Archive for March, 2012

Amazed by the Gifts of my Colleagues~

Survey of Instructional Strategies–Meta-Reflection~

As I reflect on what I have learned in this course entitled Survey of Instructional Strategies, I have much to consider. Reflecting on this past week, filled with reading the papers written by my colleagues and the corresponding comments from our peers, I am filled with a sense of amazement. The quality of their work as graduate students, their professionalism as educators, and their integrity as individuals who desire to give of their best to others is overwhelming. I believe the richness of their gifts, the creativity evidenced in their endeavors, and their dedication as lifelong learners will continue to impact the future in positive ways. I feel privileged to have shared this quarter with these outstanding people of character. A few of the many highlights, according to the “research”, noted in Blackboard Discussions: Final Papers for Peer Review—Seattle Pacific University (2012) are as follows:

Positive Student Behavior—Cara Botz, Collaborative Learning in the Resource Room–Amy Guatelli, Cooperative Learning & Middle School–Connie Taylor, Cooperative Learning–Josh Auckland, Character Education–Keri McManus, The Use of Direct Instruction in Response to Intervention Models–Sara Mirabueno, Josh’s Final Paper–Joshua Hollingsworth, Cooperative Learning in the Classroom–Allison Shannon, GRR–Mackenzie Quartly, DI and Constructivism–Elle Sauro, Inductive and Inquiry Models and My Teaching–Chris Howell, Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Kindergarten–Amanda Burke, Nonlinguistic Representations–Melissa Klein, Constructivism and Concept Attainment–Philip Benson, Concept Maps for All–Laurie James, Nonlinguistic Representations for English Language Learners–Meagan Wilson, Vocabulary Instruction in the Elementary Grades–Kami Cottrell, Project Based Learning–Jessie Scanzon, Nonlinguistic Representations–Julie Schocken, Reciprocal Teaching–Taylor Hansen, In Defense of Direct Instruction–Aimee Chew, Cooperative Learning–Emily Whitten, The Power of Feedback–Alison Brynelson, Homework Purpose and Considerations–Jim Mendes (2012).

If time and energy permitted, I would create concept maps representing themes from each topic and show the interrelationships between key ideas, create connections between old and new learning, etc… and these would serve as a powerful review strategy for this course!

I would like to call particular attention to a comment from Keri McManus, who was my peer review partner for the final paper. Within her paper entitled, Character Education: An Effective Instructional Model to Promote Student Well Being, Cultural Competency, and Academic Achievement she states, “I integrate character education through teachable moments as they arise in my classroom…”(McManus, 2012). Indeed, a worthy goal I hope to strive for each day.

Our professor, Dr. Tracy Williams, set high academic standards for us to reach. She has successfully led us through times of “wind, rain, and snow (with or without power)”, and has maintained continuity for us—despite her own encounter with grief in the loss of a family member. I am grateful for her as a person and am thankful for her vital encouragement along the way.

On an even more personal level, I wonder: Has the greatest learning and revelation during this course come to me as a learner? as a teacher? or as a wife, mother, and grandmother striving to maintain a sense of balance in the midst of learning and teaching? Perhaps the revelations have come in waves—encompassing all three facets of my life. At times, the waves have threatened to overtake me, but as I’ve prayed (without ceasing), I’ve come to understand (and remember) that I can tread water and breathe at the same time. God’s power has provided the courage needed to persevere. He never changes, and will never fail to bless beyond measure. Laurie~

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.

When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown”.

The Bible, New Living Translation (©2007)


Direct Instruction—With Flexibility~

Survey of Instructional Strategies Module 9

Direct Instruction—With Flexibility~

To what extent or in what ways does structured, direct instruction promote student learning and well-being?

As I observe the effects of structured, direct instruction on the learning and well-being of my special education students, I notice that often students appreciate the predictability of the routine, clarity of the task, examples and modeling of expected outcomes, opportunities to ask questions, and the goal of independence.  Authors Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) cite a number of studies confirming the effectiveness of Direct Instruction with at-risk students throughout the past 40 years. Based on my teaching experiences within the last 30 years, I have observed that the most at-risk students often lack structure, predictability and consistent role-models in their lives outside of school. Additionally, opportunities to ask questions of someone who is successfully able to guide, practice with the presence of a “safety net” and, the encouragement needed to independently take on new responsibilities—are at times insufficient. One of my colleagues noted in a post this week, that his work with students in an alternative school setting includes built in “independent practice” for homework.  I believe that in this manner, he provides a form of direct instruction.

At-risk students in particular, when provided with structured, direct instruction—often increase their understanding of concepts and develop the ability to perform tasks they have never before accomplished. In the process, they begin to see themselves in a more positive light and their level of confidence is raised. However, the manner in which the Direct Instruction is provided must also allow the teacher to be flexible enough to address the needs of students who do not respond well to this instructional model—otherwise it can become a negative experience for all involved. As noted within Dell’Olio and Donk, “…context is everything in the classroom. Teachers must deliberate over the needs of their students and decide which instructional method is the right one at the time” (2007, p. 95).

As I consider the strengths and weaknesses of my students, I am drawn to the following quote from one of the readings for this week:

“The equality of all the children as human beings, an equality that derives from their common humanity and personhood, is accompanied by individual inequality in talents and aptitudes” (Adler, 1984, p.1 as cited within Survey of Instructional Strategies handout, Seattle Pacific University).


Adler, M. (1984). “Introduction” to The Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus. As cited within: Williams, T. (2011). Survey of Instructional Strategies handout, Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

Dell’Olio, J. M., Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.