It is quite challenging to teach an individual who happens to be suffering from a learning disability. While the choice of subjects lies completely in your own hands, you simply do not have any sort of control over the grasping ability of the concerned student. While teaching a person stricken with learning difficulties, I happened to resolve numerous difficulties and create an atmosphere of general intellect by making judicious use of the Androgogy theory of M. Knowles. While I had to develop a specific strategy in order to fathom the requirements in a seasoned fashion, the theory offered a few tips which proved to be the turning point in allowing me to fulfill my educational commitments towards an individual who was not as bright as normal people.
GPA Phase 1
Phase 1- Problem Identification
We are all directed or governed by our mental intellect to act when our personal and professional decisions are to be made. This mental intellect helps us plan, implement and review our actions before making a final decision to warrant an action.
The ability to reflect critically on one’s experience, integrate knowledge gained from experience with knowledge possessed, and take action on insights is considered by some adult educators to be a distinguishing feature of the adult learner (Brookfield 1998).
Critical reflection is the process by which adults identify the assumptions governing their actions, locate the historical and cultural origins of the assumptions, question the meaning of the assumptions, and develop alternative ways of acting (Cranton 1996).
I have decided to return to school and pursue a degree in Education to become a Nurse Educator where I can integrate my solid foundation in nursing knowledge and skills to the delivery of professional educational services to the nursing student population of the 21st Century.
I do anticipate many challenges that could interfere with my teaching principally my being inexperience on the principles of teaching on a face to face arena. On a personal level, I am not sure how I will be accepted with my disability and the readiness of the universities or colleges to accept an individual with a challenged disability and be included as part of their nursing faculty. I am approaching this arena somewhat perplexed wondering if my assumptions would materialize.
These assumptions are based on the theory-in-action where I will have to ensure that I complete my education, seek Teaching-Assistant position to gain experience needed to work on this platform as I increase my knowledge in the different theories and Models of Adult Learning, learning styles, approaches and strategies.
Assumptions structure our way of seeing reality, govern our behavior, and describe how relationships should be ordered. Assumption analysis as a first step in the critical reflection process makes explicit our taken-for-granted notions of reality Brookfield (1995), states that the critical reflective process is to challenge the prevailing social, political, cultural, or professional ways of acting.
Based on my critical reflection I will acquire the needed conceptual framework and foundation knowledge to carry out my role with effectiveness and efficiency. However, my creative inquiry is questioning to how bridge my transition from classroom to practice.
While gaps like these can be bridged through the aid of professional coaching techniques and cognitive coaching programs for those suffering from learning difficulties, it needs to be noted that in order to prove as an effective and an efficient teacher, I would be required to develop those skill sets and them put them into practice. In order to achieve my goals, I have also decided to adopt and execute special learning skills while teaching English and computer science to people suffering from varying levels of learning disabilities.
GPA – Phase 2
This Good Practice Audit questionnaire was a tool assessment used to help me identify and articulate my worst and best experiences as a learner, teacher and colleague. This critical reflection made me realize that although I had some experience in teaching patient education that I was not totally ready to teach within the educational community. Brookfield (1995) discussed how critical reflection helps teachers understand why they teach in a certain way and how to assess the impact and perceptions of their practices. Based on his statement and my reflective answers to the questionnaire posted below I am classified as a novice in the field of education:
Worst experience as a learner
Mrs. Bernard was my third grade teacher. I can remember whenever I would raise my hand to answer or ask her a question, and she would never call on me. She also used to have the smart students sit in front of the class and they participated in all the class projects and forget about the rest of us. Sometimes she would tell me to not bother to raise my hand. I felt so dumb. I could not wait for the class year to end.
Worst experience as a colleague
In Pediatrics Mrs. Dixon was our Nurse Manager for the night shift. She had the knowledge, the skills and the expertise. However there was one serious barrier, she wanted everyone to know that she was the only nurse manager on the unit and in the hospital that knows about Pediatric Nursing. She was ambivalent and at times untrusting of our abilities to carry our job description to the fullest and would even acknowledge anything positive done by her staff. She lacked flexibility, sensitivity and was not supportive to her staff.
Worst experience as a teacher
On the Labor and Delivery Unit where I worked I was part of the mentoring and/or precept newly hired nurses. On a particular time I was assigned to precept 2 Spanish speaking newly hired nurses on Medication calculation and administration based on the pre-test revealing that they were not proficient in problem solving. In this situation it was difficulty because I was faced with several issues: English language proficiency, their understanding of the medications, dosage, route of administration, side effects and what approaches and strategies would be best to use to motivate them and encourage their learning.
Best experience as learner
Obstetrics was in the second year of my nursing program. In that class Professor Glenn developed and designed her own syllabus which was a teaching and learning centered enhanced by a textbook. She had a passion for teaching, an educational authority supported by many years working in this specialty and believing that we brought in her class as women a wide range of experience we our own “giving birth” experience or inexperience. At that time I was not married nor had any children. When she assigned us to read the chapter on labor progression and giving birth, she told us that reading the chapter and my lecture you will be able to deliver a baby without any difficulties. During that time there no power points or video to show the class. Professor Glenn on that day told us to close our textbook and to pay attention to her lecture. However she added was the best teaching approach and styles a teacher could use. She took us step by step through every stage of labor while describing and imitating what women do at each stage along with the nursing care. I was in awe with her teaching. She became my mentor, shared and passed on to me her knowledge, skills and her passion for teaching. We kept in touch until her death. I want to be me to my students a teacher, a mentor like she was for me.
Best experience as a colleague
During my mentoring or preceepting newly hired nurses I worked closely with the Unit Staff Educator. As a colleague I have observed her work collaboratively with the this special staff where she would work collaboratively in focusing and analyzing on each of our strengths and weaknesses in order to generate our responses so we could learn from each other and from our mistakes as well. She would document our meetings. Based on her observations she would compile and share her thoughts and would ask us to focus on our educational and teaching approaches, styles, methods and skills used with our students. She would then suggest approaches to use or not to use depending on the problem.
Best experience as a teacher
I have not yet worked in a synchronous collegial teaching environment however my best teaching experience was with my Lamaze Course group. This class had provided them with the basic tools needed for a successful delivery. This experience was:
- Helping them to succeed at the level they feel most comfortable in
- My focus was to get them motivated in using their time effectively
- Provided all the appropriate materials including teaching tools such as audio-visual, active class participation with open communication, literature and role play.
- Provided a safe environment to continue the fostering of their learning so at delivery time they will confidently apply their new knowledge to their labor and delivery process for a successful delivery.
My challenges will be two fold
As a novice teacher, I will be anticipating many factors that would cause barriers and challenges during my first transitional year from student to teacher. On the general level, factors such as ambivalence, fears, overwhelming feeling about my expectations, the scope of the job, lack of support and not assigned to a skilled mentor are just a few challenges I know I will face. On a personal level, I am not sure how I will be accepted with my disability and the readiness of the universities or colleges to accept an individual with such a disability and be included as part of their nursing faculty. Teaching calls on the professional to use a variety of skills in order to reach a wide range of learners. One of the most important skills for teachers to develop is the ability to differentiate instruction. Differentiation involves modifying the content, process, product or learning environment to effectively address the variety of student interests, learning preferences, affective needs and readiness levels in today’s classrooms (Tomlinson, 2003).
While showcasing my teaching abilities, I need to understand that the class has students who are not well versed with the day to day affairs. They are children who suffer from learning difficulties and need to be taught the same subject in a slightly different manner. Hence, it all depends on my abilities to choose the most appropriate learning techniques. Lastly, it is my will to execute those learnt skills to perfection, if I aspire to see results.
Lifelong learning is at the heart of practice for novice teachers. Teachers in their first few years of experience are particularly vulnerable to the challenges and pressures of developing effective teaching skills while attempting to contribute to the building and maintaining of a professional learning community. These factors are also important to those who are experienced in the classroom (Cain, 2001), but to the new teacher it may make the difference between staying in or leaving the profession (Ingersoll, 2002).
Southall (2003) states that Novice teachers as lifelong learners will likely experience increased confidence and security, improved student motivation and satisfaction, and encouragement to contribute to the school’s overall learning climate. Taking responsibility for professional growth through a continual pattern of learning allows new teachers to tailor learning to specific, self-selected needs, claim or reclaim responsibility for their own professional growth and assessment (Fenwick, 2004), and to contribute to their schools’ professional learning community. Developing as a lifelong learner provides novice teachers with a two-fold call to duty:
- To strengthen and enrich their own knowledge and skills as educators,
- To impress upon their students the importance and value of learning across the lifespan.
One principle about adult learning is that adults bring extensive life experiences that should be harvested to enhance new learning (Knowles, 1984).Being a novice teacher in the 21st Century is becoming more challenging and complex secondary to the high state demands and performance improvement from both students and educators. I will need to continue to be more reflective teacher faster. I have one advantage as a novice teacher is the fact that I have completed my Good Practice Audit evaluation tool where I have learned that I will need to integrate the theory of education, critical thinking skills and life learning experiences. It gave me the opportunity to reflect with my professor Dr. Klimonsky when evaluating my abilities to teach and connect with my students. It would be an ideal situation where I would be working with a mentor, meet with other new teachers in a support group setting, monthly training that would help me along the way in setting goals to improve my teaching.
In conclusion, in order to survive my transition from a student to a teacher, I feel that my lifelong learning and professional nursing experience will be a strong foundation and a guiding principle to shaping and supporting my transition during that time with the guidance of a skilled mentor. They will also strengthen my orientation process and personal abilities to teach. Despite all odds I will continue to persevere, remaining positive, resilient and committed to my mission to teach and pass on my knowledge to the new generation of future students driven by hope and confidence to succeed in my new career.
Using lifelong learning as a guiding principle to shape and support the experience of novice teachers is by no means a panacea to all of the inherent instructional and individual growth needs of the profession. However, it can be valuable in encouraging reflection and conversation to ascertain how new teachers exemplify and practice a love of learning and how it can be used to strengthen instruction and one’s personal capacity. With the greater majority of teachers not believing that district-provided professional development strengthens their teaching, yet recognizing the need to grow and learn, it is apparent that teachers must take an active hand in their own professional futures in this regard.
GPA Phase 3
Phase3-Potential solutions to the identified problem
Theories and Methods of Educating Adults
It needs to be noted that fewer than 10% of the people with learning difficulties are working with a pay involved. People should there be supportive to the cause of uplifting the disabled by providing equal paid employment opportunities for people suffering from learning difficulties. In order to guide individuals with learning difficulties, special coaching programs need to be adopted wherein people with such disabilities need to be taught the lesson of self improvement by building their confidence level by a judicious training as well as self-advocating techniques. While the classroom cessions are undoubtedly the most import when it comes to imparting proper educational knowledge to people with learning disabilities, it needs to be understood that unless and until people with learning disabilities are not supported by their collogues at the workplace, they can never flourish or improves in their professional as well as their personal lives (Jones & Morgan, 2002).
In Pursuit of Happiness
I was an English teacher who had the knack of teaching English to students who never once realized the true meaning and the usage of the English language. While I could never be considered as a normal, every day teacher, who takes classes on a random basis and attends high school in a bid to teach a certain section, the essence of bookish knowledge, I had a job which was much more challenging and equally enduring. While the job I just described is ideal for instilling the basics of education for individuals aspiring to excel in a language of their choice, I happened to steer clear of the so called “stereotyped” teaching format and decided to help individuals learn the basics of the English language through diverse learning techniques. Now, those individuals were a bit different from the ordinary every day, learning individuals. The difference lay in respect to their mental development.
In simple words, the students I taught did not have the capacity or the ability to grasp information at the same pace, as could have been achieved by an individual who was blessed with normal mental abilities. In order to simplify my statement even further, I would like to state that I taught students who often suffered from various kinds of learning disabilities. While it was quite a challenge to accomplish a task so Herculean, I somehow managed to steer clear of trouble by adopting the principles of a methodology that allows me to fulfill my ambitions without needing to seek any sort of external help, I somehow managed to excel through a simplified learning program. Well, here is how I achieve my purpose with utmost ease (Knowel, 1984).While teaching my students, who also suffered from learning disabilities, I often took help from Knowel’s theory of andragogy
In the beginning, I faced a lot of difficulties while trying to teach individuals who suffered from learning difficulties, a language as simple as English. There were times when I did not know whether a particular student was following my lectures in an appropriate manner or not. There were also times wherein I was convinced that a particular section of students had no clue whatsoever regarding the direction of my teaching methodology. Although I tried various methods to instill the learning bug in my students, there seemed to be no response as such from the other side. After having tried all tactics that I was aware off, I decided to seek external help.
A particular problem which I could never really resolve was when my students nodded in an approving manner when I asked whether they understood a particular section of the English paper but failed miserably when, at the end of the cession, I had them write a simple written paper based on what I had actually taught in the class. The Knowles theory of andragogy proved useful in allowing me to impart adult educational techniques to students who had difficulty behaving and thinking their age. By using this methodology, I was able to explain to my students the benefits of education, explain my subject through experiments, allow my subject matter to come across as problem solving in nature and explain to my students that the topic being taught was of immediate value (Knowles, 1975). In relation with this learning process, I was able to lay more emphasis on the process rather than the content.
In the second half of the semester when I took to teaching computer training, the principles of Knowel’s theory seemed appropriate for resolving complex problems with ease. I was able to explain to my class, the reason for teaching them certain specific things such as the commands, the basic functions and operations etc. I was also able to gather the interest of my students who suffered from learning difficulties by helping them learn new techniques through task oriented approaches instead of concentrating in the process of memorization. The learning activities were now taught in context with the task. While teaching computer languages to students suffering from learning disabilities, I also took into account the wide range of diverse backgrounds to while my students belonged. In accordance with their prior acquaintance with computers, I designed the course material and executed it to perfection by altering the course in accordance to each specific individual. In order to allow my students to feel more confident, I allowed them to think like adults and permitted them to carry out experiments, wherein my job was to simply stop them from committing silly mistakes.
By applying the principles of andragogy, I was able to enhance the learning capabilities of my students to a great extent. I was able to involve my students in the planning and execution of the instructions, made them learn through the mistakes they made, taught them the relevance of computer science with their immediate future in mind and allowed my learning class to be problem centered rather than content oriented (Knowles, 1984).
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