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Demonstration of Illinois Professional Teaching Standards

10. Reflection and Professional Growth:
The teacher is a reflective practitioner who continually evaluates how choices and actions affect students, parents, and other professionals in the learning community and actively seeks opportunities to grow professionally.

I have two papers reflecting on teaching experiences in this section. I have included the lesson plan for each and following the plan is my critique.



Water Conservation Lesson Peer Teaching Critique

I decided to teach our class a lesson about water conservation.  It was geared toward middle school students.  I was a little nervous about teaching my peers, but once the class started, everything was fine.  Overall, I felt pretty good about my presentation.  Inevitably, I found many things that I can improve upon and hopefully, I will learn from this experience. 

My lesson pretty much went as planned on paper.  In my lesson plan, I chose to present the article describing the world water shortage and then to have the students calculate their water usage.  I wanted the students to understand and think about the big picture of the water problem before they analyzed their own personal water usage.  I thought that this knowledge would make the numbers that they calculated more shocking when knowing that there is a problem with world water usage.  Hopefully, this would also aid the students in seeing that they can help by cutting back their water usage. 

            Another planned decision that I executed during my peer teaching was to have the students write down something that they wanted to personally do to help save water.  The students would turn this sheet in as a form of assessment.  I would be able to see that the students were engaged and thought of something that they could do to help.  I thought that turning it in would also make the students think a little harder about what they wrote down. 

During the course of my lesson, I had to make the decision of when to wrap up the personal water usage calculating and move onto more class discussion.  I felt like I gave the students enough time to complete most of the sheet.  When I decided to move on, a majority of the students had completed their calculations for yearly water usage.  I wanted to move on before any of the students got off task.  I had a good gauge of where the students were in their calculations because I was walking around and looking at their sheets.  It also just seemed like a good time to move on.  I feel like it is almost an instinctive thing.  In almost any class, the teacher must decide when to move from one activity or topic to the next.  I feel like I made a good decision in moving on to the next topic.  

            During the water usage calculations, Ben asked about the amount of water presented for brushing your teeth.  The quoted water amount used when brushing teeth was one gallon.  Ben stated that he didn’t think that he used that much water while brushing his teeth.  I explained that one gallon is used if you leave the water running while brushing.  Ben asked if he could alter the number to better reflect his water usage while brushing his teeth.  On the spot, I decided that it was fine if he wanted to change the number.  Reflecting on this decision, I don’t think I should have done that in a middle school class.  Changing the number would probably confuse and complicate the work.  This activity is not mostly about the numbers, but about how they can minimize the amount of water they use.  I realize that Ben is far more capable than a sixth grader, but I would like to go back and tell him to leave the numbers as they are and then discuss his problem with the amount later in the class discussion. 

Educators are always looking for strategies to extend student thinking in their lessons.  In this lesson, I tried to do this by relating a timely scientific issue to students personal lives.  A lot of the comments that I received after my lesson were that they found the lesson interesting because it related directly to their lives.  From this, I tried to get the student to think about things that they can change in their lives and in the world to help with the water shortage.  Hopefully, this approach encouraged extended student thinking beyond memorization and facts. 

Something that I feel that I need to work on is asking more questions about students’ comments in class.  I asked for ideas about why the world is using more water than it was 100 years ago, and I got some very good answers.  I really feel that I should have explored their comments a little more.  Often times, students will say things that they’ve heard other places, or that just sound good, but do not really think about what they are saying.  To extend the students thinking, and also to get the whole class involved, I should have asked more questions of the students’ comments.  Some good starter questions are  “Why do you say that?” or “Can you elaborate on that idea?”  I would really like to work on exploring students’ ideas, rather than just hearing them and moving on.  This should help the students think about and better understand the issue at hand.

I feel like I had good classroom management during my peer teaching.  I had a good presence in front of the class with good voice projection.  I also thought that I moved around the classroom well and talked with almost all the students.  I made myself available and also tried to interact with the students to get them more involved.  I think that I got everyone involved in the class discussion. 

I also feel that I related a real life science issue well to the students’ lives.  I received many comments that they liked how I related water shortage to their lives.  I think that this aspect really made the lesson better all around for the students’ involvement and learning. 

There are a lot of things that I would like to improve the next time I teach a lesson.  The most noticeable is that I talk too fast!!!  I need to calm down and enunciate.   I have good volume, but I really need to work on slowing things down. 

            Also, I need to explain things more before handing out worksheets.  Especially for younger students, they need very specific directions.  I did not do a good job of explaining the personal water usage activity before handing it out.  This confuses the students and also gives them an excuse to be off task.  I just need to think about explaining things before I hand them out. 

I will also work on the things that I mentioned before about further exploring students’ ideas and making in class decisions.  I think that with more experience teaching, I will make these improvements. 

            This experience really opened my eyes to a number of things that I do well and need improvement in my teaching.  Both peer teaching and my teaching experiences during my observations are really helping me see what I need to work on.  I also am better understanding how students react to the things that the teacher does in the classroom.   I hope to continue to teach and to learn from my teaching experiences. 




Osmosis Lesson Peer Teaching Reflection

Deciding on the lesson for our peer teaching was quite easy. The learning goals were easy to determine. We have been writing learning goals for some time now, and both Eva and I are comfortable with the language and purpose of them. I had already seen then lesson in the classroom, so this made it easy to explain what was expected of the students. We wanted students to not only better understand osmosis, but also to be able to do some measurements and calculations that are important to the experiment.

The materials seemed easy enough to begin with. Eggs were easy to come by, and fairly inexpensive. The 5% and 20% salt solutions were a little more difficult to prepare. It took us a while to think about how to actually make a 5% and 20% solution, but we finally found the easiest way to do it in Eva’s kitchen. We used measuring cups and empty milk bottles to prepare the solutions. Once we got started, it didn’t take too long to make the solutions. The hardest part was getting the liquid into the milk bottle. We thought that milk bottles would be our best bet. They are cheap, plastic (won’t break), and resealable. We had one little hitch during the solution making; we ran out of salt. We had to run to the store and get more salt, which we found out was also very inexpensive.

We needed balances for each group in the class. This proved a bit difficult here at the university. We had to transport balances and also use some that were not as quick and easy to read (the old triple beams). We also altered out plan a bit by making the groups larger due to a lack of balances.

Conducting the activity was about as easy as organizing our time on paper. We wanted to make sure that the students did everything together so that we could use the down time while the eggs are soaking to have class discussion. The class where I observed this did not do this, but Eva and I thought that it would work well and wanted to try it. I really ended up liking it this way. We got to share hypotheses and data during the down time and I think this kept the students engaged. I would have liked to use the board a little more, but it didn’t work out that way. I also think that a little more explanation of the lab before jumping into it would have been helpful. I think a few of us were a bit confused, so just think of how a high school student might feel.

I was a little surprised that we ran out of time. We had everything planned and then it just took a lot longer than planned. It was OK thought. I think that I made a good decision on the spot to finish up the lab the next day. I also have to remember that I will have more than 35 minutes in a real high school class.

I really liked our final discussion questions. I think that they really got the students thinking about osmosis. These questions were similar to ones asked in the high school class where I observed this. I think that they are a good real life application of the scientific concept of osmosis.

As far as extensions go, I think that students could do this lab at their own pace, but only if they had a task to work on during the down time. A demo set up to show students the changes over a class period might work well too. Another idea that I liked which was brought up in class was the idea of an inquiry approach to this lab. I think that if it actually worked well and showed a significant change, this would be a great tool for student’s inquiry.

In expectations, I think I would give students participation points if they were on task and working well in their groups. As for a more formal assessment, I really think that I would say on a test or quiz, "We discussed in class that if you have a sore throat, you might want to gargle salt water. Why would you want to do this? " I really think that this is a good question that integrates scientific ideas with real life issues. I might even try to incorporate a different real life application of osmosis.

In all honesty, I would not use this experiment in a high school classroom for one reason: the lab doesn’t work properly! Students were getting all sorts of different data and it was not accurate compared to what we were learning about osmosis. I think that if there were a more noticeable change in mass that aligned with the concept of osmosis, this lab would be very helpful. I was both glad and upset that we tried the activity out the night before. I was glad that we discovered that it didn’t work properly. In this case, in my own classroom, I probably would have just scrapped the entire activity and moved on to the next day’s lesson. I was upset because the lab didn’t work and I thought that we probably should have tested it out a bit more in advance. I learned a lot about planning and lab activities from this project. I know now that I need to prepare pretty far in advance and also that I do need to make sure that the lab works properly. I would hate to waste students’ time with something that doesn’t work and that they got nothing out of.

I would really like to find another lab that demonstrates on a large scale the idea of osmosis. I think that students would like to see it in a large scale before then look under microscopes. I would also like to incorporate some more drawings into this lesson. I think that drawing out what is happening will help students visualize and understand what is actually happening in cells.

Over all, I am really glad that I could learn from this project. I think that for the difficulties at hand, the peer teaching went fairly well. I’m glad that I got to share my ideas on this lab with others so that they won’t make the same mistakes that I did in using this lab. I really hope that I can figure out what went wrong and fix it so that I can use this lab in my classroom.



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