Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Online Assignment #1 - Vanessa Marfin

The unifying theme of my Professional Growth and Teaching and Learning Plans is transferring responsibility for directing and monitoring learning to students. As a special education teacher at the high school level, I will serve my students most effectively when I am able to provide them with the tools they need to monitor and improve their own learning. Because my students will always experience academic challenges but will not always have access to intense, personalized instruction, I am doing them a disservice if I continue to take responsibility for diagnosing and meeting their challenges without their active, conscious participation. The Professional Certification standards provide a sound framework for making this transition from a teacher-centered to a student-centered program. This is a highly appropriate shift for a teacher entering the professional stage of development, a stage wherein student learning drives teacher behavior (Steffy).

My first professional growth goal is Effective teaching 1(a): using instructional strategies that make learning meaningful and show positive impact on student learning. After professional growth, I hope students will be able to preview a task and select an effective approach to completing it, accessing additional instructional resources when necessary. Those instructional resources might be reteaching or modeling from me, or the use of instructional materials such as manipulatives, graphic organizers, or other devices or strategies. I would like my students to move from saying, "Let's do my math homework," to saying, "I was thinking of using a table to solve problem number 13. Can you help me set it up?" I would like students to be able to take this active approach towards learning in our learning lab environment, and also in general education classrooms. Currently, students disengage from instruction when they don't understand. My goal is for students in my program to gain the metacognitive and self-advocacy skills necessary to raise their hands and say, "Mr. Chipps, can you please demonstrate another example of that problem type?" or "Ms. Carroll, can you please help me relate this information about the Middle Ages to my own life and goals?" I hope that by explicitly demonstrating a variety of instructional techniques to students and by challenging them to actively critique my instruction and their own learning, students will become their own learning clinicians -- able to diagnose and treat breakdowns in their own evolving understanding.

My second professional growth goal is Effective teaching 1(b): using a variety of assessment strategies and data to monitor and improve instruction. I hope that after my professional growth students will be able to record data on their progress toward IEP goals and evaluate their own performance. I hope that including students in this process will improve motivation and help students to have an accurate picture of their own strengths and weaknesses. Familiarity with their IEP goals will also facilitate self-advocacy. My students currently tend to view their weaknesses in very global terms, i.e. "I am not a good reader." This only hinders their learning as their negative self-talk and learned errors interfere with the development of new skills and understanding. After my professional growth I hope for students to be able to say, when faced with a textbook reading assignment (for example), "I struggle with academic vocabulary. I need some extra time to complete this assignment so I can look up key terms before the reading."

My third goal is Effective teaching 1 (g): Informing, involving, and collaborating with families and community members as partners in each student's educational process, including using information about student achievement and performance. After my professional growth, I hope students will be able to lead their own IEP meetings, especially concerning their Individual Transition Plans. I hope students will be able to write their own post-high school goals for education and employment and that I will have become knowledgeable enough about community resources that I can offer each student at least one off-campus experience to help prepare her for her life goals.

By encouraging students to take a more active role in their educational programs, I will give up some immediate ego gratification. I will no longer be congratulated after a well-run IEP meeting or hear students say, "I need you," "You really helped me with this." But, as a professional teacher, these concerns are inconsequential. What matters is that students graduate from high school with the self-awareness and skills needed to achieve their dreams.


Sivlia Gomes said...

Hello Vanessa,

I truly enjoyed reading your response to this homework assignment. Though we teach at very different ends of the spectrum, I am pleased to be reminded that the same learning is needed for all students. You find that with your students you would like them to take a role in their assessment of learning ("self clinician" I loved this term). I find in my teaching that I constantly want my students to learn how to look at their writing and work and decide what goals they have met in this work and which goals they will work towards. If this objective is met and repeatedly used through the learning lifetime of each student, by the time they leave high school they will be experts in their own learning style and be able to map out a way to meet their goals (two things which most adults struggle with). I am glad to hear that I am not a single voice in the crowd to say and think this, but rather part of a whole crowd that says and thinks this.

As part of my course work, I will be looking into Literacy with Special Needs and the different theories, strategies, and philosophies of education. I have always believed that Special Education and its focus on different learning abilities and styles are integral to any classroom, whether they qualify for Special Education or not. I look forward to hearing your ideas on how to meet the needs of students in identifying their learning progress and how it will compare with my ideas for my students.

See you in class!

Silvia Gomes

Christina Spencer said...


I appreciated reading your perspective. As a fellow high school teacher, it is my goal to teach my students how to learn and how to be thristy for knowledge. The one line that resonated the most with me was "...I will serve my students most effectively when I am able to provide them with the tools they need to monitor and improve their own learning." This reflects my highest goal for all of my students. This year I teach in an inclusion algebra class and I find that my most challenging task is my ability to help kids help themselves.

I was also impressed with how each one of your goals reflects how you want students to make a congnitive shift from receivers of knowledge to partners in learning. From what I have read, you are well on your way to helping your students take the neccessary steps to have more control over what and how they learn. I also believe that what you have outlined can be transferred and used in any general ed class. Your plan has pinpointed some universal truths (self sufficience, accountability, recognizing strenghts) that I plan to highlight with my students.

I hope the implentation of your plan goes well!


Juliana Kirmeyer said...

Dear Vanessa,

I really related to your goals and reasoning - though I am in a different teaching position. Thank you for sharing.

I teach math and often get the question "can you help me?" (as if I will say no) and when I come over to help, the student says, "I don't know how to do this?" followed by an expectant look.

It drives me nuts.

What you wrote about students taking responsibility and being able to be specific about where they need to grow or improve is important to me too. I too want students to have "meta-cognitive and self-advocacy" skills.

I started working on that this year by having my students write up a goal or two for math regarding the content we are learning. Then I met with students one on one to look at their goals. Most of them could tell me specifically or show me an example in the book of the types of problems that most puzzle them. We then talked about strategies or ways to remember the algorithm for the problem.

Of course some students claim to get it all, but for the most part, everyone had something he or she knew they could improve. Then, at the end of the grading period, we look at their goals and see if there is some progress.

I still get asked "I don't know how to do this?" but sometimes I am asked "Do I do this or that?" or "I don't know what this phrase/symbol means?".

So, the reflective practice I have attempted it isn't perfect, but gives students a means of owning where they need to grow.

I would definitely love to swap strategies for getting them to think about what they are going to do before they do it. Which is difficult since that is totally the way I behave!

Kind Regards,
Juliana Kirmeyer (aka Jennifer)