Slide 1: Welcome to the final unit in the module on helping with instruction. This unit provides a summary of the ideas presented across the nine earlier units in the module. The module was produced by WordFarmers Associates on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center.
Slide 2: I am Aimee Howley, professor emerita from Ohio University.
Slide 3: Remember the instructional cycle? It’s a process with five phases: planning, teaching, evaluating, reflecting, and planning again. Your role as a paraprofessional educator is to help one or more teachers with all phases of the cycle.
Slide 4: In that role, it’s critical to pay attention to the three principles of Universal Design for Learning: (1) provide multiple means of representation, (2) provide multiple means of action and expression, and (3) provide multiple means of engagement. These three principles respond to an absolutely essential insight about learners—they’re all different. That insight translates into an essential insight about instruction—there are lots of ways to teach the same knowledge or skill.
Slide 5: These different ways to teach provide scaffolds that help students move from where they currently are in a learning progression to the next step in the progression. The gap between where they are now and where they are able to go in the progression is known as the “zone of proximal development.”
Slide 6: To help your students bridge the gap, it’s a good idea to let them know what it is they are going to learn and how what they are going to learn connects to what they already know. Statements about what students are about to learn are called “learning targets.” More detailed ways to get students ready for new learning are called “advance organizers” because they help students see in advance how new learning will connect to prior learning. Some types of advance organizers also show students how what they are about to learn connects to a web of related knowledge and skills.
Slide 7: Various types of graphics such as concept maps, story maps, and fishbone charts can be used as advance organizers or as one of the scaffolds incorporated into a lesson or a review session. Graphic organizers are extremely helpful for demonstrating how ideas relate to one another, how the parts of something relate to the whole thing, and how certain events and circumstances contribute to a particular outcome. And they also have many more applications than these three.
Slide 8: Beyond what’s possible during classroom instruction, learning often depends on students’ independent work in study hall or after school hours. They might need to preview or review concepts, practice skills, or apply what they learned in class. They might also need to prepare for quizzes and tests. Good study skills and habits enable students to accomplish these tasks well. But most students require help in developing good study skills and habits, and there are lots of ways to help them.
Slide 9: In addition to our explicit efforts to help them create positive study environments and useful routines, students benefit a great deal from learning how to monitor their own learning. When a person understands how he or she learns, that person can then make choices that positively influence his or her learning. For example, a boy might realize that he learns best when he writes down what he hears. Or a girl might come to see how much better she learns when she draws a diagram that captures the major ideas she’s trying to make sense of. We use the word “metacognition” to talk about the various strategies we adopt in order to learn about and control our own learning.
Slide 10: Sharing relevant infographics with students is one way that a paraprofessional can help them learn. And students’ experiences with infographics can teach them something about how they learn as well as giving them some powerful tools for organizing the information they are intending to present in class or in a written response to a class assignment.
Slide 11: Students also find it helpful to learn some specific skills for taking tests. In the ideal situation every test score would be a true reflection of how much a student knows. But educational tests are not that precise, and a student’s score on any test reflects the combination of (1) his or her knowledge, (2) his or her test-taking skills, and, of course, (3) imperfections in the test itself—what’s known as test error. To prepare to “test well,” a student should focus primarily on the knowledge and skills to be tested but also, though to a lesser extent, on strategies for effective test-taking. The teacher or whoever else constructs the test ought to take responsibility for ensuring that it is as fair and accurate as possible.
Slide 12: As your observations of and experiences with teaching have probably already demonstrated, providing effective instruction is complicated and difficult work. It’s also work that can be a lot of fun—especially when you have the chance actually to see learning take place. As a paraprofessional, you will not be the person who typically plans, delivers, or evaluates lessons—your supervising teacher or the instructional team will do those things. But you are likely to play an important role in the instructional process, for instance, by helping students review concepts, using scaffolds to support their learning, or monitoring their completion of learning activities. In the best of circumstances, you will also have a voice on the instructional team that takes responsibility for their learning. You will get better and better at performing your role by learning as much as you can about the instructional strategies that are most likely to be effective with at least some students. Remember: all students learn differently, and therefore good instruction offers them many choices.