TEACHERS KNOW THEIR STUDENTS AND HOW THEY LEARN
I HAVE…successfully worked with and taught students from a range of social, ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. My last two Professional Experiences have been at highly diverse multicultural schools where classrooms included students who varied in backgrounds, abilities and interests, as well as having a high number of ESL students. I have gained skills and strategies in teaching a diverse range of students as a result, and my competency in teaching to the needs of students is outlined by my second year Cooperating Teacher in my practicum report, which has been included as evidence. Further, I have had experience working with an SSP school for students with emotional and behavioural disturbances, broadening my knowledge of the impact of a child’s background on their development and progress in school. During this professional experience, I observed explicit teaching designed to meet the special needs of the students, and as a reflection on this time, I have researched and written a paper on teaching social skills to students with emotional and behavioural disorders. My teaching has been sharply focused as a result of these experiences towards understanding each student and how they learn best in order to improve upon my teaching practice. I am currently undertaking an intensive TESOL course to refine my skills in catering for ESL learners, which includes strategies that can be used in a diverse classroom setting.
I WILL…aim to focus during my next practicum on designing lessons which are specifically catered to the needs of individuals and groups of students. As I have a composite 3/4 Gifted and Talented class for my practicum, I would like to explore differentiated learning and gather information about catering for the learning needs of these students in particular. I would like to demonstrate my ability to plan and implement meaningful learning experiences which take into account student interests, abilities and special learning needs. Further, I will aim to document successful strategies used to meet the needs of students with specific education needs while on the practicum in order to use to support students in future classrooms.
GOAL FOR PRACTICUM: Document and use a range of strategies to differentiate learning in a Gifted and Talented classroom.
I NEED…to consider individual students in my planning. I need to link current knowledge of specific teaching strategies with the unique situations and students to be faced in the coming practicum, in order to best document those which are most successful in real classroom situations. It has been identified that teachers are often under-trained to meet the needs of Gifted and Talented students (Rowley, 2008, p. 36), and as such, I need to seek out and access information on strategies for Gifted and Talented students for this upcoming practicum. Further, I need to put theory into practice in the classroom during practicum, especially due to the concern that even when the needs of Gifted and Talented students are identified, they are not always met in schools (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing, & Le Cornu, 2003, p. 64).
With this in mind, I can take the following steps towards my goals for practicum:
1. Attend a lecture on Gifted and Talented teaching by the DET consultant for G&T students through Sydney University. (21st May, 2009, 1pm, Lecture theatre 351).
2. Do some reading on gifted and talented teaching and learning. This will include revising the theory of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and Bloom’s Taxonomy, as well as looking at recent documents to support teachers such as the NSW Department of Education and Training’s “Policy and implementation strategies for the education of Gifted and Talented students: Curriculum differentiation” (2004).
3. Implement and reflect on lessons which involve differentiated learning experiences. Get feedback from the cooperating teacher on strategies used in the classroom.
I BELIEVE… that each and every student is unique in their interests, their preferred method of learning and their ability to achieve learning outcomes. As a teacher, it is my job to consider the needs of students in my class and cater learning to suit those needs. Through observation of students at work and the collection of information about the student (from assessment, parents, students themselves), teachers can build up a profile of students, and can use this information to provide appropriate learning experiences for them catered to their needs and interests (Wilson & Wing Jan, 2008, p. 28). I believe as a teacher it is important to include a range of activities that appeal to different learning styles and interests of students, as students are diverse and can display Multiple Intelligences as outlined by Howard Gardner (2000). Further, I believe it is essential to utilize a range of assessment tasks which allow students to demonstrate what they have learnt in different yet meaningful ways, as this promotes Quality Teaching. Overall, I believe that quality teachers will consider students in their planning and will use specific strategies to meet student needs, in order that all students in the class will feel valued and safe to take risks in their learning environment.
Element 2 Evidence
Annotations for the evidence
I have included as evidence for my achievement of Element 2:
*An excerpt of my 2nd year practicum report and lesson feedback. These have been included as they demonstrate my attention to KNOWING THE STUDENTS and their needs, especially considering the high percentage of ESL students in the class. I had to use a number of specific strategies to meet the learning needs of the students in the class, which my cooperating teacher commented on in the feedback provided. 2.1.1, 2.1.3, 2.1.4
*A record of my time spent in an SSP school in South-West Sydney which caters for students with Emotional and Behavioural disorders. This shows I have had over 20hrs experience in an authentic school setting learning about the students and HOW THEY LEARN with respect to their special learning needs. After this experience, I wrote an essay on specific strategies used to teach students of Emotional and Behavioural disorders social skills, which have a high impact on their school and life success. 2.1.2, 2.1.5
*An overview of a lesson sequence based on scaffolding English literacy in an ESL classroom. The Overview demonstrates a range of strategies used to engage and scaffold the student’s learning, including visual activities, categorising tasks and a range of specific language activities. 2.1.5, 2.1.6
This evidence is scanned in and therefore has to be located on Wikispaces. Evidence can be located under "Element 2 Evidence"
Link to evidence: http://anne87.wikispaces.com/
Essay: Teaching strategies for students with challenging behaviour
Teaching Social Skills to students with Emotional and Behaviour Disorders
The teaching of social skills in classrooms has been an area of considerable research and discussion in recent decades, and especially in regards to students with learning disabilities or Emotional and Behaviour Disorders. With research suggesting that a child’s social skills and abilities are a significant indicator of future success and happiness, the deficit of social skills in many students has become a cause for concern for both teachers and the wider community. Several researchers have contributed to the discussion of teaching social skills in the context of the classroom inclusive of students with special education needs, providing definitions of social skills, arguments as to why they should be explicitly taught, methods of teaching social skills, and evidence of effectiveness of practice.
Social skills and social competence are difficult concepts to define, as suggested by the array of possibilities given in literature. Elksnin & Elksnin suggest social skills include overt behaviours as well as covert problem-solving skills, and list six separate types of social skills, including peer-related social skills and assertiveness skills (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1998, p. 132). Thomas McIntyre also provides a simple definition of social skills, including communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and peer relations which help develop and maintain positive relationships with others (McIntyre, 2007, p. 19). However, not all the literature provided a clear definition of social skills or social competence as part of their discussion, such as Spence (2003), and Williams & Reisberg, (2003), which can make their discussion appear vague.
The arguments for teaching social skills explicitly to students are convincing and have been addressed by a number of individuals. Spence points out the most important reason to teach social skills, stating that children and adolescents are expected to manage a range of socially complex situations on a daily basis, which require a “sophisticated repertoire of social skills and an interpersonal problem solving capacity” (Spence, 2003, p. 84). When students need to learn how to read and write, they are taught explicitly how to do so. With social skills, it is the same principle; that students need to learn them, and therefore should be taught explicitly how to use them, which is an idea also mentioned by McIntyre (2007, p. 19). Especially to consider is that inability to initiate and maintain positive relationships is the defining characteristic of students with Emotional and Behaviour Disorders (McIntyre, 2007, p. 20). According to McIntyre, these deficits in social skills (which are often expressed by inappropriate behaviours) interfere with the learning and teaching process and the overall classroom climate, as social competence is linked with acceptance, inclusion and post school success (McIntyre, 2007, p. 19). This information makes the notion of social skills particularly important for teachers, and is a helpful contribution to this discussion. Further, there is a relationship between having social skill problems in early childhood and mental health difficulties in adulthood, with greater risks of dropping out of school, juvenile delinquency and unemployment (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1998, p. 132).
While the majority of literature would agree that teaching social skills, especially to students with learning and behaviour problems (Elksnin & Elksnin, 2003, p. 132) is important, only a couple realistically described the difficulty this can prove to be. Williams & Reisberg’s argument that social skills should be taught through curriculum integration is introduced with the recognition that meeting the specialised social needs of students in a general education setting is a “significant challenge to educators” (Williams & Reisberg, 2003, p. 206). Further, McIntyre adds to this in his conclusion, which argues that although teaching social skills is a time-consuming task, generally without an academic focus, it is an asset to the classroom once the behaviour of students improve, allowing them to concentrate better on school work (McIntyre, 2007, p. 21).
A significant consideration, then, is whether the research is practical in outlining and providing examples of how to teach social skills to students with Emotional and Behaviour or other learning disorders. Elksnin & Elksnin’s research (1998) and William and Reisberg’s research (2003) are particularly outstanding in this regard. Both are written by professionals with considerable experience in the special education field, and are practical for teachers wanting to teach social skills. They both provide a clear outline of steps in teaching social skills, including; identifying student needs, identifying skills to be taught, steps in teaching the skill ranging from modelling to independent performance, and providing feedback and evaluation (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1998; William & Reisberg, 2003). These steps are reflective of an inclusive education setting which encourages positive social interaction through adapting the curriculum and instruction methods, something that all teachers in modern education settings should be striving for, outlined in detail in Foreman’s “Inclusion in Action” (2008).
While McIntyre’s research (2007) is also highly relevant and practical in terms of teaching social skills, it only provides a broad overview of the process. In contrast to this, Spence’s research (2003) does not contribute much to the discussion of practical advice for teachers wishing to teach social skills in the classroom, as it is written from a more clinical, rather than classroom, perspective. What Spence’s research does comprehensively discuss is the theory, evidence and practice behind Social Skills Training (Spence, 2003). It is particularly helpful in reviewing the research into the effectiveness of social skills training, many of which have been written as meta-analyses with a statistical procedure to measure the effect size of changes in behaviour (Spence, 2003, p. 92). The conclusion of Spence in regards to the effectiveness of social skills training is that it cannot be considered the sole treatment or prevention technique for students with Emotional and Behaviour Disorders, but used in conjunction with other treatments in a “multi-method intervention” (Spence, 2003, p. 92).
There is much to be discussed and considered in regards to teaching social skills in the classroom, especially in inclusive education settings meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities and Emotional and Behaviour Disorders. Social skills are required to function successfully in society on a daily basis, and children and adolescents often need explicit instruction to learn these social skills, just as they would when learning any other subject at school. Through a process of identifying student needs, teaching specific skills to then be practiced and generalised into a variety of settings, as well as appropriate feedback and evaluation, teachers can incorporate social skills into their classroom curriculum. This will not always be effective on its own, but coupled with other strategies in the intervention over a longer period of time should promote improvement in student social skills.
Elksnin, L.K., & Elksnin, N. (1998). Teaching social skills to students with learning and behaviour problems. Intervention in School and Clinic, 33(3), 131-140
Foreman, P. (2008). Inclusion in action. (2nd Edn). Melbourne, Vic: Thomson.
McIntyre, T. (2007). Teaching social skills to kids who don’t yet have them. Education Horizons, 9 (5), 19-21.
Spence, S.H. (2003). Social skills training with children and young people: Theory, evidence and practice. Child and Adolescent Mental Health 8(2), 84-96.
Williams, G.J., & Reisburg, L. (2003). Successful inclusion: Teaching social skills through curriculum integration. Intervention in School and Clinic, 38(4), 205-210.