Standard 6: Professional Knowledge and Growth
Meeting Standard Six:
"In face-to-face debriefings, journal writing, and formal self-analysis, the student teacher demonstrates the positive acceptance of feedback and makes a thoughtful response to it. Classroom planning and implementation demonstrates that the student teacher has internalized and is making use of feedback. Beyond the classroom, the student teacher avails him/herself of professional publications, conferences, and workshops to improve his/her practice and to develop the habits necessary for continued professional growth."
- Brown University Teacher Education Handbook
Professional development for me as a teacher started even before the practice of teaching did, with the introduction of instructional strategies and learning theory in the Methods and Literacy courses that I began taking in the two weeks before Brown Summer High School. Without them, I would not have known where to start in my approach to teaching, besides drawing on past experiences tutoring peers or observing my own teachers. Sometimes I invented entirely new teaching methods for BSHS, but they were always based off of principles I had learned in class. For instance, I invented a call-and-response game designed as an analogy to the concept of independent and dependent variables, but it stemmed from the theory that kinesthetic conceptualization was an effective way to cement new knowledge.
Professional development continued throughout my practicum not only through the accompanying courses, but also through the daily debriefs and reflections on every lesson I taught. Every day, the lesson plan template invited me to reflect on every teaching method I had listed on there, as well as on the lesson as a whole. The teaching methods I adopted from our methods and literacy classes rarely worked ideally the first or second or even third time I tried them, and both experience and reflection were necessary to uncover their subtleties.
A third aspect of professional development that I took keenly to was the observation of other teachers at work. During BSHS, I took every opportunity I could to observe all six classes taught during my free block. The science classes I observed were most immediately relevant to my own practice, and I took away ideas from each one that I could implement right away in my own course. The non-science classes, though they taught very different material, still gave me valuable insights. For instance, I observed a well-taught English class that showed me, in very concrete ways, the value of recognizing prior knowledge (in the form of a Jeopardy game that invited students to recognize poetic devices within pop culture references) and the value of allowing students to engage with a rubric by asking them to evaluate sample projects against the same standards by which their work would be assessed. Other, less well-taught courses were valuable to observe as well, because as an observer I acutely noticed the kinds of phenomena that would often go unnoticed by me as a beleaguered instructor, such as pacing issues or unvoiced student confusion. With a clearer idea of what these phenomena looked like, I could then return to my own practice with a mind to notice when such things were occurring in my own classroom.