Monday, May 11, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Rachel Bergere

What is a student-focused learning environment?

Having a student-focused learning environment is what every educator should strive towards achieving in their classrooms. It is an environment where every learner is considered unique and the teacher responds to this by creating lessons that support this uniqueness. It is an environment where curriculum and instruction are driven by what the students are learning. It flows with them and not with whatever the date is on the lesson-plan calendar. Assessment determines what the teacher will teach and when it will be taught. A student-focused learning environment puts the students at the center of the educational experience.

How do you create it?

An educator can create a student-focused learning environment by forming a habit of effective professional practices. For example, effective educators should use a variety of instructional strategies that create meaning for students by using different instructional approaches, multiple perspectives, and real-world experiences. This could include allowing students to make choices in what they learn, or it could include having students engage in cooperative group projects. I have created this by understanding and using instructional strategies that target students’ neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses that I have learned through the All Kinds of Minds program. The All Kinds of Minds program has taught me how to recognize the different way in which students learn and think. I have also learned strategies and techniques that I can integrate into my lessons. An effective teacher uses a variety of assessment tools to gather data on students and record their growth. This educator would also ensure that the students are aware of how and why they are assessed. The students in this student-focused environment understand the steps needed to achieve their learning targets and goals. I have started having students do more self-reflection and goal setting during writing workshop. They use a writing continuum to see how they have grown as writers and set goals for future learning targets. A student-centered classroom is also a place where teachers use appropriate classroom management techniques that make certain students know what to do, feel safe and respected, and respect others. An effective educator creates a setting that is student-focused by forming and modifying curriculum that challenges students. This teacher utilizes technology as a tool for students boost what they learn in the classroom. A setting that is student-focused also has a teacher who sensitive to the cultural needs of all students and their families. This teacher regularly communicates with families and community members and views them as partners in the educational process. For students to remain at the heart of this learning environment, an effective teacher must develop and maintain these successful professional practices.

How do you sustain it?

A professional educator can sustain a student-focused learning environment by committing to continual growth in his or her field. I will accomplish this by completing a master’s degree and participating and advocating for professional development opportunities within the school or district. It can also be maintained through self-reflection and renewal by the individual teacher. By constantly reexamining my own teaching practices and professional growth goals, I can feel confident that I am upholding a classroom environment where students are the center. As a professional educator, I will continue to take steps towards becoming an expert and distinguished educator in my own educational life-cycle. By having an attitude that yearns for growth and that never settles for complacency, an effective educator will easily continue to experience the joy and excitement of having a student-focused learning environment.


Juliana Kirmeyer said...

Hi Rachel -

I am glad that you mentioned All Kinds of Minds. The training was very valuable and a good resource for student centered instruction and assessment.

I also related to what you wrote about continually improving instruction through education. I just attended a workshop on standards alignment and found it quite valuable - especially the other teachers I meet. Conversing with other teachers about teaching helps me refine my methods and ideas.

I especially liked your conclusion - it is so important to find joy in one's work. Student centered classrooms naturally flow out of that joy.

It is a tricky thing to find joy on a Friday afternoon with only a month left of school...but I am sure we will all manage!

Katy Lungren said...

Rachel, I really appreciated your statement in the first paragraph that described the curriculum and instruction flowing based on the students, not on the date in the lesson-plan calendar. With the relatively recent adoption of a new math curriculum, my district has created a pacing guide that all teachers must follow. It states which units you should be teaching during particular weeks and is not very flexible or forgiving. I have struggled with the idea of a mandated pacing guide, feeling such a strong pull to stop and reteach or slow down when the majority of my students are having a difficult time with a concept. In reading your thoughts, I'm reminded that it's up to me to do what's best for my students - even if it's not always exactly what those "above" have told me to do.

I am curious about the All Kinds of Minds program you mentioned. What exactly is it? I would love to hear more about it, given that Juliana sang its praises as well! Hope you get a chance to share about it at our final class session.

~Katy Lungren

Kathy said...

I am very interested in learning more about All Kinds of Minds training. This sounds very interesting and a helpful training. I agree that a student centered classroom is a flowing classroom and a productive one at that.
I did not think about how continual education for the teacher in this area could be so beneficial. It is so true that just attending a workshop can revitalize you so much. Good sutff.