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Self Reflection as Professional Practice

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As part of our pedagogical practice in teacher development, the importance of self reflection is evident in more ways than one.

In order for teachers to reflect on themselves in a static manor, changing as their practice develops, a teacher must have  their own vision statement, working towards the main purpose of their teaching.

Teachers can do this by asking themselves questions, ranging from professional goals to the atmosphere they would like to create in their very own classroom/school/community! This allows for a static goal to be achieved, one which is forever changing. Here is an example of my own Vision Statement:

“As a teacher, I strive to encourage determination and achievement amongst those in my learning space. Our learning space is one in which students approach real world problems with a confident perspective, as each student strives to make a positive influence on the world they live in. This learning space is one where students are respected, feeling important and safe to make their own decisions in a supportive environment. My personal drive to assist students in achieving their full potential through decision making, asking questions and receiving feedback in order to reach their full potential in achieving their learning goals.”

Your Vision Statement can guide your teaching and professional development. We are all learners, so what better to do than learn from the person that knows you best?


Any feedback is appreciated 🙂



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Instructional Design Models and Theories: Problem-Based Learning

Thought I would repost this great article by Christopher Pappas on Problem Based Learning. Leave any comments as you see fit 🙂

Instructional Design Models and Theories: Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based Learning (PBL) was introduced by Howard Burrows, an American physician and medical educator, in the late ’60s within the framework of the medical program at McMaster University in Canada.

The Quintessential of Problem-Based Learning

The philosophy behind Problem-Based Learning is that knowledge and skills are acquired through a progressive sequence of contextual problems, together with learning materials and the support of the instructor. Its core lies in collaboration, as well as in personal reflection, as one of its main objectives is to foster independent and lifelong learners, where, however, teamwork substantially affects the quality of the work generated.

As a form of active learning, Problem-Based Learning encourages knowledge construction and integrates school learning with real life dynamics, where learners learn how to develop flexible knowledge, and effective problem-solving skills, acquire intrinsic motivation, exchange ideas and collaborate. Through collaboration, learners are able to identify what they already know, what they need to know, as well as the way and the source of information they need, to successfully reach to the solution of the problem. Instructors facilitate learning, by supporting, guiding and monitoring their learners’ progress, building their confidence, encouraging them to actively participate and stretching their comprehension. This method gives learners the opportunity to master their problem-solving, thinking, teamwork, communication, time management, research and computing skills.

The 5 Key Techniques Of Problem-Based Learning

The five key techniques that are used in problem-based learning are the following:

  1. Problems serve as a guide that motivates learners and grabs their full attention.
  2. Problems take the form of a test, giving the opportunity to the instructor to determine if the learners fully understand the concept.
  3. Problems are just examples that illustrate the concepts that are being taught.
  4. Problems are used by instructors to examine the process, which means that the problem-based process becomes the lesson itself.
  5. Problems serve are a stimulus for activity, which means that they are utilized as a way to develop the skills required to solve them.

The Benefits Of Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning constitutes a method with a wide range of benefits. Some of them are:

  • Learners have the opportunity to fully examine a problem and use their own personal experiences to find the solution.
  • Problem-based learning encourages teamwork, thus improving the communication skills of the learners.
  • Learners learn how to develop their people skills, but also to effectively defend their position.
  • Learners can discover on their own what they need to know, something that improves their self-directed learning skills.
The 4 Key Principles of a Problem-Based Curriculum
  1. Through active learning
    Learners can control their own learning, as well as submit and answer their own questions.
  2. Through integrated learning
    Knowledge, understanding and skills go hand in hand, while classroom/book knowledge is linked to the real world, and the problem is the focus.
  3. Through cumulative learning
    Knowledge is acquired gradually, and topics are revisited in progressively greater depth. Over time, problems become more difficult, and the nature of the challenge more complex.
  4. Through learning for understanding
    The process is the lesson itself and is more important than the facts delivered. Personal reflection is mandatory, knowledge is put to the test and feedback is essential.

Become part of the Elearn team! They will be posting a new Instructional Design Model every week! at the link here > Instructional Design Models and Theories.

Here are some more useful links 🙂



Instructional Design Models and Theories: Problem-Based Learning: Retrieved on 22 October, 2014 at

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After seeing how my classroom took to activities in the Mathematics lesson previous to this, I decided it was time to implement a Mathematics lesson, my very first practical lesson.

I decided to develop and implement a lesson based on the Strand of ‘Measurement’, with further detailed attention paid to the Substrand of ‘Mass’, of the Board of Studies K-6 Mathematics Syllabus (2002).

NSWIT Professional Teaching Standards Element 4.1.5 expresses that an effective teacher must:

“Use a range of teaching strategies and resources including ICT and other technologies to foster interest and support learning” – NSWIT, 2006.

In order to implement a variety of teaching strategies and resources to support the learning of my students, with the accessibility of the SMART board, I developed the following activity in order to allow a practical approach to learning about Mass. Here are 2 screen shots for people without SMART software. Anyone who has access to SMARTboard software can access the lesson at this location: My Smartboard Presentation


The first picture illustrates a scale, with the information on what the position of scale arms depicts. This is brief with a reintroduction in to what the students already know. The second picture shows one of the final activities of the day, with a locked scale. The students can drag the items from the right, drop them on to the scale, and label them in order to physically depict the equation below the scale. This allowed for myself as a teacher to target the kinaesthetic, visual and auditory learners through application of cue/prompt words and a physical expression of the question at hand.

I found that as I could unlock, and change the numeric values of the algebraic fractions, I could allow students with less understanding of the task to come out the front and attempt to answer the question, where I had full control of the difficulty of the task.

Technology is fast expanding, with improved quality work being developed as each day passess, so why not utilise this in the classroom? As teachers we must first remember that it is not as important to be  full of resources, than it is to be resourceful. We as teachers must understand that if we are to utilise ICT forms, we must use them well, in developing content rich activities for our students, with a great application of the pedagogies present  as stated in the ACARA national curriculum (National Curriculum Board, 2009). Grabe (2007) believes  knowledge of the pedagogies must be implemented in the form of meaningful learning activities to allow for children to be provided with a positive learning environment, in order to foster learning in the classroom.

So when we as teachers are developing ICT activities for our students, we must consider how we are to utilise this resource in transmitting the information we have, into the brains of the students in front of us. After all, that is what teaching is, isnt it?

Until next time,

Mr. Stevens.

Also, Here are some interesting and informative examples for ICT implementation in a lesson. Just click on the hyperlinks and you will be taken to the pages, or copy and paste the (link) in your toolbar.

ICT in a maths class: retrieved from (

An ICT Christmas task: retrieved from (

Using Google Sketchup in class: retrieved from (

71 Great ways to use ICT in the classroom retrieved from (


Grabe, M. & Grabe, C. (2007). Integrating tehcnology to meaningful learning. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

National Curriculum Board. (2009). ACARA, Shape of the Australian curriculum: English. Retrieved from – English.pdf

New South Wales Institute of Teachers. (2006). Professional Teaching Standards. Retrieved 22 March, 2014 from

NSW Board of Studies (2002). Mathematics K-6: Syllabus 2002. Sydney: NSWBOS

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Teachmeet 2014

Throughout the duration of a teachers career, they will be observed in their practice by eyes that don’t belong to their students at some time or another. Student teachers overlooking their teaching methods, Professional Coordinators in teaching assessing the ability of a teacher under their wing or even those within a seminar after you have just given a prentation on behaviour management in the classroom. No matter what the environment, this is a great chance for a teacher to identify faults or strengths they are not able to see within themselves whilst promoting an idea in a variety of shapes and forms.

As I sat quietly awaiting the first presentation at Teachmeet 2014 at ACU, Strathfield I was beginning to wonder what was to come. This event was organised with over 20 small presentations from student teachers, to professional teachers and to other faculty of the primary and secondary education sectors. Throughout its duration, the micro presentations of 2 to 7 minutes attracted the attention of the crowd immensely as each stood up and shared ideas on a variety of classroom applications, from creative arts based spare time, to the importance of grading on assessment.


NSWIT Professional Teaching Standards Element 6.2.5 expresses that an effective teacher must:

“Accept and offer constructive feedback to support a professional learning community” – NSWIT, 2006.

The professional learning community which was present, of teachers and students alike were to both share in the common interest of their occupation, the knowledge and understanding of their students. With the time of intermission being given as 10 minutes, the buzz of the room began to louden as each approached another in discussion of their topics. As I overheard conversation, I noticed that these individuals were open to constructive feedback as much as another was to giving the feedback, with years and years of professional teaching insight being unloaded by the paragraph load, it was quite a sight to see.


The ability for teachers to attend professional development events and seminars as such are important for opening the mind to new teaching applications and ideas amongst the vast community (Sachs, 2001). There may be an experience that one teacher has encountered that another has not, which can have a great effect on the practices and understandings between teachers (Paratore 2001). This is also based on the fact that wish such a diverse classroom culturally, mentally, emotionally and physically, there are so many possible combinations of conversation, behavioural events and understandings to occur (Nieto, 2002). These great professional development meetings accross schools also allow for the development and physical meeting, other than just online, of a Personal Learning Network.

It is therefore imperitive that teachers are to share with other teachers, their understandings and experiences in the classrooms, as with such a diverse classroom, there is a diversity amongst teachers which may come as a great tool to another teaching individual.

Here are a variety of interesting and informative links on PLN’s and professional development of teachers

Your PLN made easy: Retrieved from (

Supporting and Developing your PLN: Retrieved from (

Aussie Educator: Primary Teaching Professional Development: Retrieved from (

Teacher Learning Community Video: Retrieved from (


Nieto, S. (2002). Language, culture, and teaching: Critical perspectives for a new century. Mahwah, JG: Erlbaum.

Paratore, J.R. (2001). Opening doors, opening opportunities: Family literacy in an urban community. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Sachs, J. (2001). Teacher professional identity: Competing discourses, competing outcomes. Journal of Education Policy.

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There is no such thing as a silly question, or is there?

Questions questions questions! Students want to know anything about everything at a point in time at school, as much as teachers would like to know things about their student. This question could be something as simple as “How was your weekend?” or “Have you started with your Maths assignment yet?”. But is there ever such thing as a silly question? Well, when you think of the time you have to teach in a class, one would think that if you were to put forward an idea through questioning to students, it must have a purpose. But if it was not to direct learning at all, merely having students to reply with a one worded answer, that would be a bit silly, wouldnt it?


The NSWIT Professional Teaching Standards Element 4.1.2 identifies that effective teachers must:

“Demonstrate a range of questioning techniques designed to support student learning”  – NSWIT, 2006.

Effective questioning involves planning on the teachers behalf, in order to ensure its effectiveness as a powerful tool in attaining the desired answer. Alford (2006) believes that amongst the most important aspects of setting tasks and asking questions, is identifying the level of thinking your students will require of the task. From the 1950’s, Benjamin Bloom’s devised a taxonomy to categorise the level of abstraction of questions to commonly occur in schools. These included:

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

These were revamped by Lorin Anderson, a student of Blooms in the 1990’s amongst a team of psychologists in order to reflect new notions of the taxonomy, with changes adapted due to the evolving classroom. We can apply this taxonomy through a variety of strategies which are well illustrated across a variety of documented literature, being utilised by teachers through adapting strategic questions to their classroom. These questions include those  which are planned to match points the teacher wishes to decelop, to those that invoke higher cognitive thinking on behalf of the student.


Forehand (2005) found with 80% of talking in the classroom performed by the teacher and with a vast majority of questions being asked in the “lower order” category of the Revised Blooms Taxonomy, it is important that the application of higher order questioning to be planned and adapted into the teaching routine, of which has not been evident at my practical placement as such. We are simply only able to gain a simple ‘single worded’ answer from a student, gaining nothing but a repetition of what is spoken to a student, rather than an idea or thought.


The application of these open questions, to allow for higher order thinking to take place, we are influencing students to direct their own learning, create their own opportunities and find their own understanding of a question, rather than asking for someone else to provide this answer (Forehand, 2005). The opportunity for further learning is found in those students who are more likely to read a book because they are interested in the content, rather than because ‘they have to’. Intuition is the key to discovery, with teachers merely fostering this development as opposed to directing and explaining.

Until next time,

Mr. Stevens.

Also, here are some helpful links to effective questioning and Blooms Taxonomy:

Applying Blooms Taxonomy in the Classroom: Retrieved from (

Powerpoint on the effectiveness of Blooms Taxonomy: Retrieved from (

Blooms Taxonomy Video in Teaching: Retrieved from (


Alford, G., Herbert, P., & Frangenheim, E. (2006). Bloom’s Taxonomy Overview. Innovative Teachers Companion , 176 – 224. ITC Publications.

Forehand, M. (2005). Bloom’s taxonomy: Original and revised. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 18 April, 2014,  from

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Learning, in more ways than one.

With Wednesday bringing along the ever so dreaded Mathematics lesson amongst students, a subtraction task was to present a dull response from the students.

Today, the students were presented with a subtraction exercise, with pictures on the worksheet demonstrating items to buy with $1, and then students indicating the change they had.


I asked what the problem an indicatively confused student was that she was having and she replied “ I don’t get it sir, I don’t get money so how do I know how much  I have left?”. She was one of the louder students who lost money by calling out in class.  So I knew she was a visual learner, always doing well with material based tasks but notably falling slightly behind with other tasks. Without wasting too much time I gathered 2 other students that were having problems of the same kind, not visualizing the money they were spending in the task. So I put them all at a table alone and gave them plastic 5 cent coins. They had not used these before and I said “ Count out 1 dollar as a group in 5 cent pieces”. After this I instructed them to use this $1 in taking turns to calculate their change  for each item.


NSWIT Professional Teaching Standards Element 2.2.3 expresses that an effective teacher must:

“Apply practical and theoretical knowledge and understanding of the different approaches to learning to enhance student outcomes” – NSWIT, 2006.

There is no single way to teach, so that must mean there is no one way to learn, right? Well that’s what I believe, strongly! Smith’s Accelerated Learning Framework is the notion that intelligence is modifiable in school, with students identified as learning more effectively through a range of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic techniques. These range from musical stimulation, to mindmapping and physical activity. In application of this knowledge, a teacher can utilise a variety of approaches to learning in order to enhance student outcomes.


As research by Farwell (2010) has found, a variety of teaching techniques and ideas fosters the development of knowledge through confidence in student engagement amongst classroom activities. As a teacher I personally believe that all students provide a mixed array of learning  development techniques, which means for a variety of teaching techniques to allow learning to occur in the classroom.

Here are some great resources to find out more about Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic learners and how to tend to their needs in the classroom:

Getting to know your students learning styles:  Retrieved from (

Pedagogies and learning styles: Retrieved from (

Learning styles in the classroom: Retrieved from (

Walsh’s seminar on learning styles: Retrieved from (


Constantinidou, F. and Baker, S. (2002). Stimulus modality and verbal learning performance in normal aging. Brain and Language, 82(3), 296–311.

Farwell, T. (2010). Visual, Auditory  and Kinaesthetic Learners. Retrieved from

Rourke, B., Ahmad S., Collins, D., Hayman-Abello, B., Hayman-Abello, S., and Warriner, E. (2002). Child clinical/pediatric neuropsychology: some recent advances. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 309Ð339.

University of Pennsylvania (2009). Visual Learners Convert Words To Pictures In The Brain And Vice Versa, Says Psychology Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from

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Practice what you preach

A genius has the ability to take in large amounts of knowledge about a given subject. But when it comes to being a teacher, it is not how much a person knows, but their ability to transfer this information through a lesson to a class of students. Across the KLA syllabus of the Board of Studies from K-6 there are a variety of different forms of information that a teacher must transmit to students, it is therefore important for teachers to go beyond the syllabus on most occasions and identify important information on the content they are to teach in order to confidently teach students, with room to answer any extra questions if possible.


The Mathematics class today was greeted by a large groan across the classroom as my supervising teacher handing out a lesson worksheet based on the symbols <, > and =.

After roaming the class for 10 minutes, seeing that most of the students had not even attempted the questions appropriately, I decided to draw a crocodile on the whiteboard. I indicated the mouth of the crocodile to be the < symbol, like a mouth, with a clear defined outline of the symbol shape at the large mouth, with the Red in the image indicates the symbols to be used in the image below. At the other end, the evidently smaller tail, shaped like the < sign was shown. I then proceeded to ask the children questions.

I now asked the students, with the crocodile still on the board to complete the task, which quite a few grasped and began to correctly answer questions now with enthusiasm.

The NSWIT Professional Teaching Standard 1.2.1 indicates a teacher must:

“Apply and use knowledge of the content/discipline (s) through effective, content-rich, teaching activities and programs relevant to the stage” – NSWIT, 2006.

With the casual teacher having the prior knowledge to the task, but no tailoring of the activity to assist the student in grasping the task, it was an ineffective activity, essentially wasting precious teaching time. A study by Shulman (1986) indicated that teachers who understood the content they were to teach were more confident in presenting their lesson than those identifying themselves as lacking deeper knowledge of content they were to teach.


As a teacher I believe that when it comes to transferring knowledge of an idea to students, the adoption of strategies can assist a teacher, but it is more effective for a teacher to read up a little about what they are to teach in order to develop a sense of confidence in the topic (Killen, 2007 & Cunningham, 2007).

What are your thoughts on this? Any comments would be appreciated?

Until next time,

Mr. Stevens

Also here are some great resources on knowing what you teach and how it can help in your teaching in the classroom:

Knowing your content as a teacher:  Retrieved from (

In depth content knowledge as a teacher: Retrieved from (



Cunningham, P.M. & Allington, R.L. (2007). Classrooms that work: They can all read and write. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Killen, R. (2007). Using direct instruction as a teaching strategy. In Effective Teaching Strategies: Lessons from Research and Practice, (4th ed.), (pp 101-124). Thomson Social Science Press.

New South Wales Institute of Teachers. (2006). Professional Teaching Standards. Retrieved 17 March, 2012 from

NSW Board of Studies (2002). Mathematics K-6: Syllabus 2002. Sydney: NSWBOS

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15, 4-14.

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