Becoming An Advocate For Exceptional Students

Program Standard 3

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.

3.3 Element – Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness in persisting to support students.

3.3 Example of Proficient – Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.

advocate

For EDSP 6644 (Educating Exceptional Students) I researched the increasingly popular Response to Intervention (RtI) model and how it relates to twice-exceptional students (see linked paper below). Twice-exceptional students are distinctive because of their combination of high intelligence and specific learning disabilities. These combined traits can often make it difficult for standardized measures to detect these learners. Oftentimes their intelligence can offset their specific learning disability resulting in average achievement even though they are capable of so much more. According to Crepeau-Hobson and Bianco (2011) “This masking can make the twice-exceptional students appear to have average abilities and achievement. Because of these issues, gifted students with [learning disabilities] are less likely to be identified for either exceptionality” (p. 103). If these students are not detected within systems like the RtI model, they will not get the supports and enrichments needed.

Although it is not a perfect screening process, the RtI model can be adjusted to provide a first step in detecting twice-exceptional students. McCallum, Mee Bell, Coles, Miller, Hopkins, and Hilton-Prillhart (2013) suggest, “Scrutiny of more than one academic area for screening purposes will decrease the potentially negative effects of masking” (p. 219). The researchers believe that if students’ scores are vastly different between subjects, those discrepancies might indicate that they are suffering from learning disabilities despite testing within the normal range. The students who have large inconsistencies in their test scores across subjects would then qualify for further screening. While this is not a perfect solution, it does help to fill a gap in the RtI model that would otherwise leave twice-exceptional students undetected. It is important for administrators to take suggestions like this one under consideration so that students can get the interventions that they need.

Even with adjustments to screening systems, it is essential that teachers always advocate for their students. After doing research, I have learned that perceptive teachers are crucial to the success of their students. This is especially true for students with special needs. In inclusive classrooms, these students often fail to receive proper supports. McKenzie (2010) asserts, “Insightful teachers have always been, and must remain, the conduits of advocacy on behalf of students with exceptionalities” (p. 166). This knowledge will drive my teaching and make me a more thoughtful and dedicated educator. It will push me to learn more about the needs of exceptional learners so I can create a truly inclusive classroom. It is important for teachers to not exclusively rely on standardized testing to detect the needs of all students. All teachers must be informed about special education issues so that they can differentiate their teaching and provide students with the support needed. Vigilant teachers must ensure that these students are receiving proper interventions, are building strong social relationships, and are developing a sense of self-efficacy. It is crucial for all students, but especially those with disabilities, to develop a sense of agency so that they can advocate for themselves and understand their own learning needs. Teachers are such an important part of their students’ lives so it is imperative for them to champion for the needs of each and every learner in their classroom.

Click To Read My Paper On Twice-Exceptional Students And The RtI Model

References
Crepeau-Hobson, F., & Bianco, M. (2011). Identification of Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities in a Response-to-Intervention era. Psychology In The Schools48(2), 102-109. doi:10.1002/pits.20528
McCallum, S.R., Mee Bell, S., Coles, J.T., Miller, K.C., Hopkins, M.B., & Hilton-Prillhart, A. (2013). A Model for Screening Twice-Exceptional Students (Gifted With Learning Disabilities) Within a Response to Intervention Paradigm. Gifted Child Quarterly, 57(4), 209-222. doi:10.1177/0016986213500070
McKenzie, R. G. (2010). The Insufficiency of Response to Intervention in Identifying Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (Wiley-Blackwell)25(3), 161-168. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2010.00312.x

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.

Providing Equitable Education To All Students

Program Standard 5

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

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

equity

There is a debate in this country about whether or not to provide certain students on a 504 plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP) with special accommodations. Those who argue against it say that it leaves students ill-prepared for independent living, that it allows students to graduate without doing much work, and that it is unfair to other students who are required to complete their assignments (Evans, 2008, pp. 324-325). However, an appropriate accommodation does not do anything more than create an equitable environment for all students. According to Byrnes, “An accommodation is an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability. An accommodation does not guarantee success or a specific level of performance. Appropriate accommodations provide the opportunity for a person with a disability to participate equitably in a situation or activity” (Evans, 2008, p. 317).

An accommodation does not allow students to go through school without any effort but merely removes obstacles that would leave certain students far behind their peers academically. Providing accommodations to students also does not make them less prepared for the real world because in this country it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their disability. 504 plans ensure that future employers cannot overlook a candidate based on their disability and also requires them to provide accommodations for that employee. However, it is important that students needing accommodations be given the proper support so that the right measures are taken in each case. Far too often the same accommodations are made for several students with a wide range of abilities. Byrnes states, “Disabilities differ in individuals. Accommodations must be considered for each individual, not by disability category. The point is to understand the disability and the learning situation and then determine if these interact to pose a barrier to equal access” (Evans, 2008, p. 319). It is important that teachers and other professionals treat each student individually so that the best solution can be found.

References
Evans, D. L. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

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.

Helping Students Understand Copyright and Fair Use

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 4

4. Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility – Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices.

a. Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources.

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.2 Element – Communicating with Students

1.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s explanation of content is appropriate and connects with students’ knowledge and experience.

Technology and online resources are an integral part of most classrooms today. Students actively participate in online research in the pursuit of new skills and knowledge. Schools are increasingly using educational web 2.0 platforms to create classroom blogs that students can create and add content to so it is important for them to understand how to responsibly use intellectual property that does not belong to them. The International Society for Technology in Education addresses this issue in their fourth standard by stating that educators need to demonstrate to students how to use digital information in a conscientious and legal manner. In order for students to use content ethically they first must understand copyright, fair use, and creative commons and how they all relate. For EDTC 6433 I researched how I could teach these complex issues to young students without confusing them on the subject matter.

Fortunately, many educators have previously dealt with teaching copyright and fair use in the classroom and shared their resources and lesson plans online. Borovoy (2015), in her article “Five-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use For Educators,” complied a list of useful websites and created a YouTube playlist with helpful videos on copyright, fair use, and creative commons. The first video in the playlist is particularly helpful because it follows a teacher through her lesson plan on fair use and demonstrates how she engages her students in the subject matter. Borovoy (2015) even provided a link to a pdf of the worksheet that the teacher used in the video. This article provides teachers with a starting point on how to teach the subject of copyright, fair use, and creative commons and even presents links to external websites with helpful information. However, it does not provide a concise guideline for how to deal with issues of copyright, fair use, and creative commons. Burt (2012) did just that in his article “The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons” and also provides many useful tips on where to find content that can be used and how to do so ethically and legally. However, even with all of the information available it can still be difficult to tell what content is safe to use even with proper citation or credit.

Another student in EDTC 6433 shared a resource from the American Library Association that helps individuals navigate copyright issues. On their website there is a page that provides copyright tools like their Public Domain Slider (which helps determine the copyright status of a work published in the United States), their Fair Use Evaluator (which helps determine is the use of copyrighted material is covered under fair use), and their Copyright Genie (which can be used to determine if a work is copyrighted and calculate its terms of protection). The ALA website even provides a tool that allows educators to determine educational exceptions to copyright law (Copyright, 2016). All of the resources described will help me grapple with these complicated but important issues with my students so they will be prepared to use all the content the web has to offer in a safe, legal, and ethical manner.

References
Borovoy, A. E. (2015) Five-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/film-festival-copyright-fair-use
Burt, R. (2012). The Educator’s Guide To Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons. The Edublogger. Retrieved from http://www.theedublogger.com/2012/02/09/the-educators-guide-to-copyright-fair-use-and-creative-commons/
Copyright Tools. (2016) ALA: American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/copyright-tools

Helping Students Develop Self-Esteem

Program Standard 5

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

 5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

It may seem obvious that students need to develop healthy self-esteem to flourish in school and make educational gains but all too often the emotional aspect of learning are marginalized or completely forgotten. Imbuing students with a sense of worth can help them understand their own self-efficacy. In order for students to learn they have to first feel like they are capable of learning. Without that understanding students will not put forth the effort necessary to succeed. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) emphasized, “Strong self-concepts are accompanied by ‘self-actualizing’ behavior, a reaching out toward the environment with confidence that the interaction will be productive” (p. 309). Helping students realize their potential can unlock their willingness to try unfamiliar things. It is important for teachers to do two things in order to help students develop: help students understand that failing is a necessary part of learning and model behavior indicative of positive self-worth.

self esteem

Failing is an integral part of learning and it is important for students to understand that so they can use it to their advantage. However, in a society where achievement is highly valued students get the message that missteps are an indicator of overall failure or low intelligence. The reality is that just the opposite can be true. Individuals who understand that trial and error is a part of the learning process stand to reach higher levels of achievement than those who do not. Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014) assert, “A fear of failure can poison learning by creating aversions to the kinds of experimentation and risk taking that characterize striving” (p. 90) Teachers cannot assume that this concept will be intuitive to students and explicitly remind them often. It is also important that teachers remember to praise student efforts over their intelligence. Praising a child on their efforts tells them that the hard work they put forth resulted in the desired effect while praising a child for their intelligence sends them the message that their success is inherent and that effort is not required to succeed.

While it is important for teachers to constantly remind students of the benefits of mistakes and to boost their confidence by noticing their efforts it is equally if not more important for educator to model these behaviors. Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun argue, “In many ways, students become what we model for them, and part of our influence on them depends on our own states of growth—our own self-concepts—and how we communicate them to children” (p. 302). It is crucial that teachers take the opportunity to use their own mistakes as an instructional moment to demonstrate to students that it is normal and expected. They can use those moments to show students productive ways to proceed forward after a setback and establish a positive learning environment in their classroom. When teachers exhibit strong self-esteem and are confident in their own learning process students will begin to mirror that sentiment.

References
Brown, P.C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014) Make It Stick. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. [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
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Collaborative vs. Cooperative Learning And Their Place In Democratic Education

Program Standard 2

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

2.2 Element – Engaging Students in Learning

2.2 Example of Proficient – Most activities and assignments are appropriate to students, and almost all students are cognitively engaged in exploring content.

collaborative-vs-cooperative-copy

Democratic education can have a profound affect on students in terms of how they approach their peers and their learning. This educational method “aim[s] to develop ideal citizens who could live in and enhance society, who could fulfill themselves in and through it, and who would even be able to help and revise it” (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 248). Thus it is important for students to be able to work collectively towards common goals in the classroom. This style of teaching can help students develop many skills pertinent to life after school and will allow them to explore topics through divergent perspectives. When done effectively, democratic education has the potential to create more thoughtful, engaged, and tolerant students capable of considering viewpoints outside of their own. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) asserted, “It appears likely to nurture interpersonal warmth and trust, respect for negotiated rules and policies, independence in learning, and respect for the dignity of others” (p. 255). The positive effects of democratic education are apparent so the question is not whether to implement it in classrooms but how to.

Both collaborative and cooperative learning are engaging ways to get students thinking democratically and collectively. These terms are often used interchangeably but are in fact two distinct teaching approaches that teachers can employ during group work. Collaborative learning is the process of students working together to gain new insights and direct their own learning. Students have more individual efficacy which drives them to teach their peers new information by presenting their unique perspectives on a topic. Students generate their own goals and do their own research to find resources pertinent to their self-determined learning target. Often times multiple perspectives and outcomes are present at the end of the learning process (Roberts, 2004, p. 205). This collaboration allows students to set aside their own ideals and to see issues from perspectives outside their own. Contrarily, cooperative learning is recognized as group work directed by the teacher and not the students. The teacher provides students with resources and a learning target and students work together to come to a single consensus and produce one outcome (Roberts, 2004, p. 205). While this type of learning does not afford the same level of student efficacy as collaborative learning, it does provide students with vital cooperation skills that will help them succeed in life after school. Both of these styles of teaching have individual merit but they can also be used in conjunction in classrooms to help student learn a wide range of cooperative and collaborative skills.

Often teachers utilize a blend of the two styles to their benefit. They can provide students with the opportunity to explore in groups and pick their own learning outcome within a range of topics controlled by the teacher. Teachers can also direct learning by picking the subject matter for student to explore but still allow them freedom to research it independently. When teachers learn to seamlessly integrate both collaborative and cooperative learning, or elements from the two, the benefit to student achievement and engagement will be noticeable. Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone (2015) stressed, “By intentionally incorporating the elements of positive interdependence and individual accountability, teachers set the stage for students to be responsible for their own learning, the learning of those in their group, and the ability to demonstrate what they know, understand, and are able to do” (Chapter 3, para. 14). These methods of teaching can require more flexibility and planning from teachers but the benefit to students is well worth the effort.

References
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.) Denver, CO: McRel [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
Roberts, T.S. (2004) Online Collaborative Learning: Theory and Practice. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing. [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
Media
 The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.