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Category B: Preparation to Teach Curriculum to All Students in California Schools

Standard 6: Pedagogy and Reflective Practice

To maximize student learning, candidates learn to create and maintain well-managed classrooms that foster students’ physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well being. They learn to develop safe, inclusive, positive learning environments that promote respect, value difference, and mediate conflicts according to state laws and local protocol.

By design, the preliminary teacher preparation program fosters the ability of candidates to evaluate instructional alternatives, articulate the pedagogical reasons for instructional decisions, and reflect on teaching practices. The program fosters each candidate’s realization that the analysis and assessment of practices promote a teacher’s professional growth. 

In the program, candidates read, analyze, discuss, and evaluate professional literature pertaining to important contemporary issues in California schools and classrooms, and use sources of professional information in making decisions about teaching and learning. 

Candidates learn how to use and interpret student assessment data from multiple measures of student academic performance to inform instruction. They learn how to plan and differentiate instruction based on student assessment data and diverse learning needs of the full range of learners (e.g., struggling readers, students with special needs, English learners, speakers of non-standard English, and advanced learners).

Candidates learn to select, assess, make pedagogical decisions, and reflect on instructional practices in relation to (a) state-adopted academic content standards for students and curriculum frameworks, (b) principles of human development and learning, (c) the observed effects of different practices, and (d) consultation with colleagues.

A central goal of the program is to develop reflective practitioners. Students learn to approach teaching as a cyclical process that begins and ends with reflections. This cycle includes reflection on short and long-term goals, the nature of the learner, and the instructional context. Planning is based on this reflection, along with the theoretical and practical knowledge the candidate can bring to bear. After the candidate implements the plans for a particular instructional sequence, they are taught to assess the outcomes, to reflect on that assessment, and to begin the cycle again.

Evaluating instructional alternatives, articulating reasons for instructional decisions, and reflecting on teaching practices.

In CI 159 Curriculum and Instruction and CI 161 Methods and Materials in Secondary Teaching, students learn to select or develop goals and objectives, plan and implement instruction, and assess learning in a reflective process.  Lesson planning is emphasized in CI 159 and unit planning takes place in CI 161.  The following instructions are excerpted from the CI 161 Methods and Materials in Secondary Teaching course for English. They illustrate the reflective nature of our approach to teaching students about the instructional process.

CI 161:  Spring 2010

Unit Plan Requirements

Getting Started: As a way of moving outside of more traditional approaches to teaching, you’ll need to organize this unit thematically. That means you won’t begin with a text or writing project in mind. Rather, you’ll think about an idea that you feel students would value exploring, an idea that students can connect to. For example, students would likely be engaged by an exploration of the failures of the American Dream, but how motivated would they be if your central idea were how to write a research paper? Certainly writing and reading will be an integral part of your unit, but think of a thematic “hook” that you can use to get students interested in ideas. You’ll build from that hook rather than from teaching a specific text. As you begin,

Reflect on readings and class discussion.

  • Remember to consider your assumptions/beliefs about teaching—and design a unit that reflects your views.
  • Choose the grade level you will target for your unit and keep this grade level in mind throughout the curriculum development process.
  • In choosing the theme of your unit, remember that it must incorporate reading, writing, listening, and speaking. 
  • This unit must fit into 3-4 weeks so choose a topic that is appropriate for that length of time. 

All units are organized around three basic concepts:  what, how, and why.  Effective units should communicate a sense of what you are teaching, how you are delivering this material/experience, and why this is all worth doing.  These characteristics are embedded in the following required elements of your unit:

1. Introduce your unit, describing its theme, purpose and audience. Be sure to include the title of your unit on the first page. Describe the audience/class you have in mind.  Include both who you are teaching and, briefly, how/why this unit responds to their needs.  What grade level are the students?  To what characteristics of this age group does your unit respond?  What important factors in the community, school, and/or classroom influenced your curricular decisions? Also include information about the length of the class period and any other pertinent information in this section.

2. List your unit’s learning outcomes.  This list could include student mastery of general knowledge (information/facts), development and practice of applied knowledge (strategies or processes), and formation of opinions and beliefs about a variety of topics/ideas (about language, living, the world, etc.). These should be your BIG goals for the unit. They should pinpoint the most important things you want students to get out of your unit. As a result, you likely won’t have more than six-eight outcomes, but you should have at least one related to each of the following: reading comprehension, literary interpretation, and writing

When I look at your learning outcomes, I’ll be interested in what you want your students to learn; often these statements will begin with the phrase “Students will be able to . . .” I expect you to be specific in terms of what you want students to learn; however, you don’t need to specify the percentage of students that will achieve competency.  Be sure to include the standard/s that your objective corresponds to.  For example, “Students will learn how to use freewriting to generate descriptive material for their personal essay (See Grade 8: Writing 2.1c).” Note: don’t just state what students will do in the unit. Use these outcomes to get at what you want students to learn.

3. Include a list of texts you’ll use with very brief summaries (one or two sentences). You must include at least one text from each of the following genres: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

4. Create a calendar (no more than two pages) to give an overview of the unit.

5. Prepare brief lesson plans for each class period in which you indicate your objectives and the content of each class meeting. We’ll discuss the format in class. Give enough detail that someone could pick up your unit and teach it. Keep in mind, though, that if the day’s activity involves introducing a writing assignment, you should include the prompt and an evaluation plan/guide/rubric. In these lesson plans, it’s fine to “borrow” activities and materials from other sources, just be sure that most of your work is original thinking—and if you do borrow material, acknowledge the source using MLA format.

6. Incorporate technology in your unit. 

7. Defend your unit in a well-developed statement of rationale.  This should help your reader to understand the why part of your unit.

Why is this unit worth doing?

Why have you organized and sequenced the unit as you have?  What learning outcomes governed your choices in the unit?

Why are the materials you chose appropriate?

Why did you choose to assess as you have?  What kinds of pre-assessments, formative assessments, and summative assessments have you used and why?

Your rationale should convince someone that what you have put together is well thought out, meaningful, and interesting. This document is an expression of who you are as a teacher and what you know about teaching at this point.  Use everything at your disposal (reading and experience) to make a good case for the value of your unit.  You must back up what you say with the readings from this semester. Since I don’t assign a final about writing instruction similar to the midterm (about reading and literature instruction), I expect one element of your rationale to be a solid presentation of your writing pedagogy as it relates to the choices you’ve made in your unit. The rationale should be a substantial piece of writing (around 5 pages long)

8. To recap, then, your unit will contain the following sections:  1) Introduction 2) Objectives 3) List of texts. 4) Calendar 5) Daily lesson plans 6) Rationale


Using student assessment data to inform instruction.

In CI 152 Psychological Foundations of Education, a number of the course objectives are directly related to assessing students’ needs, reflecting on these needs, and designing instruction accordingly. In this course, students learn how to diagnose students’ learning problems and prescribe appropriate responses, to evaluate learning activities in terms of their value for students of diverse languages and cultures, and evaluate alternative classroom instruction and management techniques. [ See CI 152 syllabus] In CI 159, a general curriculum and instruction course, students learn to analyze their lessons based on student learning and to consider alternative strategies.

The Fresno Assessment of Student Teaching (FAST) system requires formal reflection. For example, the Teaching Sample Project requires students to describe what different instructional decisions they could have made in teaching a unit, based on student learning outcomes. (See FAST Manual)

Consulting professional literature about teaching and learning.

In CI 151 Social Foundations of Education, students are introduced to contemporary issues in the schools of our state.  For example, the first unit of the course deals with the school reform movement on both the state and national levels.  Issues related to standards, assessment, and equity are discussed in this part of the course.  This course requires extensive reading of professional literature.

In the subject specific methods courses, students use subject-specific journals, professional organization yearbooks, textbooks, and Websites to carry out a variety of tasks. (See course syllabi for CI 161.)

Learning to consider multiple factors and information sources in instructional decision making.

In initial student teaching (EHD 155A), seminars are conducted by university supervisors in which students reflect on their teaching practices.  In both initial and final student teaching, students are required to assess specific aspects of their own teaching practice and to discuss these assessments with their university supervisor and their cooperating (master) teacher.

In both the general and subject specific methods courses, students practice using the state adopted academic content standards, curriculum frameworks, and other materials to design daily lessons and units of instruction.  In this process, they discuss the instructional principles embedded in theses materials. For example, prospective social science teachers learn that to teach the analytical skills called for in the social science standards, a purely didactic approach to teaching would be completely inadequate. Before final student teaching, candidates have demonstrated their subject matter competency and are prepared to incorporate significant developments in their Single Subject discipline into their teaching. Their subject-specific, methods course is taught by a faculty member from their discipline, and they are also supervised in final student teaching by a subject matter expert.  These individuals are in a good position to assist students to include significant disciplinary advances in their teaching. In their psychological foundations course, as students study various aspects of human development, they learn to consider these factors in their curricular and instructional decision making.  In their social foundations course, the economic and cultural context of the state are discussed in relation to both curricular and pedagogical questions. For example, reforms in career/technical education are discussed in relation to the need to compete in the global economy. [ See CI 151 syllabus]

In the lesson planning and unit planning which candidates do in their general and subject-specific methods classes as well as in student teaching, they are required to present the rationale for their instructional choices. In initial student teaching, they discuss instructional choices and get feedback from their peers during seminars.  In both semesters of student teaching, candidates conference with both university supervisors and cooperating (master) teachers on a regular basis.  These conferences consist primarily of discussion regarding alternative practices. In student teaching, they are evaluated on the degree to which they ask for and make use of suggestions from colleagues in regard to instructional decisions. All of these program practices are designed to convey the importance to candidates of making instructional decisions based on multiple sources of information.

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