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