Goal #1: Gain a stronger foot hold in response to intervention (RTI) and universal design for learning (UDL) methodologies. The time line for this professional growth project is ongoing due to the constantly emerging nature of scientific data on the subject.
- Talk to administration and other members of the teaching team to get a better sense of what RTI and UDL services are available and which are most beneficial to our work in the years ahead (April).
- Survey the educational literature and gather a solid foundation for RTI and UDL best practices (Ongoing).
- Watch and hopefully attend any number of online professional development webinars. Bring back the information these exploits to generate informative discussion with my colleagues (Ongoing).
- Attend a conference dedicated to either of these two subjects specifically, for example the Alaska RTI Conference (Ongoing).
Measures: During the next few months I hope to amass a greater understanding of these two pedagogical methodologies. Any means that allows me to support students in which ever ways necessary so they can begin to flourish of their own accord is a primary goal of mine. Despite having no previous background in the sciences I am willing to explore every avenue to help my students succeed. Frameworks that take into account the growing awareness and receptivity for cognitive and physical impairments will only be help to aid in my professional development currently and in the future. Despite the difficulty of some of this subject matter, any gains in the overall quality of wellbeing for my students is worth the minor annoyance in keeping up to date with pedagogical methodologies.
Goal #2: Increase efforts to implement a system of differentiated instruction.
- Begin taking more detailed notes about the particularities of students, paying attention to subtle details which will hopefully shed some light on unconscious preferences that individual students may have (April).
- Give informal surveys to quickly gauge how lesson plans work for certain groups. (Taking the time to evaluate some of the “middle ground” students for ways to help support their efforts in ways that they may not have had before because of their precarious balance between high and low performing students.) (Ongoing)
- Asking more experienced members of the teaching team about particular methods or tricks they use to implement differentiated instruction. Focus specifically on how to differentiate instruction and have the lesson appear coherent to everyone involved (April).
- Attempt minor experiments about lesson delivery and the tweak feedback mechanisms accordingly to increase the flow of communication. (This assumes that better feedback from students will provide a more agile base to change instructional tactics in the future.) (Ongoing)
Measures: Owing to a Confucian pedagogy (i.e., the earliest literature I have read featuring differentiated instruction), differentiated instruction makes huge intuitive sense. No one thinks or learns in the same way, so why then should all instruction be the same. The trouble is to find a balance between providing differentiated and effective instruction, yet keeping lessons clear, coherent and fair. My hope is that differentiated instruction will help all students flourish, but I have a personal curiosity about increasing support for those on either edge of the low/high performance lines. I want to be able to provide supports for students like these so they can continue to grow and not worry about being left behind.
Currently, I have two main areas of interest and despite their appearances, I believe that these two topics are not mutually exclusive. I have applied for a few research grants (e.g., the PURE Award) this semester, so hopefully in time these ideas will have an opportunity to take form.
1 Self Realization and Self Actualization in Education
Existential philosophy focuses on questions like “who am I?” and “what makes me different or special?” which are very pertinent when analyzing the development of self concepts. I would prefer to move beyond these descriptive questions into the deeper issues of why humans feel the need to embark on these journeys of self discovery and moreover, how we can get there. Given my background in Religious Studies, I would like to focus attention on how we make grand structures of meaning for ourselves in educational contexts.
My theoretical approach would begin with an investigation of the property of “connectedness”. A synthesized philosophical framework that could potentially bear fruit in this regard is a combination of systems from both the theoretical sciences and philosophers like Whitehead and James. I would argue that understanding some of the mechanisms that lay behind feelings of reverence for life could lead to stronger efforts in character education and self development.
2 Complex Uses of the Internet & Classroom Technology
I am fascinated with technology, as I am sure most are. I would like to explore technology use, specifically the technology use of students, not as a mere tool but as an expressive medium. The Internet and other means of communication create an entirely new field of identity exploration that is only starting to undergo sufficient analysis. What I would like to investigate is exactly how children leverage these platforms to extend their selves into and onto the Internet.
The Internet allows for the instantaneous connection of any number of unrelated subcultures to connect, creating opportunities to mix identity subtypes in ways that would have been impossible only years ago. Keeping in line with my earlier philosophical proceedings, this research avenue would look beyond using knowledge of these social dynamics to increase learning potential to include supporting the development of healthy self concepts and identities.
Another area of research interest is in mixing entrepreneurial frameworks into the classroom atmosphere. Specifically, I would investigate borrowing the agile process metaphor from the software development realm and supplant it into the classroom. The underlying motive for doing so would be to test if the communications platforms necessary for effective communication between groups and management could support the creation of pervasive informal learning communities online. If successful, the end result would be a means to help support students, and have students support themselves through robust social communications platforms that persist well after school hours and potentially after school entirely.