This course provided me the opportunity to explore many topics I had already been familiar with at a much deeper level. I appreciated the opportunity to review and learn more about cognitive development, moral development and zone of proximal development and found Medina’s entire book especially enlightening. I feel that I already had a solid understanding of the implications of human development in the classroom, but was grateful for the reminder especially as school resumes in a little over a week. The most significant takeaways form this course include what I learned about stress, self-efficacy, and memory.
The first major takeaway is stress as it is a reality for so many students. Stress is created from a variety of outside pressures or factors a student is experiencing. Medina (2014) states that stressed brains do not learn the same way as non-stressed brains, and this is a crucial point for educators to remember (p.71). No matter what the cause of the stress, it is important to realize that many students are experiencing it and it is important to find supports for them as they do their most important job as students; to think. One of my classmates reminded me that one of the simplest ways to help relieve stress in a student’s life is to create a learning environment that is predictable and well managed. Through provided clear systems and expectations in the classroom, students will be able to count on me to offer them a safe environment where they know how everything functions, what the boundaries are, the routine of the day, as well as what they need to do to be successful. Creating this type of learning environment is the proper starting point for developing a positive relationship with the student and their parents as positive relationships are another way to help students deal with stress.
I can set the precedent with open communication from the very first day of school with my students and their parents. My goal is to include students on the positive as well as challenging aspects of their student’s performance in my class. I will take the time to learn about my students and have conversations with them about what they enjoy and what they are interested in. One way I can pick up on this is by being present outside of the school house at the various activities and events my students attend. By taking a genuine interest in my students’ wellbeing I will be able to develop a safe and trusting relationship with them so that I am able to help support them through the stressors they may be encountering. One of my classmates mentioned that relationships can help foster student awareness of choice; that they do in fact have a choice of whom they surround themselves with. She suggested that by encouraging students so spend time with the people they enjoy being with most, helping them to develop healthy and supportive relationships within their life. Another significant part of a positive relationship with students is that I can help them find the help they need if they feel they can confide in me. I am always clear with my students that if they share anything with me that is of concern that I am required to inform their counselor, but through building trust I am able to help them find the best possible solution to eliminate stress through healthy and productive outlets.
Self-efficacy is a takeaway that I find most important in my role as a religious educator. I believe that education is meant to nurture the mind, heart and spirit of each student, so it is my responsibility to help see themselves in a more positive light as students and learners. Self-efficacy is a student’s belief about their competence or ability to perform a task in a specific subject area and can be shaped through social models, opinions of others, feedback and the “big fish little pond” effect (Pressley & McCormick, 2007, p.262-263). Developing a student’s belief about their competence and ability to perform a task can easily be integrated in curriculum. Just like addressing stress, self-efficacy can be developed through relationships; not only the relationship with the teacher, but with peers and other adults as well.
Feedback is one of the greatest and easiest ways to develop self-efficacy in students. By taking the time to provide meaningful feedback, I can applaud students for their work and help guide them towards subject mastery and competency. It might take extra effort, but feedback can make a difference especially for the students who need to hear it the most. One of my classmates expressed how much of a positive impact teacher feedback made on their own self-efficacy during high school and I feel the same way, especially when it comes to science. I never would have been able to minor in Environmental Science if it weren’t for the feedback that my teachers and college professors provided me as I worked and struggled to understand concepts, but it made the accomplishment that much more special. The most important thing to remember about feedback is that it needs to be immediate as it has a greater chance of making an impact on self-efficacy and student achievement.
Medina’s chapter on memory is one that spoke to me the most. One of the aspects of teaching that it has helped to inform is the importance of an engaging hook to encourage inquiry at the beginning of lessons. Medina (2008) explains that elaborately encoding a memory during its initial moments helps people to be able to recall the information being presented. Although this does create some pressure for me as teacher, it also offers me an outlet to be creative and a challenge to think outside of the box. By being able to hook a student at the start, I am able to help ensure that they will remember the lesson being taught. One of my classmates mentioned that artifacts could be an excellent hook in a social studies classroom. Knowing that there are artifacts available through local museums for educational purposes makes the task seem much more doable.
Another takeaway related to memory is the importance of making information elaborate, meaningful and contextual (Medina, 2014, p. 138). I want my students to understanding the meaning of what they are learning, not just memorizing it and regurgitating it on a test. I also want to make information as relevant to them as possible by making connections to current or personal events. One method that can be used to accomplish this is using a constructivist approach in teaching. This allows for students to seek out what is most relevant to them and reflect on what they learned and the process of learning. When used effectively the constructivist approach allows students to make connections between old and new material which in turn helps them to store new information when it can be “filed” in their brain with already learned concepts.
There is much to be said about the many factors biological and environmental that impact students process of learning. Teachers need to be well versed in these various factors if they want to be effective educators for all of their students. Having the opportunity to learn development and influences has been enlightening and has helped me to reconsider how I plan lessons and interact with my students and their parents during the upcoming school year. I do intend to be very intentional in regards to stress, self-efficacy, and memory as well as the other theories discussed in this course.
Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for ediucators. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Medina, J. (2014). Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.