1.Discuss the reasons for selecting the teaching methods used.
In the micro teach session delivered to my peers at college as part of an Assessment, I chose to use the following teaching methods: * Initial assessment * Brainstorming * Group work * Differentiation * Constructivist teaching.
Science is a practical subject that requires an academic approach. The methods used are to promote active learning strategies that engage the student.
As I already teach at KS4, I assumed that this particular group would already be at the level of teaching and learning in my class, although I did consider initial assessment methods in my planning. I set out the learning objectives and learning outcomes so that each student could understand and engage with what is expected in the duration of the lesson. This enables me to recognise when my students are focusing and understanding, at the start of the lesson. For example, I opened the lesson with, ”In this lesson we are going to explore the circulatory system in general”: I then went on to explain that we would be focussing on the heart. This gave the students time to reflect on the circulatory system in general and relate it to the main focus of the heart. As explained by Pollard this process helps to get pupils’ attention, and can help to motivate listeners. Pollard describes this as ‘investigating expositions, which create an effective teaching session both to stimulate and engage the pupil’s interest” (Pollard 2009, p. 361).
Brainstorming in groups of mixed students gave me an insight as to the varied abilities of my students, as well as allowing them to share their knowledge. I did this by giving them a blank A4 sheet of paper and some pens and asked” What do you know about the heart?” This then supported the differentiation process. This method of exploring what the students already know is discussed in Cohen’s “A guide to teaching” “and has been accepted in education as a way of breaking down the tyranny of the commonplace worksheet for mixed ability students”.( Cohen et al 2002,p. 52 ) In my view the advantages of group work are that it helps students to work cooperatively and encourages joint decision making, as Cohen suggests.
As discussed earlier, group discussion can only take place effectively if the objectives are clear and pupils understand the purpose of these objectives. As a teacher, you also have to maintain group dynamics and observe dominant students. Group discussions also depend on the size of the class and in this instance and in my teaching practice the student ratio is no larger than six, which is one of the reasons why I chose this method. I would find it much more challenging to manage larger groups, as I would worry about inclusion and monitoring the students.
I found it very helpful to refer to Reflective Teaching, (Pollard 2009, p. 382), where Pollard sets out a clear reflective activity that explores group characteristics. These include.
* Did anyone not participate? * In what ways did the group participate? * Was help needed? * What intervention was given? * In what ways was the task successful? * Did the group feel satisfied?
Differentiation in my view is a teaching method that is included within other methods as you actively develop strategies that ensure your students get the best from your teaching and therefore respond and gain the best knowledge. I feel that differentiation in this particular lesson was used in conjunction with a constructivist approach, as I was both identifying the students needs and building on their knowledge. As Petty explains: “There is now a large consensus amongst expert researchers on learning and the brain, learning actively constructing our own meanings” (handout on constructivist teaching, Chichester College PGCE 2012)
This method in my view allows students to interpret their own meaning; it is also vital that as a teacher I am able to notice any errors in their learning, and in the outcomes of their learning. This is especially important in science teaching, as accuracy in knowledge matter is vital. One of the methods I used was to allow the students to share their knowledge with each other through mind-mapping and then through working together on a true /false questionnaire.
2.Critically discuss two of the teaching methods used and examine each one in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.
The first method I would like to discuss is the constructivist approach – an active way of building on students’ knowledge, ensuring students use and apply the knowledge given. In my view this method covers all the positive points for exploring a specific subject, by using the method of the students building their own interpretations of the information given, as Petty explains: ”What does it mean exactly to have a full grasp of a new topic, and to be able to use your learning successfully even in new situations?” (Petty 2004, p. 7), going on to explain the theory behind Bloom’s taxonomy, a hierarchy of learning and putting the attributes to learning in order. In simple terms, the knowledge a student requires at the beginning is rather basic; then comprehending the knowledge means that a student has been able to move on by understanding and explaining.
Once a student has comprehension they (with the help of a teacher) can apply that comprehension. For example, during the micro teach session once I had given an overview of the heart, students were able to complete a questionnaire. I could see from the answers that they had gained enough comprehension to apply their knowledge. The stage for this building strategy is analysis. In this particular lesson there was not enough time to continue with this method. In future lessons I would include this in my planning over the course of a week.
I have highlighted the strengths of this method: I feel that there are also some weaknesses. The constructivist method is quite rigid and requires constant checking that the student has not misinterpreted the knowledge. It could be that constant checking and reflecting methods could reduce the” fun factor” in teaching and create a dull over-checking environment for the teacher; this might be a serious weakness.
In my view group work is one of the primary teaching methods as it allows students to share their knowledge. As Cohen explains in “A guide to teaching” (Cohen et al 2004.p.52) “It brings the class together and enables differentiation without discrimination” The benefits of group work are described as stimulating, motivating and sustaining interest: Cohen also goes on to stress the importance of monitoring and of assessing different learning needs. A potential weakness of group work is that it can get out of control, and some students may “coast”, just relying on the ideas and work of the rest of the group.
Outline the formative methods selected and justify your choice.
The formative method I chose in this particular micro – teach session was brainstorming in a group assessment activity. I did not choose the groups as the students were already sat at tables. Working in groups allows students an opportunity to share their knowledge of a subject, and it enables me as the teacher to assess their different levels of skill and understanding.
In practice for me as a teacher in training I feel it essential to gain an accurate picture of my students’ ability and I feel this is necessary to do immediately at the beginning of a lesson. In my view formative assessments do not need be a drawn out task or interfere with the structure of the lesson, so I often vary my assessment process. This may be in the form of opening up the lesson with a reading task, for example, followed by a discussion. Many of my students have low self esteem issues and find reading in front of their peers difficult. Opening a lesson with a reading session allows me to asses their literacy needs and gives the student a sense of achievement amongst the group. If a student does not want to read I would never insist. Brain storming as a method does not single out students who are not coping, I have always found this type of assessment fun and lively, student-led and very interactive, involving a group discussion at the same time.
Another important factor is to make sure the learning objectives are clear from the start and in my view there should be a constant reflection on the learning objectives throughout the lesson. As discussed by Dodge: “Formative assessment gives you a clear strategy for support for students of all levels, once you have assessed your learners you can take action, this will enable your students active success.” (Dodge 2013)
Analyse the feedback you received and discuss how you might develop your teaching approach in the future.
The peer group evaluations in general were very positive, stating that I had given a good effective fast delivery right from the beginning of the lesson. I agree with Beadle when he says “Just get cracking on the lesson straight away. It benefits those who are eager and hooks in the ones who may be lagging behind.” (Beadle 2010, p.81)
In areas for improvement my peers concluded that I did not check on verification of learning enough. Personally think that you can overkill stating learning objectives, and I like to consider a more gentle reflection during the lesson. I used a questionnaire toward the end that allowed me to assess what the students had learnt. On reflection I think the work sheet given could have been more specific to knowledge linked to the structure of the heart.
It was also suggested by my peers that I might mix the groups up after each session to get a varied input from students; I agree this would be a useful tool for future lessons as it would improve extended questioning and allow a variety of students to engage.
Overall the lesson observation gave constructive feedback that has enabled me to focus on my teaching methods for the future and to consider new strategies that will improve my performance in the class and hopefully give the students I teach a valuable and exciting experience.