Reflections: My Intense Grad Program

This week is the end of my second very intense week of grad school at Georgia State. I’m in a teacher certification program called TEEMS that includes a Masters degree (an MAT) as well. While I also took classes in the spring, it wasn’t officially a part of the program nor was it as intense.

I’ve never worked so much at school in my life!

In the picture at right is Marsha McCrary-Barron, a PhD student at Georgia State. She’s teaching 2 classes (along with our advisor, Dr. Junor-Clark) to my cohort. Marsha’s illustrating Algebra Tiles in the photo.Polynomials w/Algebra Tiles

One class has exposed me to the Reflective Teaching Model (RTM)1. The RTM is based on constructivism and megacognition. The RTM builds trust, ownership, and cohesion among those involved, includes ample reflecting, and applies heuristic teaching (“as opposed to algorithmically…there is no script…the lesson plan becomes a set of strategies.”).

Getting students to think about their thinking (the fancy word is apparently “metacognition”) should help them understand better. Check out this next bit:

Put ’em in Pairs and Try This

The Thinker/Doer model2 is an interesting part of the RTM to apply with students. The first role is Thinker, a facilitator. The Thinker watches the Doer solve a problem. It’s the Thinker’s job to ask questions rather than give direct instruction. The Doer must apply metacognition while solving the problem. Thinker/Doer not only helps build a “mental model of the teachers’ role when students are solving problems” but also builds teachers’ metacognitive ability (Hart 211). The Thinker has 4 standard questions:

  1. Do you think you understand the problem?
  2. Do you think this problem is hard or easy?
  3. What strategies do you think you will use?
  4. How do you think you will do? Why?

Thinker/Doer is very interesting to watch in action. I am eager to adapt it to my own classroom use!

Problem Solving Techniques?

Comment please! I’d like to know if there are any tips or methods you can share to sharpen students’ problem solving skills. In particular, stuff that applies in a math classroom.

1 Hart, L. C., Najee-ullah, D., & Schultz, K. (2004). The reflective teaching model: A professional development model for in-service mathematics teachers. In R. N. P. Rubenstein & G. W. Bright (Eds.), Perspectives on the teaching of mathematics (pp. 207–218). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

2 Whimbley, Arthur, and Jack Lochead. Problem Solving and Comprehension, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Franklin Institute Press, 1986.

4 thoughts on “Reflections: My Intense Grad Program

  1. I teach English and Social Studies, not Math, so I’m not much of an expert on problem-solving skills. Maybe approaching unfamiliar text… Your post jumped out at me because I’m a GSU alumnus, and was going to apply for the TEEMS program, but ended up moving to Colorado and getting my teaching license here. I CAN say that as much as teacher educators like to toss around buzzwords like constructivism, metacognition, heuristics, and countless acronyms… they don’t mean so much when it’s actually you up there in front of 30 kids. Not to be cynical; I’ll just be probably not the first to tell you that while teacher education programs have their purpose, your real education will come on the job. I wish you good luck; that’s a tough summer!

    (P.S. I see an overhead projector in use in that photo. How 20th century– I expect more of that university! 😉

  2. Thanks, Jason, for your comments! I have been teaching for 4 years, so I have seen the practical vs. the ideal. Way to pull me back from my academic dreaming.

    I will say this, the notion of metacognition is pretty cool. I love talking with my students about learning styles. Next year, I’ll be incorporating time to talk about how they think.

    Yeah, the overhead is old skool — way to go, eagle eyes. For the record, the rooms are all equipped with computer projectors. 🙂

  3. Megan,

    I think this is the perfect time to go to school and think about these things. You have 4 years of experience and so you can really tell what connects to the real classroom.

    I am not a math teacher, but I have read a book that I want to recommend… maybe you know it. The Teaching Gap, but James Stigler and James Hiebert
    It helped me understand how much more important the process is than the result when doing a math problem.


  4. Thanks, Janice! I’ll check _The Teaching Gap_ out.

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