Inquiry: Summary of Learning

I began my inquiry asking the question: “how can I support student-centered learning in my classroom?” I have researched and discussed with other teachers to learn about student-centered learning and begin to answer my question.  I got a lot of support and enjoyed hearing what others had to say and what others were doing to support student-centered learning.

I have put together a google doc that highlights what I learned and is cram packed full of resources that might be helpful for others trying to answer the same question I started with. Please check it out and leave comments as to further resources and ideas that relate to my inquiry project. I would also be very happy to discuss ideas around student-centered learning. I am no expert, but I am a very engaged life-long learner.

This inquiry project has helped my begin to put my philosophies and theories into practical teaching strategies and learning activities. While I have been struggling to structure my ideas, this has been an exercise in doing just that. Moreover, it has been another activity that pushed me to collaborate and reach out to communities of teachers, which I have yet again found so supportive and helpful.

As a last word, I am going to leave you with a video that I found and included in my document twice. I want to share this video, because if you only have time to check out one resource in regard to student-centered learning, I think this is a good choice. This video was a helpful resource for me as it given strategies, but also shows them in action. I can see myself using them now. If the video peaks your interest, check out my summary of learning package.

What do you think? Is student-centered learning something you would like to do? Please feel free to share and discuss.

Student-Centered Learning in my Pre-Internship

Before and during my pre-internship, I was inquiring into student-centered learning. My inquiry gave me many ideas and was reflected in my teaching philosophy. I would say that I made small steps toward my end goal. There were many things I was trying to consider as I prepared and taught during my internship.

I wasn’t sure how far I could go and to be honest I felt like I still needed to control the direction of the class quite a bit. I wasn’t sure what I should expect. I wasn’t sure how much control I had over the direction of the class and my teaching. In part, I didn’t want to teach in a way that would be disapproved by others or would be too different. I hate having these kinds of thoughts. I know people say that there is no one correct way to teach, but sometimes I feel like as a young teacher some of the things I want to try might be chalked up to inexperience. I also worry that because some of my ideas go against super traditional ways of teaching, they will not be well received by teachers who prefer traditional teaching methods. I tried to give students a voice and incorporate student-centered teaching/learning methods when I could. This is still something that is really important to me, so I will continue to take bigger and bigger steps toward reaching my goals.

For my first lesson, I asked my students to fill out an exit slip in response to three questions:

  1. What is something I should know about you as a learner?
  2. What is something you find interesting about or would like to learn more about the subject? (The World Around and Within Us – Environmentalism)
  3. What is a question you still have?

I was really happy with the responses I got. It was especially refreshing to read those for question number one. Here are a few examples of what my students told me:

“Making connections to similar concepts when teaching something new aids in my comprehension,” “I am the type of learner that has a little trouble understanding things the first few times…,” “I rather be learning in groups and moving than sitting by myself doing something,” “I learn better if you provide an image for me or let me use hands on,” and “I like when people talk and have a discussion.”

My students were able to clearly explain ways that they learn best. This reiterated that students know what works for them and we need to listen more often. My education has given me many tools, but with the diversity of learners that exists, I need to pay attention to them to know what they need.

I didn’t carry out an inquiry project, although I would have liked to. As I reflected, I saw that I could have gotten students to inquire into an environmental issue. If I had more time and felt more comfortable getting technology access for my students, that is something I would like to do. I did, however, have my students write journal responses to prompts related to what we were learning. I told them that they would choose one in the end to revise and make a good copy of. I tried to make this project into a process portfolio of sorts. The assessment for the “journal project” included: drafts completed, revisions, conventions, and content & understanding. I made it clear that the goal was for them to make personal and topical connections and provide support for them. In this way, I was respecting their perspective, giving them a voice, and getting them to build off of what they knew.

The poster project I had them do was similar. I went through an article that showed ads against food waste and then gave them complete freedom to advocate for something regarding an environmental issue. During class discussions and journal prompts, I asked students about the issues that bothered them.

I tried to incorporate the things that they had told me about themselves into their learning. I used group work as a few students mentioned that as being beneficial for them. I also recognize the power of collaboration. I prepared a jigsaw activity to encourage students to take responsibility of material. Although, some students had some issues with the concept of teaching their peers. I still believe it was a good way to introduce ideas.

In the end, I believe some of my ideas came out and I was able to do some student-centered work. I also believe I could have done more and would have liked to do more. As I said earlier, I was still a bit uncertain as to what my role could be and how many different methods I could try to use. Time was another factor, I would like to give students time to explore and I would feel more prepared if I had time to set up the class for a more inquiry and student-directed learning environment.

How my Inquiry and my Philosophy are Intertwined

Inquiry PhilosophyI have inquired into student-centered learning, because the fundamentals of the concept are an important part of my teaching philosophy. I do believe that students, people, have a natural curiosity for life. What individuals are curious about or interested in will be diverse, but that is an important thing to remember too.

I believe that student-centered learning has to be supported by a consistent learning environment that is shaped by every learner. I don’t believe one project is enough, because I think that a strong education is one that is reflective of the learner. I’m not sure that school is the best environment for all learners, but I think it should strive to be.

I believe that whether we like it or not, our philosophy comes out in how we teach. The way I understand learners to be, paints the way I perceive them and approach them as a teacher. That being said, I have to learn specific skills to be able to teach any certain way. I also have to find resources that support me in reaching my goals as a teacher. So, I wanted to inquire into student-centered learning, because I wanted to learn ways I could implement it in my classrooms.

Before I had really taught for an extended period of time, my philosophy was shaped from a student perspective and observations as a student-teacher. Now that I have had the opportunity to teach for three consecutive weeks, I have a clearer idea of my philosophy from a teacher perspective. After my experience, I still believe that the best education I can give is one that is centered around my students and the diversity of learners that exist.

In fact, my experience has given me realistic ideas as to how I can use the skills I have learned to align my philosophy to my practice. Before teaching, I struggled to organize all of the ideas in my head, but now I have a reference point. I think the more I try and the more I learn, the closer I will get to teaching in an appropriately student-centered way.

On Completing My Pre-Internship

I am relieved to have completed my pre-internship, but I also don’t feel ready to wait months to be teaching again. It was both a challenging and rewarding experience. Most of all, I enjoyed interacting with my students. After a few weeks, I’ve gotten used to hearing their voices in class discussion and while reading their journals. I think having them write in journals was one of the best parts. I think it gave them a chance to say something and for me to hear them one-on-one.

I’m really looking forward to building a strong classroom community in my internship and I’m looking forward to being my students’ teacher from day one. I’m excited to add classroom routines of my own and bring even more of my personality and philosophy into the classroom.

My pre-internship was really a learning experience and I will continue to look at every moment in my future career as part of my life long learning. However, my aim in my internship will be to bring even more of my knowledge and ideas to the table. I feel like the past three weeks, for me, were about me getting my footing. Now that I have this experience, I want to push myself to the next step. Additionally, I am hoping that I will have more time and opportunities to prepare and plan for my internship. I know that we have to work with short deadlines sometimes, but time to think and plan is only a positive.

Despite all of the worrying, I had some really great moments. Moreover, when I got the paper that said I passed, I was able to take a breath and really enjoy my final days of pre-internship. I am going to try to do more of this in my internship. Although I’m sure I will be caught up in stress some days, I won’t let it rule my experience. In the end, I am happy.

Getting in the Zone

My first week went well for the most part. I had one “bad day,” but in the end it wasn’t that bad and I learned a lot from it. After the first week, I started to get in the zone. I started talking more about environmentalism with my B10 students. It seemed like my students were really getting it and contributing to whole class discussions. They were also more easily able to make connections between their existing knowledge and what we were learning.

School ZoneAfter my seventh lesson, my cooperating teacher and my partner both ecstatically pointed out how well the lesson went. While my other lessons had been going well, this lesson saw me shine. I enjoyed my time and really felt the room become a collaborative environment. I had warmed up, learned much along the way, and got students to see their connection to the material. It was such a great feeling. I think this didn’t happen in the first week as much, because I take time to warm up to people in general. I can be quiet and reserved, but I strive for meaningful interpersonal connections. Although, it does take time.

In future classrooms, I would like to establish a caring environment from the beginning. I really like the idea of starting every week off with a talking circle. I want my students to know that what is happening in their lives and how they are feeling is considered in the classroom. I also want to get to know my students as individuals and for them to get to know me as a person who is helping them learn and learning with them.

Additionally, as I said earlier, I have been learning. I think being a quick learner is one of my major strengths. My goal in learning is never to be better than someone else, but to be better than what I was in the past. As a teacher this means, I learn something from every moment and I use it to make myself a stronger teacher. In the end, this lesson was really important in that it told me that all of my work was helping. This lesson told me that I could accomplish my goals. I can’t settle for being a sub-par teacher. I want to be a dedicated teacher that helps students construct their knowledge. I know that I can do that and if I was feeling down, it was because being that kind of teacher means everything to me. Now I know that as long as I keep pushing myself I can be the teacher I aim to be.

I Am Still Learning

Learning

I am still learning – and I am learning so much. After three years of university, I have so many theories and philosophies that I have had little opportunity to put into action in a real classroom as an educator. I have been anticipating this moment, but I wonder if you ever feel completely ready.

My first week of pre-internship was hectic, stressful, and worth every moment so far. What I am doing now is something I believe you could never learn from taking a class. You have to stand up and try, because theories and philosophies are great, but practice is a necessary step. I am constantly afraid I will fumble, but I think that’s a part of it. I can’t teach as if I have years of experience – I don’t. What I do have is passion. My passion fuels me, that keeps me brave enough to learn despite a fear of failing, and that allows me to learn from my mistakes.

I am teaching my students about the environment through literature. I am also trying to learn about and from them. I want to know who they are as learners, so I asked them and I observe what they respond to and what they get excited about. I learn from them, things that work and things that don’t. I have learned that my unit plans will change with them and for them. A plan might take three days, when I hoped for one. This was something I needed to learn and I am glad I have.

For the next week, I hope to see students getting involved. I hope to learn more about ways to reach students and differentiate for their needs. I hope to find ways to get students talking about literature critically. I hope to get students seeing themselves in their learning. As I add another class to my teaching duties, I hope to learn even more than I have in my first week. I am keeping organized and caught up and I am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

 

Reflecting on a Bad Day

I’m sure there are times in every teacher’s career that they have a bad day, and I had one.

I attempted to let students read a short story and discuss and answer related questions in groups. I gave them a guiding time frame, because this was only one of the activities I wanted to cover in the class. The short story was not a difficult read, I asked them to fill out an anticipation guide before and during reading to help them, and I allowed students to work in groups of up to three. I thought groups would be a nice break from the individual work from the day before. Additionally, some students answered the exit slip question, “what should I know about you as a learner?” by telling me they enjoyed group work. I personally, enjoy discussing what I read with others and find it helpful in identifying different potential meanings of a story. However, it became a social opportunity and I could see that many students had completed very little of their anticipation guide. I realized that my class was going to need the entire class to finish what I hoped they would, so I let the rest go until I could cover it the following day.

This behaviour came from two general things. Firstly, in my haste to cover everything, I made the mistake of not clearly connecting the previous day’s work to that day’s. Secondly, after starting out assertive and audible, I reverted to my timid and quiet voice. Maybe I was tired out or nervous, but the students noticed.

FailureI was upset at first. I knew the mistakes I had made immediately. I felt like a failure. After calming down, I made myself acknowledge that I would not learn from beating myself up over it, that I had to dust myself off and take the experience for what it was — a learning experience. The next lesson, I focused on my presence and my voice. I also dedicated the period to connecting everything together and establishing the importance of the learning activities and the routines. The lessons that I have taught since, have went according to my plans and I am looking forward to improving more and more. In the end, things have gone well and I was able to learn from my “bad day.”

In addition, to overcoming fears and learning from mistakes, I really felt the support of my teaching communities. My partner and my cooperating teacher gave helpful feedback, support, advice, and specific things I should do next class to be more successful. This helped me emotionally prepare myself and it helped me make the most out of the lesson I learned.