Element 2- TEACHERS KNOW THEIR STUDENTS AND HOW THEY LEARN
I have completed three practicum placements in various areas of Sydney. Each school had different social contexts, school policies and various other factors which informed the environment of the school. Similarly, each placement gave me the opportunity to experience teaching across the various stages of learning. Every student that I taught in each class had various abilities, learning needs and preferred modes of learning. Many of the classes in which I have taught have had several students with non-English speaking backgrounds. It was therefore vital for me to establish a rapport with students as quickly as possible, by engaging them in casual conversation, observation of students while learning and through conversations with the supervising teacher. This has allowed me to implement lessons which use a range of resources and teaching and learning methods that are appropriate for the students. Similarly, my knowledge of the students in the classroom assisted in the planning of the lesson to provide the necessary extension activities and scaffolding for students who required it. I have also completed a 20 hour placement in a school for students with intellectual disabilities. This particular experience, although short, provided me with knowledge and understanding of some of the strategies used to address the learning of students with special education needs.
My knowledge of students and how they learn can be seen in the various maths lessons that I have planned, where students who finished earlier were provided with extension activities which required them to apply the skills that they were practising to at a more advanced level. Similarly, the way in which I chose to group students during English tasks required me to draw upon my knowledge of student’s capabilities. This knowledge helped me to establish groups where students would be able to support those of a non-English speaking background in their learning. My end of practicum report and lesson observation feedback forms also show that I quickly established a relationship with students so that I could gauge their needs and create engaging and relevant tasks to provide them with quality learning experiences. I am also aware of various literacy strategies to meet students with non-English speaking backgrounds. This is evident in my use of three-level guides, which provides students with the opportunity to respond to statements on a literal, interpretive and applied level. This is particularly appropriate for ESL students who are in the process of developing comprehension skills in reading.
I will continue to develop my knowledge of various teaching methods to best cater to students’ various approaches to learning. I will endeavour to investigate further the potential impacts that social, ethnic, cultural and religions backgrounds may have on students’ learning. In accordance with this, I will also seek appropriate strategies for catering for these particular students.
I need to continue to develop my knowledge of specific teaching strategies for students with particular learning needs. This will require me to complete more reading to access the relevant research. I also need to have more practical opportunities to employ these strategies and observe a wider range of students and their learning needs. I also need to familiarise myself with the appropriate documents such as the Aboriginal Education Policy, to understand how to best address Indigenous student learning needs.
I believe that it is important to begin to build rapport with students from the moment they enter the classroom. Although it may help to investigate students’ prior achievements and learning in previous years, I believe that it is vital that judgements are not made about the students before observing them within the learning environment. Similarly, knowledge of a students’ social and cultural background may provide me with a tentative understanding of their learning needs, but will in no way define the way in which I teach or interact with the students. Students may also arrive in the classroom with particular learning needs. I believe that it is important to have access and understanding of teaching strategies for these particular needs. However, these learning needs should not be used to define or limit students in their learning. Without knowing students and how they learn, the three dimensions of the Quality Teaching Framework (2003, Department of Education) will not be evident in the classroom. Without knowing how students learn, it is not possible to create a learning environment where students understand the significance of the learning content, thus failing to support the whole Quality Teaching Framework.