Element Two: Teachers know their
students and how they learn.
Throughout my teaching experiences I have remained committed to gaining insightful information about my students and their learning needs, thus catering for the varying needs, abilities and backgrounds which exist within any classroom. Striving to ensure I honour each student as an individual, has made me develop the skills to undertake observation of students in a variety of learning contexts and school experiences, partake in discussions with key individuals (student, teacher, parents and relevant support staff), and critically reflect on my findings.
Teaching a year six class at Shelley Public School in 2008, I had a culturally diverse classroom with students from a number of Non English Speaking Backgrounds (NESB), of these five were second phase English as a Second Language (ESL) students, and three students who had been assessed as having Intellectually Mild to Intellectually Moderate learning disabilities. At the beginning of my professional experience I compiled Individual profiles on every student before planning learning experiences which were inclusive of all students. I found that students who were traditionally disengaged required less traditional/linguistic instruction and more kinaesthetic/visual experiences. In an integrated unit of work on ‘Significant Events and People in Australia’s History,’ students had multiple opportunities to build upon their understandings of significant events and people from their own backgrounds through interviewing family members and classmates, online research, and presenting their responses in any way. By creating a learning environment relevant to their needs, I engaged students’ natural curiosity.
I have also worked with students at Tallowood School, a school catering for students with special needs. In the early intervention class I assisted the teacher and TAS in implementing and evaluating students’ Individual Education Plans.
On the upcoming professional experience I aim to deepen my understanding and educational philosophy on the individual needs of students, whether these be social, emotional, physical or cognitive, and how these needs impact on students’ roles as life long learners. Specifically, I would like to improve my knowledge on teaching strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. I will aim to develop strong partnerships with school staff and community members, further developing my professional knowledge and creating effective support networks for students. These practices will enable me to eventually develop individual learning programs to maximise outcomes for all students.
In order to deepen my understandings and educational beliefs on the individual needs of students I will need to further engage with the relevant educational literature. Specifically, I will need to familarise myself with the 'Aboriginal Education and Training Policy' (NSW DET, 2008) and the 'NSW Aboriginal Education and Training Strategy 2006-2008' (NSW DET, 2006). I will need to conference with the classroom teacher to understand students backgrounds and identify any indigenous students within the class/school. In the future I will also need to partake in observation or volunteer assistance in teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in order to better understand key strategies to assist their overall learning and literacy development.
I will also develop the skills to liaison appropriately with key individuals, through observation and practice, and consider how to facilitate effective partnerships. I will begin to develop individual programs for key students on the coming practicum, this will require me to experiment with appropriate templates, gather the required information and program developmentally appropriate tasks. This will be done with the support and advice of the cooperating teacher and tertiary mentor.
As an educator I am a passionate advocate of Howard Gardener’s ‘Multiple Intelligences Theory’ (1983), his eight different intelligences account for a much broader range of potential in individuals. Through interaction with this theory, educators are able to consider multiple ways in which learning experiences can be presented/facilitated to ensure improved learning outcomes. Complementing Gardener’s theory, I also believe that knowing students on an individual level; their social, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, enables a better understanding of their academic issues. Educational theorist Sue Thomson proclaims the heightened engagement students will experience during tasks, when they are relevant to them as individuals (2005). These two sentiments reflect my belief in the importance of students being active participants in relevant and meaningful learning experiences.
Jessica Coughlan 2009