Sunday, April 24, 2011

Service Learning Projects

Service learning projects (SLP) provide students with an opportunity to create and participate in assignments that go beyond the traditional classroom. It allows the students to feel a greater connection to their community and fosters the idea of civic responsibility. By allowing students to determine the problem and work towards the solution, they are given complete ownership over their learning and the meaning and the value of the project increase greatly.

SLPs have a proven track record. In the article “Critical Thinking in Students’ Service Learning Experiences” Sedlak, Doheney, Panthofer, and Anaya state that “Students can benefit from service learning experiences by enhancing communication skills, strengthening critical thinking abilities, developing civic responsibilities, and fostering a sense of caring for others.” Parker-Gwin and Mabry also found that service learning “move[s] students from identifying concepts, rote memorization, and summaries to higher-order processes of analysis, synthesis and critique” (1998).


Sedlak, C., Doheny, M., Panthofer, N., & Anaya, E. (2003). “Critical thinking in students’ service-learning experiences”. College Teaching, 51, 99-103.

Parker-Gwin, R., & Mabry, J.B. (1998). Service learning as pedagogy and civic education: Comparing outcomes for three models. Teaching Sociology, 26(4), 276-291.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life Prep

Will Richardson touches on the negative consequences of equating better schools and better teachers with better test scores. He argues that schools need to shift their focus from test prep to life prep. By determining the quality of a school or a teacher by the score of a test, the concentration of schooling becomes merely test prep, leaving little or no room for life prep. We live in a world that needs creative and innovative minds; a world that is perpetually rewarding original ideas and depth of knowledge. Yet by focusing on improving test scores, we achieve the opposite, students who believe there is only ever one right answer, students who can recall a wide range of facts, but cannot speak in depth on any one subject.

It becomes clear that schools are designed for an out-dated system. They create an identically prepared workforce that can perform rudimentary tasks and participate in conventional thinking that maintains the status quo. Steps must be taken to prepare students for life that meets our current demands, not the needs of past-century factories. We must practice collaboration. If we teach students to share and respond to the ideas of their classmates, we develop a citizenry better prepared and adapted for our inter-connected society. When we give students time and resources for individual pursuits, we create the experts and specialists of tomorrow. By not limiting students to one “right” answer and, instead, rewarding innovation and creative thinking, we allow for the essential inventors of tomorrow. We need to adjust our thinking to determine what “better” schools really mean.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Collaboration allows for growth, innovation and support. It is beneficial during all stages of a lesson. At the planning stage, collaboration allows for innovative approaches and combined experiences. During the lesson, the skills of collaboration and working together are modeled for students, who are able to see the success and troubleshooting strategies of the collaborators. Post-lesson, collaboration fosters deeper reflection, motivation to improve, and the insight of a varied outlook. The outcome of collaboration is greater than the sum of its parts and should be considered the fundamental tool in education.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Excellence in teaching is impossible without a number of assessment tools in place. All assessment should enhance students’ learning and help make instructional decisions. Assessment is an ongoing process that guides planning and lessons. Pre-assessment tools, such as an anticipatory set, to determine how much students know before beginning the lesson. Assessment tools are also used throughout the lesson; group hand signals are helpful to achieve a quick and efficient understanding of the students’ comprehension. By involving students in self-assessment through the use of conferences and work portfolios; students feel a sense of ownership and responsibility about their work and thus can set goals and are more motivated to work toward accomplishing them.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cognitive Development Researcher

When I tell people I teach, I normally get very similar responses: “Oh! Good for you, I could never do that, you must really like children.” I feel the bigger picture of what it means to teach is lost, blurred by the oversimplification of a twelve or more year personal experience spent in the classroom. As a student, you are only privy to one aspect of teaching, hidden are the planning sessions, the collaboration sessions, the differentiation considerations, and the post-lesson reflections. Because of this misunderstanding, I have decided Cognitive Development Researcher makes a more fitting title.

A Cognitive Development Researcher works on both the micro and macro level. On the micro level, the researcher is responsible for tracking and furthering the education of 20 or more individuals over the course of 180 days. This research requires the use of adequate assessment tools; knowing which assessment is best for each situation and differentiating for each student and each lesson. On the macro level, the Cognitive Development Researcher is responsible for collaboration and conferencing; sharing gained knowledge and using the advancements of others are essential in the role of cognitive development researcher.

Yes, I teach, but more importantly I research, I reflect, I make appropriate adjustments, I try innovative approaches, and I collaborate, so that each year my students are better prepared for what lies ahead, because, yes, I do “really like children.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Educational Philosophy

· Education is about the journey and not the destination.

· Every child has the potential to learn. I set high expectations and expect all children to meet them. I understand that across a classroom, children will learn at different ways and through different methods but all children have the ability to learn and meet goals.