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Element 2

Element 2: Teachers know their students and how they learn 

Knowledge of and respect for the diverse social, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds of students, and the effects of these factors on learning –

2.1.1 Demonstrate knowledge, respect and understanding of the social, ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds of students and how these factors may affect learning 

Knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual developmental characteristics of the age group(s) of students –

2.1.2 Demonstrate knowledge of the typical stages of students’ physical, social and intellectual development as well as an awareness of exceptions to general patterns 

Knowledge of students’ varied approaches to learning –

2.1.3 Demonstrate knowledge of students’ different approaches to learning 

Knowledge of how students’ skills, interests and prior achievements affect learning –

2.1.4 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of students’ skills, interests and prior achievements and their impact on learning 

I believe that when teachers know their students, only then are they able to fully plan and execute meaningful and beneficial learning experiences. For this to happen, teachers need to interact, observe, monitor and assess students. I believe teachers need to extend themselves outside of the classroom, to understand students’ backgrounds and factors that may affect their learning, such as their cultural, social, ethnic or religious backgrounds. Whilst keeping a professional distance, teachers need to build and develop a positive relationship with students so that they feel supported in their learning and safe to express their beliefs and opinions (NSW DET, 2003). We must remember that teachers can learn as much from students, as students can learn from teachers.  

I have in my past 3 professional experiences, always made it a top priority to get to know my students. Upon being subjected to a new class, I take the time to make initial observations, whether it is about students’ behaviour, social groups, seating arrangement, dynamic within the classroom and appearance. Prior to planning any lessons, I sit down with the cooperating teacher to find out more about each student’s background and learning style. By gathering as much information as I can, it allows me to plan accordingly by targeting students’ strengths to help build on their weaknesses (Appendix 1).  As Foreman describes it, “the concept of inclusion means providing for the needs of all children in their communities, whatever the level of ability of disability” (2005, pp.14).  

In my last professional experience, I devised differentiated worksheets, tasks and collaborative groups based on students’ abilities and also pre-prepared work for the fast finishers (Appendix 1). I was also quick to develop a rapport with all the students in the class (Appendix 1). My questioning techniques allowed a high rate of participation, as I understood their skills and approaches to learning, and therefore could pre-empt whether the question was targeted at their level. I also used a lot of concrete materials in my lessons as most of the students were visual learners (Appendix 1).  

I will endeavour to develop my understanding of ways to celebrate diversity in the classroom. To do so, I need to seek information and ideas from experienced teachers and also engage in further research and wider reading.  I will develop my knowledge of the typical stages of students’ physical, social and intellectual development as well as an awareness of exceptions to general patterns. To do so, I need to gain more classroom and school experience and also speak to the staff at future schools. I will also gain a deeper understanding into dealing with issues that may arise in a classroom due to cultural, religious or ethnic reasons. I have read a lot of literature about how these issues can affect a student socially, academically or emotionally, but have never experienced it firsthand. I believe with experience, these standards will be further developed. 

References:

Foreman, P. (2005). Setting the scene: Teachers and inclusion. In P. Foreman (Ed.), Inclusion in action (2nd ed.) (pp. 2-36). Melbourne: Thomson. 

NSW Department of Education and Training (2003). Quality teaching in New South Wales public schools: A classroom practical guide. Sydney: Author.

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