Reflective Commentary

The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action”
 -John Dewey

Reflective thinking in teaching is essential for self-improvement and professional growth. While self-reflection is indispensable for all aspects of teaching, in the discussion below I focus my reflections on the essential elements of instruction. Specifically, how my graduate studies in current research in curriculum and instruction have influenced my teaching philosophy and practice.  Additional reflections on other aspects of teaching and learning will be added.

An examination of current research in curriculum and instruction entails considering the factors and individuals influencing the promotion and implementation of new instructional strategies (i.e. the latest curricular trend). Quantitative and qualitative factors to consider include the type of research studies involved, the type and quality of data collected, how the data was collected and interpreted, and whether or not sufficient controls were in place to objectively scrutinize research results. I reflected on three central pedagogical questions.

What are my goals in education and did they change after taking the course?

Concerning the first question, my goal is to use acquired pedagogical knowledge to effectively apply my career experiences and science knowledge to meaningful classroom learning. By addressing misconceptions, I want students to understand that science is not only for exceptional thinkers, does not stifle creativity, and only for those seeking science careers. Instead, science is a vital part of daily life, scientific achievement requires creativity and imagination, and learning and doing science can be entertaining. Being science literate informs decision making in areas like personal health or in environmental protection. The course did not change my goals but reinforced them. A better understanding of the intricacies of curriculum design and implementation motivated me to not compromise my educational goals but to find creative ways to achieve them.

What are three significant things that I learned about learning, instruction, and curriculum?

I reflected on three significant things that I learned about learning, instruction, and curriculum. First, I learned about the potential power and vulnerability of education reform. With high interest but insufficient supporting evidence, new education trends can be swiftly implemented, supplanting existing curricula, standards, or practices. Consequently, learning might be unwittingly compromised with teachers ill-prepared to effectively implement new curricula or instruction. Second, I learned how the rapid advances in neuroscience research have led to deeper understandings about brain structure and function. While this new knowledge will lead to new theories in human learning and influence educational practices, educators must be cautious to not misinterpret data and prematurely change teaching practices; the chances of prematurely instituting changes in teaching methods can be lessened by practicing translational research in which scientists and educators collaborate to put neuroscience and education research findings to practical use. Translating education and brain-based research into action is possible but requires planning and the support of school administrators, school boards, students, parents, and the community; leadership at all levels is essential.

How will the learnings and understandings that I gained influence me as an educator?

Regarding question three, I now think more globally about my role as an educator. I am not just a purveyor of information, ideas, or ways of thinking but can have a role in framing educational practices at the curriculum and standards level as opposed to only the classroom level. Most importantly, I need to stay up to date with educational research findings and advances in understanding how people learn.

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