8.2 Professional Practice – Growing and Developing professionally.
Part of growing as a professional educator has been reflecting on my own journey as a student and challenging those ideas, beliefs, and practices I thought of as normal and acceptable in the classroom. During the course Learners in Context (EDU 6132) we covered self-efficacy and ego versus task involvement focused classrooms. Even though I grew up in competitive, mostly ego-involved classrooms I am now learning and processing how to create more a cooperative, task-involved environment for my future students. By understanding and treating students as individuals, using positive and personal feedback, and encouraging students to learn from failures I hope I can move away from my preconceptions and towards more fully supporting students’ academic motivation.
Student self-efficacy is made up of beliefs student’s have about their ability or competence to perform a task (Pressley & McCormick, 2007). Aside from failure and success in an endeavor, student self-efficacy can be influenced by teacher and peer interactions. One way that I can foster positive self-efficacy beliefs is by providing activities, tasks, and projects that produce cognitive conflict (according to Piaget) or are within students’ zone of proximal development (according to Vygotsky). Figure 1 elaborates on the idea both cognitive development theorists had: that children learn best when provided with a task that is just a bit more challenging than they can accomplish. While determining the nature of ‘challenge’ varies from student to student, Teachers can use pre-assessments or self-assessments to gauge student ability and help them set goals. More importantly teachers can help students, providing decreasing levels of assistance, or scaffolding, and guiding students towards independent accomplishment.
Providing a positive spin on student accomplishments, even if they seem like failures, can also encourage students to see themselves as learners gradually improving. For example when a student receives a 2 out of 20 on a test, putting the score as +2 instead of -18 draws the student’s attention towards what can be improved and also communicates teacher support and positive expectations. Small things like calling a student that struggles with literacy a reader can affect that student’s beliefs about what they can accomplish even if learning is difficult now. Instead of “rewarding students for being better than one another” (Pressley & McCormick, 2007, p. 271) which creates a classroom of winners and losers, teachers can “reward students for doing better than they did previously” (p.271) which hold students accountable to their personal growth and does not exclude students who may not academically achieve compared to their peers. Teaching students to value failure instead of avoiding or ignoring it can be a life skill that can keep them motivated as they graduate from grade to grade.
I have been in classrooms where a competitive classroom model is justified because it is the most like the ‘real-world’. From what I have learned about student development, throwing students into the real-world without adequate support or equipping them with coping attitudes and strategies is counter-productive to their academic achievement. It can be said that the goal of schooling and education is not just to reproduce the ‘real-world’, it is to change it. That change begins with changing how we treat our students, not as we were treated, but hopefully better.
Pressley M., McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent Development for Educators. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 264-265.