Overview of Instructional Approaches
I use a variety of teaching models and carefully construct and organize lessons using backwards planning (Wiggins & McTighe) and based on state standards and Next Generation Science Standards. I then reflect upon and adjust implementation in order to provide the best learning environment for students. An example of this is a centripetal force lesson involving multiple physics demos and individual formative assessments on white boards to decide which concepts to elaborate on.
Use Variety of Teaching Models
I am always careful to alternate lesson components among lecture format group work, independent work, laboratories and demos (see Electrostatics unit plan below). “Shanna tried a lot of different methods for instruction and put a lot of thought into the activities and assessments” (Rob Doran, mentor teacher). This helps keep students excited and curious about what's happening in the classroom while ensuring that they learn concepts in a variety of ways. I also differentiate instruction for different learning styles and abilities. To tailor lessons to students, I begin every teaching experience with a survey of their interests and preferred ways of learning.
Carefully construct and organize lessons
Starting from the basis of varying lesson types, I organize my lessons to thoroughly integrate the 5-E Model (Engage-Explore-Explain-Elaborate-Evaluate) and Nature of Science, while scaffolding students toward building essential skills and knowledge. A carefully constructed lesson helps students feel capable and knowledgeable while building new knowledge and understanding. One example of this is an activity I used to introduce students to electricity, in which each student was given a piece of paper with something they had expressed interest in (e.g. skiing), and their goal was to match this paper to one of the three forces given: gravity, electricity or magnetism (see image below of sample slides from lesson). As detailed in the centripetal force lesson referred to above, I also regularly include formative assessment to verify if the lesson is achieving the desired effect.
Reflect and Adjust Implementation
Finally, I regularly reflect upon and adjust implementation of instructions, conducting weekly and often daily reflections and using regular assessments to see what works and what doesn't, sometimes in the middle of a lesson. I take advantage of the positive feedback loop in the triadic reciprocal causation model (Snowman, J., McCown, R. R., & Biehler, R. F. (2012). Psychology applied to teaching. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. (13th ed.)), not only for my students, but also for myself as a teacher. Following this model, I cultivate my own teaching self-efficacy, recognizing what I am skilled at and capable of learning; then observe, evaluate, and change my behavior to better achieve or adjust the goals mentioned above; and then adjust the classroom environment to help achieve these goals. And repeat. I thoughtfully review my evaluations and have mid-course evaluations when teaching longer courses to check on what is working and not working for a given class. I take responsibility for their learning, but in a way that encourages me to learn rather than feel like a failure when methods do not achieve the desired results. I keep a journal to track different techniques and tough situations. In general, I constantly aim to keep learning from other educators and from my students.
Standard 2: Planning and Implementation of Instruction
I am able to plan and implement effective, developmentally appropriate lessons and curricula based upon sound principles of content knowledge and skill development.
Examples of Planning and Implementation of Instruction
"Shanna has a great talent for reflecting on lessons and looking for criticism that can be used to help improve her lesson. Certainly a huge strength in her pursuit of becoming a great educator.”
Jim Overhiser, mentor teacher
Electrostatics Unit Plan
This unit plan represents a variety of teaching models and forms of assessment.
Centripetal Force Lesson: Constructed to include variety and reflection
This centripetal force lesson provides an example of all three characteristics discussed above, involving multiple physics demos and individual formative assessment on white boards to decide which concepts to elaborate on. It is carefully constructed to take advantage of a “discrepant event”, in which students witness a cup of water swung in a vertical circle without spilling. Based on Piaget’s theories about cognitive disequilibrium, the students seek to resolve a discrepancy between what they expect to happen and what they witness, and thus learn something new. After reflecting on the first implementation of the lesson, I revised the second and then third iterations based on student response to the first.
Appealing to student interests while classifying forces
Based on information from my getting-to-know-you student survey, I devised examples of different forces related to the interests of the students. As an introduction to electricity, I had each student classify their force as gravitational, electric or magnetic, and place their example on the white board with a magnet. This allowed me to see misconceptions of students related to electricity, while allowing students to see how their interests fit into physics.
Click on the image to the left to see a sampling of concepts of personal interest to students that they were then asked to classify as related to gravity, electricity, or magnetism.
YOU Be the Teacher
Each student was able to choose a review topic and then prepare three powerpoint slides on that topic – one that connected the topic to the real world, one with a video or image about the topic, and one with a multiple choice question for the class. After trying this out in my first period, I recognized aspects of the assignment that were not clear to students who didn’t carefully read directions, so most did not have time to finish their lessons. For the next class, I explained the instructions carefully and had the students explain them back to me, such that almost every student finished a lesson. I edited and integrated the student lessons into a consistent powerpoint, and had students take turns being the teacher. It was great to see them engaged while teaching and listening so well to their peers. I was surprised to see some of the quieter students actually volunteer to present slides that the other class had prepared.
Earth science culminating assignment gives students the option of drawing or writing
As part of a state test review, I wanted students to tie together three days worth of Earth Science information (which was actually a year’s worth of material). So I gave them an outlined diagram of the Earth, Moon and Sun, and asked them to draw in ten key components from what we had learned. Students who prefer writing to drawing had the option of describing all ten elements. This Earth Science section thus consisted of a combination of activities, including multiple choice questions that the students could correct when wrong, review packets with short answer questions, this culminating diagram, and a climate change assessment based on watching a Futurama episode and assessing potential climate change solutions.