Welcome San Diego Student Teachers!

In the spirit of ‘always a teacher, always a learner’ I created this website to provide you multiple means of access for support and guidance throughout your student teaching term. I hope this is helpful.

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Nearly Done!

You are Nearly Done! This is the time to re-check the To Do list and make sure you are on target for getting your credential. I also suggest putting in requests for Letters of Reference/Recommendation from site Admin. and your Cooperating or Mentor teacher, if you have not done so already. You will email me your scanned Time Log when you complete your required days of placement.

*You may want to export your work and evals from Taskstream or Loudcloud to save. Your evaluation comments and self-reflections are a good resource to build into your resume and employment portfolio; articulating your teaching skills and professional strengths.

**As long as you have the links to the Google folders I shared with you, you may still access them. You can also save the Google docs to your own folders.***You can join our San Diego Facebook group for continued ongoing education and teaching resources.

P.S. You may continue to receive Weekly Reflections&Resources from me for a few weeks as students are on different cohort schedules.

The Curse of Knowledge

The Curse of Knowledge: When you suffer from the curse of knowledge you assume that other people know the things that you do, and this cognitive bias causes you to believe that people understand you a lot better than they really do. A strong base of content knowledge makes us blind to the lengthy process of acquiring it. Implications for teachers:

  • We do not remember what it is like to not know what we are trying to teach.
  • We cannot relive the difficult and lengthy process that learning our content originally took.

We assume that our lesson’s content is easy, clear, and straightforward. We assume that connections are apparent and will be made effortlessly. Assumptions are the root cause of poor instruction. And acknowledgment is the first step to recovery!

Lifting the Curse: 7 Steps

1. Emotion

Barbara Fredrickson, a champion in the field of positive psychology, has studied the effects of mild positive emotions on desired cognitive traits like attentiveness and ability to creatively solve problems. In what she coined the broaden-and-build theory, Fredrickson found that pleasant and mild emotional arousal before experiencing content leads to greater retention. A quick joke or humorous movie can serve as the positive emotional stimulant. So learning is easier and the Curse of Knowledge is potentially circumnavigated when injecting a bit of emotion into your lesson.

2. Multi-Sensory Lessons

Though Howard Gardner’s influential work states that we each have a preferred learning modality, new research highlights the fact that effective lessons need not be unisensory (only kinesthetic, only auditory, etc.) but multi-sensory. Multi-sensory experiences activate and ignite more of the brain, leading to greater retention. So use a multisensory approach in your lessons to make learning easier.

3. Spacing

Blocked practice is ancient and is no longer considered best practice. An example of blocked practice is cramming. Though it feels like learning, blocked practice results in learning that is shallow, and the connections quickly fade. The preferred alternative is the opposite of blocked practice: spaced practice.

Exposing yourself to content and requiring your brain to recall previously learned concepts at spaced intervals (hours, days, weeks, or months) makes the content sticky and results in deeper retention with solid neural connections. As spaced practice is the way that you learned the content you teach, it makes sense to employ the same technique with your students. So thinking of your content as a cycle that is frequently revisited makes learning easier for your students while helping alleviate the curse.

For more information on spacing content, check out Make It Stick or 3 Things Experts Say Make A Perfect Study Session.

4. Narratives

Everyone loves a great story because our ancestral past was full of them. Stories were the dominant medium to transmit information. They rely on our innate narcissistic self to be effective learning tools — we enjoy stories because we immediately inject ourselves into the story, considering our own actions and behavior when placed in the situations being described. This is how we mentally make connections, and if students are listening to a story interlaced with content, they’re more likely to connect with the ideas. So connecting with content through a story is at the heart of learning and can help alleviate the stress associated with the Curse of Knowledge.

5. Analogies and Examples

An analogy is a comparison of different things that are governed by the same underlying principles. If understanding a process is what we’re after, looking at the result of the process proves informative. An analogy compares two unlike things by investigating a similar process that produces both. Said differently, an analogy highlights a connection, and forming connections is at the core of learning.

Whereas an analogy compares similar processes that result in different products, an example highlights different processes that result in similar products. Copious use of examples forces the brain to scan its knowledge inventory, making desirable connections as it scans. So learning is easier when analogies and examples are used to facilitate mental connections.

6. Novelty

New challenges ignite the risk-reward dopamine system in our brains. Novel activities are interesting because dopamine makes us feel accomplished after succeeding. Something that is novel is interesting, and something interesting is learned more easily because it is attended to. So emphasis on the new and exciting aspects of your content could trip the risk-reward system and facilitate learning.

7. Teach Facts

Conceptual knowledge in the form of facts is the scaffolding for the synthesis of new ideas. In other words, you cannot make new ideas without having old ideas. Disseminating facts as the only means to educate your students is wrong and not encouraged. However, awareness that background knowledge is important to the creation of new ideas is vital for improving instruction. Prior knowledge acts as anchors for new incoming stimuli. When reflecting on the ability of analogies and examples to facilitate connections, it is important to remember that the connections need to be made to already existing knowledge. So providing your students with background knowledge is a prerequisite in forming connections and can make their learning easier.

Making It Easier

By incorporating facts, highlighting novelty, liberally utilizing examples and analogies, cycling our content, telling content-related stories, making our lesson multi-sensory, and harnessing the power of emotion, we can make learning easier for our students.

Further resources: The Curse of Knowledge has been variously described in articles by Chip and Dan Heath, Carmen Nobel, and Steven Pinker, and also in books such as The Sense of Style and Made to Stick. It has been applied to a variety of domains: child development, economics, and technology are just a few.

High Leverage Practices

High-Leverage Practices

High-leverage practices are the basic fundamentals of teaching. These practices are used constantly and are critical to helping students learn important content. The high-leverage practices are also central to supporting students’ social and emotional development. These high-leverage practices are used across subject areas, grade levels, and contexts. They are “high-leverage” not only because they matter to student learning but because they are basic for advancing skill in teaching.

  1. Leading a group discussion

In a group discussion, the teacher and all of the students work on specific content together, using one another’s ideas as resources. The purposes of a discussion are to build collective knowledge and capability in relation to specific instructional goals and to allow students to practice listening, speaking, and interpreting. The teacher and a wide range of students contribute orally, listen actively, and respond to and learn from others’ contributions.

  1. Explaining and modeling content, practices, and strategies

Explaining and modeling are practices for making a wide variety of content, academic practices, and strategies explicit to students. Depending on the topic and the instructional purpose, teachers might rely on simple verbal explanations, sometimes with accompanying examples or representations. In teaching more complex academic practices and strategies, such as an algorithm for carrying out a mathematical operation or the use of metacognition to improve reading comprehension, teachers might choose a more elaborate kind of explanation that we are calling “modeling.” Modeling includes verbal explanation, but also thinking aloud and demonstrating.

  1. Eliciting and interpreting individual students’ thinking

Teachers pose questions or tasks that provoke or allow students to share their thinking about specific academic content in order to evaluate student understanding, guide instructional decisions, and surface ideas that will benefit other students. To do this effectively, a teacher draws out a student’s thinking through carefully-chosen questions and tasks and considers and checks alternative interpretations of the student’s ideas and methods.

  1. Diagnosing particular common patterns of student thinking and development in a subject-matter domain

Although there are important individual and cultural differences among students, there are also common patterns in the ways in which students think about and develop understanding and skill in relation to particular topics and problems. Teachers who are familiar with common patterns of student thinking and development and who are fluent in anticipating or identifying them are able to work more effectively and efficiently as they plan and implement instruction and evaluate student learning.

  1. Implementing norms and routines for classroom discourse and work

Each discipline has norms and routines that reflect the ways in which people in the field construct and share knowledge. These norms and routines vary across subjects but often include establishing hypotheses, providing evidence for claims, and showing one’s thinking in detail. Teaching students what they are, why they are important, and how to use them is crucial to building understanding and capability in a given subject. Teachers may use explicit explanation, modeling, and repeated practice to do this.

  1. Coordinating and adjusting instruction during a lesson

Teachers must take care to coordinate and adjust instruction during a lesson in order to maintain coherence, ensure that the lesson is responsive to students’ needs, and use time efficiently. This includes explicitly connecting parts of the lesson, managing transitions carefully, and making changes to the plan in response to student progress.

  1. Specifying and reinforcing productive student behavior

Clear expectations for student behavior and careful work on the teacher’s part to teach productive behavior to students, reward it, and strategically redirect off-task behavior help create classrooms that are productive learning environments for all. This practice includes not only skills for laying out classroom rules and managing truly disruptive behavior, but for recognizing the many ways that children might act when they actually are engaged and for teaching students how to interact with each other and the teacher while in class.

  1. Implementing organizational routines

Teachers implement routine ways of carrying out classroom tasks in order to maximize the time available for learning and minimize disruptions and distractions. They organize time, space, materials, and students strategically and deliberately teach students how to complete tasks such as lining up at the door, passing out papers, and asking to participate in class discussion. This can include demonstrating and rehearsing routines and maintaining them consistently.

  1. Setting up and managing small group work

Teachers use small group work when instructional goals call for in-depth interaction among students and in order to teach students to work collaboratively. To use groups effectively, teachers choose tasks that require and foster collaborative work, issue clear directions that permit groups to work semi-independently, and implement mechanisms for holding students accountable for both collective and individual learning. They use their own time strategically, deliberately choosing which groups to work with, when, and on what.

  1. Building respectful relationships with students

Teachers increase the likelihood that students will engage and persist in school when they establish positive, individual relationships with them. Techniques for doing this include greeting students positively every day, having frequent, brief, “check in” conversations with students to demonstrate care and interest, and following up with students who are experiencing difficult or special personal situations.

  1. Talking about a student with parents or other caregivers

Regular communication between teachers and parents/guardians supports student learning. Teachers communicate with parents to provide information about students’ academic progress, behavior, or development; to seek information and help; and to request parental involvement in school. These communications may take place in person, in writing, or over the phone. Productive communications are attentive to considerations of language and culture and designed to support parents and guardians in fostering their child’s success in and out of school.

  1. Learning about students’ cultural, religious, family, intellectual, and personal experiences and resources for use in instruction

Teachers must actively learn about their particular students in order to design instruction that will meet their needs. This includes being deliberate about trying to understand the cultural norms for communicating and collaborating that prevail in particular communities, how certain cultural and religious views affect what is considered appropriate in school, and the topics and issues that interest individual students and groups of students. It also means keeping track of what is happening in students’ personal lives so as to be able to respond appropriately when an out-of-school experience affects what is happening in school.

  1. Setting long- and short-term learning goals for students

Clear goals referenced to external standards help teachers ensure that all students learn expected content. Explicit goals help teachers to maintain coherent, purposeful, and equitable instruction over time. Setting effective goals involves analysis of student knowledge and skills in relation to established standards and careful efforts to establish and sequence interim benchmarks that will help ensure steady progress toward larger goals.

  1. Designing single lessons and sequences of lessons

Carefully-sequenced lessons help students develop deep understanding of content and sophisticated skills and practices. Teachers design and sequence lessons with an eye toward providing opportunities for student inquiry and discovery and include opportunities for students to practice and master foundational concepts and skills before moving on to more advanced ones. Effectively-sequenced lessons maintain a coherent focus while keeping students engaged; they also help students achieve appreciation of what they have learned.

  1. Checking student understanding during and at the conclusion of lessons

Teachers use a variety of informal but deliberate methods to assess what students are learning during and between lessons. These frequent checks provide information about students’ current level of competence and help the teacher adjust instruction during a single lesson or from one lesson to the next. They may include, for example, simple questioning, short performance tasks, or journal or notebook entries.

  1. Selecting and designing formal assessments of student learning

Effective summative assessments provide teachers with rich information about what students have learned and where they are struggling in relation to specific learning goals. In composing and selecting assessments, teachers consider validity, fairness, and efficiency. Effective summative assessments provide both students and teachers with useful information and help teachers evaluate and design further instruction.

  1. Interpreting the results of student work, including routine assignments, quizzes, tests, projects, and standardized assessments

Student work is the most important source of information about the effectiveness of instruction. Teachers must analyze student productions, including assessments of all kinds, looking for patterns that will guide their efforts to assist specific students and the class as a whole and inform future instruction.

  1. Providing oral and written feedback to students

Effective feedback helps focus students’ attention on specific qualities of their work; it highlights areas needing improvement; and delineates ways to improve. Good feedback is specific, not overwhelming in scope, and focused on the academic task, and supports students’ perceptions of their own capability. Giving skillful feedback requires the teacher to make strategic choices about the frequency, method, and content of feedback and to communicate in ways that are understandable by students.

  1. Analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it

Learning to teach is an ongoing process that requires regular analysis of instruction and its effectiveness. Teachers study their own teaching and that of their colleagues in order to improve their understanding of the complex interactions between teachers, students, and content and of the impact of particular instructional approaches.  Analyzing instruction may take place individually or collectively and involves identifying salient features of the instruction and making reasoned hypotheses for how to improve.

A note on… Co-teaching

A note on Co-teaching: As you begin to take on responsibilities in the classroom you will need to develop a good communication plan with your Cooperating Teacher. I encourage you to sit down together with the calendar and map out progressive increased classroom and teaching responsibilities, making sure you will have the required time of 100% teaching/planning according to GCU protocols for student teaching, and then gradually transitioning back. It is especially important to define clear boundaries and expectations for when your Cooperating Teacher steps in to assist, support, or re-direct during your teaching time.

**Additionally, please make sure you are scheduling regular planning and feedback sessions with your Cooperating or Mentor Teacher. If you are student teaching in your own classroom, work with your Mentor teacher to schedule observations. Ideally, they should be coming in to provide observations for you.

*Single Placements: 5 weeks of 100% planning and teaching (with Cooperating teacher’s guidance).

*Dual Placements: 3 weeks of 100% planning and teaching in each placement (with Cooperating teacher’s guidance).

Evaluations: What to Expect

I know there is some stress and anxiety that accompanies a Site Visit Observation. To help you feel as comfortable as possible I urge you to review the site evaluation form prior to each visit, so you are familiar with the criteria that is being evaluated. Expectations are for your position as a Student Teacher, not a veteran teacher.

Site Visit #1: Review the Professional Dispositions and Evaluation Form #1 criteria, complete the Pre-Observation Self-Reflection form. *Send me your completed Self-Reflection 48 hrs. before visit.  

Site Visits #2, #3, #4: You will prepare a lesson plan and deliver it (see attachment for more details on what to expect). The academic content area is not as important as the preparation, planning, delivery, and reflection. Those are transferable skills that demonstrate teaching ability across content areas. *Send me your completed Self-Reflection, and Lesson Plans 48 hrs. before visit.

**Site Visit #4 will also include the Professional Dispositions evaluated in #1 and the Content Standards for your Education Program. Please communicate this to your Cooperating Teacher so they complete the appropriate Content Standards section. Additionally, please review and complete a Self-Assessment on the Site Visit #4 Evaluation form. *Send me your completed Eval #4 self-assessment, Self-Reflection, and Lesson Plans 48 hrs. before visit.

My objective at the observation is to look for good work to build on; my goal is to support you in honing your teaching craft and reflecting on future growth. During our post-observation review, I will be sharing with you the positive aspects of your lesson, and areas of improvement that I observe. The purpose of my feedback is to let you know your strengths and skills you are performing well, and what areas have room for growth. I encourage you to approach your observation with a positive mindset, and be open and receptive to hearing critical critique, in the context of professional growth and development.

Finally, I will be sending you a post-observation Reflection to complete and send back to me as part of the evaluation process.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns not addressed. Please remember that my role is to support you in becoming the best teacher you can be! Find attachments here.

“Every teacher needs to improve. Not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”  ~ Dylan Wiliam

Professional Communication

Professional communication involves a prompt response and appropriate language. Address the person by name and/or title and end with your name. Use formal sentence structure, mechanics, and grammar, and avoid text and slang language.

Generally, a professional response time is 1 business day (M-F). It is better to respond timely even if you do not have all requested information or answers. This lets the sender know you got the communication and will be following up more completely later.

Professionalism is one of the evaluation criteria during your student teaching placement.

Week 16: The Curse of Knowledge, part 2

4. Narratives

Everyone loves a great story because our ancestral past was full of them. Stories were the dominant medium to transmit information. They rely on our innate narcissistic self to be effective learning tools — we enjoy stories because we immediately inject ourselves into the story, considering our own actions and behavior when placed in the situations being described. This is how we mentally make connections, and if students are listening to a story interlaced with content, they’re more likely to connect with the ideas. So connecting with content through a story is at the heart of learning and can help alleviate the stress associated with the Curse of Knowledge.

5. Analogies and Examples

An analogy is a comparison of different things that are governed by the same underlying principles. If understanding a process is what we’re after, looking at the result of the process proves informative. An analogy compares two unlike things by investigating a similar process that produces both. Said differently, an analogy highlights a connection, and forming connections is at the core of learning.

Whereas an analogy compares similar processes that result in different products, an example highlights different processes that result in similar products. Copious use of examples forces the brain to scan its knowledge inventory, making desirable connections as it scans. So learning is easier when analogies and examples are used to facilitate mental connections.

6. Novelty

New challenges ignite the risk-reward dopamine system in our brains. Novel activities are interesting because dopamine makes us feel accomplished after succeeding. Something that is novel is interesting, and something interesting is learned more easily because it is attended to. So emphasis on the new and exciting aspects of your content could trip the risk-reward system and facilitate learning.

7. Teach Facts

Conceptual knowledge in the form of facts is the scaffolding for the synthesis of new ideas. In other words, you cannot make new ideas without having old ideas. Disseminating facts as the only means to educate your students is wrong and not encouraged. However, awareness that background knowledge is important to the creation of new ideas is vital for improving instruction. Prior knowledge acts as anchors for new incoming stimuli. When reflecting on the ability of analogies and examples to facilitate connections, it is important to remember that the connections need to be made to already existing knowledge. So providing your students with background knowledge is a prerequisite in forming connections and can make their learning easier.

Making It Easier

By incorporating facts, highlighting novelty, liberally utilizing examples and analogies, cycling our content, telling content-related stories, making our lesson multi-sensory, and harnessing the power of emotion, we can make learning easier for our students.

Further resources: The Curse of Knowledge has been variously described in articles by Chip and Dan Heath, Carmen Nobel, and Steven Pinker, and also in books such as The Sense of Style and Made to Stick. It has been applied to a variety of domains: child development, economics, and technology are just a few.