The focus of this course was Creating Significant Learning Environments. The assignments caused me to do a lot of reflection regarding my learning and teaching philosophy as well as thinking about how I would teach if I were still in a classroom.
We were asked to read and reflect on A New Culture of Learning and it brought a lot of things to light for me regarding the approach we have in our classrooms.
After reading A New Culture of Learning, I found myself needing to revisit my beliefs as an educator and what really is important to me. This helped me focus when coming up with a unit of study.
Based on my reflection on A New Culture of Learning and my learning philosophy, I wanted to develop a unit for science putting my learning into practice. Using Fink’s guide I developed a unit on Heredity for a 7th grade science class.
I completed an Understanding by Design lesson for the same unit. I think both methods of planning caused me to dive deeper into thinking about the activities I would want my students to complete. Both methods reinforced the idea that knowing ahead of time how you want your students to “show what they know” is critical in order to develop a unit successfully.
Both Fink and UbD focus on starting with the “end in mind” and coming up with a roadmap to help students reach the destination. For me, I prefer Backwards Design because I like to start off a unit with essential questions. These can lead into some great discussions. I like how Fink had me look at all aspects of the unit including Caring and Integration; however, I felt like it distracted me a bit from the content. I already work on interpersonal/intrapersonal skills with my students, but having to put it on paper made it more difficult for some reason. I felt that the Backwards Design method was a bit more streamlined for what I needed.
Part of creating Significant Learning Environments is not to just analyze how the material is presented but to also look at how students are approaching the work. Encouraging a growth mindset is extremely important to help students be 21st century learners.