PIDP 3250 – My Reflections – what did I learn?

This post marks the end of my PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies course. The amount of learning that took place in this course is remarkable.
I will empower students to become more actively involved in their own learning, promote higher order thinking and have the students make meaning of what they are learning. I will experiment with a variety of instructional strategies that cater to a variety of learning styles among my students. I will gauge motivation in class by observing attentiveness in class, quality of work on assignments and quality of contributions in class to assess whether the activities are working.
Although I have continued to reflect on content from the discussion forum on my blog throughout the course, I have chosen to put pen to paper and summarize what I have learnt from the discussion forums as my last posting. My continual growth in my lifelong learning is very exciting. I will use instructional strategies along my journey as I continue my teaching career.

Self-directed Learning and the Adult Learner
I learnt that the self-directed learner is one who takes initiative to pursue a learning experience, and the responsibility for completing their learning. The learner is driving the total learning experience, beginning with recognizing a need to learn. To foster a self-directed learning environment, the instructor should create a safe, positive environment that includes encouragement and quality, timely feedback. Motivation is a unique and critical issue in teaching adults to be self-directed. It is unique in that the teacher must motivate students to take on the task of managing their own activities, and must then teach the students to motivate themselves. I learnt that helping students learn to be organized, prioritize tasks and manage their time may increase confidence, which in turn leads to an increase in self-direction. I learnt that teachers play an important role in supporting learners engaging in self-directed learning and developing autonomy. There are a number of key skills which learners are able to employ if they successfully assume full control of the learning process.

Learning styles
Each person prefers different learning styles. We do not process incoming information in the same way. Neither do we store it, organize it or retrieve it in the same way. Learning styles group common ways that people learn. I learnt that everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning. Students and teachers have varying learning styles, and no single teaching style can fulfill all students’ needs. By recognizing and understanding the students learning styles, we can use techniques better suited to them. This improves the speed and quality of their learning. If students become aware of their preferred learning styles they will then be more able to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. I discovered that learning styles have more influence than I realized. Our preferred styles guide the way we learn. Mismatches that exist between the learning styles of most students in a class and the teaching style of the teacher, may result in students becoming bored and inattentive in class, doing poorly on tests, and getting discouraged about the course. To overcome these problems, teachers should strive for a balance of instructional methods (as opposed to trying to teach each student exclusively according to his or her preferences.) If the balance is achieved, all students will be taught partly in a manner they prefer, which leads to an increased comfort level and willingness to learn.

Positive Learning Environments
I learnt that creating a positive learning environment will allow students to feel comfortable, safe and engaged. A number of factors contribute to a positive learning environment for students. I discovered that ambience is an extremely important part of creating a positive learning environment. Our classrooms should be a dynamic and engaging place to be for our students. Another aspect of ambience is the physical environment and class layout. Desks arranged in rows does not allow for a very communal atmosphere. In addition, I learnt that establishing expectations for student behavior early and consistency can assist in avoiding many classroom management issues. We should develop and reinforce classroom rules and norms that clearly support safe and respectful behavior and help create a predictable, safe learning environment for students. Empathy and respect are very important to create a supportive and trusting environment, especially with the student diversity present in our classrooms today. Promoting positive peer relationships where students support and are kind to one another creates an environment where students will thrive. An additional key element learnt is that humor can be an effective tool in teaching, and can contribute to a positive environment for learning.

The Flipped Classroom
I learnt that many educators are experimenting with the idea of a flipped classroom. A flipped class is one that inverts the typical cycle of content acquisition and application so that students gain necessary knowledge before class, and instructors guide students to actively and interactively clarify and apply that knowledge during class. The flipped classroom essentially reverses traditional teaching. Instead of lectures occurring in the classroom and assignments being done at home, the opposite occurs. I learnt that the flipped model puts more of the responsibility for learning on the shoulders of students while giving them greater impetus to experiment. In terms of Bloom’s taxonomy, when using the Flipped classroom, the students are doing the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of class, and focusing on the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation) in class, where they have the support of their peers and instructor. The flipped classroom model brings together advances in education and technology to provide a personalized, engaging learning experience for every student — whatever their learning style, pace, or ability. I discovered a benefit of the flipped classroom is that students learn more deeply and are more active participants in learning.

Questioning Techniques
I learnt that the art of questioning can engage and enhance a students learning. Facilitating student discussion through questioning can be one of the most challenging aspects of teaching. I realize, following the forum discussion, that it is not only important to ask questions, but to ask the RIGHT questions that will promote students higher level thinking skills. I discovered that the purpose of questions in the classroom include: to develop interest and motivate students to become actively involved in lessons, to evaluate students’ preparation, to develop critical thinking skills and inquiring attitudes, to review and summarize previous lessons, to nurture insights, to assess achievement of instructional goals and objectives, to stimulate students to pursue knowledge on their own. In addition, I learnt that good questions take: planning, should be based on the learning outcomes, build on prior learning, build on blooms taxonomy, and should make students question their own learning. A key element learnt is that I should wait for students to think and formulate responses. I should also resist the temptation to interrupt the student’s answers.

Motivation
Motivating students is one of the greatest challenges we face. We have a great deal to do with student motivation level in class. Instructors who understand student motivation can greatly enhance the classroom experience and student performance. I learnt that motivation arises from outside (extrinsic) or inside (intrinsic) the student. There is no single magical formula for motivating students. Some ways to help and encourage students in the classroom through motivation are to:
*Give frequent, positive feedback that supports student’s beliefs that they can do well.
*Ensure opportunities for students’ success by assigning tasks that are appropriate for their level
of learning.
*Assist students to find personal meaning and value in the material.
*Create an atmosphere that is open and positive.
*Some techniques to motivate students are to:
*Provide High Expectation – students may be motivated if the teacher establishes high realistic
standards in the classroom.
*Be enthusiastic in your classroom – a teacher’s enthusiasm is a critical factor in motivating
students.
*Tell students what they need to do – provide a rubric key that students can see the steps they
must take to succeed.
*Students must set their own goals – this can be helpful if the student can see areas what areas of
study they need to elevate in order to excel.
*Establish positive environment – the teacher can provide encouragement by reinforcing student
success by positive comments and feedback.

Classroom management
Classroom management is a critical ingredient of effective teaching. Classroom management has the largest effect on student achievement. Classroom management refers to all of the things that a teacher does to organize students, space, time and materials so that instruction in content and student learning can take place. From the forum postings I appreciate the need to keep students involved in their work, have students understand what is expected of them, maximize time on task, prevent confusion, and run a work simulated classroom. I know that an important role for me as an instructor is classroom manager to improve student engagement and build a positive climate for learning.

Visible learning
Visible learning is an enhanced role for teachers as they become evaluators of their own teaching. Teachers must know when learning is correct or incorrect; learn when to experiment; learn to monitor, seek and give feedback; and know how to try alternative learning strategies. But most importantly is that teaching is visible to the student, and learning is visible to the teacher. I need to optimize my feedback, ensure I am giving students powerful feedback they can use, and heighten students’ awareness of the benefits of effective feedback.

Metacognition
This intimidating word refers to higher order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning. We engage in metacognitive activities every day. Metacognition enables us to be successful learners. “Metacognition” is often simply defined as “thinking about thinking.” Metacognition is a critically important, yet often overlooked component of learning. Metacognition is essential for effective learning in complex situations. Teaching metacognition results in improved learning. Effective learning involves planning, monitoring one’s progress and adapting as needed. These skills tap into metacognition. There are three critical steps to teaching metacognition:
1. Teaching students that their ability to learn is mutable
2. Teaching planning and goal-setting
3. Giving students ample opportunities to practice monitoring their learning and adapting as necessary

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