Monday, November 21, 2011

Schema; the Blueprints of Teaching and Learning

One of the things we talk about in Teacher  Education is the idea of schema or the way children  put ideas, facts, feelings, attitudes and information together so that they make sense. In fact, we probably all use schema, in one way or another, in just about everything we do. It's a way of making sense of the world, of looking at the relationships between things, of making decisions or operationaliziing our ideas.

When I am supervising my student teachers in their student teaching experience I use Frances Fuller's Stages of Concerns Model as a means of determining where my students are in their development as teachers. The model has three basic stages through which students pass, quite naturally,  from the moment they first set foot in their classrooms. The first stage comprises a set of survival concerns; (Can I do this? Do I look the part? Will I last 16 weeks?) The second stage of concerns is all about their ability to teach; (Am I using the technology properly? Am I planning my lessons effectively? Is my classroom management working?) Finally, and this is the exciting part, their concerns focus on the students; (Are they learning? Are they engaged in what they're doing? Are they constructing meaning?)

This series of concerns is actually played out over and over again each time the student has a new classroom experience from their very first one in Schools and Society to the last, the student teaching experience. It even happens again when they get their first job as a licensed teacher. I remember my first week teaching my first 4th grade class as if it were yesterday especially after my Headmaster said to me "Do you realize that if those 34 4th graders you're about to meet all decide to sit there and ignore you there's not a thing you can do about it?" That advice assured the length of my survival concerns was the absolute minimum.      

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