Personal Reflections on Learning About Teaching

ImageUntil this class, an empty classroom, in my mind, stood alone as an isolated entity merely searching for young minds to engage it. An empty classroom was merely just an empty classroom. Throughout the past seven weeks of this course, however, the principle view of an empty classroom has completely transgressed into an amazing wonderment. An empty classroom is no longer a barren, desolate desert but, rather, it is a fertile lea waiting to be watered and nurtured with growth and learning. An empty classroom now evokes hope and promise. It begs to be sowed and tended to by the children and teachers that will soon flood its fertile soil. This mental transformation of the powerful nature of a classroom is based upon my own personal learning experiences about teaching.

Before this class, I assumed teaching was easy. I assumed that teachers were given an outlined syllabus of teaching materials and they had to game plan around it, simply teaching the children a rigid curriculum built by the Department of Ed. Upon further review, my admiration and respect for each and every teacher that i encountered has massively expanded. The intricate details and ideas that teachers must keep in mind when teaching each individual student is impossible to ever fully understand. I think this is evident with the fact that research is continuing and advancing each and every day in teaching as we learn more and more about the best practices of teaching.

Throughout this course, many different features and ideologies have nestled their way into my idea of becoming a well-rounded teacher in the future when the opportunity shall arise. However, there are two distinct teaching/learning fundamentals that really struck a chord and allowed me an “Ah ha” moment of clarity and understanding. These two features of learning/teaching are the overall idea of concepts as well as Perkin’s idea of “making the game worth playing”.

As noted above, the simplicity of teaching was a flawed misunderstanding that I carried throughout my learning career. Concepts and building concepts allowed me to realize the complexity of how important not only every class is, but how important every day in the classroom can be. Being able to build upon a strong foundation is key and complex ideas of learning can only be built through a multitude of strongly founded concepts. “Many concepts are formed by combining simpler concepts, and the meanings of complex concepts are derived in systematic ways from the meanings of their constituents” (Goodman, et. al, 109). This idea of building upon concepts leads me to believe that students that are having trouble understanding certain material, may not need to be hammered with the same material over and over again. It may be better suited to dig deeper and go further back in the learning process to find the weakness in the original concept. To give an example, if a student is struggling with Algebraic equations, the best route may not be to continue to force them into algebraic situations. This will lead to them merely reciting math rather than learning and being able to use math. A better approach may be to find out why the student is struggling with Algebra. Perhaps, they never fully built the concept of multiplication and always just recited multiplication rather than actually learning it. Without learning and being able to utilize multiplication, Algebra becomes that much more difficult to grasp. This exemplifies the importance of building concepts and it is something that every teacher at every level should realize for the individual student. If a teacher in 3rd grade doesn’t fully build a concept, then the student will undoubtedly struggle when applying and furthering its usage in 4th grade.

The other teaching tool that generated a deep feeling of connection in terms of its importance in the classroom is Perkins view of Making the Game Worth Playing. Simply put…Motivation. Throughout college, I would sit in classrooms and see students half awake and not even half paying attention. I always wondered the types of grades those students would get. Would they graduate college? Were they actually retaining information? Well, seeing as I couldn’t run an experiment on all of the students, my conclusions will have to be knowledge based and not data-driven, but my assumptive thinking would be that there are students at the collegiate level that don’t feel motivated and do merely recite information and forget it. This lack of retention leads to wasted time and a wasted education.

As a future educator, my goal will be to motivate students through a merriment of different procedures, forcing them to partake and learn rather than idle and recite. Perkins (55) speaks of a study to shed light on different techniques that can be used to motivate, “The study measured student’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations separately, revealing that extrinsic motivation remained about the same across grades.” Right before his conclusion on extrinsic motivation, to paraphrase him, he mentioned on intrinsic motivation declines as students get older. This is a telling sign that, we as teachers, cannot rely on a student’s intrinsic motivation to push them into wanting to learn. We must be creative and tactful in our approach to motivation to ensure that extrinsic motivation not only helps a student be successful, but allows for them to retain information and truly learn. An empty classroom may lead to an empty mind, but filling that classroom with the appropriate techniques and strategies to learning allows students to better prepare for their future.

Other Resource:

This clip focuses on motivation and offers different techniques to motivate.

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html 

References

Perkins, D. N. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Noah D. Goodman, Joshua B. Tenenbaum, Jacob Feldman,Thomas L. Griffiths (2008). A Rational Analysis of Rule-Based Concept Learning. Cognitive Science, 32. 108–154

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