Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chapter 7: Teaching for Understanding in Academically Diverse Classrooms

As a note, each chapter poses several questions. Please do not feel obligated to answer each question by number; rather, use them as a guide for you to respond to the reading and share your thinking about the ideas in the book.

  1. List and explain various ways in which the teacher's role differs in an understanding-oriented classroom vs. a coverage-oriented one.
  2. Illustrate with examples from your content area how a coverage-oriented lesson might proceed and how an-understanding-based lesson might proceed. Be sure to state the essential questions around which your understanding-oriented example is based and to show how the six facets of understanding might shape the lesson as well.
  3. The authors reject the idea of having students “climb Bloom's ladder” as a means of differentiation. How do you feel about their reasoning? Why?
  4. In what ways might a teacher use the WHERETO framework to support understanding for students with varied learning needs? In other words, how can WHERETO support differentiation?


Chelsea said...

A teacher in the understanding classroom has more components and responsibilities than in a coverage classroom. In an understanding classroom the teacher regularly assesses students’ understanding, mainly through formative assessments. The classroom is student-centered. Students regularly reflect on their performance and learning through self-assessments and set new goals/plans for their future learning. Student need drives the curriculum and flow of the lessons. An understanding classroom has a more organic feel to it than a coverage classroom. On the other hand, a teacher in a coverage classroom has a simpler job. She knows what she will teach, how she will teach it, and what assessment she will use to assign a grade to each student. The teacher typically will follow the pacing and sequence of the assigned text. Instruction is more teacher-centered. The teacher will follow the given timeline to stay on track for the following year’s teacher. The coverage classroom would appear to be more linear.
A math lesson in a coverage classroom would follow a daily routine similar to this: students follow the teacher’s instruction in the given text. They would watch the teacher “do” the math problem. Then the students and teacher would practice a similar problem together, walking through the algorithm step-by-step. Next, the students would practice a similar problem independently in class. At the end of the lesson the teacher would assign several of the same type problem for the students to practice at home that night. The next day the class would move to the next lesson. In an understanding classroom the lesson would flow differently, keeping in mind that at any time students become “stuck” or are not demonstrating understanding of the concept, the teacher will slow down, change directions, and ask guiding questions. At the beginning of class the teacher would review the concepts from the day or week before. He might ask for students to share their thinking, understanding, concerns, or questions at this time. Then the teacher could connect today’s lesson to previous knowledge and understanding of the students, so they have a spring board into the ideas of the day and begin to build a sense of confidence. The teacher might preview the lesson and expectations so students know what is expected of them and how they might go about solving a problem. After the teacher has a sense of confidence from the students, he would allow them to work through the lesson and problems collaboratively through small group discussions, teacher questioning, and independent problem solving. The teacher would probably also encourage disequilibrium, but not to the point of frustration and “shut down.” Toward the end of class the groups would share their thinking and strategies allowing for questions from their classmates. A final summary of ideas, strategies, and further questions for tomorrow or further lessons would wrap up the lesson. The teacher might assign a few problems to allow for independent practice and problem solving that evening to discuss the following day. An essential question to guide students might be: How is your strategy similar to another classmate’s? How is it different?
I agree with the authors’ points rejecting “climbing Bloom’s ladder.” Understanding does not come from knowing and executing skills. However, skills are essential in accuracy when applying concepts. Therefore, skills need to be taught in tandem with exploring the concepts of a discipline, but not necessary to master before understanding the concept. The WHERETO framework sets a teacher up for success in differentiation. When using this framework a teacher is able to provide her students with a variety of experiences for all students to learn from different opportunities and perspectives. Teachers are thinking ahead and are prepared when using WHERETO. When or if a teacher hits a road block, a child is not “getting it” or can not demonstrate understanding, she is able to pull out tools already thought of to assist a student or group of students.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the authors’ thoughts that skills are important and groundwork needs to be set in order to have critical thinking. I also find the idea of students “climbing Bloom’s ladder” flawed. However, I believe that all students should be asked and expected to critically think. For many years, while I understood the limitations of some special education students, I was frustrated with the idea that their tests were modified down to kill and drill concepts. These kids, as much if not more as all others, need the ability to critically think, analyze, interpret, and inference. The world will not care whether they know who Hammurabi was. Rather, the world will need their knowledge of how Hammurabi’s first code of laws influences life today. In most cases, they need the background knowledge of Hammurabi to know who he influenced life today, but the learning should not stop there. This focus has changed my teaching. My lessons focus on the essential learnings, but with a drive toward application. Why did it take me so long…