this year, due to my changing methodology. However, over the course of this class, I have practiced writing down the learning target for myself each day, and it has helped re-focus my lesson planning. This has been especially beneficial at a time of the year that often feels hectic and rushed. Also, I’ve been referring to the Learning Goals in class with students.
Another learning for me has been around the idea of “multiple intelligences.” On page 91 Hattie critiques the ideas as classifying students in one category or another, which I found interesting, as I have also read another article making a similar criticism. Angelina E. Castagno makes a similar criticism in her article “Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness.” She also argues that categorizing students by learning styles of intelligences should not be used and merely acts as an excuse to limit students. Despite the criticism, I would still use this as a guide to design choice activities and diversify choice, but not to prescribe what students should or must complete.
Finally, my one of my more important reflection was one I have already begun to put into action. After my readings, I could not shake the idea that in my World Language Department we could be serving students much better than we currently are. Hattie describes how “being clear about outcomes (success criteria) of the lesson or series o lessons” and deciding on how to best measure outcomes in a integral part of evaluating the impact of teaching on students (Know thy impact!). (p. 97) I kept reflecting on how our District Standards for World Language are general, non-specific and immeasurable. I thus have contacted my two colleagues and we have scheduled to begin a conversation about setting common expectations and course outcomes and agreeing on a common way to measure these outcomes. Although this is a basic first step, it is fundamental and most necessary for moving forward, and I am excited to see what comes from this collaboration. Finally, once we have a common foundation we all agree to, it will be easier to collaborate on effective strategies to employ in the classroom.
Overall, this course has helped to reinforce the impacts effective teaching can have on students. It has reminded me that we must look to our students to decide what the impact of our teaching really is, and to judge if a strategy is effective or not. It is no longer good enough to judge success merely by looking for any and all growth in students. More so, we must make sure that the strategies being employed are having the greatest impact possible on all students.