Standard 4: Engage in analysis of teaching and collaborative practices

This program has emphasized over and over again how accomplished teaching requires us to be reflective practitioners, both individually and in a group setting. However, I also was encouraged to reflect upon the reality of challenges that can get in the way of reflective practice.

Engaging in analysis of teaching and collaborative practices means:

• Applying frameworks such as Marzano or Danielson Framework to guide professional reflection and standards.

• Demonstrating effective teaching practices

• Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs

• Providing clear and intentional focus on subject matter content and curriculum

• Implementing protocols to assist in professional reflection

• Participating in active professional reflection individually, with partners, in small groups and in teams

• Utilizing collaborative practices using new technology

Continue reading “Standard 4: Engage in analysis of teaching and collaborative practices”

Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school level

At the beginning of this program, I had a superficial understanding the role research played in teaching, but mainly viewed research’s impact  as relevant to setting school policy. When reading research, I often avoided dense articles that provided raw data, as I didn’t understand what it meant or how to read it.

However, at the end of this Teacher Leadership Program, I feel I have gained both the knowledge and confidence to find educational research articles, interpret raw data included in research articles, analyze and critique researchers’ conclusions regarding research, and apply findings appropriately to my own practice.

Some work that I have produced that helped me practice these skills can be found here:

Final Article Analysis

Assignment_Exam Anxiety Data Analysis

Mergendoller Article Critique_2

I also learned a lot about Action Research and put Action Research into practice in various courses throughout the program.

In my Action Research Class, I conducted a RAP that had two main goals:

GOAL 1: Increase student appreciation for the complexity of Spanish-speaking cultures

GOAL 2: Give students the tools to compare their own culture with that of Spanish-speaking peoples, and to do so in a respectful, sensitive way.

These goals came from:

  • Feeling like I’m teaching content and skills, but what I really want to do is teach deeper, more meaningful themes of inclusion, tolerance, kindness, acceptance and understanding, social justice.
  • A very interesting line of conversation about culture and misconceptions about what it meant to be “hispanic” vs. “Spanish” that arose in a Spanish 1 class. My mind was spinning after the class about where I should go with this theme from here. The students were clearly engaged. One student asked me on her way out the door if we could continue a similar conversation the next day.
  • As Spanish 2 students finished up their cultural presentations this week, I noticed they have a fairly superficial knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures and I’m thinking I will use them as my classes for my RAP.
  • I observed this week that I still have a lot of work to do with my students, as I had a student complain of comments made by another student in class that were generalizing all latinos in derogatory ways and making said student feel uncomfortable. I started direct and explicit lessons that will helped them first understand the many components that shape each of our own personal culture and make us so complex. I took some ideas from our Multicultural Education class.
  • I had a couple different conversations with one of our school counsellors and the ELL teacher about my RAP and got their input on strategies for raising awareness of cultural diversity in our community and deepening their cultural sensitivity. We started small group conversations with ELL students who are native Spanish speakers. As Clark and Minami (2015, p. 189) discuss, it is important that students “also engage in weekly interactions with native speakers” in order to deepen cultural understanding while negotiating language.

Specific interventions employed during the length of this project were:

  1. Explicit teaching of cultural factors that affect our lives. As was recognized by Charles and Stevens, “programs need to recognize the current, existing reality of the students, particularly with respect to diversity.” (Charles & Stevens, 2005, p.20)
  2. Integrating cultural and linguistic lessons: In order to analyze stereotypes and cultural generalizations, cultural media and text should be used to address the topics from a logical analysis perspective and not a personal analysis perspective. In this way,“students are less likely to perceive and therefore resent the unit as yet another accusation that they and their generation are bigots.” (Wilson, 2015, p. 56)
  3. Exposing students to native speakers by utilizing: Skype in the Classroom, El Café discussion hour, student generated questions for Señor Vasquez and native Spanish-speakers. To improve cultural sensitivity in conjunction with language acquisition, it is important for students to “engage in weekly interactions with native speakers” (Clark & Minami, 2015, p.189).
  4. Question Box cultural questions and topics: Gutiérrez suggests various strategies I applied to try to increase cultural knowledge and sensitivity and meet students where they are, including: creating a cultural questions box, using student research and presentations to “hear what students have to say,” (Gutiérrez, 2015, p. 274) exposing them to the spoken word, raps, and culturally responsive music, and creating journals or learning logs.

Data collection included:

  1. 2 open-ended questions regarding general cultural factors
  2. A personal letter in which students explained their understanding of their personal culture
  3. Teacher observation and tally of culturally insensitive comments or generalizing questions

I gave an assessment regarding students knowledge of personal culture and it opened up some interesting conversations around what is culture. I asked students to write questions they had about diverse cultures, Spanish-speaking cultures, questions for my husband who’s from Bolivia, or for our TA who’s from Honduras. They could also write a topic they want to learn more about. I was blown away by all the questions and topics they came up with! I have basically an entire Semester’s worth of topics and curriculum now!

As I went over Period 5’s baseline assessments (a letter they wrote to me explaining their personal culture)  I learned a lot about my students on multiple levels, including:

  • Writing ability in English
  • Got a really good feel for the depth or superficial nature of their understanding of culture
  • Realized A LOT of students have a very superficial understanding of what factors make up/influence our culture.
  • Students wrote questions they have about culture/topics for investigation. REALLY good ideas-I got a whole semester’s worth of curriculum from here.

I’ve decided to teach more explicitly now and then I will work to weave themes of multicultural education into my lessons for the rest of the year. However, I struggled to figure out how to balance staying in Spanish and engaging ALL students in meaningful conversation about deep-rooted cultural concepts that go below the superficial surface of food, festivals and clothing. I really like being able to discuss cultural concepts, stereotypes, etc., but I hate switching into English to do so. In a Spanish 3 or 4 class we could discuss deep concepts and discuss/debate them, but with Spanish 2 it is challenging at times.

However, to truly make a real impact and get meaningful results, I need to extend the interventions over a longer period of time. My greatest takeaways from this course are that I can intertwine meaningful and interesting cultural lessons with Spanish instruction, and that I must be intentional and explicit about teaching cultural themes, but culture and language teaching need to be taught in a delicately intertwined way, not taught in isolation as so often is the case. They are not mutually exclusive. Also, cultural sensitivity comes through explicitly teaching students first to recognize and understand their own culture in a deeper way, and then through learning about explicit and implicit practices of other diverse cultures. Strategies I have been using that I will continue to extend even after this course has ended are:

-give students space to generate cultural questions/topics they are interested in and organize projects/presentations where they have to investigate and find their own answers

-teach students explicitly about their own culture first

-role-play with scenarios: explicitly practice what cultural sensitivity sounds and looks like

-implement student dialogue journals (in Spanish)

-expose students to authentic resources that teach cultural themes and use the Spanish language to engage students in conversations about these topics

-expose students to as many native speakers as possible, through Skype-chats, guest speakers, and conversation hours with ELL students

I have also reflected upon the idea that my PLC could significantly benefit from implementing some of the structure and research that is built into the RAP. As of now, PLC meetings are loosely defined and fairly unproductive. There is usually a general goal that defines our topic of discussion, but data is never discussed nor shared. We have yet to implement common assessments across courses to compare results and best practices. Frustrations are shared but rarely are concrete techniques or strategies discussed. I would love to bring my learning from this course to my PLC and suggest we follow some of the steps to conduct an informal Research Action Project and compare results among students to explore best practices across many classrooms and teaching styles. It would also benefit us to establish clear student outcome goals and specific data collection strategies.

Sources/ Literature Referenced

Charles, J., Stevens, R. (2005). Preparing teachers to teach tolerance. Multicultural      Perspectives , 7(1), 17-25.

Clark, A., Minami, N. (2015). Communication skills, cultural sensitivity, and collaboration  in an experiential language village simulation. Foreign Language Annals, 48(2), 184-202.

Gutiérrez, R. (2015). HOLA: Hunt for Opportunities-Learn-Act. The Mathematics Teacher,  109(4), 270-277.

Howard, G. (2006). As diversity grows, so must we. Educational Leadership, March 2007, 16- 22.

Wilson, N. E. (2015). Cross-Examining Bigotry: Using Toulmin’s Argument Model and Huckin’s CDA to Interrogate Overt and Covert Racist Arguments. The CEA Forum, Winter/Spring. Retrieved from

EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration: Models for Collaboration

Please summarize one or two of the models of collaboration you have learned about so far that you think best align with either- 1- what you would like to see in your school, 2- what you do see in your school AND 3- what are some challenges to creating this type of collaborative model in your school? What might be a good “next step?” How has your thinking changed regarding your school’s current practice for collaboration and it’s alignment to “best practice?” Due November 7th.

My school has slowly been working to establish a more collaborative work environment. The staff does share a common vision of teaching and learning. Our principal is clear that at the heart of everything we do, we need to keep what is good for kids in mind. I think that overall our school culture would be described as a positive, collegial one where staff genuinely enjoy each other and even spend time together outside of the school day.

However, the laissez faire attitude that exists within the school has created an environment that disregards collaboration as a critical component to both professional development and improving student achievement. Currently, collaboration efforts are often mandated from “above,” either at the district level or from admin. There is little teacher buy in with current attempts to enforce participation in PLCs, attempts to create interdisciplinary teams, and classroom learning walks. I believe this comes from a lack of leader vision and shared staff vision and goals. My principal mentioned during my interview with him that he and the admin team have set a goal to be more direct with staff and they have primarily been focused on building relationships in the past and have sometimes avoided hard conversations and in my opinion, strong leadership on the need and importance of collaboration.

According to Zapeda, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are “a group of individuals who share a similar vision of educational values and beliefs. As a result of this shared vision, a community of learners can work toward common goals that enhance professional and personal development.” (p.83) We are currently using some sad form of PLCs at my school, and most are formed according to department or content area. Different PLCs are functioning at various levels of efficiency. A few are actively collecting and analyzing data to reflect on practice and collaborate to improve together. However, for the most part, including my own PLC, teachers work together in loosely organized and ill-defined groups that may informally share strategies and activities, but rarely, if ever, analyze data in order to improve practice and deepen our practice. For the most part, PLCs are seen as a top-down initiative with little buy-in; another hoop to jump through.

A type of learning that could include PLCs but also encompasses other types of learning is Collaborative Teacher Development. This type of professional development is not truly being implemented at my school right now, but it is a style of PD that I believe in as it encompasses teacher voice, choice and thus teacher buy-in, which I consider to be fundamental aspects of successful professional development experiences. Collaborative Teacher Development is any learning that teachers do collaboratively with others and can be structured tightly, with protocols, or in an informal way, depending on the needs of the teachers and the model being used. It can include teacher study groups and book studies. The idea behind these types of professional development is that teachers are at the center of choosing the topics of study and growth, and teachers are recognized as valuable resources to contribute to the development and growth of the whole. Teachers identify, investigate, implement, and reflect upon areas of growth that are meaningful and applicable to their practice and students, and dialogue and collaborate with other staff who share similar values and visions in order to improve their practice and school.

As I’ve learned about various models of professional learning, including the few mentioned here, I can’t help but reflect on both the positive direction we’ve been moving in, but also the great areas for growth that still exist. I believe at my school there is a belief that we are “good enough” as we are now. Teachers are bogged down with other responsibilities and thus it will take decisive vision and leadership to prioritize teacher professional development and lead us down the path of collaboration and teacher empowerment. Next steps would be for our administrators to:

  1. Make teacher professional development a priority and communicate this vision and goal to teachers, or even better, develop it WITH teachers.
  2. Create time and space to discuss values and vision. Link this to professional development.
  3. Create opportunities for teachers to choose their area for development and method for growth, whether it be in a PLC, a book study group, a coaching opportunity, attending a training or workshop and then sharing learning with staff as an in-house expert, learning walks, etc.
  4. Get creative and create time for teachers to collaborate and work together (more than our one hour Wednesday LEAP, which is irregular and often taken up with other responsibilities/commitments).
  5. Follow through-administrators need to commit to emphasizing and dedicating time and resources to the same focus for a few years in order to truly change school culture. In the three years I’ve been at my school, passing attempts at PLCs/data teams, book studies, learning walks, and interdisciplinary teams have been attempted. None have had much development or follow through however.
  6. Intentionally work to empower teachers: Give teachers more voice. What development do they need? How can they share their learning, in a meaningful way, with all staff? How can more than just Team Leaders take a leadership role? Send out leadership surveys asking teachers in what areas they feel like they could lead or share expertise. What types of areas would they like to collaborate with others? Then admin needs to work to set up these opportunities for staff to both lead and participate. Respond to teachers concerns. Let them know you listen to and value their opinion. Keep shared vision and non-negotiable values at the center.




EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration: Reflection on Theories of Adult Learning

Adults and children learn in similar ways, but with marketed differences that need to be noted when planning and facilitating adult professional development. Both children and adults learn best when presented with creative opportunities, choice, structure, are given ownership of their learning, are motivated to learn, and are given opportunities to self-reflect on learning.

However, children often need more structure than adults, and adults thrive with self-directed learning and when learning is directly and immediately applicable to their life. Also, adult learning often, if not usually, involves collaborating with colleagues. Adults are more intrinsically motivated and self-directed, having learned sufficient skills to allow them to problem solve, cope with frustration, manage their time and prioritize tasks, and search for additional resources when necessary,  while children are still learning essential educational skills needed to become independent. However it is essential that adult professional development be in context and directly applicable to the learner’s daily work. It is also very important to have follow up on professional development, either through PLCs, further trainings, learning coaches, etc., as much adult learning is informal and incidental, and practitioners benefit from the reflective process, either individually or collaboratively.

According to Zepeda’s Adult Learning Theory, “adult learning should be built on ownership, appropriateness, structure, collaboration, internalization, reflection, and motivation.” (p.47) I agree that all these factors play integral roles in adult learning, however I believe that ownership and motivation, two qualities that are closely intertwined, are some of the most powerful but also the most frequently overlooked and under appreciated by politicians passing educational policy, and even by many district and school administrators.

Teacher leaders and administrators should be a facilitator of information and learning, not necessarily the source. This means their ideal role is listening to teachers or staff regarding what kind of training or resources they need, then going out and finding those resources, coming back to staff or teachers and continuing the cycle.

According to Zepeda, collaborative evaluation processes give teachers a sense of ownership in the learning and evaluation process, produce learning through participation in the evaluation process, enforce skills in self-reflection and skills in program evaluation, and improve communication among staff at different levels throughout the school. The benefits of engaging staff and stakeholders in the evaluative process of a staff development program seem to be many, yet this requires cultivating trust amongst staff and administrators.

Some new strategies for involving teachers in professional learning discussion and program evaluations that have been suggested in our group discussions  are:

  • listening sessions
  • sticky note brainstorms and then a follow up discussion
  • giving credit to others who have helped or have been a part of projects, teams, or initiatives, instead of taking the credit for ourselves

I have learned from my own professional development journey, and from watching those journeys of colleagues, that as teachers are used to being autonomous educational experts, it is essential that they own their own professional evolution. This means teachers will change at their own pace, when they are ready, and when they have compelling enough evidence to motivate them to invest the substantial amount of energy that is required to change pedagogy or practice. The old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force him to drink” is appropriate here. If governments or districts or administrators try to force teachers to change without first getting teachers’ buy in, change will not take hold, and the culture of the school will be compromised in the process. We see this happen with regularity, whether talking about No Child Left Behind, state standardized testing, professional evaluation systems, data teams or PCCs/PLCs, or adoption of new curriculums. As Hilty states “given a reinforcing school culture and a self-confident principal willing to experiment and to share some power, the raw potential for teachers to become a serious force in local school policy would appear to be enormous.” (p.87) Unless teachers are entrusted with the power to lead within the school and have their voices heard in the decision making process, whether those voices are in agreement or dissension, unless you empower teachers, it is hard to get teacher buy in and thus motivation.

Hilty, E. B. (2011). Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education: A reader. New York: P. Lang.
Zepeda, S. J. (2008). Professional development: What works. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Pre-Assessment: EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration

My current experiences with professional learning practices thus far have been generally positive, but individualized more than collaborative. 

When I started in this district 3 years ago, it was my first experience with PLCs. My current knowledge of PLCs is limited, although I know that the general cycle of group inquiry begins with a collective question or goal, data collection and tracking, reflection as a group on that data, decisions made together to react to what the data tells us (sharing of best practices, trying new strategies to see who has the better results, etc.), collecting data again and continuing this cycle. I have worked in a PLC ever since joining my current school, but I have never felt like we follow this cycle as we set common goals and discuss how we are addressing these goals, but we have never compared data nor reacted to data to adjust our teaching, which I feel are actually the critical steps. There actually seems to be a true aversion to data collection with my colleagues, and I have felt jeered at recently when attempting to suggest we use data collection to improve our practice. 

Due to diverse attitudes towards data collection and collaboration in my PLC, I have chosen a more individualized and personal route of professional learning, pursuing workshops and trainings multiple times a year, organizing trainings to share with colleagues, pursuing my Masters in Teacher Leadership and working to apply this learning directly to my classroom, and pursuing my National Board Certification, which is an inherently reflective process. 

I became a teacher to help level the playing field, close the gap, play my role in making the world a more just place. However, I have not always felt like I am directly achieving this. I am curious to see how professional learning can be pursued through a social justice lens in this class this Quarter, as is mentioned in the article Building Hope, Giving Affirmation by Stephanie Hirsh and Shirley M. Hord. I do feel like social justice issues have been raised by our administration, and this year, we were encouraged to work in our PLCs to design units of work that would be accessible to low income students and our African American and Latino students. Unfortunately, we were given little time and no guidance/resources for how to do this, and so teachers more focused on designing collaborative units of work more than units designed to support specific populations of students within the school. 


EDU6524 Curriculum Design Meta-Reflection

Before this course, I was familiar with key components needed in a well designed curriculum such as Standards, Learning Targets, formative and summative assessments, engaging lessons, differentiation plans, and community engagement plans. Although in some ways I was already following Ainsworth’s guidelines to design a rigorous unit, I had never looked so in depth. When beginning to design or evaluate a rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of all learners, there are a variety of steps that must be systematically addressed. This was meaningful and helpful to see these steps so clearly delineated, and it also raised many questions and concerns for me about our current District Spanish Curriculum. This process of designing units and a whole curriculum is best when completed collaboratively. According to Larry Ainsworth, author of Rigorous Curriculum Design, these steps include:

  1. Prioritizing the state academic content standards
  2. “Unwrapping” the standards to pinpoint the concepts students need to know and the skills they need to be able to do
  3. Determining the foundational understandings or “Big Ideas” that students need to discover on their own (these should be posed as statements or answers to the Essential Questions)
  4. Creating Essential Questions to focus instruction and assessment and to spark students’ interest in what they were about to learn

From here we can look at assessment, both formative and summative, creating engaging lessons for our learners and differentiating lessons and assessment for diverse learners.

In this course I produced a unit plan that can be found here En la escuela_Unit Plan_FINAL and a student tracking sheet for students to self-assess and track their progress on formative and summative assessments as we progress through the unit: Learning Target Progress Tracker.

One of the big take-aways for me from this course was that all we do should stem from Standards. This raised many challenges for me as I worked through the course, as our current District’s Spanish Power Standards are general and unmeasurable. They are the same for Spanish 1, 2, 3 and 4! I ask myself and my colleagues, how do we know if students are improving from one year to the next, and how do we know what to teach from one year to the next, if the standards remain the same all 4 years (side note, there are not any official standards for Spanish 4)?!

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According to Ainsworth, Priority Standards must meet the three criteria of endurance (lasting beyond one course, life concepts and skills), leverage (interdisciplinary connections), and readiness for the next level of learning (prerequisite concepts and skills students need to enter a new grade level or course of study). These defining criteria further allowed me to evaluate LWSD’s Standards for Spanish and make specific criticisms and suggestions for improvement.

My main concern with the current Spanish Power Standards is that they do not provide specific verbage that defines to what degree students must be able to do or what they must know to move on to the next level of learning. They do not meet the readiness for next level of learning criteria set forth by Ainsworth because they do not show, in measurable language what “students must know and be able to do by the end of each school year in order to be prepared to enter the next grade level or course.” (p. 40) For example, Standard 1: Student engages in conversations, provides and obtains information, expresses feelings and emotions and exchanges opinions does not define to what level students must be able to do all these things. Students in Spanish 1 can do all these things, but on a more basic level, using single words, lists, memorized phrases and chunks of language, where Spanish 2 and 3 students can express these things in full sentences and begin to create original ideas and thoughts. Thus, more specificity of skill needs to be defined in the Standards to make them useful to teachers.

Due to weak standards, teachers in our district do not seem to follow much of what is considered by researchers to be sound practice for designing units and implementing curriculum. As Douglas Reeves states due to “the limitations of time and the extraordinary variety in learning backgrounds of students, teachers and leaders need focus and clarity in order to prepare their students for success. Power Standards help to provide that focus and clarity.” (p.45) However, I argue that often, it is not the standards that drive teaching in this country. Here our curricula is so strongly driven by publishers, and mostly school districts adopt curricula based on one textbook series and associated resources, as has happened in LWSD for the new Spanish Curriculum, Asi se Dice, adopted 4 years ago.  In our case, the textbook drives what we teach, not the Standards. This is problematic for many reasons.

The first major problem with a curriculum driven by a textbook is that you are relying on one perspective to teach students. This limits the ability to address the needs of students with diverse learning styles, preferences, interests and cultures. We know from our studies in Multicultural Education and Moral Issues for a Democratic Society that textbooks often leave out essential perspectives of diverse groups, fail to engage learners, and impersonal and often lack real-world connections. Due to obvious financial constraints, school districts are only able to adopt new textbook series/curricula ever 7+ years or so, and often this gap is much wider and will always be lagging behind society’s trends and developments. Ainsworth is right to point out that a rigorous curriculum cannot depend solely on textbook resources. Even worse, many underfunded districts have no funding to purchase textbooks and have no set curricula. I can not count the number of times I have heard language teachers tell me that they have no set curricula off of which to work. They are simply responsible for making something up, based on their professional discretion.

I felt frustrated as I worked through this course because, without a strong foundation, how are we supposed to know where to go in our planning? Due to our District’s reliance on the textbook as a curriculum, instead of standards, we do not meet most of the components of a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum Ainsworth mentions on page 5. He says we must “raise the level of teaching so that students are prepared for the 21st century with skills that ‘drive knowledge economies: innovation, creativity, teamwork, problem solving, flexibility, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous learning.” Items on his list that I feel we have yet to achieve in our Spanish curriculum include:

  • Specific learning outcomes students are to achieve from Spanish 1 through Spanish 4
  • Vertical representation of those learning outcomes
  • Emphasis on standards-based skills and content knowledge
  • Explicit linkages to college and career readiness (especially conversation around proficiency level measured on a nationally recognized scale)
  • Higher-level thinking skills (pure textbook focus mainly asks students to recall, identify and sometimes apply)
  • Authentic, student-centered performance tasks that engage learners in applying concepts and skills to the real world (This one is key. Relying primarily, if not solely, on textbook resources is not authentic, nor student centered. Teaching a world language presents daily opportunities to put students at the center of the curriculum and draw on their personal expereinces to teach vocabulary and grammatical structures necessary to communicate about those expereinces.)
  • Research-based effective teaching strategies
  • Differentiation (There is a real push to delay students beginning world languages because they are “developmentally not ready,” however, research shows that time is the key factor in acquiring a new language-the earlier you begin and the longer your study, the better your chances are to reach a high proficiency and really use the language outside the classroom. However, teachers push for this because their current methodologies aren’t working for these students. Instead of adapting to meet the needs of these students, many teachers and trying to push struggling students out of the course. This is a significant concern for accessibility.

It became very clear to me that we need to do work in our District around the Spanish Power Standards, and as a Teacher Leader I decided it was time to step up, as this is one of those issues that won’t be addressed until we, the Spanish teachers, push for it. As of the time I am writing this reflection, I have emailed the District Curriculum Coordinator raising my concerns, but have yet to hear back. I am open and willing to forming a committee to look at the Standards and the Curriculum based on Ainsworth’s model. It is exciting to thing of the possibility of bringing teachers together in our district that for this specific course, seems fairly divided still.

This course has given me the specific knowledge and corresponding confidence to hopefully move forward as a Teacher Leader in my district to help refine our current Power Standards and thus curriculum and collaborative practices. I hope that I will find the opportunity to work will colleagues to address these issues and bring our Spanish classes closer to modern expectations for teaching and learning a rigorous curriculum.

Survey of Instructional Strategies MetaReflection

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.