Teach For America
Enrolled in the College of Education and serving as Teach For America-Milwaukee corps members for two years, these graduate students in Dr. Patricia Ellis’ Analysis of Teaching Course are no strangers to the rigors of academic life both on Marquette University’s campus and in their classrooms.
We asked Tyra Hildebrand, Assistant Director of the College of Education’s TFA partnership, and Dr. Ellis to weigh in on the students’ final projects for this course.
As students put theory into practice within their classrooms, they are able to highlight how social justice, cultural responsiveness, rigor, differentiation, and inquiry not only increase student achievement but also develop their students’ soft skills.
How did this particular assignment come about?
Tyra Hildebrand (TH): “This unit plan assignment has been a regular part of the Analysis of Teaching course at MU. However, four years ago, Dr. Whipp and I made some important modifications to the assignment, in order to ensure our in-service teachers created a culturally relevant, student based, inquiry curriculum project. A book that was used in multiple classes, Pedagogy of Confidence by Yvette Jackson, identifies seven High Operational Practices, which was an additional framework for the project:
· Identifying and Activating Student Strengths
· Building Relationships
· Eliciting High Intellectual Performance
· Providing Enrichment
· Integrating Prerequisites for Academic Learning
· Situating Learning in the Lives of Students
· Amplifying Student Voice
The teachers also had to incorporate the Inquiry Learning Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate) into their Unit Plan.”
What are your goals for the students?
TH: “One of the goals for this project is for our in-service teachers to realize they can successfully plan and facilitate a real-world investigation with their students. This required them to move into highly constructivist teaching methods, which can be unsettling at first. The teachers also noted how truly engaged their students were in this project, which will hopefully carry on in further curriculum planning. Additionally, they recognized how cross-curricular their projects were, and hopefully that will result in reaching out to their teaching colleagues for planning future projects.”
Dr. Patricia Ellis (PE): “Inquiry-based learning brings a level of energy, inquisitiveness, rigor, and excitement into the classroom that makes learning meaningful and relevant for the teacher and their students. The learner-centered curriculum project allows the TFA students to facilitate learning in a manner that supports and nurtures the academic and social-emotional development of the whole child.
Engagement in this project encourages the TFA students to grow professionally and personally as they broaden and deepen their skills, talents, and gifts as well as the skills, talents, and gifts of the students in their classrooms.
As the TFA students discuss the impact of the project on their students, they frequently speak to how they see their classroom attendance increase, students becoming more actively engaged in learning, and students taking great pride in their accomplishments. They also express how this project facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues and allows them to explore potential partnerships with community organizations.
The process and completion of this project teaches students how intentional planning, organization, persistence, flexibility, creativity, trust, diligence, belief, resiliency, determination, and reflection in addition to content knowledge are powerful skills and dispositions for classroom teachers to possess and practice on a daily basis.”
What are the benefits of the presentation?
PE: “Seeing the amazing displays of their students’ work along with hearing the passion in their voices as they present their learner-centered curriculum projects clearly demonstrates how engagement in this project helps to change and transform the TFA students’ instructional practices and levels of student engagement.
As students put theory into practice within their classrooms, they are able to highlight how social justice, cultural responsiveness, rigor, differentiation, and inquiry not only increase student achievement but also develop their students’ soft skills.”
Too often, teachers are isolated in their own classroom, but this project allowed the teachers to showcase the student learning.
TH: “Having the opportunity to publicly share the findings of their project is highly rewarding. Each year, we see how proud the teachers are of what their middle and high school students accomplished. We have seen over the years in this project, that the K-12 students always go above and beyond their teachers’ expectations. The teachers also have the opportunity to see what projects their peers facilitated, which is enlightening.”
What are the benefits of the feedback?
PE: “Feedback from peers, supervisors, coaches, professional educators, and other professors allows the students to reflect on and enhance their professional practice in order to maximize student achievement and engagement. The feedback also serves to motivate, encourage, nurture, and inspire students to face challenges with courage and to autograph their work in the classroom with excellence.”
TH: “Our audience members and fellow teachers provided a great deal of constructive feedback for the presenter to contemplate if they were to embark on this project again. This cohort of teachers regularly learns from one another and they push each other to become better for their students. Too often, teachers are isolated in their own classroom, but this project allowed the teachers to showcase the student learning.”