Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting To Know My Students

Let the semester begin! 

The beginning of the semester is always energizing. After weeks of a vacant campus, there are students walking around, smiling, visiting, running to class. Each semester brings a new set of students, a new class of learners. Even after teaching at RU for over four years, students in my courses continue to come to me with a wide variety of learning styles, needs and interests. How do I know? I ask and assess them. And, it's ongoing...

The first way I get to know my undergraduate and graduate students is by having them take a MI test (Multiple Intelligences). This is a FREE online test anyone can complete to show their specific learning style. Go head, take the test yourself! I have found this to be one of the most accurate MI assessments for my students (and did I mention FREE).

Here is my profile for you to preview what the results look like. I also took the personality test, which is interesting. I share my own profile with my students so they can learn more about my learning styles.

Why? Research shows teachers naturally teach the way THEY learn. As effective educators, we need to teach the way our STUDENTS learn. Therefore, learning as much as we can about them is imperative. My students submit weekly journal entries throughout the semester writing about the content we have just completed in class. These assignments serve as post assessments on the content, but also can be a pre-assessments of what I plan to teach the next class.

Aside from the MI test and the Learning Journal, my students also take an Educational Technology Pre-assessment. I need to know their technology ability,how proficient they are regarding the modules I teach in class. This ranges from Microsoft Office Suite, to iPads, SMARTboards, interactive software, internet resources and so on. The results will support my decisions of how to group my students when I am teaching a program or technology tool in class. Wouldn't want to bore or overwhelm anyone! For example, if you test high on Powerpoint, I am not going to teach you how to create a Powerpoint assignment, I will move you forward to a Prezi presentation or a WebQuest activity. Keeping in mind, I teach pre-service teachers, I'm also modeling these instructional strategies of integrating Differentiated Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Multiple Intelligences (amoung many others). Many of these theories, practices, and strategies are not new to educators but need to be implemented in a systematic way which allows meaningful learning to take place.

My students assess me, yep, that's right! Not only in the course evals, but in their weekly assignments.If I see a student or students struggling on a certain topic or program, I look at HOW I am teaching it and find ways to reach out to their learning style and understanding. They also provide feedback on how they are doing through their Learning Journals and assignments.

All in all it is a constant reflective journey. I am finding out more about my students and I learn more about myself. One of the many reasons I love teaching at Rockhurst University.

Side Note:
If you haven't gotten the chance to know Howard Gardner you can (he IS still alive!): Such an inspiration to teaching:

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