Annotated essay

This assignment is from a first-year Education student. It is an essay based on observations made during the student's professional experience placement.

The topic: Researching Teaching

Students were asked to observe teacher-student interactions during their placement and interview the teacher involved. For the essay, they had to choose one interaction to analyse and relate to the ideas discussed in their classes and readings.

The lecturer’s expectations were set out in the marking rubric for this assignment:

  1. Clear and specific description of the context of the interaction.
  2. Clear and specific description of the interaction.
  3. Critical analysis of the interaction.
  4. Selection and critical use of relevant ideas from the lectures and readings.
  5. Professional presentation in the written assignment, including clarity of expression, coherence, fluency and adherence to a set of academic writing conventions.
  6. Referencing and citing.

Now read the essay. How well do you think it meets these expectations? 

Click the icons next to each paragraph to show the lecturer’s comments. Click again to hide the comment. (The lecturer has not commented on minor points of expression or punctuation.)

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Good Problem Suggestion Question

Essay: Researching teaching

Introduction

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During a placement as a student teacher I have had the opportunity to observe many and varied interactions with students. I have made extensive written observations and I have interviewed my supervising teacher and a number of students in the class. When analysing the myriad of interactions I have chosen the lesson which was the introduction to the concept of sound as the interaction which I will analyse. After the lesson I interviewed my mentor teacher and asked for his reasoning for this particular pedagogy as well and speaking to students about what they thought of the lesson.Lecturer's comment 1:
Lovely introduction – makes it clear what you are setting out to do in this essay. It would have been appropriate to state the conceptual frameworks you will discuss later.

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Context Lecturer's comment 2:
Good use of sub-headings - makes this submission easy to read and mark.

My observational rounds took place in Homewood Secondary College, which is a coeducational multicultural school of approximately 1450 students from Years 7 to 12. Students come from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds at Homewood. The school is in a middle class area and most of the students speak English as their first language.

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At Homewood Secondary College students are categorised into streams based on an end of year test from the previous year. Streaming, or grouping by ability, particularly across a range of subject areas, is a contentious issue. Research findings are inconclusive as to the benefits for all students. People who support ability grouping suggest that teachers can target their teaching better to individual needs if students are grouped by ability. Lecturer's comment 3:
You should have a reference here to highlight who thinks this way.

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This may need to be done with caution as streaming can continue the disadvantage of students who may already have challenges in relation to socio-economic status and race (Catsambis, S., Mulkey, & Crain, R. L., 2001). Lecturer's comment 4:
Incorrect referencing. Please check APA 6th edition referencing conventions - you don't need the initial in the in-text citation.

The test given to students at Homewood is designed to cover all academic areas and provide an overview of the student’s general performance. The test is given at the end of each year in preparation for the following year. After testing they are placed into classes based on these results with class label of being the top performing students on the test and a class label of J being the lowest performing students. The class in which my observations and this particular interaction occurred was a class J year 8 science class.

As outlined, class J is generally made up of the lowest performing students in the year level across all academic subjects. I noticed that this allowed my mentor teacher to approach his educational planning in a specific way and create his classes accordingly. Interestingly he pointed out that streaming, in his experience, is not always as it seems. He believed that the J stream does not directly indicate that the students have poor science knowledge despite their results on a general test. My mentor teacher talked about communication techniques. He believed that on the whole his J students were poor communicators without the adequate writing skills to communicate their ideas effectively. Additionally many had behavioural issues leading to low scores on the general test.  He also believed that the general test applied to students did not adequately cater for students with learning difficulties and/or other personal or family dysfunction.

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In the context of my mentor teacher’s interaction another key element to consider is the gender split of his J class.  At Homewood he has experienced a very high level of males in his J classes over several years.  This changes the ways in which he prepares his resources so as to be sure to engage a high proportion of the cohort, without neglecting the minority.  Interestingly, given the multicultural nature of the entire College, class J was predominantly white Anglo-saxon students.  My mentor teacher felt that anecdotally these students came from homes where education was less valued and consequently support from home to achieve was limited. Homewood College classrooms were positive environments and the students seemed well engaged. Lecturer's comment 5:
It is not clear what this means. It seems as though you are speaking of a particular culture of teaching and learning, but it would be good to be more specific.
From further conversations with students across different year levels they seem to enjoy the school and they very much enjoy my mentor teacher’s classes and the effort he puts into building relationships with them.

The interaction

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I observed my mentor teacher begin a new topic with his year eight science class. This was particularly interesting as I was able to not only see him teach a topic but I saw the grounding and introduction to the unit. In this case the topic was sound. The interaction began with him standing at the front of the room and asking the class a simple yet challenging question, what is sound? He then paused for what seemed like a long time (using a critical wait time), although there were already students with their hands raised. Once many seconds had passed, he asked one of the students left who had not put up their hand up the same question again. The responses included; something your ears hear, a sense, volume and other responses following those ideas. After a couple answers were given, the students started speaking their answers out without being asked, and it turned into a loud discussion. Then my mentor teacher congratulated the students on their responses, providing them with positive reinforcement and posed another question about what are some other aspects of sound and he allowed them to continue talking amongst themselves. Whilst observing this class, much of the discussion seemed like unnecessary noise however my mentor teacher seemed quite happy to let it continue for a number of minutes. He then regained the class’s attention and asked one of the students to repeat what he had heard them say, which was that sound is like vibrations.Lecturer's comment 6:
Some quotes or a script of the conversation might have been included to enhance the impact of the story.

He then began to explain how sound vibrated like a wave and showed them soundwave simulations on an iPad application.

My mentor teacher’s interaction at first looked like an unplanned and unscripted lesson.  To an outsider it may have even look like he lacked control and had behaviour management issues.

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AnalysisLecturer's comment 7:
Good - in this section you've made clear reference to the ideas introduced in the "Questioning and feedback" lecture.

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Questioning was a key element of my mentor teacher's pedagogy for this particular interaction. Filiz, A & Abdurrahman, K (2011) suggests a broad introduction is a suitable learning strategy and likewise my mentor teacher places high value on starting a new topic with a broad introduction filled with questions. One element that was focussed on in this interaction was calling on a variety of students, which is suggested in the literature. My mentor teacher did this very effectively. As he spoke and posed questions to the class he not only called on those who volunteered answers, he also used critical wait time to his advantage and made sure he called on students who were the last ones to put their hand up or even those who hadn’t yet thought of an answer. This meant that students felt like their contribution, no matter how informed it was, mattered just as much as their peers, promoting connection and collaboration in the classroom. My mentor teacher, post lesson, said this is a purposeful pedagogical choice in order to create a classroom where each student feels valued. Lecturer's comment 8:
Check APA referencing conventions - you don't need the initial in the in-text citation.

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Accordingly he also asked many times for student input even if the student hadn’t volunteered a response. As an observer I struggled to watch as one student attempted to answer, whilst all her peers were watching her. This made me feel uncomfortable for the student. However after the lesson I asked my mentor teacher why he chose to allow her to struggle through a response when there were clearly many other students keen to contribute. He said that this student in particular is very shy however does have higher than average marks. For him it was important to let her have a voice in the classroom and help her feel confident when speaking out in what was a classroom of very loud and confident young boys. Ellis 1993 comments that creating question methodology that solicits a wide variety of students to contribute can increase student learning. It allows more students who, may have not otherwise contributed, whilst giving the individuals ownership of their own learning. Lecturer's comment 9:
(1993) The date stays inside the brackets when the author's name becomes part of the sentence.

Once many questions had been asked of the students, he instructed the students to think about other aspects relating to sound. This is when the class became very loud and began speaking to one another without his interruption. In this instance I felt like he was letting them get off topic and begin to misbehave. However post lesson I questioned him about why he didn’t keep them under stricter guidelines.  He explained that he was trying to get them to come up with their own ideas about other ways sound is used. According to Daniels, E (2012) creating a learning environment where students feel like they have control of their choices and actions creates a motivating learning environment. Although he did not explicitly say this was his foundational reasoning, throughout my observations I witnessed his classrooms being a very respectful and positive learning environment. As the lesson progressed I was able to communicate with some of the students about how they were finding the lesson and I received some very positive comments. One student mentioned how she had heard about a particular feature of sound, and another student was able to clarify why that fact was true. This was very encouraging of my mentor teacher’s class because it identified that the students were not only asking themselves questions but were also having peer to peer conversations.

At first I thought that this part of the interaction was a classroom that was not being successfully managed. However after further investigation my mentor teacher was giving students the freedom within his learning environment in order to create motivated and self-sustaining learners.

Whilst the noise of discussion was still occurring he brought the class back to attention. At this point he asked one of the students to repeat what he had just said about sound. The student identified that sound was a vibration. Then my mentor teacher drew on that point and pulled out his IPad and took some time to instruct the students to download a particular application. For the rest of the lesson he allowed them to focus on technology and interact with this application which showed soundwaves through the IPad. The students seemed very engaged and fascinated by this and for the rest of the lesson they were testing different noises by inputting them into the IPad and observing what the soundwaves would look like. For a class of digital natives, the introduction of technology was welcomed.  My mentor teacher is a young man and he is certainly at ease with technology and is comfortable using devices in the classroom.  The introduction of technology allowed the students to have a real life demonstration of how the sound waves are dynamic and never ending. I felt like this was a very clever use of technology in this lesson to help introduce the conceptual understanding of soundwaves and keep the students engaged.

Technology can have its negatives in terms of distraction or misuse, however in this case it gave the class a means to have an experimental experience with sound in a quick and non-intrusive fashion. It is important that technology is accepted at a teaching level when the school allows for students to take their IPads to class. When interviewing my mentor teacher he explained that he would rather incorporate the technology into his classes then try and manage devices as a distraction. My mentor teacher endeavours to use technology in a productive way at all times. The attraction of technology to be misused is high and my mentor teacher feels that the more it is incorporated into his classroom teaching the more engaging the material in most cases. He feels that when students are allowed to use it positively they are less likely to take advantage in the times where he does want their direct attention.

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Overall my mentor teacher used questioning skills to engage the students and promote communication and collaboration in the classroom. He was also very comfortable with the introduction of technology as a tool to engage and enhance the pedagogy. He had a tolerance for a less quiet and formal environment indicating a high level of confidence in his own ability to manage the students. I believe that his observed techniques suited the largely male lower academic level of student leaving them engaged in an effective learning environment.Lecturer's comment 10:
This paragraph does not fully address the criteria related to concluding the piece: "Conclude by reviewing the issues highlighted by the interaction, insights you have gained, and alternative approaches you would recommend".

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ReferencesLecturer's comment 11:
There are a number of errors in your reference list. Check APA referencing conventions.

Catsambis, S., Mulkey, & Crain, R. L. (2001), For Better or For Worse? A Nationwide Study of the Social Psychological Effects of Gender and Ability Grouping in Mathematics, Social Psychology of Education

Daniels, E. (2010). Creating Motivating Learning Environments: What We Can Learn from Researchers and Students, English Journal, High School Edition 100.1

Filiz, A & Abdurranhaman, K. (2011) Secondary-school teachers' questioning activities in learning-teaching process

Gamoran, A., & Weinstein, M. (1998), Differentiation and Opportunity in Restructured Schools, American Journal of Education

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Click to see a corrected version of the reference list

Corrected reference list:

Missing information is in red. Corrected formatting and punctuation is in green.

Acar, F. E., & Kilic, A. (2011). Secondary-school teachers' questioning activities in learning-teaching process. Education, 132(1), 173-184. Retrieved from http://www.projectinnovation.com/education.html

Catsambis, S., Mulkey, L. M., & Crain, R. L. (2001). For better or for worse? A nationwide study of the social psychological effects of gender and ability grouping in Mathematics. Social Psychology of Education, 5(1), 83-115. doi: 10.1023/A:1012675523595

Daniels, E. (2010). Creating motivating learning environments: What we can l earn from researchers and students. English Journal, 100(1), 25-29. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/journals/ej

Gamoran, A., & Weinstein, M. (1998). Differentiation and opportunity in restructured schools. American Journal of Education, 106(3), 385-415. doi: 10.1086/444189

Show/hide lecturer's comment 13Click to see the lecturer's overall comment Lecturer's overall comment:
Criteria Lecturer's feedback
1. Clear and specific description of the context of the interaction. The context was clearly, specifically, and engagingly described.
2. Clear and specific description of the interaction. The interaction was clearly, specifically, and engagingly described.
3. Critical analysis of the interaction. Broader judgements, issues, conclusions and recommendations are clearly stated and explained, in a manner that is specifically, persuasively, and critically related to the interaction.
4. Selection and critical use of relevant ideas from the lectures and readings. Many relevant ideas and readings from the unit were used to help explain, clarify, and critique the meaning/s of the interaction.
5. Professional presentation in the written assignment, including clarity of expression, coherence, fluency and adherence to a set of academic writing conventions. The work is exceptionally well sequenced and flows between the beginning, development, and conclusion. Sections, paragraphing and transitions are outstanding.
6. Referencing and citing. APA 6th referencing and citing are used both within the text and in the final references list with some minor errors.