Reflecting on How My Experience as a Student Has Changed My Perspective as a Teacher

Sometimes it is hard to believe that I am that much older than the students I teach.  I realize I am, and my own children make comments like, “Mom, things are different now,” or “Everyone has a cell phone now,” which continually remind me that I am “older”.  Still, I guess I don’t feel that far removed from my children and students, but as my kids point out often, I suppose in some ways I am.

Chapter 5 from Tapscott’s Grown Up Digital made me reflect on my education and the way I teach now.  I am a firm believer in students constructing meaning for their learning whether it be math or reading.  As Eric Mazur said, “Students have to connect the information to what they already know, develop mental models, learn how to apply the new knowledge, and how to adapt this knowledge to new and unfamiliar situations,” (as cited in Tapscott, 2008).  As I teach I try to create situations where my students are able to model how they solve problems rather than me simply telling them how I want them to solve problems.

When I was in elementary school, I was often told which algorithm to use to solve a problem.  I love numbers so this method worked well for me and I was able to recall how to solve problems using the given algorithms.  That being said, I did not always understand why certain methods worked.  Nor do I ever recall telling other students how I solved a problem.  I do remember occasionally solving a problem on the board but I was never required to provide a verbal explanation.  As a teacher, I require my students to explain their thinking.  This is an excerpt taken from my final portfolio:

In my classroom, I really try to help my students understand the different algorithms for solving problems involving the four operations.  I also encourage my students to be able to construct meaning as they solve different problems.  When my students work through word problems I will often have them try them alone first.  Then I will give them time to work with their group members to solve the problem again.  After 5-10 minutes (sometimes 15) one person from each group will explain how the problem was solved to the rest of the class.  Then I award them points; I give a 1, 2, or 3.  Things I consider are how well they explained their response, effort, and how they got to the answer.  I am not always looking for a correct response, but more for perseverance and critical thinking.

How I teach is very different from how I was taught.  As I entered into college I began to work more in collaborative situations.  I often entered these situations with dread, though, because I was so used to working independently.  As I started working with others I felt the usual fear of, “Oh, no.  I am going to have to do all the work again.”  However, the more I worked in groups, the more I realized that with clear expectations and guidance from the instructor, collaborative work could really benefit me as a learner.  Now, as an educator I am able to provide experiences for my students to work collaboratively in a safe and fun learning environment.

4 Key Components of a Collaborative Classroom taken from What Is the Collaborative Classroom?

  1. Shared knowledge among teachers and students
  2. Shared authority among teachers and students
  3. Teachers as mediators
  4. Heterogeneous groupings of students

 

(Tinzmann, M.B., Jones, B.F., Fennimore, T.F. & et. al, 1990).

 

Most of these key components were not part of my classroom as I moved through elementary school and into middle and high school.  As I mentioned previously, my teacher gave us information as we were expected to learn it.  In today’s society, students want to learn by collaborating with their teachers; teachers can provide ideal learning situations for their students and the students can then construct meaning for math, reading, and/or whatever they may be studying.

 

The second key component discussed is that teachers and students share authority.  This is very different than when I was in school.  Very rarely did I get to set goals or help decide how I learned.  I did get to participate in a gifted program during 6th grade.  During this program I was able to choose a topic for my independent study project.  This was probably one of the most valuable experiences of my 6th grade year because I got to pick my topic and set my own goals as I progressed throughout the project.  My daughter was able to do something similar to this, though more in depth during her 6th grade year at Roger’s Park Elementary School.  She participated in a R.O.P.E.S project or Rite of Passage Experience.  She created a video of her experience and presented for a board made of community members.  This was a great experience for her.

 

Another key component is “the teacher acts as a mediator”.  I feel like different articles on collaborative learning keep coming back to this idea.  So rather than elaborate further I think it is safe to say that the teacher needs to allow students time to work with their peers to discuss new content while providing support when needed.  Often times I find myself acting more as a facilitator in my classroom.  Granted, I still take time to model different strategies in math, for instance, before I have my students explore on their own.

 

Finally, the last key component touched on in the article What Is the Collaborative Classroom? Is heterogeneous grouping.  When I was a student I don’t really remember being put in groups.  I certainly don’t remember discussing things with my “shoulder partner” or “face partner”.  In my classroom today I find myself having the students constantly interacting with me or their peers.  Students participate in things like Mix-Pair-Share or Rally Coach to ensure they are constantly engaged and working with peers.  I very rarely pair students who are low with a high student; this seems unfair to always do this to the higher student while the lower student doesn’t get to do much work.  Rather I try to use ideas I learned from Kagan trainings.  I pair high with medium students or medium-high students, and I pair low students with either medium or medium-low students.  Then the students are all engaged and I can “mediate” or “facilitate” as need be.  Most of the time the students are able to talk through everything with each other without needed much support from me.

 

 

In general my goal as a teacher is to help students discover who they are as individuals so they are able to work collaboratively in a safe and comfortable environment, (taken from my resume from 2009).

 

One site that I discovered that offers a technology based unit of study can be found at: https://courses.mooc-ed.org/cdl1/preview

This course offers relevant tools and resources for technology coaches and teachers, as well as anyone else who is interested in the digital learning initiative.  The course also offers a personalized way to integrate the things learned throughout the mooc into your classroom.  Finally, I like that you are able to set goals and create an action plan.  The course has already been completed and was presented by North Caroline St. University.  Other strengths of the course include a course outline, educator expectations are provided, and the course will be offered again in Fall 2014.  Another really great thing about this course is that it is FREE!  It is funded by The Friday Institute.  This course is open to anyone who is interested in the digital learning initiative.

Suggestions: The participant expectations are fairly clear, but can be made clearer with a rubric.

As I have been searching for technology based lessons I came across two great sites.  One suggests having students remix content using sites such as Glogster, ThingLink, or TED-ed.  I am really excited about the possibly of using TED-ed in the classroom.  Check out this article as well: http://facultyecommons.org/ted-ed-flipping-videos-into-interactive-lessons/

 

 

Resources:

Kagan Learning Structures. [On-line]. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from www.kaganoline.com/index.php

 

Lambries, Sara. (2014).  My Professional Portfolio Goal 2: Human Growth and Development.

[On-line] Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://myportfoliomathed.weebly.com/goal-2-human-development.html

 

Palfrey, John and Gasser, Urs. (2008). Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital

 Natives.[On-line] Retrieved June 1, 2014 from      http://site.ebrary.com/id/10392430?ppg=8

 

Tapscott, Donn. (2008). Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World.

               McGraw Hill Professional Publishing: New York, New York.

 

Tinzmann, M.B., Jones, B.F., Fennimore, T.F., Bakker, J., Fine, C., & Pierce, J. (1990). What Is the

Collaborative Classroom? [On-line]. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.arp.sprnet.org/Admin/supt/collab2.htm

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Reflecting on How My Experience as a Student Has Changed My Perspective as a Teacher

  1. Sara wrote: “In general my goal as a teacher is to help students discover who they are as individuals so they are able to work collaboratively in a safe and comfortable environment.”

    I love this statement, it is very well put and so right on. It is so important for us as educators to create an environment that allows collaboration, but also that is safe. Students need feel like they can make mistakes and take chances even though they may come up with the wrong answer. Wrong answers are okay those are the moments that we can learn from. I also live for those moments when a student brings up or asks a question about something that we are learning about and then we take off on it in class, those teachable moments.

  2. I rarely remember working with a partner or group in school while growing up. One of my first experiences with “collaboration” came early in my college career when I took a math class with a lab component and we were assigned project partners. Since our schedules were difficult to mesh, my partner suggested that I do the first project on my own and she do the other and we would just put our names on both papers. We got a 97 on the project that I did and about a 73 on the one she did. When I did work in a group, I was too shy and introverted to speak up much and assumed the others were probably going to bring my grade down. I think about these things when I see my classes partner up. I notice that the over-achievers typically pair up and do great together and the under-achievers pair up and barely get by. I like your suggestion of high/medium medium/low pairings. Once I get to know my new students, I will try to assign partners more often.

    • Michael,

      I had a few similar experiences during high school and college as well. I typically did all the work simply so I wouldn’t have to deal with others not putting forth enough effort. Working on my master’s degree has been a good experience for me because I have had to rely on my colleagues to help complete assignments. I have learned a great deal about collaboration and feel like I am more equipped to work in teams.

      Good luck with the grouping. I saw a huge improvement when I began grouping students this way.

    • Michael,

      I had a few similar experiences during high school and college as well. I typically did all the work simply so I wouldn’t have to deal with others not putting forth enough effort. Working on my master’s degree has been a good experience for me because I have had to rely on my colleagues to help complete assignments. I have learned a great deal about collaboration and feel like I am more equipped to work in teams.

      Good luck with the grouping. I saw a huge improvement when I began grouping students this way.

  3. Brian Mason says:

    I too am a believer in getting students to construct their learning. I have students construct their learning in collaborative groups and in one on one with me. One on one sessions are where the students are getting help from the teacher on a problem they are working on. When helping students I try not to give the students any answers or any hints. I tend to ask the students questions to help pull the knowledge form their head or help them construct the knowledge themselves. Here a some examples of the questions I ask ” what do you think is the next step? Or is there a formula that could help in solving the problem?”

    • Brian,

      You mentioned you make sure to ask guiding questions rather than give students the answers, I think this is so important if we are to help students think critically. I find it difficult at times not to just show students how to solve problems but by making them persevere in solving problems, we are giving them skills that will help our students be productive outside of school.

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