From 2007 to 2008, I met the standards for Professional Recognition with the General Teaching Council for Scotland through the completion of the Teaching for Understanding TfU1 WIDE World Online Module produced by David Perkins of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
WIDE World is an online professional development program based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During this 12 week course, I completed assignments as part of a study group of 4 teachers whose subject and grade level expertise matched my own. We discussed course readings and rotated responsibility for posting comments or documents in the online course environment. Team members also met face-to-face or communicated via email to complete work. Our coach guided our study group’s discussions and provided us with personalized feedback on our efforts throughout the course. The course culminated in a team performance – the development of a revised 5-14 Environmental Studies Science Unit which incorporated the aims, philosophies and strategies of ‘teaching for understanding’.
Check out the WIDE World website and the fantastic courses they offer.
The TfU1 Module comprised of learning in the following areas – models of effective teaching strategies, differentiated instruction, multiple intelligences, integrating technology into the classroom and instructional strategies based on more than 40 years of research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Each session began with the course instructor assigning readings which initiate new and invigorating learning activities and discussions, including anything from testing out instructional strategies with students, reflecting on the outcomes, looking at student work, and observing teachers in action through case studies. The module was designed to be aligned with all aspects, elements and capacities of A Curriculum for Excellence.
My classroom practice now incorporates all the strategies of Teaching for Understanding I have learned in the module, in particular ‘The Ladder of Feedback’, a mode of peer assessment. I now design Course Through-lines and Performances of Understanding which are shared with and modified by my students throughout each episode and unit of learning. The ‘Ideas Board’ is now a permanent and prominent focus in the classroom, a tool used by students to daily self-reflect on and revise their learning.
I have observed a significant and positive impact on my student’s learning and understanding, particularly in early intervention with lower secondary. My students are able to apply their knowledge in fuller contexts – despite the Performances of Understanding being more complex in terms of content and timescale. Students with Support needs are able to access parts of the curriculum they may not have done before as they engage more in interdependent tasks where the learning is shared. There has been a marked improvement in my students overall motivation for science and their understanding of its impact on their lives.
During each session, we were obliged to take our understanding of the readings and online discussion into the classroom and put shared ideas and insights into practice with our students.
Feedback from my students work on implementing these new strategies formed the basis for all my individual and team assignments.
In seeing the impact in secondary years 1 and 2, I have begun to employ these teaching strategies at all levels as I become more competent and confident in my efforts. As lessons and units of work are fuller, more ‘chunked’ with engaging, stimulating and challenging tasks, reflection on learning and revision of ideas is more meaningful.
I was encouraged by my line-manager at Castlemilk to instruct my students in the revised 6 week long unit that I had developed. At fortnightly departmental meetings, I discussed with my colleagues the impact of the revised unit – in so doing, my colleagues adopted many of my shared ideas in their own practice to great effect and various elements of the revised unit were included in the Department Improvement Plan for next year.