This course, EDU 6526 – 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.
We analyzed and learned how to apply a variety of strategies including:
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.
I was challenged to collaborate with a colleague in a Collaborative Inquiry Project (Collaborative Inquirey Presentation1) where we analyzed the impact of a strategy in our classrooms.
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.
Reinforcing Student Effort and Providing Recognition Feedback
Another takeaway I had was that learning objectives need to be 1) appropriately specific and require one to understand the specific standards, benchmarks and supporting knowledge students are required to learn 2) clearly communicated both orally and visually to both students and parents/guardians 3) connected to previous and future learning.
Effective feedback is one of the most powerful mediums of growth for students and must 1) address both what is correct and elaborate on what students need to do next 2) be provided in time to meet students’ needs 3) be criterion referenced (I assume this means referencing specific standards/benchmarks 4) engage students in the feedback process.
Finally, Hattie discusses the impact of learning objectives an students’ dispositions in the classroom and these impacts on motivation. When thinking about student motivation and effort, Hattie suggests that creating challenging learning tasks that are at students’ developmental level can help create intrinsic motivation in the learning process. I found it very interesting Hattie’s suggestion that “we need to already know about 90 per cent of what we are aiming to master in order to enjoy and make the most of the challenge. In reading this target is somewhat higher.” (Hattie, p. 57) I find that connecting key learning objectives to students’ real lives, helping them see the practical relevance and application in their day to day lives and connectedness to their interests also helps build intrinsic motivation. For example, in one study conducted on motivating student effort, “findings indicated that students were more motivated to learn science when they had more opportunities in relating science with real world issues. Therefore, science educators should emphasize more on the connectedness of science at school to real life for motivating students to learn science.” (Cetin-Dindar)
As I read about setting learning objectives, providing timely formative feedback, planning for visible learning and helping to motivate student effort, I reflected on my own practice and the Organic World Language model that I’ve implemented this year. It has been a significant pedagogical shift for me, but one that has allowed me to more effectively address all four areas mentioned above. In this model “through unique questioning and scaffolding techniques, the language-acquisition process is wrapped around the students’ lives. When the class content comes from the students, they own the language, because it is developed in real-life, real-interest situations and it is applicable to their lives in their native languages.” (Zilmer, p.1) This model is based on student-to-student and student-to-teacher dialogue that has allowed me to give in the moment feedback to students about what they are doing right and what they can correct to continue to work towards standard. Using this model, students are also much more aware of national benchmarks and what to do to reach those benchmarks than ever before. I now see students more intrinsically motivated than every before because they not only finally see what they have to do and are given the time to practice, but also experience “bite-sized” successes in the classroom everyday that make them feel that they can and will be successful with continued effort, risk-taking and mistake making.
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.
Castagno, A. E. (2013). Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness. American Journal of Education,120(1), 101-128. doi:10.1086/673121
Cetin-Dindar, Ayla (2016). Student motivation in constructivist learning environment. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 12 (2), 233-247.
Dean, C. B., Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., & Stone, B. (2014). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies forIncreasing Student Achievement. Second Edition.
Hattie, J. (2010). Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement ;. London: Routledge.
Learning the organic way. Language Magazine, Febrary 2015. Retrieved from http://www.languagemagazine.com/online/Feb15/
Zilmer, Caleb (2014). Authentic texts, no isolated grammar? How? The Language Educator, April 2014. Retrieved from http://www.owlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/TLE_Apr13_OLA_031813_v2.pdf