Tag Archives: Content Methods

Pairing Theory and Practice: Course and Internship Reflection for EDU 6136 Content Methods

In EDU6136 Content Methods this quarter, I have had the great privilege of learning about the pedagogical theories in the educational field that address Program Standard 4, Content Knowledge. The Content Knowledge standard requires that teachers use their understanding of not only their content area and its learning objectives or standards, but also know how best to teach the content to achieve those standards. This requires that teachers learn about and practice the pedagogical processes and resources available to truly impact student learning. This course has exposed me to a wide range of pedagogical approaches, but my internship placement has allowed me to actually apply several of these theories – from assessing prior knowledge, scaffolding, and deepening understanding – to practice.

While I had read Dochy et al. (1999), and believed I fully understood the importance of assessing students’ prior knowledge, I learned quickly in my internship that I wasn’t doing enough to apply this in practice. I was teaching my AP U.S. History students about Eugene V. Debs and the American Socialist Party, and had wrongly assumed we could dig right into a speech of his entitled “Winning the World” about how socialism would ultimately overtake capitalism. Luckily, I did begin the lesson with a KWL chart and quickly picked up on my students’ misguided impressions of the political theory of socialism – I saw my students had conflated the definition of socialism with that of communism. I ditched the planned lesson in order to work with students on coming up with a working definition of socialism. Had I assessed prior learning about the subject earlier, I would certainly have planned a Concept Instruction lesson to help students grapple with the theory on their own with prepared resources. I certainly learned my lesson, and learned that the next time I read about something related to pedagogical practice, I better take note and apply it in my internship!

I was reminded of this again when I read about scaffolding in this course. De Pol et al (2010), for instance, summarize decades’ worth of research on scaffolding in saying, “In general, scaffolding is construed as support given by a teacher to a student when performing a task that the student might otherwise not be able to accomplish” (p. 274). As I thought about scaffolding, I wondered how often I actually gave students too much support, and failed to really challenge them within Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (De Pol, 272). I thought, for instance, how in my AP U.S. History class we give the students time to grapple with review questions before taking a weekly quiz on the contents of the textbook chapter they have just read, and how I often answer several questions without challenging my students to think critically on their own first. De Pol (2012) and others works reminded me that teachers are really just there to facilitate learning, not to give the answers away. With time, and trying to more intentionally apply theory to my practice in my internship placement, I have begun to challenge my students to look in the text themselves or ask each other before coming to me. What a difference that has already made!

Later, as I read the works of Caram and Davis (2005), Goldsmith (2013), and Roberts and Billings (2009) about the importance of asking high quality questions to deepen student understanding, and welcoming questions, conversation, and debate to encourage student engagement, I already knew a little better. My mentor teacher had stressed to me the importance of question asking from day one. She had modeled for me the turn-and-talk in pairs technique, which allows students to bounce thoughts about a given question off of each other before offering them up to the class. I saw how this technique facilitated more open and thoughtful conversation. When I read of this very technique called “Think, Pair, Share” in Goldsmith’s (2013, p.50) research, I recognized it immediately. Additionally when I read Roberts and Billings (2009) work on Socratic seminars and stimulating “conversations that teach” (p.83), I found again that I knew this practice well. In my AP U.S. History course we have hosted seminar discussions on topics from the Declaration of Independence to what it is that Jacob Riis’s work and The Gangs of New York can reveal about the Gilded Age. Currently, I am planning a Socratic Seminar for my students (see below for directions) in which they need to come in as Civil Rights Movement activists and stay in character for the whole of the open discussion – presenting and defending their position on the proper course of the movement.

Scan 18.jpeg

It is amazing how theory informs practice (and vice versa)! As I moved forward in the course, I recognized more and more of the strategies we studied, and more intentionally applied them in my internship classrooms. My Content Knowledge skills improved signficiantly as I learned and then practiced how best to teach the information in my classroom. By the time we got to talk about feedback at the end of the semester, for instance, I had already given my students in my AP Language and Composition class substantive comments on creative performance pieces they had presented for the entire class. I typed 1/3-page responses to each and every one of the students about their piece, encouraging them and challenging them with additional questions to grapple with. It took a very, very long time, but I was thrilled I had done it, and had again lined educational theory about skillful feedback to practice.

In going forward, I know I will more intentionally recognize and apply these content method techniques in my internship classrooms in order to further impact student learning. As they say, we learn as we go. In this program I have realized that I learn through both theory and practice, and this course has given me the opportunity to think critically about how best to pair the two.

 

References:

Billings, L. & Roberts, T. (2009). Speak up and listen. Kappan Magazine, October 2009 ed., pp. 81-85.

Caram, C & Davis, P. (2005). Inviting student engagement with questioning. Kappa Delti Pi Record, Fall 2005 ed., 19-23.

De Pol, J., Volman, M., and Beishusen, J. (2010). Scaffolding in teacher-student interaction: A decade of research. Educational Psychology Review. 22, pp. 271-296. DOI 10.1007/x10648-101-9127-6.

Dochy, Filip, et al. (1999). The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies: The case of research on prior knowledge. Review of Educational Research, Summer 1999, Vol. 69, No. 2, pp. 145-186.

Goldsmith, W. (2013). Enhancing classroom conversation for all students. Kappan Magazine, April 2013 ed., pp. 48-52.

 

Advertisements

Classroom Tips: Deepening Student Understanding through Questioning

Classroom Tips for Deepening Student Understanding through Questioning

We live in a sensory overloaded world. Electronic devices or the drama of real life can easily distract our students. It is important that we find ways to actively engage learners so that they have the space to explore their intellectual curiosity and deepen their content understanding. To do this well, we teachers must ask our students questions! We need to get them thinking about complex concepts and talking to each other as they grapple with them.

comic-flag

Students want to learn from each other. They want to share their own views and perhaps even argue about other’s. Stimulating conversation about things students care about is what will hold their attention and ultimately deepen their content understanding.

When competing with the sensory-overloaded world out there, it is important that teachers show students that we want to hear what they have to say, and facilitate open and exciting discussion.

How do we do this? We ask them open-ended and intentional questions, get them asking their own, and get them to investigate together. Ask, ask, ask away and get them to engage deeply with the content at hand.

1.) Engage students and informally assess their comprehension by asking questions and stimulating dialogue.

Use preplanned and guiding questistudent-raising-hand-clip-art-image013ons as you go. Avoid trick questions and phrase questions clearly and concisely. Ask questions that engage student interest; relate them  back to their worlds. Think music, politics, social issues, etc..! Listen carefully to their responses and ask follow-up questions to encourage open conversation. (Caram and Davis, 2005).

2.) When asking these thought-provoking and open-ended questions, have students talk in pairs before opening up full-class discussion.

Students are often nervous to pipe up without having a moment to reflect on the question their teacher has just asked. By asking that students turn and talk to the person next to them about the question at hand, students get to put their ideas into words and learn from their partner before having to share with the class. This simple routine gives students confidence to speak up in classroom discussion, and enhances the quality of classroom discussion overall.

3.) In order to elicit deeper critical thinking, stimulate conversation between students!

Instead of asking just one student to respond to an open-ended question, be sure to ask other students if they agree or disagree, and why. You can also hold students responsible for listening to each other by asking that students restate what their classmate has said, and following that up with questions about their own opinion on that response (Goldsmith, 2013). This way we get students responding directly to the ideas of their classmates.

4.) Avoid the traditional raise-your-hand to respond method. Hold students responsible for classroom engagement.

Especially if teachers use the turn-and-talk method after asking each question, students should feel prepared with a response. Cold-calling holds students responsible for classroom engagement. It also helps ensure that students who are more timid and less likely to pipe up have the opportunity to share their ideas with the class.

th5.) Host Socratic seminars, and stimulate “conversations that teach” (Roberts and Billings, 2009, p.83).

As said, questioning deepens content understanding, as students are held accountable for their own engagement. It also provides the teacher with important information regarding student comprehension. So, get students to ask their own questions! Host Socratic seminars and teach students what are factual, interpretive, and evaluative questions. Listen carefully as they go to get a sense of how they are grappling with classroom texts and ideas.

To teach students factual, interpretive, and evaluative questioning, begin with a fun, recognizable story like Cinderella and ask students to come up with each type of question based on that story. Then, ask that they apply this questioning method to the texts read in class.

Whenever hosting a Socratic seminar, give students time (either in class or at home) to prepare by developing their own questions. Encourage them to ask questions that refer directly to the text and deepen textual understanding.

6.) Set up Structured Academic Controversies (SACs) in the classroom to get students to work together to investigate questions on their own.

The SAC allows students to explore a complex question in teams. In pairs, students are assigned a certain position related to a question. For instance, the teacher may ask: Was the New Deal a success or failure? One pair of students must find evidence for it being a success, and the other pair must find evidence for it being a failure. After, both teams must present their evidence to each other, and then must come to a consensus as a group regarding their own position on the issue.

In a SAC, students do not have to choose one position for their consesus, but can develop more complex, fuller answers to the question. For instance, they may decide that the New Deal was successful in that it treated the symptoms of the Great Depression, but was a failure in that it did little to address the root causes.

Students don’t easily forget the conclusions they came to on their own. Ask them the right, tough questions to get them investigating together!

References

Billings, L. & Roberts, T. (2009). Speak up and listen. Kappan Magazine, October 2009 ed., pp. 81-85.

Caram, C & Davis, P. (2005). Inviting student engagement with questioning. Kappa Delti Pi Record, Fall 2005 ed., 19-23.

Goldsmith, W. (2013). Enhancing classroom conversation for all students. Kappan Magazine, April 2013 ed., pp. 48-52.