Describe the group characteristics Essay

1. Observation and Description

a.                   Describe the group characteristics (e.g., number and types of students) of the observed teaching situation.

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There are around twenty heterosexual students in each writing class. Obviously, they come from multicultural origins, with some Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians. Although it is not specified, the students are probably in Grades 3 to 4. Based on their appearance, the students are of the same age, and they are not students with special abilities.

b.                  Describe the observed instructional delivery.

The teachers employ both traditional and modern types of instructional delivery. In the traditional type, the teacher acts as the source of information, and the main motivator. As observed in the first class, Miss Gaskill (teacher) sits in front of the students, and tells about the book to inspire students to write employing the same theme the book presents. This type of instructional delivery is teacher-centered as it gives priority to what the teacher thinks and feels. Students in this type participate by listening attentively, and communicating their thoughts when they are given the chance to do so. In the same way, Miss Gomez sits in front of her students to discuss the lesson. The students are called one by one to recite and share their views.

After the mini-lesson, the students go about their individual tasks. During these writing activities, the teachers employ student-centered instruction. In Miss Gaskill’s class, students do peer-review of others’ output. In Miss Gomez’s, the teacher roams around to check each of the students’ work. This way, the teacher is able to see each of the students’ progress, and know them personally. Through this, the students also get a chance to interact with the teacher, thus making it easier to raise individual concerns.

2. Analysis, Exploration, and Reasoning

a.       Describe the observed student–teacher interactions.

Since the mini-lesson employs traditional instructional delivery, student responses are very limited. The teacher manipulates the discussion and does most of the talking, sharing, and reflecting. In Miss Gaskill’s class, we see that students listen very carefully to her while she talks about the Roxaboxen. In Miss Gomez’s class, the students likewise listen attentively to the teacher. Comparing the two classes, the student-teacher interaction in Miss Gomez’s class is better because the teacher obviously expects the students to respond by asking questions from time to time. The teacher is able to hold their attention through questioning and straight recitation.

During writing activities, students become the center of instruction. In particular, Miss Gaskill involves students in evaluating their peers’ work. This technique allows students to feel their significance in the class, thus making them feel their worth as part of the group. In addition, it allows them to be more competent in writing as they see mistakes from others’ works. Moreover, it makes them more confident to express constructive criticisms of their peers.

b.      Analyze the tone of the observed student–teacher interactions as it relates to the teacher showing interest in students.

Based on the discussion, the teachers show interest in what students think but also guide them towards the right direction to achieve the goal of writing. Miss Gomez illustrates interest in her students by checking their work one by one, and commending their progress. Similarly, Miss Gaskill shows a friendly attitude towards the students, thus making them feel comfortable to express their views.

Showing interest in students is one factor to build trust and friendship. If such rapport exists, it will be easier for students to raise questions, clarify instructions, and express views. Aside from achieving good communication, this creates harmony between the two parties.

c.       Evaluate the level of student engagement with the observed lesson.

Students generally look enthusiastic in doing their tasks. Although one student slouches during the activity, this gesture is only natural especially for kids their age. As seen in the video, students concentrate well on their writing activity. They work individually, and everyone seems to be fully absorbed by the task.

Also, in Miss Gomez’s class, the students appear concerned in their output. Particularly, the boy in the video seems very serious while listening to the teacher’s comment. This shows the student’s interest to learn and improve his skills.

d.      Describe how the observed teacher sets expectations for academic performance.

The teachers clearly set expectations from students. They tell the students what should be achieved during the writing activity. Miss Gomez shows this clearly by laying down three expectations. Through this method, the students are able to focus on the expected outcomes, thus making it easier for them to accomplish their tasks.

Telling students what the teacher expects to see in their work is a good way to attain focus. It serves as a guide to inform students of the target. If students know exactly what to accomplish, they will find tasks easy, thus allowing them more time to review and perfect their work.

3. Connections to Other Effective Teaching Practices

a.       Connect an instructional purpose to the observed teacher’s interactions with students.

In the first example, Miss Gaskill makes it a point to sound friendly during the mini-lesson. This helps achieve her purpose of making the students reflect on their personal experiences. The tone of her voice invites students to reminisce, imagine, and create images of a place they visited. Her friendly manner also allows students to relate with the story she shares.

In the second class, Miss Gomez gives emphasis on making students realize the meaning and relevance of elaboration. She does this by sounding firm and focused, and throwing questions at students to make them think critically. She also uses facial expression (eye-contact) and hand gestures (numbering) in order to sustain students’ interest. Likewise, she guides students to arrive at correct responses by giving follow-up questions.

4. Evaluation

a.       Assess the effectiveness of the observed teaching style.

Based on students’ behavior, the teachers employ effective teaching style during the mini-lesson. In this part, students behave well and participate averagely. Students’ behavior thus demonstrates good classroom management. Moreover, individual task seems to work well for students of multicultural origins. The sharing done at post-writing also proves effective as it allows students to know more of their ability, and share views with their classmates.

Student-centered instruction done during evaluation is an effective means of making students express their ideas and develop openness. Through peer-review done in Miss Gaskill’s class, students become aware of their writing progress. It also provides venue for collaboration and giving positive feedback. Similarly, Miss Gomez’s style of commending students’ ability boosts students’ morale, and further develops their interest in writing.

b.      Evaluate how the observed teacher’s demonstrated interest in students positively impacted student learning.

Students become more interested when teachers take interest in them. In particular, Miss Gaskill shows interest in her students by expressing her eagerness to know about their experience of a special place they visited. Similarly, Miss Gomez also relies on students’ memoir for their writing activity. Through relying on students’ own experiences and background, the teachers make students feel accepted and appreciated. The teachers are successful at making students feel that their thoughts and experiences matter, more than anything else. This is a particular characteristic of a student-centered instruction, where students become the center of attention, their ideas are held most important so activities revolve around them.

This kind of approach certainly receives a positive response from students. As observed, they become more motivated to do write their task, and they are able to create long paragraphs narrating their experiences in a creative way. This also lets the students value their past, especially the times shared with their family. In one of the students’ work, Miss Gomez succeeds in making the students value their parents’ efforts. As such, the student-centered approach does not only impact learning, but provides area for valuing, which in turn improves student motivation.

In addition, Miss Gomez’s effort of going from one student to another demonstrates her interest in their progress. This positively impacts student learning because through this, students exert effort to come up with what they can present the teacher. The one-on-one consultation makes students realize their mistakes, and provides them ideas on how to improve their work.

c. Evaluate how the observed teacher’s expectations influenced student performance.

Obviously, the two teachers have high expectations of their students. In the first example, Miss Gaskill expects her students to relate with the author’s experience. Although students cannot exactly relate with this, they are led to relate individual experience based on their memory. Similarly, the activity expects students to form a mental picture of the place they have in mind. Thus, this allows students to be creative in writing by using elaborative and highly descriptive words. Consequently, this further develops their vocabulary and writing skills.

c.       Explain the thinking process you went through to complete this evaluation.

The first thing that I needed to do to complete this evaluation is to identify details in the video that apply to the questions to be answered. Next, I tried to comprehend the emphasis in each question, in order to fulfill its requirement. Then, I analyzed whether the observed details provide answer to question posted. After finding out the answer, I tried to elaborate on my reply by relating the observed class experience to some theories learned in the classroom. After which, I evaluated whether my responses are appropriate.

5. Recommendations

Describe an alternate approach the observed teacher could have used to set high expectations for student academic performance.

The teacher could improve expectations for better student performance by maximizing student-centered instruction. This means maximizing student participation in every activity, such as the pre-writing or the mini-lesson, the writing, and post-writing. During the pre-writing, Miss Gaskill could have grouped the students and have a leader to tell the story of Roxaboxen. In order to facilitate discussion and ensure meeting of targets, the students should be given guide questions in their discussion of the story. This way, student interaction will be richer, and experiences will be based on their level. Specifically, there seems to be a gap in student participation when the teacher tells her own experience of visiting Arizona, possibly because the students can hardly relate to it. However, in student-student interaction, they are free to mention any place they could think of as long as it relates to the theme of the story. This way, the learning experience could be more fun and students will be more motivated.

Moreover, maximizing student-centered instruction in Miss Gomez’s class, the teacher should have grouped the students into pairs. This works well with both students commenting on each other’s work on which part could be elaborated. It will be more effective to have someone to share your ideas with, and find help in revision. This way, the students do not only learn elaboration but critiquing. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

B. Write an essay (suggested length of 2–3 pages) to explain how teacher expectations influence student academic performance. In this essay you must:

Student Level: Grade 6

Subject: Reading a Short Story

Expectations: Students in this grade level and subject should be able to:

1.      Identify main elements in the story, such as characters, setting, plot and theme

2.      Relate with the experience of the main characters through sharing their own experience during group activity

3.      Debate on major arguments presented in the story, particularly those that present views not aligned with their own views and background

4.      Support argument by citing reasons based on their own reflections of society

5.      Evaluate the significance of the story in the society they live in

The role of the teacher in influencing better student performance is of utmost significance. Teachers serve as the main motivators to encourage students to study, pay attention to class discussions, and share views with others. Their contribution to student learning is infinite, it starts from the beginning till the end of each session. As major participants to student learning, teachers have expectations of students, according to which they design lessons and activities. As Rosenthal (Bamburg, 1994) believes, these expectations should be high enough in order to effect a good impact on student achievement.

Rosenthal and Jacobson established the Pygmalion effect which claims that teacher expectations play a significant role in determining student achievement (Rehm, 1999). Rosenthal claims that having low expectations could lead a teacher to expect less or underestimate students’ capability. In such case, teachers who underestimate their students end up giving simple lessons and exercises, thus limiting what students can achieve.

            In the expectations set above for Grade 6 pupils of a Reading class, students are expected to readily identify elements of a short story such as the characters, setting, plot, and theme. This expectation is related to the cognitive aspect of the students as it allows them to think on the literal level. While the first three elements are very easy for the students’ level, identifying the theme which is a universal idea or experience presented in the text is quite challenging for some. Nevertheless, the students should be able to identify the theme in the story through analyzing it carefully during group or class discussion. The remaining four expectations go beyond the literal level, and aim for a more valuable reading experience.

            As one may notice, the expectations set are generally geared towards student-centered instruction. In this kind of instruction, group dynamics work best to make students develop/improve specific skills. In particular, the second expectation which is relating one’s experience with that of the main character’s suggests discussion among students. This is important to find out the depth of students’ understanding of the theme and characterization. By relating one’s experience, students also get to know each other better, thus making room for better camaraderie in the classroom. Therefore, this expectation is not limited only to the cognitive aspect, but to the affective aspect as well.

            The next expectation which is to debate on major arguments presented in the story challenges students’ diversity and differences in views. This is specifically interesting in a multicultural class. The aim is neither to appraise one culture nor to discourage another. The objective is for students to see different viewpoints and perspectives. Importantly, the teacher should provide rules at the start of the activity and process views to ensure adherence to the main objective.

            The fourth expectation which is to “support argument by citing reasons based on their own reflections of society,” is a more challenging teacher expectation. As Grade 6 pupils, they are expected to be aware of what is happening in the society. This would challenge their knowledge of current events or even of history, and their ability to provide reasons in context. Training students to think critically in this way would make better managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

            The last expectation which is to “evaluate the significance of the story …” is another important skill every student should develop. Evaluation skills are important as it combines analysis, and critical thinking, and valuing. By evaluating the significance of the story in the society, students will be able to differentiate between a good and a bad material. As students of reading, they should be careful in what they read, and not just believe and accept everything the media offers. By training them to evaluate pieces of literature, they would develop love for truth, and always try to achieve such in everything they accomplish.

References

Bamburg, Jerry D. (1994). Raising expectations to improve student learning. Retrieved 30 December 2008, from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/educatrs/leadrshp/le0bam.htm

Rehm, James. (2008). Pygmalion in the classroom. Retrieved 31 December 2008, from   http://www.kidsource.com/education/pygmalion.html