Getting Around

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


 Over the winter break I finished reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink. It was a quick read that was recommended by several people because it has educational implications. While it does, I am left wondering if Pink plans on doing any additional research into instructional motivation, which you'd think there'd be plenty of literature on already (but there isn't).

The really important stuff in this book is that people are more intrinsically motivated when they have control over what their task is, who they do it with, and when they do it. And while you can't give students complete freedom in any of these areas, you can give them options over tasks (hopefully those tasks address similar standards that the students have to learn), who their group partners are (or whether they work alone), and when during the day, week, month, or quarter they do the work. Clearly, some of that will be content-dependent, since some math topics have to go in a sequence, but many language arts topics can follow the needs of the student in a variety of sequences.

Another really interesting thing was the discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In teacher preparation programs across the country, pre-service teachers are told that intrinsic motivation is the goal and that extrinsic motivation is probably not a good thing. what do I do? Pink makes the interesting distinction that extrinsic motivation, such as points, stickers, trips to the prize box, or whatever, are useful for algorithmic tasks or tasks that have to be done but won't ever be the result of an intrinsically motivated class. On the other hand, heuristic tasks (and I'd say that real learning falls into this category) is actually HARMED by the use of extrinsic motivators. While you may get what you want, you might only get the minimum you requested instead a sky's-the-limit sort of thing. This is stuff worth thinking about.

With teachers increasingly told what to do and how to do it, it will be interesting to see how many teachers embrace this sort of thinking in a way we can all see it. I know that teachers often do things that Pink might applaud, but they do them quietly because they aren't really part of the mainstream of educational thinking.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Creating a Teaching Portfolio

Creating a professional portfolio is hard work. Not that I didn't think it would be, but it's taking me a long time. We had to create one for our program. I just filled that one with the list of stuff that was required and let it go. I did spend some time narrating my artifacts since I didn't think they demonstrated much all on their own, but the rest was fairly straightforward.

Now, after hearing about interviews from some of the other people in my program, it's come out how handy it is to have a portfolio with you during an interview. Rather than expecting administrators to look at your portfolio, it helps to have examples to prove what you're saying. Most of my teacher-y friends have portfolio binders that are brimming with colorful examples of student work as well as colorful dividers and a colorful cover. I'm a little more subdued in the decoration department (you should see my boring house), so the most important thing for me is to be able to find the thing I want to show at the moment I need it during an interview.

But how to do that? Organization seems to be key. I was scanning stuff and organizing it into folders on my computer and then periodically rearranging the folders when I thought to change the organization of my final portfolio. I decided to take a break and write down my teaching philosophy. This also took longer than I thought it would even though I had to write one for my school portfolio. Once I had a what I thought was a nice philosophy, it all seemed to make sense. If I carefully select artifacts that support what I wrote about myself in my philosophy, that would be a good start.

Of course I'll include all the boring documentation, like my CV and transcript, but now I have a way to weed out the extra stuff I won't need in an interview. I will probably still select things that demonstrate my effectiveness as a teacher even if it's not strictly in my philosophy, but now I have a way to be consistent in my portfolio narration.


And oh yeah, I was hoping to put the portfolio online somewhere...