Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Entry #7: Final Post

1. a) My favorite blog post was definitely entry number four, which was entirely about assessment in mathematics. For this blog entry we had to research a particular method of assessment, that was assigned to us by our professor, and then present our findings to the class. I rather enjoyed the presentations as we got the opportunity to learn about a wide range of assessment that we could potentially apply to our teaching one day. This blog post was very realistic and useful; therefore, aiding me in my pre-internship.

b) Looking back on all my blog posts, I can’t actually say, or choose one, that I would like do to over again. I mean when I wrote each response I felt like I answered the questions to the best of my knowledge and ability. If I was to write one over again, I know for a fact that my responses would not change significantly, or at all.

c)  I learnt the most about myself as a learner and a teacher when writing entries six a) and b). Both of these blog entries really made me think on what I have learnt, not only this semester, but in the past three years. In addition, my responses made me realize how much my professors, University classes, and fellow colleagues have helped me to become a teacher. Entry six a) was written prior to pre-internship and entry six b) was written after. As I reflect back on both of these responses I have a better understanding now of who I am as a future teacher, including what my expectations are and pedagogy. These of course will continue to evolve as I go through my internship, but they have started me on the path towards learning more about who I potentially want to be within the classroom.

2.  The blog entry that I would have liked to write is the following:

What other ways can you engage the students in your classroom besides inquiry?

I have found that learning is optimized when students are actively engaged in the learning. That being said, lectures can only engage students so much that teachers must find alternative ways to captivate the interest of students. For instance, teachers can encourage discussion by providing positive reinforcement to all the students that happen to participate in the discussion. These discussions can then turn into debates or think/pair/shares where all the students ideas and viewpoints are being acknowledged. Students become more involved and engaged when they are given the opportunity to comment on the ideas of others, whether adding additional information or correcting the initial response. Furthermore, when a lecture is taking place many students will zone out. Thus, breaking up the lecture into pieces by allowing three-five minutes of personal discussion between students will get students back on track and re focus them. I think that it is important to interact with not only ones peers but also the material in order to retain the information and become engaged in the learning.

Group activities can be seen as one of the best ways to involve students in the learning. In addition, when students are given the opportunity the create the assessment piece alongside the teacher, the more likely they will put effort into what they are doing as they know the expectations and the goals they have to reach. As well, teachers can make the project relatable to the students lives, resulting in more engagement and commitment to the overall project. However, when group work is being facilitated is it important that all members of the group are equally involved; thus, it is important to make sure that each member of the group has a role to play.

Another possible way to engage students is to spend a couple minutes at the beginning of class with a discussion about what is going on in their lives. For instance, a teacher could ask, “do you have any interesting news to share with the class today?” or “Anything exciting happen to you since last class?” Such questions allow the teacher to get to know the students on a more personal level, and the teacher can then become aware of problems that some students may be facing. As well, the atmosphere in the classroom becomes more relaxed and personal, which can be motivating for some students and get them engaged.

In general, content needs to be relatable to students; otherwise their engagement level will be low. Thus, letting students have some input into the assessment pieces or projects will boost their motivation and get them more involved in what they are doing. I find that all the above has the potential to engage students, that is if it is presented in a honest and interesting manner. Inquiry is not going to work all the time; thus, we need to be open to other ideas.

3. One area that I would have liked to focus more on in this course is Treaty Education. Everything that we do now has to in some way incorporate Treaty Education, and being a mathematics major I am still struggling to find ways to incorporate these topics into my teaching. It seems next to impossible, as everyone that I have talked to struggles themselves, resulting in them not willing to teach it.  That being said, some instruction on Treaty Education would have been, in my opinion, beneficial.

Another area that I would have liked to focus more on in this course is topics other than inquiry. This whole semester has been about this one approach to teaching. Well what if inquiry does not necessarily work for your students; other methods would, therefore, have to be incorporated. Thus, learning other engaging methods would have been nice.

4. The way teachers talk to their students, the manner in which they interact is crucial to both successful learning and teaching. Perhaps the most important point that determines how successfully students will learn is the way instructions/directions are formulated. As a result, one of my internship goals for the fall is to work on my directions, such that they are clear, precise and effective. When I am planning and/or carrying out a lesson I think it is important to  ask myself: are my instructions clear? Do they include information that is needed? Do I give verbal and written directions? Which information do the students need first? What must students know in order to complete the task successfully? I have come to the conclusion that in order for directions to be effective they must be kept as simple as possible and they must be logical: I need to avoid wordiness. However, body language counts as well; therefore, being aware of my gestures and posture is highly important. Lastly, to strengthen this professional goal, I can check for understanding by asking questions related to the instructions.

Questions play a central role in the overall learning process. Thus, my second internship goal for the fall is to improve my questioning skills and to have a more central focus on essential questions. When I am planning my lessons my goal is to come up with a variety of questions that not only guide students towards further investigation, but also allow for a deeper understanding of the concepts being stressed. That being said, I have to ask myself: Do I ask challenging questions during my lesson? Do I vary the level of the questions I ask? Are they thought provoking, clear, brief, open and purposeful? Do I allow time for thought? In addition, I desire to avoid yes or no (closed) questions. During my internship I want to encourage the students as much as possible. Thus, I hope to encourage the students to comment on the answers of their peers to keep the conversation and learning going.

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