According to the Wikipedia site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation, “the definition of an adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. All adaptations help organisms survive in their ecological niches. These adaptive traits may be structural, behavioral or physiological.” Adaptations can be easily understood in biology; yet, there are other areas in life that the same conceptual understandings can be applied to better acknowledge the evolutionary process. The cycle of a teacher (organism) as learner (evolving) brings about enlightenment that transcends the classroom into communities (ecological niches). This enlightenment has been brought about by the exploration of theory, concepts, strategies, reflections, and collaboration. The adaptive traits that have been impacted include structural (the foundation of enquiry and discovery), behavioral (what can be seen or manipulated in teaching and learning), and physiological (how learning is carried out in the living system).
The first trait that has been impacted in my educational evolution is structural. How I think about learning is being completely transformed. Prior to my quest for higher education, I thought about teaching in a simple way. I am the teacher, you are the learner, and I will impart my knowledge onto you. You will learn facts and tell it back to me either through a worksheet or test. My evolution started when I walked through the doors of higher education. I started by reading and reflecting on the Principles of Learning and the Lasallian Mission. I was opened up to the world of learning for myself rather than for an outside force; gone was performing tasks in order to get a grade. Finally I was free to read, reflect, practice, and question. I continue to find my own thirst for knowledge influencing my pace of discovery. The next trait that has been evolving is behavioral. How I see and manipulate my learning is undergoing a transformation. Changing my language to more of a constructivist approach, writing a review of literature which promotes research, pondering praise vs. encouragement, and analyzing action research data are all the actions behind my transformation. Learning cannot stop with just reflecting, the process must include the act of changing in order to evolve into something deeper. Others must witness the change in behavior. For example, moving from “Good Job” to “tell me about it” is a transformation that can be witnessed. The last adaptive trait that is being impacted is physiological. How a range of actions impact my learning in my classroom has been evolving. By implementing best practices in reading, by integrating “high yield” instructional strategies, and by using the backward design approach to planning I have found my students growing and developing deeper connections. Different from my past, now I am looking for ways to facilitate student learning by exploring concepts in order to build essential understanding. I think about where the students are at and start there rather than using standards as the starting point. Also, by having a newfound global understanding of units that we have been studying for years, I have transformed my reading groups from reciting facts to higher level thinking.
Clearly, the cycle of adaptation in teaching is enlightening. The cycle starts with discovering new theories of learning, moves to seeing and manipulating learning, and ends by impacting the learning cycle of others. This evolutionary process is happing to me as I journey through higher education. The process has and will continue to allow me to bring adaptations to my own teaching and learning.
Resources to keep the cycle of ADAPTATION alive and well:
Environment/Relationships: Reading and reflecting on The Principles of Openness, Unique Gifts and Talents, Gratitude, and Intention have had been key influences in my adaptation cycle this past year. I started by trying to build trust and connections with our staff at staff meetings. Staff members were put into community groups focusing on building trust and openness. Meetings were transformed into Community Gatherings. In my classroom I focused on finding gratitude within my days teaching and I was intentional with welcoming the kids. I worked tirelessly on my attitude towards the students I found more difficult to connect with. Another area of high interest was the praise vs encouragement reading and discussions we had. Lastly, reading What are Rituals? and reflecting/remembered from my own education has helped me identify the areas I found to be important to me. Writing my own principles of learning is something I know will be carried on in my classroom because they are rooted in my past.
Instruction (how I teach): Reading Look Before you Leap about the constructivism theory of learning is helping me to transform my classroom by my words and actions.
Discipline/Content Area, This will be a slow process but one I have already begun as shown above. The readings What is a Matter of Understanding and Concept Based Teaching and Learning both are providing me with background understanding in order to develop lessons using the Backward Design approach. I have one exploratory learning design complete and I plan on finishing 4 more throughout the next 6 months. I also spent the year reading about best practices in reading focusing on Phonemic Awareness. I have also implemented sight word teaching in my daily routine.
Assessment: Many ideas can be found in 25 Quick Formative Assessments several of which I have implemented this year. I also have begun to explain to the students what it is I’m looking for when I do perform formative assessments. These ideas came from the concept based teaching and learning along with backward design.