Using Backward Design to Create Dynamic Lessons

Program Standard 4

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

4.4 Element – Designing Coherent Instruction in the area of Lesson and Unit Structure

4.4 Example of Proficient – The lesson or unit has a clearly defined structure around which activities are organized. Progression of activities is even, with reasonable time allocations.

Effective teaching requires a dedication to thoughtful planning to ensure that lessons are dynamic and relevant. According to Marzano (2007), “The decisions teachers make about the focus of units of instruction, the lessons within those units, and the segments within each lesson provide the infrastructure for effective or ineffective teaching” (Chapter 10, Section 2, para. 4). He also argues that flexibility is a key factor for student success as it is necessary to amend lessons based on student comprehension. It is important for all students to receive the individual scaffolding they need in order to thrive academically. It is also essential for teachers to anticipate difficulties or misconceptions that students may face when learning a subject so that they can create contingencies. The more prepared that an educator is when teaching a lesson the better the outcomes stand to be. Marzano (2007) argues, “Experienced teachers were better able to anticipate situations that were likely to be encountered and were able to generate contingency plans based on those possibilities” (Chapter 10, Section 2, para. 5). Although veteran educators have past experiences to help inform their practice, new teachers can also take the time to consciously prepare for multiple scenarios. Thoughtful planning also helps teachers ensure that lessons progress in a logical manner and that all learning outcomes are meaningfully addressed.

backward-design

In order to achieve a cohesive lesson, Wiggins and McTighe (2005) suggest starting with the desired results based on standards and work backward to then create materials and activities around that end goal (p. 8). They argue that when teachers do this they are able to see assessments as part of the learning process and use them formatively throughout the unit instead of just as a summative check of knowledge at the end (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 8). This style allows teachers to use informal comprehension checks to adapt lessons and provide students with the proper support to succeed. When teachers plan lessons in this manner it becomes easier to center them around standards and learning targets instead of having to try to integrate them as an afterthought. Many new teachers often first think of fun activities or rely heavily on textbooks to create lessons without thinking about how standards will fit into them. It becomes easy to get attached to an idea about how fun or exciting an activity could be without looking at the importance of how it will fit into the learning goals. This approach pushes teachers to use backward design to ensure that each lesson is impactful and situated within the larger context of a unit. It also enables teachers to focus on the information that needs to be taught and the manner which is most conducive to the subject matter. Once the standards have been identified and the learning target is established, it becomes easier to break down the learning into manageable segments and create formative assessments to check and see if students are progressing through the material. Ultimately effective lessons are well sequenced and thoughtfully planned and successful teachers are able to adapt as circumstances arise.

References
Marzano, R. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching a Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [Kindle DX version] Retrieved from Amazon
Wiggins, G.P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on the website Educational Technology.
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Course Reflection For Survey Of Instructional Strategies

Program Standard 4

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning. 

4.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

4.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s plans and practice reflect familiarity with a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches in the discipline.

teach

In their book—Models of Teaching—Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) explored various methods of instruction and their uses in the classroom. They explored standard techniques like memorization and the use advance organizers as well as explicit and direct instruction. They also surveyed less conventional ones such as inquiry and inductive strategies along with nondirective teaching and group investigation approaches. While this book investigated many different types of classroom instruction, one thing it made clear was that the best teachers employ a wide range of tactics with their students.

The student led approaches offer learners the independence to explore topics important to them. With this method Students will be more engaged in learning because they have the flexibility to discover issues and subject matter that interests them. This strategy can be difficult to implement because it requires the standard classroom hierarchy to be dismantled, however, the benefits are well worth the effort. “The model creates an environment where students and teachers are partners in learning, sharing ideas openly, and communicate honestly with one another” (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 285). Student centric learning allows teachers to create a cooperative environment where inquiry based learning and group collaboration can flourish. These strategies create more connected students capable of working together and empathizing with one another. If done well, self-directed models engender in students not only the desire but also the capacity to become life-long learners.

While it is crucial to implement less conventional learning styles in the classroom, it is also important not to neglect the standard models of teaching that have created a solid groundwork of education. Explicit and direct instruction can be the best methods of conveying new information depending on the subject matter. It is essential that teachers develop the skills necessary to determine the best teaching strategy for conveying different kinds of information. When learning foundational skills it is often best for teachers to convey the information in a direct manner so that students will not be confused by the topics being discussed. Ultimately, students cannot explore subject matter independently without first understand a basic level of comprehension so explicit instruction is necessary in order to enable less structured learning. Joyce et al. (2015) explained, “Direct instruction plays a limited but important role in a comprehensive educational program” (p. 340). While explicit teaching may not always yield the best learning results in certain situations there are times when will be the most beneficial. The most effective teachers understand that different kinds of instructional strategies lend themselves more readily to different content areas. Those educators are able to produce the best learning results from their students by creating a dynamic and engaging learning environment.

References
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching: Ninth Edition. New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
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 The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Abstract Thinking Of Concrete Concepts

Program Standard 4

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning. 

4.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

2.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s plans and practice reflect familiarity with a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches in the discipline.

Educators are charged with the complex task of helping students learn new concepts. However, this does not mean that teachers should merely present students with facts to study and memorize. Instead, they must find ways to present information through meaningful learning experiences that will equip students with the ability to transfer their learned skills from the classroom to real world situations. Bruner (1971) called for “an approach to learning that allows the child not only to learn the material that is presented in a school setting, but to learn it in such a way that [he or she] can use the information in problem solving” (p. 70). For students to be able to engage in complex reasoning they first must be able to look at straightforward concepts abstractly. One way that teachers can get students involved in this kind of thinking is through the synectics teaching model.

This strategy employs the use of metaphors and analogies to deepen students’ examination of topics. Educators use it to develop students’ thinking by having them investigate concrete notions in abstract ways. There are two manners in which to use synectics in the classroom: to produce a new idea out of something familiar or to make unfamiliar knowledge relatable (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 160). Both of these approaches lead students to think more critically about any given topic and incite them to view concept exploration as a highly involved process. This type of learning also invites students to examine their own thought development. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) stated in reference to synectics that, “students learn to think about their problem solving processes and gain a measure of metacognitive control over how they solve problems” (p. 149). This type of intentional cognitive exploration can help students develop better critical thinking skills that will transfer more readily to a variety of situations and extend beyond the classroom.

References
Bruner, J. S. (1971). The Relevance of Education. New York: Norton. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Characteristics of an Effective Educator

Program Standards 1–5

1. ExpectationsThe teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

2. InstructionThe teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

3. Differentiation The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

4. Content KnowledgeThe teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

5. Learning Environment The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

An effective teacher must be competent, dedicated, adaptable, and most importantly skilled at maintaining order in the classroom. Learning cannot take place in a classroom that is not productively managed and controlled. There are a great many techniques available for teachers to employ when maintaining and retaining structure in the class. A competent teacher must be a keen observer and amend his or her strategy for each new set of students and always be evaluating if adjustments need to be made. Once a teacher has created a stable environment conducive to learning they can use their competence, dedication, and adaptability to become a successful educator.

When a teacher is competent in and dedicated to their subject matter they can not only seamlessly answer student questions and create valuable lessons but they can also inspire student to want to know more about the material being taught. Educators who are passionate about what they are teaching create students who are more likely to be enthusiastic about learning. Another aspect of being competent and dedicated as an instructor is staying current with up-to-date teaching methods and available technology. Teachers today have more resources available than ever before and it is important for them to understand how to find and effectively use them to the benefit of their students. Teachers are now empowered to use software and hardware to individualize the training each students needs.

deskTo become particularly competent educators must be adaptable in the planning and execution of their instruction. Recent and ongoing research has caused administrators and instructors to understand the necessity of differentiating lessons for a variety of students (Marzano, 2007). Teachers must be able to create exercises on a single subject for several different learning styles in order to expertly educate each one of their students. Beyond differentiating direction, teachers must also be able to adapt on the spot when they see that an activity is ineffective. If a teacher can see that their plan is not having the desired effect and then modify it immediately they provide their students with the best chance of learning the subject matter. Educators who are competent and dedicated tend to be naturally adaptable and able to observe each of their students’ needs giving them the best chance at success.

Reference
Marzano, R. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching a Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [Kindle DX version] Retrieved from Amazon.com
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 The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.