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Standard 2 Meta Reflection: Learning Environment August 24, 2013

Upon first glance, effective learning environments may be viewed simply as classrooms that are conducive to receiving instruction. Perhaps this means good lighting, little distracting noise, supplies at the ready, etc.  In reality, learning environments encompass much more than the physical surroundings in a classroom. Learning environments impact the social, emotional, physical and academic well-being of students. Schools are now realizing that “the elements that make up school climate—including peer relationships, students’ sense of safety and security, and the disciplinary policies and practices they confront each day—play a crucial part in laying the groundwork for academic success.” (Editorial, 2013).

Three types of learning environments are student centered, assessment centered, and knowledge centered. (National Research Council, 2000) A student focused learning environment accounts for the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that students bring with them to the classroom.  Such environments foster respect, feelings of safety, and positive rapport among class members. (p. 133-136) In this artifact I have described three students who will serve as focus students and will be featured in lesson descriptions that illustrate aspects of the learning environment described in this Meta-Reflection. This entire series can be found through this link on WordPress. The student description blog referenced previously demonstrates a student centered environment as each child’s learning style and personality is considered. Further, the classroom dialogue recorded throughout this series of blogs  reflects positive interactions and a safe environment. A safe environment is particularly important for one student, Kelsey (pseudonym), who tends to stay back and not take educational risks. To further illustrate a student centered environment, this blog features the use of a KWL chart prior to a visit to a pumpkin farm. Through this activity I was able to promote student centered learning as we gathered information that students brought with them to the activity.

An environment that provides for open ended dialogue encourages students to become more articulate and further develops their language. Student thoughts and voices should be honored in the classroom. One way this can be encouraged is through an online discussion forum. Catlin Tucker in Education Week (2012) suggests that online forums can empower students who would otherwise not speak out to participate and allow their voices to be heard. Student voices should also be heard and valued outside of the immediate classroom. Stu Silberman (2012) considers this notion when he suggests that student opinions be heard in regards to teacher evaluations.

A knowledge centered environment fosters student learning that stretches their knowledge base and promotes transfer of learning to new contexts. (National Research Council, 2000, p. 136) In this artifact students engage in a lesson on patterns and must transfer past learning to a new situation. Students also engage in a knowledge centered environment as they work through an unfamiliar and challenging math problem using higher order thinking skills in this artifact. Here students received minimal guidance and had access to manipulatives to guide their own learning.

Different learning environments serve different purposes and the effectiveness of each environment is dependent upon the characteristics of the learner as well as the content. I have become much more aware of the importance of considering the environment in which students receive new knowledge and am inspired to do all I can to create fertile ground so their knowledge can take root.

Resources:

Editorial: “Schools aim to craft environment for learning” [Editorial]. (January 4, 2013). Education Week, Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/01/10/16execsum.h32.html?qs=learning+environment

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind experience and school (expanded ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Silverman, S. (2012, October 9). The importance of student voices. In Education Week. Retrieved August 24, 2013, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/engagement_and_reform/2012/10/_the_importance_of_student_voices.html?qs=student+voices

Tucker, C. (2012, September 25). Giving every student a voice through online discussion. In Education Week. Retrieved August 24, 2013, from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2012/09/25/fp_tucker_voice.html?qs=student+communication

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Assessment-Centered Environment August 23, 2013

I am posting a series of blogs that illustrate a variety of learning experiences as they pertain to 3 focus students in my kindergarten classroom in 2009.  These posts were originally published on SPU Blackboard for EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principals of Learning- but have since been removed. I am re-posting them here.

This seventh post describes a lesson designed for an assessment- centered environment. Students will “test their understanding by trying out things and receiving feedback.” (National Research Council. 2000, p. 196)

11-20-09 Further Investigation

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind experience and school (expanded ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

 

Aligned Learning Environment

I am posting a series of blogs that illustrate a variety of learning experiences as they pertain to 3 focus students in my kindergarten classroom in 2009.  These posts were originally published on SPU Blackboard for EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principals of Learning- but have since been removed. I am re-posting them here.

This sixth post describes an upcoming introductory math lesson on measurement. I will illustrate how this activity fosters a learner-centered environment as it brings forth learners’ previous knowledge. I will also incorporate several teaching strategies that are aligned to this particular discipline.

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   In our next math unit, we will be learning about measurement. At the beginning of the unit, we will discuss as a class what it means to measure something, what things can be measured, how they can be measured and why it is necessary to measure things in our environment. Student ideas will be compiled and organized according to what type of measurement it entails: length, weight, capacity, or time. Depending on where students’ interests lie at this point, I will choose one type of measurement as the focus of our first lesson of the measurement unit. The other types will follow in future lessons. This introductory activity will help to foster a learner-centered environment in that it will bring to my attention the knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs about measurement that learners bring to classroom.

For the purposes of this SPU assignment, I will describe the lesson on measuring length. I will display a tower of 10 cubes and explain that sometimes when people measure, they compare 2 different objects to see which one is longer or which one is shorter. I will ask students to examine a group of items and ask if anyone sees something that is longer (or shorter) than my cube tower. I will have a volunteer choose an object and ask him/her to explain why he/she thinks it is longer (or shorter). How can we tell for sure? I will repeat this process with several other volunteers. Student responses, guided questions and some teacher scaffolding will reveal various strategies students can use to compare object lengths with the cube tower.

Following the group activity, students will be put into groups of 3. Each group will get one tower of 10 cubes and work together to find 3 objects in the classroom that are longer than the tower and 3 objects that are shorter than the tower. Students at this point are familiar with working in partners or groups and know that the expectation is that each group member shares responsibility for getting the job done. Group members are to take turns suggesting an object to measure, holding the object, and holding the tower. Throughout their search for objects, I will mingle with the groups, record observations, and make note of the strategies students use to choose objects. To prepare for Annie Keith’s style of Guided Discussion (pg 169), I will select a variety of strategies, both effective and ineffective, to share with the class when we reconvene.

When students have gathered their objects, the class will come together in the meeting area. I will have taped a T chart on the rug and the groups will take turns placing their objects in the “Longer” column and the “Shorter” column. Students will explain the strategies that they used for comparing while the rest of the class observes and comments. At this time I will engage students in the Guided Discussion that was described in the previous paragraph. Students will be able to see the benefits and pitfalls of various strategies. This practice will also foster a community-centered environment in that students will see how making mistakes can lead to learning

If time and students’ attention span permits, I will engage students in the strategy of “interactive demonstrations” (Conceptual Change, pg 179) I will display an item and have students discuss with their neighbors and predict whether the item is longer or shorter than the tower of 10 cubes. These predictions will be recorded. I will select items that are oddly shaped so that students can overcome possible misconceptions that are common when measuring such items.

In order to continuously link student’s new learning to other parts of their lives (Formative Assessments and Feedback, pg. 140) and teach students this concept in multiple contexts for purposes of transfer (pg. 62), I will refer back to this lesson when lining students up tallest to shortest on our class picture day. Also, when we are in our science unit on plants, students will utilize their knowledge of measurement and plan out a yard that has grass, flowers, bushes and trees. They will arrange these items in an order that allows viewers to see all the plants at once. (shortest plants in front and tallest plants in back.)

The small group activity will benefit Richard in that the groups will go at their own pace and gather together on the rug when finished. Previous activities were done in a center rotation fashion and if the groups didn’t rotate fast enough, Richard got antsy and started getting off task. I also anticipate that I will be able to use Richard’s comments and strategies as a model for the class as he has excellent language skills. He will also be motivated by the challenge of finding objects that fit the given parameters.

I will need to consider Kelsey’s hesitation to take risks and desire to follow others when creating groups for this lesson. If she is placed in a group that has an overly assertive learner, she will sit back and not participate. Jessica was placed with a student who has some developmental delays in a recent math activity. I was pleased to see her gently guide this student when he needed it and take on a leadership role when he had difficulty. I will place her with this student again for the measurement activity and hopefully increase her participation. Kelsey’s shy nature makes it difficult for me to assess how she thinks, either in large group discussions or one on one. The small group arrangement will provide her with a more comfortable environment which will encourage her to engage in dialog.

Amanda has a hard time when she encounters a frustrating situation and often will give up and/or cry. One of the things that frustrates her most is if she feels that she is not being listened to or if she does not get her turn. My class environment as a whole fosters accountability in that at any given time, each student has a job to do, knows what it is, and is given the opportunity to do it. Likewise, this activity specifies what jobs students are to perform and offers a predictable system of taking turns. I intend to use experiences in this activity to reassure Amanda that she will be heard and will get her turn.

 

Learning Environments – Knowledge Centered and Assessment Centered

I am posting a series of blogs that illustrate a variety of learning experiences as they pertain to 3 focus students in my kindergarten classroom in 2009.  These posts were originally published on SPU Blackboard for EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principals of Learning- but have since been removed. I am re-posting them here.

This fifth post addresses the learning environments discussed in How people learn: Brain, mind experience and school (National Research Council, 2000) . I have documented an activity that illustrates both the knowledge centered and assessment centered environments.

The activity I implemented addresses both the knowledge centered and assessment centered environments. I gathered my three focus students together and showed them a piece of their writing from the beginning of the year. We discussed several things that we have learned about writing over the past weeks. I asked the group to fix this older writing to show all they have learned. They were given access to extra pages and sentence strips to add on if needed.  After they were finished we discussed what each student added.

I asked *Amanda to tell me how she changed her writing to show what she has learned:

Amanda: “I am smart. I have more words and details. I added lunchboxes. We’ve learned a lot.

I asked Amanda to read me her new writing and she read a pretty long and involved narration about the first day of school. She used a “story teller’s voice”.

Kelsey did not contribute much to the conversation. When I asked her to tell me what she added to her writing she responded:

“Lots of words I know.”

Richard seemed pretty eager and started on his piece even before they were told to begin. Afterwards,  I asked him to tell me what he did:

Richard:  “I added grass and words, We were playing in the park. I added pages to do it later.”

Teacher: “What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first worked on this writing?”

Richard: “How to write was. I didn’t know how to spell.”

Teacher: “What did you add?”

Richard – “Details. Grass in the playground.”

The activity I implemented addresses both the knowledge centered and assessment centered environments. I gathered my three focus students together and showed them a piece of their writing from the beginning of the year. We discussed several things that we have learned about writing over the past weeks. I asked the group to fix this older writing to show all they have learned. They were given access to extra pages and sentence strips to add on if needed.  After they were finished we discussed what each student added.

Here are Amanda’s writings before and after her revisions: Before-After Amanda

I asked Kendall to tell me how she changed her writing to show what she has learned:

Amanda: “I am smart. I have more words and details. I added lunchboxes. We’ve learned a lot.

I asked Kendall to read me her new writing and she read a pretty long and involved narration about the first day of school. She used a “story teller’s voice”.

Here are Kelsey’s writings before and after her revisions: Before-After Kelsey

When I asked her to tell me what she added to her writing she responded:

“Lots of words I know.”

I asked “What else did you add?”

She answered “I added kids, Mr. Johnson and windows.”

I noticed that she added a sentence strip on which she wrote a sentence. She also added a blank page behind her original writing to add more to her story.

Here are Richard’s writings before and after revisions: Before-After Richard

Ryan seemed pretty eager and started on his piece even before they were told to begin. Afterwards,  I asked him to tell me what he did:

Richard:  “I added grass and words, We were playing in the park. I added pages to do it later.”

Teacher: “What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first worked on this writing?”

Richard: “How to write was. I didn’t know how to spell.”

Teacher: “What did you add?”

Richard – “Details. Grass in the playground

This activity enhanced the knowledge centered environment in that it incorporated “progressive formalization”. The original writing reflected the informal ideas about writing that these students brought to school. As they applied what they had learned so far this year in their revisions, they were able to see how their ideas about writing can be transformed and formalized.

The assessment centered environment was enhanced in that it allowed students to build skills of self-assessment. They reflected on what they learned about writing and then revised their original work.

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind experience and school (expanded ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

 

Lesson Analysis-Strategies for Memorizing

I am posting a series of blogs that illustrate a variety of learning experiences as they pertain to 3 focus students in my kindergarten classroom in 2009.  These posts were originally published on SPU Blackboard for EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principals of Learning- but have since been removed. I had saved hard copies and am re-posting them here as a WordPress Media File link.

This fourth post is a lesson analysis that focuses on student strategies for memorization (National Research Council, 2000) .

 11-01-09 Strategies for Memorizing

 

Lesson Analysis-Learning Transfer

I am posting a series of blogs that illustrate a variety of learning experiences as they pertain to 3 focus students in my kindergarten classroom in 2009.  These posts were originally published on SPU Blackboard for EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principals of Learning- but have since been removed. I had saved hard copies and am re-posting them here as a WordPress Media File link.

This third post is a lesson analysis that focuses on learning transfer (National Research Council, 2000) .

10-22-09 Lesson Analysis-Learning Transfer

 

Lesson Analysis-Principles of Experts’ Knowledge

I am posting a series of blogs that illustrate a variety of learning experiences as they pertain to 3 focus students in my kindergarten classroom in 2009.  These posts were originally published on SPU Blackboard for EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principals of Learning- but have since been removed. I had saved hard copies and am re-posting them here as a WordPress Media File link.

This second post is a lesson analysis that points to several of the six key principles of experts’ knowledge (National Research Council, 2000) . These six principles are:

  1. Meaningful Patterns of Information
  2. Organization of Knowledge
  3. Context and Access to Knowledge
  4. Fluent Retrieval
  5. Experts and Teaching
  6. Adaptive Expertise

10-17-09 Lesson Analysis

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind experience and school (expanded ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.