Sunday, May 10, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Juliana Kirmeyer

Student-centered learning environments are classrooms in which the students’ needs come before the needs, or wants, of the teacher; teacher and students share equal responsibility for the learning that takes place in the classroom.  The beginning of such environments is when a teacher recognizes that a student’s success is her own.  As a beginning teacher, it is very rare to come to the profession with this attitude – especially trusting that students are responsible for their learning.  It is also quite difficult to give up what one wants to teach and, instead, blend together what engages students with what they need to learn.  However, once this realization occurs for a teacher, it is a struggle to know how to begin making changes.  

            It is helpful for a teacher who is creating a student-centered learning environment to reflect on past instructional and assessment strategies.  Teachers must discern which assessments yielded a high rate of student success, how those assessments were formed, and whether the instruction aligned with the assessment. The data gathered from assessments, in particular pre-assessments, can also aid in the designing of curriculum that meets the needs of students.  Students need to take responsibility in their learning by engaging in communication that helps teachers guide instruction, assessment, and curriculum.  Students also need to feel safe in their classrooms and take an active role in the learning community.  Routines, clear expectations, and open and clear methods of communication with teachers, students and parents help foster a safe and student-centered environment.

            Sustaining a student-centered environment requires a teacher to reflect continually on her work towards her students’ success.  One way I have found to reflect is to write notes to my future self on how successful (or not so successful) a lesson, test, or project was for students.  Sometimes when I ask for student reflection on their work (tests, projects, etc.), I find great ideas for how to improve my instruction.  I ask my students to reflect twice per trimester on their progress overall.  They are quite honest in their reflections and point out issues or successes, some that I have noticed and some that I have not noticed.  Their reflections enable me to clearly communicate with them where they are strong and where they have room to grow.  These actions are helping me create a more student-centered classroom.

            Student-centered learning environments spring from the consciousness of the teacher.  Through monitoring of learning, open and clear communication, and reflection teachers are able to build and sustain student-centered learning environments.


Darren Hunter said...

Hi Juliana,
I enjoyed your post and like that you acknowledge that classroom success is a combination of the teacher and student. It is important to realize the potential of every student and take into account the individual and the learning styles of each child. I am finding it difficult to “apply” a new teaching method when we have been taught to lecture and test students. I have been attempting to implement this into my daily practice and have had some small successes, but also really chaotic results. I really like your use of reflective notebooks and the honesty you can get from them. I find it very helpful for my reflecting to write down two positives for every negative form my week of teaching. Great post!

Megan Ackerman said...

Being hired two days before school for my first year teaching job was rough. My focus was entirely on lesson planning and teaching the lesson. I really did not effectively make time to get to know my students and share equal responsibility in learning. I have made many changes in my classroom since my first year teaching and I do agree with you that the struggle is knowing how to make effective changes. I am excited to be a part of a professional certification program, because I realize now that it will guide me in making innovative and effective changes that will benefit all my students. One big change I will make for next year is implementing more time for student reflection. I look forward to having a more open dialogue with my students and build stronger bridges to fostering and sustaining a student-centered environment. Thanks for you thoughtful insights.

Kate said...

Hi Juliana,

Thanks for your post. I enjoyed reading it and particularly connected to your focus on assessment, which includes student reflection on their own progress. This practice makes such an impact on students because it allows them to take a step back and really think about their learning. They are also able to get to know themselves as learners and possibly gain insight into how they learn best. And there is the added bonus of you as the teacher gaining feedback on your instructional techniques and practices!
I'd love to know the types of questions you use to guide your students' reflection. I use reflections in Writer's Workshop, but since you are such a math expert it would be interesting to find out your approach.

Thanks again!