Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Weekly Reflection: Assessing the 4 C's of 21st Century Learning

In the upcoming week, we will begin talking about assessments in class; something I have been looking forward to addressing.  As I continue to work on developing my unit plans for students teaching and writing lessons, I find my self really struggling to come up with ways that are meaningful to assess the learning that has taken place.  I find my self always resorting back to the thought of quizzes and unit exams.  But if I am challenging myself to teach in more creative ways than just PowerPoint and class lecture, I also need to challenge myself to assess my students' learning in non-traditional ways as well.
I look forward to growing my bank of assessments over the next few class sessions.  As I continue to read material and dig deeper into the resources we have been given, I am finding assessments I look forward to using; things like evaluating portfolios, projects, presentations, etc.

One of the resources that excited me the most while doing some researching was actually this video that discussed creating effective rubrics.  The best part about it though was that it discussed rubrics for evaluating the 4 C's of 21st Century Learning.  We talked about those C's!  Talk about cognitive connect.  I love it when a plan comes together so it was fun to see this type of learning being taken from presentation of material all the way through to assessment.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Weekly Reflection: Forgetting We are Teachers

This week in class we will begin talking about using Problem-Based Learning, or PBL, in our classrooms.  This topic, though I think it is incredibly valuable and will be a fun and engaging way to teach, is still hard for me really to grasp the concept of.  In the simplest form of the theory it makes sense, we give our students a problem and they have to figure out the answer.  But I know it is so much more than that; it has to be!  The learning that is occurring will be incredible; absolutely fascinating to watch students brainstorm and think and create.

However, because this is such a valuable tool, I think it is really important to have a solid understanding of what Problem-Based Learning looks like.  The video above I believe does a great job of breaking down this idea of Problem-Based Learning and comparing it to a traditional classroom, highlighting the key components that sets PBL apart.

My favorite part about this video is that it challenges us to forget that we are teachers.  Say what?! Forget that we are teachers?!  Yes!  Forget that we are teachers so that we can become Mentors, helping our students to work through the problem so that they may discover the answers on their own, taking their learning into their own hands.

I love the idea of a student-centered environment and student-driven learning.  I look forward to challenging myself as a teacher, or more importantly a mentor, to develop Problem-Based Learning opportunities for my future students.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Evolution of the Solution: Watching Learning Happen through Experiments

As we begin to talk about individual teaching techniques in our classes this week, one of my favorites is on the list.  Experiments!  What I feel is the epitome of learning!  Posing a question and letting students find the answer on their own, with a little direction.  Such a fun, engaging, and exciting way to teach a lesson in your classroom.

So why are experiments a valuable tool for teaching? Because they challenge our student on so many levels!

  • When conducting experiments, students use all of the modalities of learning.  The visual modality by having a visual representation of problem; the auditory by communicating their thoughts and ideas of possible solutions with group members; and the kinesthetic modality by being able to manipulate tangible materials to work through the problem.
  • Students are able to reach the highest levels of thinking according to Bloom's Taxonomy with lessons that include experiments.  Students are working at the Evaluation and Synthesis levels by hypothesizing, assessing, and concluding throughout the experiment.
  • Students who engage in experiments and stay involved in the learning process learn more and learn better.
  • Experiments help students master systematic learning through agricultural content.  Students must work through a problem from beginning to end, keeping records throughout the experiment and analyzing data for a conclusion; a skill that is transferable to real-work situations.
It's obvious that experiments can be a great way to teach a lesson in the classroom.  But for experiments to be powerful and impactful, they must have proper planning behind them so that way the experiment doesn't simply become just a cool demonstration.
  • Teachers should outline the problem before the experiment begins so that students have a solid idea of what we are researching that day.
  • The procedure should be clearly outlined for students before the experiment takes place so that way it is clear what is expected of the students.
  • It is important to talk about how to keep accurate records on the data that is being observed.
  • Having students report their findings is a great way to compile the data as a group and draw conclusions.
  • A way to ensure that the importance and relevance of the experiment is utilize results in other lessons throughout the units.
There are all kinds of ways for Agriculture Educators to implement experiments into their classrooms.  It really an incredible thing to witness such valuable learning occurring with your students as they discover the solutions to any problem at hand.

One Down, a Million to Go: Developing My First Unit Plan

This past week, we were required to develop our first unit of instruction.  We've heard that it could be a daunting task for the newbies, and they weren't kidding!  However, after typing and choosing standards and naming and renaming lessons over and over again, we came out on top with one unit under our belts!

The hardest part about writing the unit plan was getting started.  It was challenging to start with a blank document and to know that the end goal was to produce a workable, usable plan to bring into my classroom in just a few weeks.

After some serious searching on NAAE's Community of Practice for some inspiration and combining about 7 different templates into one, I finally was able to begin writing.  What was the most difficult part?  Deciding which lesson was going to come where.  Determining the order of which to roll out the material throughout the course of the unit is tricky business.  However, after ours of deliberation, I finally decided on how to schedule my unit.

After developing our unit, we handed it to two of our classmates for some peer feedback before our final submission.  I got some great suggestions on word-smithing a few items and adjusting some assessments.  Overall, I am proud of my first unit plan and am excited to receive my final grade so I can begin writing unit plan number two of what will feel like a million.

While researching some tips on unit plan writing, I came across this link all about Unit Planning and Backwards Design.  It had some great info and even included an interview with a student teacher about her unit planning experience! Check it out!