I recently began an alternative route to professional teaching licensure through Teacher Ready a program supported by the University of West Florida. There were several reasons I started this program. The first being that I am interested in learning more about Common Core standards and how teachers should operate, and design their classes within these standards. The second was to improve myself as an educator, to reflect on my teaching practices and incorporate new ideas into my pedagogy. Finally, the Teacher Ready program has the opportunity to further my education by transferring 12 credit hours to the University of West Florida’s Curriculum and Instruction M.Ed, which has a cognate in Instructional Technology. I have recently completed the second lesson, and thought it would be a good time to reflect, and synthesize what I have learned recently.
It is interesting to see the parallels presented in this Teacher Ready course to things I have been learning in courses for Instructional Design. Despite the fact that Teacher Ready is focusing on best practices for the elementary or secondary school classroom, there are important similarities that are represented in the lessons presented at Skillagents and Blendkit. Although there are important distinctions between how adults and children or adolescents learn there are comparable elements, specifically regarding learner engagement and the development of aligned learning objectives.
One of the first things that I learned in the Teacher Ready course, was the importance of the learners’ first interaction with the teacher and the course material. This was referred to as PRIME TIME, and is related to the notion of first impressions. It is not only the first day of school, but the first few minutes of class as well. If successfully prepared for, it presents the students with an instructor who is prepared, caring, calm and stable. It sets the tone for the course by clearly defining the expectations for all the participants of the course. Finally, it is rooted in the idea that the learning process is ongoing and collaborative, the learners are valuable and represent untapped potential that can be realized through the structured design of this learning environment. These ideas of worth and potential have been discussed in the Value Mindset of Skillagents. The idea of establishing clear expectations for learners in the blended learning environment were presented in Blendkit as well. These ideas are intimately related to the second lesson in Teacher Ready that focused on defining learning objectives.
The Teacher Ready course is dedicated to preparing teachers to enter the classroom in American or International schools. The second lesson in Teacher Ready focuses on defining learning objectives from the Common Core standards that many states have adopted. Learning objectives are essential to the learning process. They represent the necessary steps for learners to be successful not only in their educational pursuit but in the ownership of this process, that is the development of learning autonomy. Learning objectives need to be challenging to the students, clearly defined, and referenced throughout the course. Learning objectives are a communication tool. They express to the learners the goals of the course, describe the relevance of the practice activities within the course, and shape the feedback whether that be personal self-reflection, teacher created assessments, or responses from peers. One very interesting statistic related to the use of learning objectives as a communication tool is that merely stating the day or lesson’s objectives can increase student achievement by 27%, and by including a rubric for their learning to encourage self-reflection can increase that rate to 37%.
There is much more to say about both of these topics, and I am sure they will be referred to regularly throughout the Teacher Ready course. It is exciting to learn new things related to instruction from a different perspective, and I look forward to the following courses in Teacher Ready and how I can apply those lessons learned to my own instructional designs.