Monthly Archives: October, 2013

Teacher Observation 1: Intentional Inquiry, Informal Assessment

P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. Using questions in the classroom can help students think about what they are learning and how it applies to the world outside of the classroom. It can also help students better understand the processes and complexities involved in a concept. When I observed Mrs. L’s 4th grade class on September 16, I realized what a key role questions played in getting students thinking.

When listening to her line of questioning, I found that she hardly ever let a closed question rest. In math, there are typically only “right or wrong” answers, but Mrs. L has them explain their thoughts behind it. The students are shown a problem and asked to respond on mini white boards, as shown in Images 1, 2, and 3. If their work is not shown, it is considered wrong. This technique gives her immediate feedback on where individual students might be struggling, which she tracks on note paper for reference when there is time to conference with her math students or to better plan instruction.


Image 1 – Using whiteboards allows every student to answer a question and helps the teacher know which students might need more help.


Image 2: Students write on their whiteboard using a dry-erase marker, which allows them to erase their answers using a felt cloth.


Image 3: Having students write largely and in bold colors allows the teacher to see each student’s response from one location in the classroom.

Having the students explain their work also allows Mrs. L to know which key pieces might be missing from their overall understanding of the concept.

Before this summer, I thought that formal assessment such as quizzes and tests would be the best measure of student progress. When I read about the many informal formative assessment methods, I thought they might feel out-of-place and forced. Seeing similar strategies at work in a classroom make the idea of formative assessment less intimidating. Simply asking students to go deeper into content is an excellent way to get them thinking critically and to make sure they are understanding the content.


EDU 6132 Module 4

Piaget vs. Information Processing

In their most simplistic forms, Piaget’s theory is that of cognitive stages, while Information Processing (IP) theory likens memories to data stored in a computer. These two theories can both be seen at work in an elementary school classroom. While the Information Processing theory deals with the individual’s ability to make long-term memory from short-term memory through learned strategies, Piaget’s theory deals with how that information is obtained based on the cognitive stage of the individual. There are few conflicts between these two theories since one deals more with how the information is understood (Piaget) while the other deals with how the information is stored (IP).

Piaget’s theory claims that students will each be within a stage of cognitive development. This means they have a distinct way of thinking, as well as limitations on that thinking. A classroom may consist of students who are in different stages. In Information Processing theory, students will each have different abilities to use certain strategies for remembering. This theory has stages in regards to the ability to use those strategies, either with help or on their own. Students according to this theory may also be in different stages of strategy use. In both  theories, it behooves teachers to teach to a wide variety of thinkers using a wide variety of strategies.

This student work exemplifies a teacher’s attempt to better accommodate for a range of learners in the classroom. I can only assume that the student learned the procedure of counting the shaded-in tiles and all tiles and putting them, respectively, as the numerator and denominator. This student may be in Piaget’s concrete operational stage because he is unable to comprehend the abstract idea of having zero portions shaded. The exit ticket on the second page serves several functions in Information Processing theory. First, it is encouraging the student to reflect on learning, reminding him of what was supposed to be learned. It also encourages the student to relate the learning to their lives. Two strategies are being used to help the student remember the information. Finally, the teacher receives feedback on which teaching strategies are most helpful to the types of learners in her classroom. It is important for teachers to know which types of learners are present in their classroom and to encourage many strategies for remembering information.

EDU 6132 Module 3

Many factors influence student development and learning; Pressley and McCormick (2007) listed multiple factors including culture, family, community, and institutions such as religion, school, and media. It is important to understand that students come to the classroom with a wide variety of previous experience, all of which helps shape their understanding of what is taught and why it is taught. I’ve always appreciated the diversity of student needs, but have seldom considered how to adjust my teaching accordingly, and it seems as if many teachers aren’t sure where to start.

We were given a graph to take into consideration while writing this reflection on our learning. Figure 1 shows on-time graduation rates by general ethnicity groupings. At first glance, this graph would suggest that school systems are failing in accommodating for the needs of a diverse student body.

Figure 1: On-time graduation rate by ethnicity.

While it may look concerning as a teacher to see this distribution, as a scientist I never take a graph at face value. I realized that this graph looked shockingly similar to another I’d seen of income by ethnicity, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Annual household income by ethnicity.

The data is from 2004, but the data from 2000 (the same year as Figure 1’s data) can be found on the U.S. Census Page. The differences appear to be nearly the same, with Asian Americans having both the highest medium income and highest graduation rates, decreasing from whites to Hispanics to African Americans. These two figures in combination could suggest that income could determine graduation rate, which in turn influences income – a cycle unrepresentative of the “American Dream.”

Either why you interpret the data, some students are missing out. I hope to ensure that, regardless of background, students are able to gain footing in my class. Nobody chooses the circumstances from which they come. It is not their responsibility to adjust to my teaching style, but rather for my teaching style to morph to the needs of my students.