A Portfolio Reflection of Three Teaching Strategies and There Usage

1 January 2017

This writer has been teaching for the past twelve years; the introduction came at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus after graduating with a BSc. in Sociology and Politics where I first started tutoring in Introduction to Caribbean Politics and Sociology in the undergraduate programme.

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After three year of working in administration full-time and tutoring part-time, I decided that desk work was not for me as I felt as though I would go out of mind (literally, as the job held no challenges for me and there was no prospects of promotion to anything else but more ‘paper pushing’. To that end I applied to a number of universities in the United Kingdom and was successful. While studying in the United Kingdom for my Masters of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice, I taught English as a Foreign Language to French and Italian students that summer in 1999.

On return from the United Kingdom n September 1999, I started teaching in the Division of General/Continuing Education where I taught Caribbean Politics & Society, Ethics and Citizenship (Cores) and Introduction to Sociology (Elective) to the general college student population; and resume tutoring in the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Cave Hill Campus. In April 2000 I started teaching in the Division of Commerce in the Department of Government and Political Studies and have since become the Head of the Department with responsibility for the Politics programme.

During the summer of that year I lectured Introduction to Sociology in the Summer School Programme. I was asked to design a course for the Regional Police Training Centre to replace a previous course; this was called The Sociology of Crime and I was asked to teach the same. My interest in teaching also led me to create a number of courses at the college and one such course, The Sociology of Crime (Corrections Aspect) was adopted by the Training Division for an accelerated training course 2 for Prison Officers at Her Majesty’s Prisons; this I was also co-opted to teach as well.

To date I remain the Head of Department, Government and Political Studies and I am a part-time lecturer/tutor in FOUN 1301 – Law, Governance, Economy and Caribbean Society at the Cave Hill Campus, a part-time lecturer in Drugs and Society (Summer School Programme), a part-time Tutor at the Regional Police Training Centre and Her Majesty’s Prisons Dodds.

The portfolio has been defined as “a systematic and organised collection of evidence used by the teacher and student to monitor growth of the student’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes in a specific subject area” (Blake et al. 1995). Others (DeBruin-Parecki, et al. , 1997) have provided a more contemporary view which envisions the portfolio as “a purposeful, collaborative, self-reflective collection of student work generated during the process of instruction”. This paper is intended to help the writer to systematically gauge her progress toward the teaching profession by developing a portfolio. More importantly, it is intended to help other teacher candidates think reflectively on their decisions and experiences.

Institutions of higher learning across the nation are responding to political, economic, social and technological pressures to be more responsive to students’ needs and more concerned about how well students are prepared to assume future societal roles. Faculty are already feeling the pressure to lecture less, to make learning environments more interactive, to integrate technology into the learning experience, and to use collaborative learning strategies when appropriate. The emphasis of learning to learn in curriculum reform has signaled to teachers to adopt student-centred strategies of teaching and different modes of assessment.

The basis for the foregoing can be found in the Ministry of Education White Paper on Education Reform (1995). During the researcher’s years of teaching she has observed some unfavourable social skills being displayed by students in the classroom. Simple courtesies such as sharing or 3 saying “good-morning” appear to be disappearing from the habits of some students. This is symptomatic of the serious underlying problems in our society that need to be addressed urgently. The regularity with which some reference is made to the conduct of our youth, whether it is by teachers, parents, the media or society as a whole is disconcerting.

If not curbed, these children take negative behaviours into their adult lives and this can be detrimental to the society as a whole. Cooperative/collaborative learning, portfolio assessment and problem solving/critical thinking, as an alternative assessment, are increasingly being used in higher education facilities around the world and here at the Barbados Community College, specifically in the Department of Government and Political Studies. Before embarking on this course of study, much of the knowledge this writer operated with and under was done based on what was never wanted as a student, the old way of mere “pallaring”.

Notably, the change from listening to teachers teach and answering examination questions to taking the initiative to learn and demonstrating competence with self-selected evidence is a great challenge to the students. This paper first discusses the various constraints and difficulties of using, cooperative/collaborative learning, portfolio and problem solving/critical thinking as assessment and instructional strategies. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for successful use of these three strategies as a useful form of teaching and assessment can be measured at the same time.

Included in this paper will be examples of artefacts of each teaching strategy along with a rationale and description of teaching strategy. It can be asserted that many students find the transition into Higher Education quite difficult, particularly if they have not studied for some length of time; also coming from the high school environment the same is obtained as many of these students have been ‘spoon fed’ and find it hard to adopt the new mode of teaching. It is against this backdrop that the writer layout this paper reflecting on various teaching strategies, namely Cooperative/ Collaborating Learning, Portfolios, and Problem Solving/Critical Thinking.

Teaching strategies can be defined therefore as ways in which instructional material and activities are presented and conducted in an effort to meet the needs of every student. Notably, teaching strategies will vary from tutor to tutor and is usually based upon which method/strategy (ies) a particular tutor is most at ease in using and its effectiveness.

On the other hand a teaching method is a way of presenting instructional materials or conducting instructional activities. The use of this portfolio is designed as an educational tool to present knowledge gain through thorough reading and based on the information presented by the various groups in the course.

This teaching strategy can be used to improve the attitudes and performance of Tutors and Teachers within the classroom. It consists of reflections, artefacts and projections on each teaching strategy i. e. ooperative/collaborative learning, portfolios, and problem solving/critical thinking. Notably, establishing clear, practical classroom rules at the start of the school year can help you keep students on track to learning while promoting good behaviour and responsibility. Strategies focused on increasing student participation and learning were developed and implemented in three statics sections of varying sizes over the last two years. Overall student perception of these strategies and their impact on learning in three sections of different size is very favorable.

In addition, analysis of student ratings grouped by cumulative GPA indicates different strategies are perceived as helpful by different groups of students. However, implementing a combination of strategies seems to help all groups. Many of these strategies work across all class sizes and do not require significant investment in technology or hardware. However, more work needs to be done to determine the effect of these strategies on actual student learning or performance. 5 A word of caution is appropriate.

This paper describes different strategies but it is important to note that strategies by themselves may not improve student learning. How strategies are implemented by the instructor and the instructor’s attitude plays a significant role in student learning. An appropriate quote comes from Louis Schmier: “Education without caring, without a soul, without a spirit, without purpose beyond subject matter is as viable as a person with a brain but without heart. Pedagogy, technology, and techniques are no substitute for love and caring”.

A Reflective Paper on the use of Cooperative/Collaborative Learning as a Teaching Strategy Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals. Within cooperative activities individuals seek outcomes that are beneficial to themselves and beneficial to all other group members. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximise their own and each other’s learning. The idea is simple. Class members are organised into small groups after receiving instruction from the teacher.

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