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The first step teachers must take in educating students is advance planning. The planning process involves identifying goals and objectives, conducting a task analysis, developing a lesson plan, and choosing an instructional strategy. The second step in educating students is putting the plan in action and observing its effectiveness. Lastly, teachers should reflect the outcome of the plan to determine areas which are successful or which need improvement. There are different theories of instruction and a variety of instructional strategies that teachers use in approaching and achieving student growth and professional growth.
Identifying Goals and Objectives
Identifying goals is planning instruction for essential knowledge or skills that teachers want students to acquire over a semester or school year. Identifying objectives is planning instruction for more specific outcomes of a lesson toward meeting the identified goal. Beginning the identification process is determining what the students should know and be able to do as determined by state standards regarding the knowledge and skills students should acquire at certain grade levels, together with certain characteristics of their accomplishments. (Ormrod, 2010). State standards are useful in focusing on important educational goals; however, they fail to address specific areas such as "effective learning strategies, self-regulation techniques, good social skills, and so on" (Ormrod, 2010, p. 416).
A popular approach to identifying goals and objectives for instructional planning is the backward design. In the backward design, teachers first identify the desired results (outcome, competency); then determine acceptable evidence (assessment of task) in verifying student achievement; and finally, plan experiences and activities enabling students to demonstrate the achievement of the desired results. (Ormrod, 2010). A tool that helps teachers to include goals and objectives with varying complexity is Bloom's taxonomy. Bloom's taxonomy identifies three learning domains: cognitive (knowledge), affective (attitude), and psychomotor (skills). Additionally, categories in each domain start from the simplest to the most complex for sequencing and scaffolding in the learning process. Cognitive categories are: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create; affective categories are: receiving phenomena, responding to phenomena, valuing, organization, internalizing values; and psychomotor categories are: perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, and origination. A committee of colleges led by Benjamin Bloom identified three domains of educational activities and produced categories for the cognitive and affective domains; however, others produced the categories for the psychomotor skills domain listed above. (Clark, 2009).
After identifying goals and objectives for instruction, the next step is conducting a task analysis. Through observing students, teachers can identify student strengths, weaknesses, and specific behaviors or knowledge required to perform a task. A task analysis involves identifying specific behaviors, knowledge, and cognitive processes in order to master a particular subject or skill. (Ormrod, 2010). Three approaches to a task analysis are behavioral analysis, subject matter analysis, and information processing analysis. A behavioral analysis is identifying specific physical requirements in performing the task, whereas subject matter analysis and information processing analysis is identifying specific mental requirements in performing the task. Thereafter, by identifying a task's specific components, instructors can determine if the task is behavioral or cognitive, what students need to learn to perform the task, and the order in which students can effectively learn the task.
The task analysis for jumping rope (see Exhibit A) is a behavioral task rather than a mental task because I see the student holding the jump rope, I can see the student bringing the jump rope up and over their head, and I can see the student jump over the rope. According to behaviorist, John B. Watson, "observable behavior rather than internal thought processes are the focus of studyâ€¦learning is manifested by a change in behavior" (Smith, 1999, p. 1). I took a direct instruction approach with the jumping rope task in creating sequenced steps and I was continually, actively engaged with the students. However, with jumping rope being a hands-on, outdoor activity, cooperative learning can take place wherein students can help each other succeed and the outdoor open area helps students connect physical activities with outdoor, open spaces. I took a backwards approach for the task analysis-putting the rope on the ground and jumping over it, then grasping the rope and holding arms out, then practicing swinging the rope overhead and to the ground (front and back), and finally swinging the rope up and over the head and jumping over the rope.
The task analysis for decoding the word "dog" (see Exhibit B) is a cognitive task because I am communicating information to the student and a behavioral task because I can hear the student say the sounds and see the student's eyes move left to right. For the analysis, I chose direct instruction, but for the lesson plan, I chose a constructivist approach in connecting the task to prior knowledge, together with group activities to keep the students motivated and interested in the subject. The task analysis process was harder to write because additional research was necessary in order to understand the decoding process of onset (first sound) and rime (vowel and everything that follows). However, the additional research helped me to fully understand the process of decoding a word.
The task analysis identifies specific behaviors, knowledge, and cognitive processes in order to master a particular subject or skill, and a lesson plan is the guide for instruction. Lesson plans include the name of the lesson, grade level, applicable standards, description, materials, objectives, systematic instructions, and an assessment. Beginning teachers create detailed lesson plans; however, as time passes planning lessons becomes less time consuming and much of the planning will come from memory rather than paper. Attached hereto are two lesson plans: How to Jump Rope (Exhibit A) and Decoding the Word "dog" (Exhibit B). Lesson plans are a guide for teaching but should be flexible because sometimes circumstances call for adjusting the plan. As Ormrod (2010) points out, "we may find that our initial task analyses of desired knowledge and skills were overly simplistic, orâ€¦students' achievement are either unrealistically high or unnecessarily low" (p. 422).
Instructional strategies include mastery learning, discovery and inquiry learning, and others. I used the mastery learning instructional strategy with the Decoding the Word "dog" Lesson Plan, along with the direct instruction strategy in having the students repeat after me, verbal explanations, and modeling the examples. With mastery learning, students achieve competence in the first step before moving on to the next step. The steps to achieve the task are hierarchal in nature (provide foundations for future learning) and the subject matter is broken up into small, logically sequenced lessons. Mastery learning is consistent with the theoretical perspectives of operant conditioning (shaping behaviors), cognitive (automaticity), and social cognitive (self-efficacy). As Ormrod (2010) points out, "Research indicates that [with] mastery learningâ€¦students tend to have a better attitude toward the subject matter, learn more, and perform at a higher level on classroom assessments" (p. 427).
In addition to the instructional strategy of mastery learning is discovery and inquiry learning, wherein students are actively doing something with what they are learning. I used the discovery and inquiry learning instruction strategy with the How to Jump Rope Lesson Plan. Jumping rope is an activity wherein students interact with the environment to come up with information by themselves (discovery learning) and acquire effective reasoning processes (inquiry learning) by asking questions directed to the teacher or to other students. (Ormrod, 2010). Since discovery and inquiry learning take much time, the quality rather than quantity, (less-is-more principle), is an important factor. "When learners see something happen in addition to reading or hearing about it, they can encode it in long-term memory visually as well as verbally" (Ormrod, 2010, p. 430).
The Plan in Action
The students were engrossed in the activities and participated willingly.
The duration of the lessons was different (i.e., the cognitive activity, Decoding the Word lesson, was longer than the physical activity lesson, How to Jump Rope)
Each student received (reward) a jump rope in hopes that they would practice the task in building their ability to perform the task.
Planning the Decoding the Word lesson took more planning than the How to Jump Rope lesson because I was familiar with jumping rope but was unfamiliar with decoding words.
Both lesson plans were somewhat easier to teach to the older child (3-month difference), and the concepts and ideas were easier for the older child to grasp.
Both lesson plans were more difficult for the younger child (3-month difference) in grasping concepts and ideas because of developmental level and spatial ability.
Both lesson plans included direct instruction because sometimes students need to learn how to play (jumping rope).
I believed the children would be able to pick up the physical lesson plan more easily, but found it was just as hard for them as the cognitive piece.
I chose two pre-kindergarten four-year-olds (Mary and Eddy) to teach how to jump rope and decoding the word dog with the use of my prepared lesson plans, and the instruction of each lesson was provided on different days. The children have previously played with the jump ropes at my house; however, they never have been formally taught to jump rope. They were both excited to learn how to jump rope. The purchased jump ropes were too long, so I shortened them about a foot. Mary and Eddy were able to continue the lesson through swinging the rope and jumping over the rope, but because of different developmental levels and spatial abilities, only Mary could jump the rope in succession (only two times) and Eddy needs more practice to jump the rope in succession. More practice is necessary for the children to jump the rope in succession five times. I was surprised by the element of competition that the students added to the lesson, which was something for I did not plan to happen. Both children agreed that sandals would not be appropriate footwear for jumping rope. More children of varying ages would improve this lesson so that older, experienced children can give younger children tips for jumping rope. In addition, adding jump-rope songs would also improve the learning process by adding rhythm to help with spatial ability.
Decoding the word "dog" was also exciting for each because they start kindergarten this year. They often have played school at my house, but never have been formally taught to decode a word, but they do have experience sounding out and finding words that begin with the first letter of their names. Because they are familiar with making the sounds of letters and because they both have a dog, saying the sounds of the letters was simple for them. Blending was difficult the first time around, but Mary got it and it was easier for Eddy the second time around. Although it could have been more fun with additional children in playing the games, it was fun and the cookies were yummy. In addition, some of the words they chose to rhyme were not real words, but I did not discourage them from making as many words as they wished. As with the jump rope lesson, more children would improve this lesson so that children can share experiences with one another. In addition, having cards with words on them that the teacher can read and students can indicate if the sound is the same or is not the same would help in improving the lesson.
Educating students takes advance planning to identify goals and objectives, to conduct a task analysis, to develop a lesson plan, and to choose an instructional strategy. Additionally, educating students means to put the plan in action, to observe its effectiveness, and to reflect on the outcome of the experience to determine areas which are successful or which areas need improvement. There are many theories of instruction and a variety of instructional strategies to help teachers in approaching and achieving student success (and professional success), and in enhancing life-long learning skills.