Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Editorial by Barbra N. Villareal

Standards Based Lessons: 
A First Step In Good Teaching

Change is difficult, be it on a personal or professional level. But change is not always negative. In an age where information spreads faster than ever before, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest trends. There are uncertain times when people must be willing to try new things, to be more open, curious and experimental. 

This is especially true in education, as we are preparing our students to become a part of a global world. Although there are great new models of learning and schooling, there are also exceptions, and the progressive movement has not gain much momentum. This challenges us, as educators, to keep pace with new curriculum and teaching concepts. Part of the foundation of quality education is a comprehensive lesson, based on standard and assessment using rigorous criteria.

Standard based lessons are the first step in good teaching. As a teacher it is essential to know your standard. Knowing your standard means that you know what knowledge your students should be coming with each year, the scope of the curriculum you yourself is tasked with teaching and recognizing how the curriculum spirals. It helps to become familiar with not only the standard for your class, but previous classes. 

Students are expected to come to your class with knowledge that at least meets the standard from the previous year. Obviously, this only happens in an ideal world. Students will come to you with a wide variety of knowledge. Some students will be above grade level; some students will be below grade level, and some students will be very far below grade level. 

But that’s ok. Is it intimidating? Of course. Does it make your job more difficult? Absolutely. But knowing where your students should be and where they actually are academically essential. Knowing the curriculum for the grade you teach will ensure that your students are learning the same information as their peers. Knowing your standard also helps you recognize the spiraling effect of curriculum. Students are tasked with learning certain skills at certain age so that the next year’s curriculum can build on them. Understanding what your students need to know and why is essential.

Once you became familiar with your standard, it is much easier to create an appropriate lesson objective. Objectives are defined as “statements describing what learners will be able to do upon completion of a unit of study” (Acito, pg.1). Objectives should be short, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bounded (SMART). Students should be overloaded with an objective; one task at a time is the best way to go. Objectives need to be measurable. The teacher must have an objective way of assessing whether or not a student achieved the objective. Attainable and realistic objectives mean that tasks are age and grade appropriate. Time bound objectives are ones that can be met within a specific, given time frame. Let’s look at two different objectives:

Objective 1:  Students will learn 20 new vocabulary words.

Objective 2: By the end of the lesson, students will be able to spell the following five words with 80 percent accuracy: photography, digital, lens, shutter, camera.

Let’s start by discussing the problems with Objective 1. Objective 1 is not a short task. This may take  several days or weeks, depending on the learners. This objective also does not tell the students how their learning will be measured. Objective 1 may well be attainable, but it is neither easily attainable, nor realistic. Some 20 vocabulary words are too many for one lesson. 

It is not very realistic to assume that students will be able to learn 20 new vocabulary words as part of a lesson. Further, “Learn” is a vague verb. What exactly will the students learn with the vocabulary words? It could be spelling, vocabulary, usage, and others.  Objective 1 also does not specify when students will be able to meet this standard. Will the students be able to complete this task in one day? One week? 

Objective 2 is a much better example of a good objective. This objective is short. It gives the students one task, spell the five vocabulary words. This objective is also measurable. It clearly states that students will be able to spell the words with 80 percent accuracy. During this step remember that you are reaching for an average here. If you require 100 percent success, many students will fail. If your standard is too low, you will have grade inflation to deal with. Eighty percent accuracy means that this is an attainable and realistic goal for most students. Finally, objective 2 is time related. Students will be able to complete the given task at the end of the lesson, be that one or more days.

The final key to an effective lesson is a reliable assessment. To create a successful assessment you need to refer back to your objective. When you assess you must ensure that you are truly assessing what was taught. If your objective specifies that students will be able to spell vocabulary words and the assessment is a fill in the blank quiz, the objective and assessment do not align. Essentially, you are not assessing what the students had been taught. A better assessment would be an exit slip where students need to correctly spell the vocabulary words. 

‘Editor’s Note: Ms. Barbra N. Villareal is Teacher III, Aguinaldo T. Rapiedad Sr. Integrated School, Banga, Aklan.’ /MP

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