Professional Development Plan Research Paper

Pages: 6 (2058 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Teaching

Professional Development Plan

One of the modern influences in teaching is the idea of differentiation. Differentiation refers to the teaching to the individual child and is responsive teaching that responds to learner's needs (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). Many different educational approaches promise differentiation, but effective differentiation requires teachers to incorporate three approaches in their teaching styles. The first approach is to use structured content, which requires a quality curriculum and meaningful assessment. The second approach is to be mindful of their individual students, which requires establishing relationships with each of the individual students. The third and final approach is for teachers to look at which elements in their classroom allow them freedom to tailor their content to their students, which requires classroom management skills (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). Moreover, there are four ways that teachers can increase differentiation in the classroom: content, process, product, and environment (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). Three student characteristics guide a teacher's approach to differentiation: readiness, interest, and how the student learns (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). Keeping this approach to differentiation in mind is critical when considering a teacher's professional development plan.

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Mindset- Setting up the classroom- Week before school startsDownload full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Professional Development Plan Assignment

The first step in my professional development plan is setting up the classroom. Many people think of setting up the classroom as a background step, but the physical layout of the classroom can be critical to its functioning. The actual layout would depend upon the physical constraints of the room but I would strive to incorporate differentiation into the design. I would not set up the classroom in the traditional 20+ desks aligned in rows, facing the front of the room. Instead, I would put desks into small groups or clusters. I would try to have different areas in the room, such as a reading area, a music area, a discussion area, and a project area (Shalaway, 2011). I would try to have areas of different lighting, because some children respond negatively to bright light (Shalaway, 2011).

Curriculum- Prepare lesson plan- Before school starts

Before the beginning of the school year, it is critical to look at the material that the teacher is required to cover during the school year. In most schools, how this material is approached will be based upon departments or grade levels decisions. However, when preparing the initial curriculum, it is critical to "provide several learning options, or different paths to learning, which help students take in information and make sense of concepts and skills" (Willoughby, 2005).

Assessment- Looking at standardized test scores- Before school starts

Before the beginning of the school year, the teacher gets a student list. One thing that can help a teacher ensure that there will be a sufficient level of learning paths in the class is understanding the range of performance on standardized tests scores for the students in the class. Therefore, in order to provide a differentiated experience, it is important for the teacher to understand student capabilities. However, it is also important to understand that students are more than their test scores. Some students are very bright learners, but perform poorly on standardized tests. Conversely, some students may perform well on standardized tests, but be disruptive, difficult learners in the classroom. The teacher has to be careful to allow this information to help guide the range of learning in the classroom, rather than being dispositive about the ability of any single student in the classroom.

Student readiness- First few weeks of school

During the first few weeks of school, it is important to engage in an assessment of student readiness. Student readiness is not the same thing as an assessment of academic ability; very intelligent children may not be as ready to learn as less intelligent students. Instead, the educator must keep in mind that "No two students enter a classroom with identical abilities, experiences, and needs. Learning style, language proficiency, background knowledge, readiness to learn, and other factors can vary widely within a single class group" (Willoughby, 2005).

Student interest- What do they like?- Beginning of the fourth week of school

After a few weeks of observation, the teacher may have a good idea of what students like. However, sometimes shy or compliant students may not make their interests known. It is important at this time, therefore, to make some overt attempts to understand what students like. Giving students an opportunity to engage in open-ended conversations about what they like is a great idea. During the fourth week of school, the teacher can engage in a series of guided 5-minute conversations with each child, with the goal of assessing each student's particular interests.

Assessment- Student Learning Profile- Beginning of second six or nine weeks of school

Students learn in different ways. One way that a teacher can determine learning styles is by watching how the children learn. The teacher can also ask the guidance counselor for a learning style assessment tool. These tools can help assess the appropriate teaching style for the individual student. Knowing this early in the school year can ensure that students are being taught in ways that are accessible to them. For example, "Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences has received an overwhelming response from educators in the past several years. Gardner offers seven different ways to demonstrate intellectual ability and has recently added an eighth intelligence. Understanding how students demonstrate their intellectual capacity is an important factor in designing instruction that will meet the specific learning needs of students who may be dominant in one or several intelligence as opposed to other forms of intelligence" (Teachnology, 2011).

Student readiness- 12 weeks into school

While student readiness may impact learning, it cannot be a barrier to learning. "Regardless of their individual differences, however, students are expected to master the same concepts, principles, and skills. Helping all students succeed in their learning is an enormous challenge that requires innovative thinking" (Willoughby, 2005). Is there a student readiness issues that is impacting a child's learning. Are there non-academic concerns that may be hindering a student's learning? By this point in time, I should have sufficient experience with each of the students to understand their learning readiness. If there are any interventions that might help readiness, this is an appropriate time to suggest them. Any suspected eyesight or hearing problems should be addressed with the school nurse and with the parents. Any suspected developmental delays should be referred to the counselor. Any suspected family problems (such as domestic abuse) that may interfere with student readiness to learn should be thoroughly documented and discussed with the rest of the school staff.

Mindset- Learning environment- End of first semester

One of the aspects of a differentiated classroom is recognizing the diversity of students. One of the things that I would do is introduce students to different cultures. We would do this project near the conclusion of the first semester or at the beginning of the second semester, so that we could use the projects to decorate the room for the second semester. This would surround the children with reminders of different cultures. This relates to differentiated instruction because "differentiated instruction is based upon the belief that students learn best when they make connections between the curriculum and their diverse interests and experiences, and that the greatest learning occurs when students are pushed slightly beyond the point where they can work without assistance" (Willoughby, 2005).

Assessment- Content testing- End of first semester

Many students are subjected to standardized tests which may or may not reflect the content of the curriculum. At the end of the first semester, when semester grades are finalized, the teacher has a good opportunity to look into whether in-class testing has offered authentic assessment for students. "Not enough can be said about authentic assessment. Basically, what it means is that students are tested on what they have been taught and hopefully, what they have learned. The greatest implications are that: curriculum is aligned with what is expected to be learned; strategies used to teach are according to students' needs; and assessment instruments used are flexible and adequately and appropriately used to measure on-going performance. The bottom line is that authentic assessment offers students the opportunity to 'measure up' to the standards that are aligned to the curriculum" (Teachnology, 2011).

Student learning profile- Learning to teach to different students - End of first semester

By the end of the first semester, the teacher should be able to accurately determine whether or not he has the skills necessary to teach to students different learning styles. "Because 'one size does not fit all," it is imperative that a variety of teaching strategies be used in a differentiated classroom. Among many teaching strategies that can be considered, there are four worth mentioning: direct instruction, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, and information processing models" (Teachnology, 2011). At this point in time, if I am having a problem with any teaching strategy, this would be the appropriate time to seek help in my teaching skills.

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