Creating A Classroom Community With Families

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.

Part 1 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

During the completion of my coursework for EDU 6942, I learned the depth and intricacy of how teachers can foster and manage a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. For students to feel comfortable and fully included in any classroom setting, teachers must create an atmosphere of caring that establishes strong relationships with students and with their families. Teachers must take into account the physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of each and every student and that cannot happen without the support of those children’s families. The basis of this practice is establishing a good rapport with families through constant outreach. Students are much more likely to have their academic needs met when their physical and emotional needs are addressed first. Students need to know that they have a network of caring adults in their lives and that their teachers and families are working in tandem to provide that to them. Epstein (2010) asserted, “With frequent interactions between schools, families, and communities, more students are more likely to receive common messages from various people about the importance of school, of working hard, of thinking creatively, of helping one another, and of staying in school” (p. 82).  Although these connections are essential to student success, developing strong relationships with families will take effort.

Part 2 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

While reading articles on the importance of integrating students’ home lives into their school lives, I learned of all the different elements that need to be present to create effective and open communication. Outlined in the three artifacts attached is my synthesis and analysis of the reading on this topic which was posted to a discussion board with my peers. In this unit of study, I learned that the most crucial element in developing communication is respect. This does not just mean respecting the opinions of students’ family members but also recognizing and appreciating all the different ways that they contribute to their child’s education. Henderson and Mapp (2002) stated, “When school staff engage in caring and trusting relationships with parents that recognize parents as partners in the educational development of children, these relationships enhance parents’ desire to be involved and influence how they participate in their children’s educational development” (p. 45). These authors pointed out that sometimes parents and teachers perceive differing levels of family involvement in a child’s education because there is a breakdown in communication (p. 49). If teachers do not directly see families participating in their child’s education, they can mistakenly assume that the involvement is low. However, many families contribute to their child’s education in a variety of ways that should be recognized and celebrated. Once teachers open up productive communication, the relationship between students’ home and school lives can strengthen.

Part 3 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

Establishing a strong connection with families is fundamental for a teacher’s success. During my classroom observation, I witnessed the importance of developing open communication with parents. There was one student in this classroom that was going through significant turmoil at home and it was impacting his ability to focus on academics. Ellerbrock, Abbas, Dicicco, Denmon, Sabella, and Hart (2015) stressed, “When students face challenges outside of school that interfere with their ability to focus on academics, a caring classroom community can provide emotional support and help students focus in the classroom” (p. 49). This student was experiencing high levels of stress which was impacting his physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. The teacher I volunteered with, explained to me that she was working with this student’s parents to help him succeed and deal with his stress. She was only able to collaborate with these parents because of the rapport that was established early on in the school year. She frequently called home throughout the year not only to report on difficult situations but also to inform his parents of everyday achievements. This teacher informed me that it is essential for teachers to take the time to celebrate students’ accomplishments, no matter how small, with their parents or family members. Without this level of dedication and cooperation, this student would not have received the same level of multilayered, coordinated support in both his home and school life.

Witnessing this intersection of school and home and the impact it had on this student demonstrated to me the importance of developing strong relationships with families. The articles that I read during my coursework provided me with strategies going forward but ultimately I will have to learn through experiences with actual families. This practice will take hard work and determination but will always start from a place of respect and recognition. I will strive to open up communication with families so that I will be able to understand all of the diverse and unique ways in which they support their child’s education. Once a good rapport is established, I can constantly work to cooperate with families to ensure their child’s success and well-being.

References
Ellerbrock, C. R., Abbas, B., Dicicco, M., Denmon, J. M., Sabella, L., & Hart, J. (2015). Relationships: The fundamental R in education. Phi Delta Kappan96(8), 48-51. doi:10.1177/0031721715583963
Epstein, J. L. (2010). School/Family/Community Partnerships: Caring for The Children We Share. Kappan, 92(3), 65-96. doi: 10.1177/003172171009200326
Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED536946.pdf

Participation In An Online Educational Community

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 8

8. Professional Practice – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Element – Participating in a Professional Community

8.1 Example of Proficient – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

Constant development is an essential part of effective teaching practice and the best way for educators to maintain that kind of consistent growth is by connecting with their peers. However, that can be difficult for teachers to do because of the nature of their job. Donnelly and Boniface (2013) argued, “One of the most salient issues for practicing teachers is isolation” (p. 9). Instead of regularly being surrounded by their colleagues like most workers, they are separated from them for most of their workday. As such, it is important for them to find other ways to connect with like-minded individuals and discuss their trade. Online communities are a great way to do that. They not only allow teachers to connect with each other to share ideas, gain insights, and learn from one another but they also allow them to feel more connected to their craft. Being a part of such a demanding job makes it crucial for teachers to have a support system.

In my teaching practice, online communities will be an important part of my routine allowing me to stay current on instructional strategies. One website that has fostered a dynamic educational community is Edutopia. It offers a wide range of subjects to explore, as well as, a vast collection of articles and message boards for individuals to read and participate in. It brings together educational professionals from all kinds of backgrounds and allows them to share their knowledge gained from years of experience. Recently, I decided to sign up for an account so that I can participate in discussions. Today I read a well-researched and informative article on project-based learning and how that method benefits students. I was so inspired by this article that I decided to become a part of the conversation and post a comment so that I could share my opinions and observations. This was the first step towards becoming a fully contributing member of this community. I plan on continuing my participation on Edutopia by posting questions and offering information. This website will be just the first of many that I will explore to elevate my teaching practice.

Edutopia Screen Shot
References
Donnelly, D.F. & Boniface, S. (2013). Consuming and creating: Early-adopting science teachers’ perceptions and use of a wiki to support professional development. Computers & Education, 68, 9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.04.023
Holland, Beth. (2015). Design Thinking and PBL. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/design-thinking-and-pbl-beth-holland?page=1#comment-240556

Using Collaborative Communities To Improve Professional Teaching Development

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 8

8. Professional Practice – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Element – Participating in a Professional Community

8.1 Example of Proficient – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

Teachers are by nature communicators. They spend most of each day conveying ideas to their students. They are inherently a part of a community within their own classroom, yet, many teachers find themselves secluded. The educational system is set up so that teachers are separated from their peers for most of the day only interacting with their students. Donnelly and Boniface (2013) argued, “One of the most salient issues for practicing teachers is isolation” (p. 9). They continued to elaborate that this reality is caused by the fact that teachers do not have many chances during the day to work with their colleagues. However, an integral part of professional development for educators is collaboration with others in the field. Technology has created ways for teachers to virtually connect with each other whether they are from within the same school or located across the globe. For EDTC 6433 (Teaching with Technology) I explored how to use online communities and tools to help improve my professional practice and model lifelong learning skills that will aid my students in becoming proactive learners.

The act of teaching can be transformed through joint effort and strong teacher cooperation whether it is found within schools or through online communities. Another student in EDTC 6433 shared an article extolling the benefits of peer partnerships for educators and how collaboration helped to create more dynamic lesson plans for their students. The administrators in this article took great care to foster a culture of community within their school. Although these teachers were located in the same school, they still found it difficult to find time to physically meet up so they made use of technology to communicate. They enhanced their communication by using Google Drive to create and share files (Edutopia, 2015). These teachers made excellent use of technology to collaborate more easily and effectively with peers within their school.

While the Internet is a wonderful tool to connect busy teachers within schools or districts it can also be used to connect educators across the globe. Scragg (2013) compiled a list of websites used to host educational communities. Web sites like Twitter have been used to create teacher communities where educators can talk about current issues and follow one another as well as host virtual “meet ups.” Other websites like We Are Teachers, Teachers Teaching Teachers, Share My Lesson, and Classroom 2.0 were all specifically designed to allow teachers from across the country and around the globe to connect and share resources (Scragg, 2013). These communities allow individuals to develop their practice by posing questions or providing advice to fellow educators. These online groups allow teachers to share open educational resources with one another and enrich their own experiences by exposing themselves to ideas they might not have otherwise discovered. This type of open sharing allows teachers access to innovative material which will benefit their professional practice. When teachers are able to constantly better themselves their students will model that proactive behavior and benefit as well. Online resources like these will play a large role in my teaching practice and I will use technology to make sure that I remain connected to my colleagues.

References
Donnelly, D.F. & Boniface, S. (2013). Consuming and creating: Early-adopting science teachers’ perceptions and use of a wiki to support professional development. Computers & Education, 68, 9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.04.023
Edutopia. (2015). Teacher Collaboration: Matching Complementary Strengths. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/practice/teacher-collaboration-matching-complementary-strengths
Scragg, S. (2013) Online teacher communities. United Federation of Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.uft.org/linking-learning/online-teacher-communities

Encouraging Self-Directed Learning In Students Through Technology

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 2

2. Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the Standards.

b. Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.

Program Standard 6

6. Assessment – The teacher uses multiple data elements (both formative and summative) to plan, inform and adjust instruction and evaluate student learning.

6.2 Element – Designing Student Assessments with an Emphasis on Formative Assessment

6.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher has a well-developed strategy to using formative assessment and has designed particular approaches to be used.

One of the main obstacles that teachers face in the classroom is lack of student enthusiasm to learn the content being presented. Research has shown that there are a few key elements needed to provoke intrinsic motivation in students. Learners need to feel that they have self-efficacy (belief of one’s competency), control beliefs (belief in one’s ability to influence outcomes), and task value (comprehension of the reason for doing a task) in order to sustain interest in their studies (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, Chapter 2, para. 2). While these learning qualities are well known by many educators it remains difficult to find creative ways to imbue students with them. For EDTC 6433 (Teaching with Technology) I researched how the second ISTE standard would influence my teaching by researching how technology could be used to promote elementary age students to take ownership of their education by setting their own learning goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress. What I discovered is that technology can be a great tool for addressing the three aspects of intrinsic motivation that can influence student engagement and promote self-directed learning. The goal as a teacher is not just to help students comprehend concepts and gain new knowledge but also to encourage them to pursue their own independent inquiry.

Self-directed learning can improve students’ sense of self-efficacy by helping them understand the process of learning and their own part within it. Abrami, Venkatesh, Meyer, and Wade (2013) asserted, “Self-regulated learners are individuals who are metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning” (p. 1188). This kind of active involvement in the learning process that invokes students to set their own goals, research those objectives, and then reflect on their progress can greatly enhance their confidence in their own abilities. Researchers conducted a study to determine if the use of electronic portfolios could improve student achievement by helping them engage in self-directed learning. What the researchers found is that the students using electronic portfolio software outperformed their peers in the control group in not only their competence of subject matter knowledge but also in the their ability to set goals and actively engage in learning (Abrami, Venkatesh, Meyer, & Wade, 2013, pp. 1198-99). However, some of the gains seen could have also been achieved if the students used a physical portfolio to engage in self-directed learning but the process would not have been as seamless or interactive. While the researchers mainly established that self-directed learning is a key element for student success, they also demonstrated that electronic portfolios are superior to physical ones because of their interactive nature. The students in this study were able to easily share documents and artifacts with their peers and teachers in order to receive feedback on their projects in a much more efficient manner.

Receiving swift feedback from peers and teachers can also greatly influence students control beliefs by allowing them to actively participate in the outcomes of their learning projects. When students are able to quickly determine if their approach is effective they have more control over adjusting that plan to better achieve their goals. Any kind of technology that allows students to easily share their work and receive prompt feedback will help with their intrinsic motivation. For example, another student in EDTC 6433 shared the website www.edmodo.com which helps students and teachers create online learning communities that allow for this kind of active collaboration from students. While this website is not structured exactly the same as the electronic portfolio software the aforementioned researchers studied, it provides students with many of the same opportunities and may actually be more useful. Although the electronic portfolio software used in the study was easy to navigate and effective at directing students to set goals and assess their learning it also required teachers and students to download it to their computers which made it less accessible. Edmodo has the benefit of being a collaborative website that teachers and students can access from anywhere they have an internet connection. Students can pose questions and share research in an interactive platform that invites peer-to-peer engagement. It also provides teachers with an easy and efficient way to track student progress and offer meaningful advice which can encourage self-reflection in students. Both of these resources can benefit students by giving them more feedback to help in the personal assessment stage of self-directed learning.

While this kind of information sharing and interactive learning provides students with more control over their own learning, it also presents them with a sense of task value. Many students become disengaged from learning because they cannot see the outcome or purpose of it. When students create projects with the objective of sharing them with peers it can provide them with a reason to be more invested in their research and the development of their project. Websites like Edmodo are made just for this kind of student interaction. Teachers could also use any blog hosting website to achieve a similar goal and many have successfully. Recently there has been a hotly debated trend in education where teachers are forgoing the classic term paper and instead having students write several blog posts over the course of the term. Richtel (2012) poses the question “Why not replace a staid writing exercise with a medium that gives the writer the immediacy of an audience, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical connection to contemporary communications?” (para. 6). While a general consensus for the replacement of traditional research papers with blog posts may never be reached, the benefit of this type of collective learning for younger students is hard to refute. It can be difficult to get young children to want to self-direct their learning but offering students a platform to display knowledge they have gained provides them with the incentive to actually want to learn new subject matter. When students are able to create information that they can share with their classmates and even other students around the world their desire to engage in learning can be greatly increased. One teacher recognized this fact and used Edmodo to have her students post their experience on a field trip to the Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA. Her students invited other classes from around the country to join their online group on Edmodo enabling them to engage with history in a more tangible manner (Carroll, 2012). The students who took the field trip were able to enrich the study of other learners while also deepening their own experience by providing them with a greater sense of task value.

Students who believe in their own competency, understand their own capacity to influence outcomes, and recognize the reason for doing a task will inevitably gain more from their education because they will be more engaged with it. Technology has the capacity to offer educators a myriad of different ways to supplement their teaching and assist them in demonstrating to students the benefit of self-directed learning. With the help of websites and software I plan on showing students the importance of setting their own goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress. As a future teacher, I plan on integrating technology in a meaningful way whenever possible and electronic portfolios and online communities are an interesting way to help students achieve. Self-directed learning becomes much more stimulating when students can interact with each other and easily obtain feedback on their progress.

References
Abrami, P. C., Venkatesh, V., Meyer, E. J., & Wade, C. A. (2013). Using electronic portfolios to foster literacy and self-regulated learning skills in elementary students. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 1188-1209. doi:10.1037/a0032448
Carroll, N. (2012). “Shared” Field Trip Using Edmodo. Teaching is Elementary. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://teachingiselementary.blogspot.com/2012/11/shared-field-trip-using-edmodo.html
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
Richtel, M. (2012). Blogs vs. Term Papers. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html?_r=0

Comprehension and Development of Program Standard 8

Program Standard 8

8. Professional Practice Criteria– The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Element Participating in a Professional Community

8.1 Example of Proficient Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

Figure 1
Figure 1 (click to enlarge)

During the completion of my coursework for EDU 6918 (Introduction to Teaching), I explored and expanded my knowledge of what it means to effectively work together with my peers and administrators as a future educator and how that will positively influence my students. This quarter I explored the complexity of the standard listed above and determined that collaborative educators have a natural tendency towards personal development. That propensity drives them to reach out to peers to share their newly acquired knowledge, provide their fellow educators with support, and also look to those same individuals for guidance in their quest for improvement. Figure 1 is an example of the coursework that led me to critically think about and further my understanding of what it means to contribute to a professional teaching community. It provides a concrete example of how a teacher might contribute to his or her school and demonstrates the impact of being a part of a cooperative environment. Competent teachers both contribute to and benefit from this kind of symbiotic relationship with peers and administrators and the resulting individual growth of teachers greatly benefits the students in their charge. When educators are able to go to their colleagues and discuss and dissect lesson plans, classroom management techniques, the latest information on culturally responsive teaching, or the newest technology innovation for teaching it is more likely that those things will be improved or newly implemented in their classrooms. Collaboration between teachers can allow them to brainstorm how new techniques and software can be actually realized in their class. Furthermore, it provides teachers a way to assess their teaching practice on a more routine level. While it is critical for new teachers to develop relationships in their educational communities it is also important for them to remember to sustain that same level of commitment as they become more experienced. Part of building and maintaining a cohesive support network of teachers within a school is equal participation. During my student teaching and into my first years as a teacher I will offer support and encouragement to my peers and look to them for guidance. As I gain more experience, I will continue that tradition of community by providing as well as eliciting feedback from other teaching professionals.

Reference
Hunzicker, J. (2013). Attitude has a lot to do with it: dispositions of emerging teacher   leadership. Teacher Development, 17:4, 538-561. doi: 10.1080/13664530.2013.849614