This past week I often felt as Ross may have felt after Phoebe blew his brain with facts about past scientific history and asking him to open his mind, just a little. I often felt as though I had “known” all of this stuff and then KABOOM!!! MAETy2 (Masters of Education Technology Year 2) comes along, the atom was split and as Phoebe put it so eloquently “and this like, whole mess of crap came out.” Did I abandon my belief system? Had I lost respect for myself?
During the first week of classes, I was compelled to see my practice in a different manner: this made me sick. Sick mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I began to question EVERYTHING that I do, my mind began to open just a little bit more. In my previous learning experience, through a different university, I was taught about “best practice,” and that it is what we do as special educators. I absolutely loved my experience during my credentialing process, it was exactly what I needed at the time. I was given the frameworks and told that they are the best and you need to follow them, whether I believed they were best, or not, for my learners. Was this framework backed by research? Yes, however was it really best for all? I wasn’t allowed to question this and I really didn’t know that I should, therefore I went along with my professors.
In my classes at MSU I have been asked to question my practice, so how I see it I ask, what is “best practice,” what does this mean? Who decides for me, my learners and my district what best practice is? In special education I was taught that it means inclusion, inclusion, inclusion… for everyone. I began to question this term “best practice.” Is there really, truly, absolutely ONE best practice for ALL learners and if there was, where was it? Is inclusion the best place for ALL student with special needs? Is best practice a place, thing, curriculum, experience, practice? You can see why I was so distressed. I had this idea that was filed away in my pretty little brain and KABOOM! like the atom splitting there’s more, all this crap came out (but now we will call this crap well researched information and practices). There was more knowledge to be acquired. I was beginning to open my mind to new thoughts, ideas and concepts of my practice and it was painful in many ways to go through this process. When thinking of “best practice” I was faced with the very bitter reality that what I have been practicing for the past six years may not have been the best for my learners and in turn for my colleagues, student teachers and other professionals that I encountered. You can begin to see where the bomb has dropped, right?
Through this process of drafting, personal revision and peer revision, questioning and research I have begun to see the importance of peer revision and personal reflection. As an educator I often do not take the time out of my busy teacher life to stop and think about how a specific lesson went or all too often I am doing very quick on the spot reflections. This, in my opinion, needs to be taken to a deeper level. I would love to see how I look when I’m teaching, what I say most, am I using kind and encouraging words and tone or do I have a tone that belittles my students. This process scares me like no other, what if I do belittle my students? But what a great opportunity to see this in action and change it. I can not control the past and what has already happened I can only control the future.
Through this control of the future I have been able to utilize research to add something to my practice that is GENIUS! and I get to say that it’s research based and works in two thirds of the cases studied. How exciting is that! The Dollar-Up money counting method is a method for teaching money skills to my student that I already use but like in the research I was having a difficult time to get students to pick it up. During one of the studies the researchers added a “cents” pile and a “dollars” pile to their counting method and voila it worked. Students began to use this method not only while in the classroom but also in the community. BAM! there’s another atom being split open and great practice coming out!
I love it. I have come to a place in my research process where I see myself as a teacher, facilitator, technology integrator and leader. I am able to take research back to my students and fellow staff members about learning practices, modes and methods of pedagogy, content, technology tools and frameworks. More importantly I am able to think with a critical lens about what I am asked to teach, how I am being asked to teach and I can, through more research on my part, say I am doing this particular practice because research says that it works with my learners.
I did not abandon my belief system. It has always been to help facilitate learners to be their best self through the methods, modes and practices I use with them. It was the methods, modes and practices that needed to be seriously looked at and check out. I did not lose my self respect. Well, maybe for a little bit there, but after my brain was able to open just a little- much more that a teeny, tiny possibility- learning happened.
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Denny, Paula J., & Test, David W.. (1995). Using the One-More-Than Technique to Teach Money Counting to Individuals with Moderate Mental Retardation: A Systematic Replication. Education and Treatment of Children, 18 (4), pp. 422-432. Retreived from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42899427 Accessed: 07-07-2015 19:58 UTC
Willingham, Daniel T. (2102). When can you trust the experts? How to tell good science from bad in education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.