Monday, November 5, 2007

Learning Processes # 3

Two of these three posts are actually about the learning processes of my students. I thought these stories were more relevant because as a teacher I have a great window into INDICATORS of learning, which is what I was looking for this time. I think these were pretty insightful.

October 18, 2007

There are two learning processes that I reflected on a bit this week. They are not so much from “catching myself in the process of learning” this week, but rather noticing I had never noted a learning process that happens to me EVERY day. The first process is association. I have a strange mental habit to associate almost every single thing that I learn with the place that I learned it. This habit makes recall a lot easier in some ways because if I remember where I learned a basic fact, I will start to recall all of the smaller details, because somewhere in my brain they are all in the same folder. That process of association is always visible with students. Students will associate different content with creative songs, acronyms, or whatever creative way their teacher used to teach the material. For example, one of my classmates has used the example that she will never forget a rule of fractions because her teacher taught her by saying…”just like Dolly Parton, big on top, small on the bottom.”

The other indicator of learning is transfer. There is an event that made me think of this recently when a friend told me a story. It turns out that I actually told them that story not too long ago, and they were telling me like it was new! That has happened to almost everyone at some point or another. The point is, when we learning something new, we add it to our repertoire of knowledge and we use it in new contexts…or what we think are new contexts. This concept of transfer is one of the most important indicators. So often in my practicum class I hear students say “Ya, I know that because Mr. or Mrs. --- taught me -----.” That means that they are using knowledge learned in another class to help them outside that class. Being able to transfer knowledge and apply it to their lives is critical.

October 24, 2007

You can tell when the project has made a real impact on the students’ learning when it appears the reading has struck a chord. It does so for several reasons. Often I could recognize a connection through a quote in the reading where the student obviously felt in synch with the author. If the reading taps into something going on in their own lives, the reading transforms into critical thinking. You can tell almost immediately when reading out loud whether the students are simply reading or whether they are speaking. Yesterday in class students brought in their projects, a children’s story that they wrote about an American figure they admire and read a book about. Going around group to group as they read their stories to each other, learning indicators were very clear. I had a conversation with one student about her story on Elizabeth Edwards. When asked she had a very interesting and immediate reaction to her thoughts on Mrs. Edwards. She had a gut reaction to some of the things she read, and her response made it very clear that she was not reciting something she had already written, by actively thinking, evaluating and synthesizing the information. On the other hand, some students presentations were clearly a recital of what they had written, or admittedly by some students what “my parents told me to write.” Immediate reactions to evaluative questions often serves as a good indicator of student learning.

November 1, 2007

One of the indicators of student learning is when you see students forming a clear connection between something they have learned at home/ from their parents/outside of school, with something they learn in the classroom. There have been a couple of incidents where I have witnessed this in the classroom. A few weeks back when we were beginning a unit on Africa, many of the African-American students brought in their personal experiences at several points. When the teacher was explaining a typical African style clothing pattern called Kente cloth, many of the students began to pipe up about whether this clothing was typical in their family. As we led into different stereotypes of Africa it was clear that the students were not only engaged but learning when they took a personal stake in refuting stereotypes. Linking the content to a students family experiences is a good way to measure student learning. This happened again in yesterday’s class. Yesterday was Halloween and I was doing my practicum. The class started off each period with Ms. Mostoller teaching a brief history of Halloween. Several students throughout the day refuted the tradition and celebration of Halloween because they have heard from their parents that Halloween is devil worship. This is actually a somewhat common belief among Christians, after all Halloween is a Pagan holiday. When the students speak up however, you can tell that they have a grasp of the history being taught because they often begin with “so I know that …. (something about the content, curriculum being taught), BUT (and then voice their objection or comments).”

No comments: