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Transcript of Teaching Portfolio
THE BEGINNING OF MY JOURNEY
I decided that I wanted to be a teacher at the age of seven. A primary school teacher and a doctor in my spare time! I was going to help anyone and everyone. For a child who had a very rough time in school, I am surprised that I wanted to go back. But even then I knew, at least subconsciously, that more could be done for the children of our nation. No child should have to go through six years of primary school without a single friend. No student should feel more anxious about lunch-time than assessment-time. No child should be threatened to be held back when they were only “under-achieving” because their teacher was not challenging them enough.
As I sit here reflecting on my past I am surprised at the anger, frustration, shame and misery that I still feel about my primary school experiences. It is astounding the lasting impact that a school, a class, or a teacher can have on an individual. This is why I have made it my life goal to become a teacher; to help children grow into confident, kind and well-rounded human-beings. To do this, I look back into my past and aspire to be like those teachers who you knew cared, while reminding myself of the harm that teachers can have on a child’s life, not just through negative action but inaction as well.
Because my initial aspirations to become a teacher stemmed from my desire for future generations to have a more positive schooling experience than I did, it could be argued (yes, I am arguing with myself) that I would become a primarily humanist teacher. While I do have a strong appreciation of the needs of each individual student and the importance of building a strong relationship with them (something that my AT noticed I did very well on my first practicum), I also appreciate the need for balance.
MOTIVATION AND LEARNING
It is crucial that my future students feel motivated to learn. However, it is a 'complex task' (Gibbs, 2006, p. 52) to motivate all your students, all of the time as, naturally, students will be more motivated to complete different tasks depending on the individual learning needs and interests.
Dealing with procrastination and its consequences (such as the case study of James presented by Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner and Krause (2013, pp. 269-270), is undoubtedly one of the toughest challenges of any student; particularly those undertaking any form of independent study, such as a tertiary qualification. I believe that many students inability to deal with procrastination or lack of motivation stems from an upbringing where extrinsic motivation (where the emphasis is on gaining a reward or avoiding a punishment) has been overused.
It is essential that our children learn the benefits of being intrinsically motivated from a young age, so that they can carry those habits into their adult life.
Inside this portfolio you will find my personal thoughts, interpretations and opinions of various theories of learning and teaching. This portfolio will take you on a journey through my ideals and aspirations as a beginning teacher. You will learn what popular theories I align my teaching style with, what strategies I plan to implement to motivate and manage my students, and you will see how I intend to make my future classrooms both bicultural and multicultural in nature.
I trust that you will enjoy the journey.
(16 March 2014)
"Becoming a teacher is a journey - a journey that always begins with ourselves" (Gibbs, 2006, p. 2).
THE TEACHER I ASPIRE TO BE
My goal is to create a classroom culture that is conducive to both academic and social growth. I intend to achieve this by:
- forming strong relationships with my students.
- having high expectations of both myself and my students.
- promoting goal-setting.
- encouraging my students to become intrinsically motivated.
- doing my best to make my curriculum interesting and engaging for my
- using rewards and punishments where appropriate.
- allowing my students to learn off each other not just me as a teacher.
- looking out for the needs of the whole student.
- having open communication with parents and whānau.
- being sensitive to the bicultural and multicultural needs of my classroom.
- ensuring that I am continually up-to-date with educational research.
It is a long list, and it isn’t even exhaustive! I appreciate that I, along with all other teachers, have a hard job to fulfil. But it is, undoubtedly, so worth it.
Playing, teaching and conducting music has taught me a lot about high expectations, intrinsic motivation and all the lessons that go with being part of a team – lessons which have helped to develop me own philosophies of teaching.
Berkley Normal Middle School, Room 12 having their lunch.
My first practicum taught me a lot about having a balanced classroom; where group learning, individual effort and genuine student-teacher relationships were emphasized but also where bad behaviour and laziness were not tolerated.
In alignment with behaviourist theory I believe that positive and negative reinforcement are important and useful when managing behaviour and student motivation (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner & Krause, 2013). What is crucial, however, is how that reinforcement is given. For me personally, a bit of praise goes a long way, so it is natural that I would use it as a form of positive reinforcement for my students. Nevertheless, as a teacher I must careful how and when I praise a student. I believe it is crucial that teachers praise effort rather than a result, as by positively reinforcing effort students are encouraged to continue to try harder, rather than settle for a specified outcome.
While it might seem a bit strange to say so, riding horses has actually taught me the most about positive and negative reinforcement. As riders we were taught the importance of saying both yes and no to our horses so that they might realize exactly what it was we were asking of them.
Reward systems are popularly used in classrooms as it is, arguably, the easiest way to manage behaviour (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner & Krause, 2013). Personally, I am not a large fan of reward systems, especially when the reward itself does not encourage positive habits. For example, a classroom I have been in rewards well-behaved students with time on an iPad. Children these days appear to be spending plenty enough time on technology so I do not feel that iPad time is a suitable reward.
A reward system that I would like to try is a whole class scoreboard, an aspect of Whole Brain Teaching (Biffle, 2013). When the whole class is behaving well then a point goes on the smiley side of the scoreboard. If the class is not listening or following instructions so well then a point goes on the sad face side. If there are more points on the smiley side at the end of the lesson/block then the class gets a reward, such as game time for the last few minutes, get to go to recess a minute early etc. By using a whole class reward system no student can be felt to be being picked on or that the teacher is playing favourites with other students. Instead, the class is encouraged to work as a team for a common goal (to get the reward).
The idea with the scoreboard is to keep the happy and sad scores within around three points of each other, so that students are continually motivated to behave and respond to the teachers instructions positively.
Biffle, C. (2013). Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids (And the Rest of Your Class Too!). US: Whole Brain Teaching LLC.
Campbell, S. (2014, March 27). TEPS762-14A Tutorial: Classroom Management [powerpoint slides]. Hamilton, New Zealand:
University of Waikato.
Carlyton, T. (2014, March 24). TEPS762-14A, Lecture: Management & Learning [powerpoint slides]. Hamilton, New Zealand:
University of Waikato.
Duchesne, S., McMaugh, A., Bochner, S., & Krause, K.-L. (2013). Educational Psychology for Learning and Teaching, 4th
edition. Melbourne: Cengage Learning.
Fraser, D. (2012). Developing Classroom Culture: Creating a Climate for Learning. In D. Fraser, & C. McGee, The Professional
Practice of Teaching (pp. 1-20). Melbourne: Cengage.
Gibbs, C. (2006). To be a Teacher: Journey Towards Authenticity. Auckland: Pearson.
McGee, C. (2012). Classroom Interaction and Learning. In D. Fraser, & C. McGee, The Professional Practice of Teaching, 4th
edition (pp. 97-117). Melbourne: Cengage.
Ministry of Education. (2013). Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success, 2013-2017. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learn Media.
Ministry of Education. (2011). Tataiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Maori Learners. Wellington: Ministry
Rogers, B. (2011). Classroom Behaviour: A Practical Guide to Effective Teaching, Behaviour Management and Colleague
Support, 3rd edition. London: Sage.
While teaching in the English department at the University of Waikato, co-tutor Kim and I aimed to be facilitators of learning.
There are many aspects of humanist theory which I believe are critical in developing a classroom environment which is conducive to positive learning and growth. Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner & Krause, 2013) provides a starting point for understanding how teachers can ensure that their students will have the most successful day at school. A humanist teacher would ensure that their students have had adequate food and water, are well-dressed and feel safe in their school and classroom. From there, humanist teachers would work with their students towards self-actualisation; "the achievement of one's full potential" (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner & Krause, 2013, p. 238).
What is also crucial to humanist learning theory is that teachers establish genuine relationships with their students. This aspect of humanist theory is particularly relevant to my current teaching philosophy.
I believe that I should not be afraid to be who I am as a person, in the classroom: that ‘who teachers are as people’ (Gibbs, 2006, p. 13) is important. It is okay to make a fool of yourself, to have fun alongside your students, to show them who you really are, and to connect with them through the similarities and common interests that you have, while at the same time, accepting them for who they are and believing that they can achieve, no matter what the odds.
Above is an image of a exam-workshop that Kim and I organised, where the students could come and share their food and their ideas. We were there to answer any questions if necessary, but we left it up to the students to decide what they needed to study and which texts they wanted to discuss with their peers.
My AT at Berkley was a big believer in teachers being facilitators so that students could learn themselves, rather than being told everything they needed to know by the teacher.
These images are from a lesson that I taught about connection. The images were scattered around the room and the students had to wander around analysing the images before talking in small groups about what they all meant and what a common theme might be. As a teacher I did not tell them we were studying connection, they were left to figure it out for themselves. Which they did, quite successfully, by being able to discuss their ideas as a group and then as a class.
Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner & Krause, 2013, p. 240).
The tutors and lecturers of the English department were never afraid to dress up and make fools of ourselves for the benefit of our students and their learning.
Having a class full of children who are all intrinsically motivated is a teacher's dream. However, 100% motivation, 100% of the time, is an unrealistic expectation. What is realistic, nevertheless, is that teachers do have the capability of is increasing their students self-efficacy, and their motivation to learn (Gibbs, 2006).
The first step to encouraging motivation is for teachers to have high expectations of their students, as such expectations challenge students and give them something to strive for. I noted earlier in this portfolio that encouraging goal-setting is something which I believe to be thoroughly important within a classroom context. It is important because it is one way in which teachers can demonstrate the high expectations that they hold for their students and help to establish and develop intrinsic motivation. As well as having my own goals for my students I also want them to set high personal goals for themselves and then strive to achieve them. By setting their own goals, students are likely to put more effort into completing that goal and gaining the reward that goes with it (even if that is simply the satisfaction of achievement). Consequently, they will be more attentive to the task, will put more energy and effort into the task, and will generally be more motivated towards their learning (Gibbs, 2006).
The other crucial ingredient necessary to create intrinsic motivation is student engagement. To me, encouraging engagement in students is closely linked to the social-constructivist theory as students need to be active participants in their learning if they are going to be thoroughly engaged within it. No, it is not crucial for students to play a large part in the direction of the lesson for them to be engaged, but it does help. I believe that student ideas and questions can be incredibly useful tools for encouraging discussions and for leading our learning off in certain directions, and, most of all, for engaging and motivating students with their own learning.
MANAGEMENT FOR LEARNING
An effective and cohesive classroom – as demonstrated by the constructivist and humanist theories – is reliant upon genuine and positive teacher-student relationships. The management of students, therefore, is impacted by the interactions and relationship held between a student and their teacher as the difference between being ‘unlikeable’ or ‘caring’ has a large impact on the behaviour of our students (Rogers, 2011, pp. 33-34).
Respect also plays a large part in the attitudes and willingness of our students. I believe it is crucial that we respect our students and are respected in turn; we must accept their faults and hope that they accept ours too. Alongside respect is responsibility. How much choice will we give our students in making decisions within the classroom? I believe that students are often more engaged and respectful to the teacher when they have had a fair say in how the classroom is run, both in terms of management and learning content. However, as Rogers argues, such “freedom” of choice is ‘better given later in Term One’ (Rogers, 2011, p. 51). I believe that behaviourist theories and more firm teacher-control are likely to be needed when establishing a new classroom and new management systems.
While seating plans might not give any of the responsibility to the students I think it is important that a constructivist approach is taken when creating classroom rules so that students can be provided with the opportunity of helping to establish (and maintain) such rules; they are also much more likely to respect and follow rules that they have helped to write, rather than something that has been forced upon them by a teacher. It is important when establishing a classroom treaty or agreement that the teacher focuses on the process not just the outcome, as it is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness about behaviour, and what a classroom needs to be a successful place for learning (Rogers, 2011). When establishing classroom rules I also think it is important to make sure that the rules focus on positive rather than negative behaviour. For example, “we will be respectful to whoever is talking” rather than, “we will not talk when others are talking”. As I mentioned earlier in this portfolio, I believe that reinforcement, both positive and negative, is a useful tool for managing behaviour in the classroom. “We will” statements can help teachers to focus on both positive and negative reinforcement by praising students who are being respectful listeners or reminding those students who need to work on being a better audience. By including my students in the establishment of our class agreements, and by using both forms of reinforcement to guide them on the right path to following those agreements, I hope to be able to successfully manage my classrooms behaviour.
CULTURE AND LEARNING
As well as establishing classroom rules and routines in the first week of the year, it is also crucial to start establishing a positive classroom climate. Part of establishing such a climate is being respectful to students and all their diverse cultures, beliefs and needs. First off, as teachers we must ensure that we get students names right, whether that might be avoiding shortening their name, or pronouncing Māori and other foreign names correctly (Fraser, 2012). Next, a teacher must learn about their students’ cultures (Fraser, 2012). In this respect, teachers must put on their humanist hat and establish positive relationships with the students so that they teacher can learn from them as well, and incorporate the students’ cultures and knowledge into the learning of the whole class. I really like the idea of using students’ home countries or cultures as inspiration or foundations for a social studies unit of work. I also really like the idea of displaying the flag from each of the countries which are represented within the class, so that everyone feels equally welcome. Likewise, I think it is important to use different languages whenever possible (such as when greeting in the morning, or when doing the roll) so that diversity in the classroom can be acknowledged and celebrated.
A BICULTURAL CLASSROOM
In Aotearoa New Zealand we have a particular responsibility to the Māori people and culture. I am very fortunate to have been exposed to partial immersion on a daily basis as part of Te Puawaitanga, whānau form class at Morrinsville College. Te Puawaitanga provided so many fantastic opportunities for me which I value even more now that I know how useful they will be for me as a teacher in New Zealand classrooms. One example is that we started every morning with a karakia; a tradition that I would like to carry forward into my own classrooms.
Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners (MoE, 2011), and Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success, 2013-2017 (MoE, 2013), are two documents published by the Ministry of Education which are designed to support New Zealand teachers. I plan on familiarising myself as much as possible with these documents and the principles that they express so that I can be the best teacher of Māori learners that I can be.
I believe that every child is capable of success, whether they are European, Māori, Asian, African or other, whether they speak English as a first language, second language, or are only learning it now. Therefore, I will make sure that my classroom is culturally open, supportive, diverse and successful, because every child deserves the best start in life that they can possibly get. I only wish that I will be able to live up to these expectations that I place upon myself.
Is anything more significant in creating 'confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners' (MoE, 2007) than motivation?
Of course, extrinsic motivation still has its place. I used a form of extrinsic motivation on myself while completing my MA by covering my workbook in stickers and using anything colourful where ever I could.
Students 'natural feelings of curiosity, excitement, confidence, and satisfaction' (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner & Krause, 2013) all contribute to the establishment and development of intrinsic motivation.
'One of the most challenging situations that teachers face is the paradoxical loss of engagement among otherwise motivated students' (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner & Krause, 2013, p. 287).
Room 12 "Wonderwall" where students post their own questions about their Unit of Inquiry which the teacher then uses to set homework or as inspiration for his own lesson plans. Constructivist theory 'stresses the importance of [using] the learner's prior learning' and own interests so that students do not get bored (Carylton, 2014).
'Motivation that is provoked by internal circumstances (such as personal interest, satisfaction, enjoyment, curiosity)' (Gibbs, 2006, p. 53).
'Students who have set clear goals usually demonstrate improved performance' (Gibbs, 2006, p. 65)
'We teach each other' (Rogers, 2011, p. 7).
I would like to try a class seating plan where all of the desks are arranged in pairs and small groups so that students always know who they are working with when asked to discuss/work in pairs or groups. Those small groups can also be tailored to optimize the teaching and learning of the class.
I am a huge believer in the key principles of constructivist theory: that learners are active participants in their learning; learners are self-regulated; that social interaction is key to effective learning; and that students should be able to make sense of information for themselves (Duchesne & others, 2013). I believe in ‘the classroom as a community of learners’ (McGee, 2012).
I believe that teachers should be active facilitators who provide opportunities for their students to learn as individuals, in pairs, in groups and as a whole class. By facilitating and encouraging learning, teachers are more likely to promote "life-long learning" (MoE, 2007); the result being students who value learning itself, rather than simply the need to pass (Gibbs, 2006).
To encourage such an attitude to learning I intend to create a classroom culture which is socially strong and positive. Students will be given the opportunity to work in pairs or groups, and to discuss conceptual topics as a whole class. Students will also be given the task of working out for themselves what learning is occurring during a lesson, as exemplified by the lessons I taught on my first practicum. For this type of learning to work it is crucial that students feel safe enough (with their peers and with their teacher) to take risks and share their ideas through "meaningful interactions" (Gibbs, 2006, p. 15).
I believe that seating plans at the beginning of the year can be a useful management tool for keeping the classroom organised, learning students’ names quickly and ensuring that no one is left out.
I think a class seating plan can be a useful and effective management tool, when done correctly. One thing that always bugs me is when a teacher asks their students to work in pairs, but does not manage the instruction well, so that the students are left wandering who they are supposed to be working with, with the same students missing out every time. I think that a seating plan which groups the students into pairs and small groups would help with this issue. I also believe that the space should be arranged so that all students can see the whiteboard and can access resources easily.
The dance lesson we recently took at Knighton normal school was a great opportunity to have some fun with the students and start building our relationships with them.
My AT on our first practicum suggested that I needed to work on being more firm with the students, as it is easier to get softer later on, than the other way around.
It is inevitable that as a teacher I will have a class which tests me as a teacher and as a human being. What is important is knowing how I can manage times like those, and how I can manage a class so that days like that don't happen as frequently.
Images sourced from Campbell (2014).
Studying Japanese at high school and traveling to Japan in 5th form really opened my eyes to differences between cultures and how that might effect a classroom setting.
My host family and I, 2006.
'The diversity of the student population in our schools ... means that teachers need to be aware of teaching in culturally relevant ways' Gibbs, 2006, p. 8).
'The curriculum acknowledges the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. All students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (MoE, 2007, p. 9).
In 2005 I competed at the regional Nga Manu Korero speech competition. Needless to say but i was the whitest "Māori" there, but I absolutely loved the experience of speaking about Māori issues with other Māori (though my solo rendition of Ka Mate in the impromptu section of the competition was a tad embarrassing.
Even something as simple as a school sports field clearly demonstrated to me the differences between countries and the way that different people live their lives.