PSMT Standard Group #4: Effective Learning Environments

4. EFFECTIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Management and monitoring of time, relationships, students, and classrooms to enhance learning, including the ability to:

a. Engage students in meaningful learning experiences while maximizing the use of instructional time; In my Education 372: Teaching Reading in the Content Areas and Education 259: Inquiry and Reflection into the Pedagogy of Elementary Math and Science we explored maximizing instructional time by connecting a variety of subject matters to Reading, Math, and Science.  By making cross-curricular connections, students are able to see that the subjects do not exist in isolation.  Robin Ward’s Literature-Based Activities for Integrating Mathematics with Other Content Areas was a particularly helpful text for this.
b. Structure the classroom environment to promote positive peer interactions and positive self-esteem, to ensure that each student is a valued participant in an inclusive learning community; In my student teaching placement classroom, the students are arranged in four-person “teams” and are frequently encouraged to work within their teams, or with their “shoulder” or “eyeball” partner.  We also had an “ask three before me” rule, in which a child had to ask three of his or her classmates before asking a teacher for help.

Additionally, through positive verbal reinforcement students are reminded of what they have done well, and are seen as valued individuals in the classroom

c. Construct a learning environment and grading process where both teacher and students have high expectations and mutually understand what is expected of each other to foster optimal achievement of all students; On the first day of school, the students helped create classroom, hallway, and bathroom expectations charts, and these are posted in easily accessible locations around our room.

Before beginning any given assignments, explicit expectations are stated, and often students will be asked to show or tell me what I am expecting to see.

If a child is not following our classroom expectations, after a verbal warning a “refocus” paper is filled out.

d. Design and implement a classroom management plan that utilizes respectful disciplinary techniques to ensure a safe and orderly learning environment, (e.g., instructional procedures utilizing the concepts presented in the State Board of Education’s Positive Behavior Support Policy 2006), which is conducive to learning and takes into account diverse needs of individual students; The classroom, hallway, and bathroom expectations were created with the help of the students, so they were involved in the creation of the rules, giving the students ownership over them.  Click here to view the classroom expectation charts.

In the arrangement of students in teams, they can earn points for their teams. Points are given for being prepared, acting respectful, showing good learner skills during a transition etc.

e. Understand and uphold the legal and ethical responsibilities of teaching (e.g., federal and state laws and SBE policies pertaining to positive and effective learning environments, appropriate behavioral interventions, student retention, truancy, child abuse, safety, first aid, health, and communicable disease); With the help and guidance of my mentor teacher I was able to effectively handle behavior issues, communicate with parents and administration appropriately, and address issues of an ethical nature with professionalism and care.
f. Use a variety of teaching methodologies and techniques (e.g., lectures, demonstrations, group discussions, cooperative learning, small-group activities, and technology-enhanced lessons), and objectively assess the effectiveness of various instructional approaches and teacher actions for impact on student learning; Throughout my student teaching and previous field placement experiences, I used a number of teaching methods, including:

  • Teacher modeling
  • Group discussions
  • Read-alouds
  • Work with shoulder partner
  • Work with team
  • Independent work
  • Use of films
  • Use of manipulatives
  • Literacy-based activities

Click here to view my Social Studies Showcase Unit plan, in which I utilized a variety of teaching methodologies and techniques in the eight lessons I designed and taught.

g. Establish a learning environment which invites/welcomes collaborative teaching practices; While implementing my instruction during my student teaching I consistently sought the feedback and advice of my mentor teacher.  She often suggested a positive change I could make or with my invitation would be able to jump in and help make sure that each student was receiving the necessary attention for the instruction to be effective. I had the opportunity to plan and teach collaboratively with my mentor teacher. I also worked with the other second grade teacher to learn about science lesson planning.
h. Differentiate between assessment and evaluation procedures and use appropriately. In my education classes we explored the book Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance by Grant Wiggins. During student teaching, I discussed and implemented evaluations and assessments with my mentor teacher and monitored my students’ growth.

Click here to view my assessment plan within my Showcase Unit plan.  Additionally, within each lesson I have an evaluation statement to indicate how I know I have (or have not) met my objective.