These differences among the three student groups linked directly to their current classroom and course preparation, ranging from the beginning level to the more experienced.
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The first students introduced to the pre- lesson reflective questions had, for the most part, just entered into their methodological courses. They had had minimal exposure to and were only beginners in developing an understanding of the important components in lesson preparation.
When the small groups reported summaries of their conversations with the entire class, the students discussed how they felt it would be much easier constructing lesson plans if they took time to assess who the lesson was actually being created for prior to its implementation. There was a misunderstanding and incorrect perception of what could and could not be done in a field experience among the students. The next step in sharing the pre-lesson reflective questions with these beginning education students was to clarify the dynamics and meaning of field experiences.
With this additional dialogue about the meaning of being an active observer in their classrooms, the first group of students was eager to utilize the prelesson reflective questions in preparing lessons for use in their field experience contexts. The students were informed that detailed follow-up discussions would be held on campus for feedback about using the reflective questions. Students taking methodology courses in their senior year before their student teaching experience composed the second group introduced to the pre-reflective lesson questions.
These students are several semesters beyond the first group discussed above and typically bring a deeper understanding of the role lesson planning carries in a learning environment to their undergraduate classes. Immediately upon introducing these students to the questions, the students visibly stiffened as if they had been handed some enormous weight or edict concerning their own personal philosophies of teaching.
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Additional inquiring into why they had had such strong adverse reactions to the pre-lesson reflective questions clarified for the instructor that the students were currently feeling overwhelmed with the amount of course work they were already being required to generate for their university instructors. An immediate discussion of how the pre-lesson reflective questions could be blended into their everyday observation and interaction with classroom children seemed to help the pre-service educators to feel much more comfortable moving forward with using this new tool within their field experiences.
These students were definitely focused more on the products required with their education courses than on the actual process of knowing your students better in order to create the best practice lesson plans. The final introduction of the reflective process occurred with students enrolled in the third group of student teaching internships.
The introduction again began with a sharing of the theoretical basis for implementing such a tool into their classrooms, followed by conversations around the actual reflection questions. The student teachers initially responded with raised eyebrows and higher stress levels due to their alarm at assuming they were being given an additional component to include in their professional portfolios for student teaching. Not only were these student teachers concerned about doing additional tasks, but they also questioned how they would be able to find time in their already busy schedules to justify spending more of their day jotting down information about the children with whom they were working.
After lengthy discussions and explanations about how to use the reflective questions, the student teachers became excited about having a tool that empowered them to design better lesson plans that focused on classroom children becoming fully engaged in the learning process.
During the in-class discussion, the student teachers in the third group openly asked about the reflective questions and received instructor clarification about inquiry details, and then were able to understand the purpose and goal of using the pre-lesson reflections. Following the in-class discussion, the student teachers were gathered into small groups to begin creating a lesson plan for possible use in their student teaching classrooms. During the small group exercises, the student teachers began making connections between pre- lesson reflections and knowing more about themselves, the students, and the learning environment.
They shared their insights with the instructor and the rest of the class. Given their in-class responses to the small group activity, the student teachers of group three understood that, by using the pre-lesson reflective questions, they would be able to improve their ability to make appropriate assessment and remediation decisions.
All three groups of undergraduate students were given approximately one month to apply the pre-lesson reflective questions into their various learning environments. At the end of one month of using this form of lesson preparation, all three student groups provided the investigators with their feedback about the pre-lesson questions during an in-class discussion.
The students of group one and two were asked to work in small groups of two or three in order to respond to the pre-lesson reflection questions. Each set of students in both of these groups were able to encourage one another, assist in clarifying responses and look more closely at the educational placements for their field experiences.
Their collected written responses to the pre-lesson questions were gathered at the end of the class session. This method was selected in order to provide guidance to the undergraduate students in each group, their peers, and the instructor. The third group of students, engaged in their student teaching experience, was approached in a slightly different manner since there was less direct interaction with each of them. For this last set of students, an explanatory letter about the purpose and use of the pre-lesson questions was sent to each participant.
In the correspondence, the student teachers were notified that the questions were to be embedded within their planning process and that written copies were to be turned in to their university supervisor. Analysis and Findings The analysis of the student feedback took place through a series of weekly discussions between the investigators and the students which extended beyond the week course semester. After initial readings of the student feedback and reflections, the student data were analyzed through coding where two independent researchers looked for common themes throughout the discussions and reflective meetings.
The two researchers examined the data as a means for validating the student feedback. The analytical tool of coding themes examined student responses, investigator reflections, and discussions with students held on campus about comparing and examining their lessons prepared prior to and then following the use of the reflective questions. The observable increase was measured through the theme of improved course grades assigned to the students at the completion of their assigned courses as mentioned previously.
The verbal responses and feedback from all three student groups in the extended campus discussions also showed a heightened understanding of appropriate tools and methods to use in their field placements. The majority of the undergraduate students connected with their field experience students and the different instruction required to fit the unique needs, attitudes, and diversity of the classrooms. The students in the three undergraduate groups were able to successfully integrate reflection, tools, methodology and meeting student needs through the use of the pre-lesson reflective questions.
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The investigators observed the student improvements in their ability to reflect and prepare lessons which increased in detail and planning from the lesson plans submitted at the beginning of the semester compared to the lesson plans completed at the end of the course. All three of the student groups introduced to the pre-lesson reflective questions had in praxis shed their initial response and concentration on being product oriented to now having a focus on the process of using best practices in the classroom.
In each of the three student groups, students verbalized how the reflective tool assisted them in keeping the whole story or the goal of field and student teaching experiences in mind. The students stated they felt more competent in creating lessons and other materials because they had been given a tool which enabled them to move beyond their unending daily list of tasks and assisted them in focusing on being present and available to the children they were actually teaching.
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The first group of students who initially saw the questions as one more task to be completed eventually indicated that they felt much more confident about moving beyond simply being passive observers in their classrooms. I can see a much deeper personal connection with the children. It is so much easier to prepare a lesson plan when you know what each of the student needs to be successful. The second and third groups of undergraduate students commented that when using the reflective tool, they found they were able to design better materials management plans for their lessons because they felt they knew their classrooms more thoroughly.
It asks:. A student from the second group commented on their response sheets collected at the end of their small group work:. One of the student teachers in group three stated in their feedback about using the pre- lesson questions:. With an increase in student awareness of their field and student teaching classrooms, there also seemed to be an improvement in the class assignments and lesson plans required for the university courses. Specific improvements in the lesson plans were made follow the series of oncampus feedback discussions between the investigators and the pre-service students.
From the student comments and shared educational experiences, lesson improvements included a number of items such as well thought out materials management plans, clarification in contextual factors, more attention to components of diversity and developmental levels, and greater connections between lesson objectives, standards, and assessment tools. It also seemed that the students who used the reflective questions also became better at reflecting on their work in the schools because they understood the particulars for which they were observing and responding to in their portfolio materials.
These undergraduate students had a higher level of understanding for using educational tools in the classroom. The use of the pre-lesson reflective questions both strengthened and challenged the investigators to know education students as well.
As with all three of the student groups, the instructor had increased her observational skills and abilities to know the students in the classroom. For example, in each step of initially creating this reflective tool, the investigators took time to answer each of the questions for their own methodology classes. Phyllis S. Bendell, Managing Editor. Volume Issue 1 Winter p. After thoroughly reflecting on each of the classes and coming to know the students better, the investigators also experienced a newly discovered confidence in their teaching strategies just as each of the three groups had in their field and student teaching experiences.
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These new insights provided a framework for how to better design educational courses and exercises that would have meaning and purpose for all involved. Personal Reflection from the University Instructor Using the questions myself and participating in implementing this tool with three of my classes helped me as well to see what areas of improvement I had as an instructor.
I am much more sensitive now to keeping my classroom focused on the learning process and creating high quality course materials. And as I had suspected in the first place, when I took the time to know my students better, I saw relational improvements among and with my students as well. Osterman believes reflective practice is critical in meaning making and understanding of the learning experience. The communal dynamics increased both in and out of my classes.