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MAT Poetic Profiles of Excellence.

Red Wasp Standards  1-14-09

By Freddie A. Bowles
Posted from Fayetteville, Arkansas

The term “accountability” has entered educational jargon and appears throughout academic literature as well as in public discussions about education. All teachers are held accountable for student learning, and students are held accountable for showing what they have learned.

Standards Are Raised on Shifting Sand,
But Serve a Useful Academic Purpose.

The teacher-pupil relationship as it relates to instruction and learning is traditional; however, the process of this interaction has become more formalized and prescriptive.

One can seldom read about educational issues
without seeing the term “standards-based curriculum.” Hourglass You would think it is a redundant term, that a curriculum by nature is based on standards, but society as usual is on the move, this time into a new century, and the standards have become altered by changing fashion and shifting perspectives. Some standards remain embedded deeply in the curriculum of the moment, but are rooted in ideas raised in the early decades of the 20th century. Other standards reflect changes as profound as the altered demographics of the student population.

Each Academic Content Area
Sets Standards to Guide Instruction.

The contemporary standards-based curriculum adheres to a formal set of outcomes established by professional educators in the content areas, such as English, foreign language, math, social studies, and science.

To see how this works, let’s look at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), which has established a set of goals for students to achieve during their language instruction, be it one or two semesters to satisfy a degree plan, or several years of intensive study to establish professional competence and the foundation for a career.

The collaborative effort on the part of language teachers aligned with ACTFL resulted in a document, Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century, to guide those of us who teach languages in public schools.

Arkansas referred to this document in 2007 when its language educators revised the Arkansas Foreign Language Curriculum Frameworks for K-12 foreign language teachers.

A similar process is followed by educators in each licensed content area in the Natural State. Meeting in committee, teachers and administrators consult the standards established by their national organizations to guide their efforts in creating statewide frameworks for standards-based instruction.

Scholar-Practitioner Tenets and
Pathwise Domains Provide Guidance.

The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at the University of Arkansas recommends licensure in five content areas — English, Foreign Language, Math, Social Sands of Time Studies, and Science. The MAT program is guided by a set of seven tenets endorsed by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CIED). Known as the Scholar-Practitioner Tenets, these guidelines are aligned with the national standards of each content area and provide a framework for professors and interns to follow in their MAT classes and public school classrooms.

Another set of guidelines also influences curriculum design in secondary education at the university. Pathwise, a classroom observation system implemented by the state as an induction program for first-year teachers, identifies four domains of essential teaching skills: Domain A, “Organizing Content Knowledge for Student Learning;” Domain B, “Creating an Environment for Student Learning;” Domain C, “Teaching for Student Learning;” and Domain D, “Teaching Professionalism.”

When I design assignments and assessments for my general pedagogy classes, I use these standards as guiding principles. I also require my interns to design their own instruction using their content area standards, the Scholar-Practitioner Tenets, and the Pathwise domains.

Poetic Profiles

Poetic Profiles and Bio Poems
Demonstrate the Wisdom of Standards.

In this light, I direct your attention to the Poetic Profiles assignment for my Classroom Management Concepts course, which was completed by 22 highly motivated students at the end of the fall semester. The assignment provides a timely and robust example of how the act of teaching to standards-based curriculum can inspire outstanding accomplishment and creativity.

Poetic Profiles was “Part Deux” of another assignment, Bio Poems. The two became bookends to the semester. I designed the Bio Poems assignment for the beginning of the term with two purposes in mind: to allow me to get to know my own students and to help them to get to know each other.

Bio Poems also connected to two sets of standards: Pathwise, Domain A, “Becoming familiar with relevant aspects of students’ background knowledge and experiences;” and CIED’s Tenet Three, “One who understands, values, and respects diversity.”

Students included an extension to the Bio Poems assignment, which connected to Tenet One, “One who accesses, uses, and/or generates knowledge.” The extension also reflected the values of Pathwise Domain C, “Organizing Content Knowledge for Student Learning.”

To read more about Bio Poems and see how my students accomplished the assignment, follow this link:
CMC Bio Poems.

Free of Formal Restrictions,
My Interns Find Their Poetic Voice
And Creatively Portray Their Students.

The Poetic Profiles assignment came at semester’s end after my interns had experienced three months in the public school classroom. They were directed to move beyond the personal biography of their bio poem and find a creative, poetic way to describe the students in their classrooms. I also decided to give the interns an opportunity to set the parameters for the assignment.

As a class, my interns voted for a poetic form free of formal restrictions. Students could choose the Italian sonnet prescribed in the Bio Poems assignment, or they could follow a poet totally different poetic path. We also decided that the profile could be either a composite description of all their students, or a more finely focused portrait of a particular group of their students. And, instead of the extension featured in the Bio Poems activity, students were directed to write an introduction to their poetic profile explaining why they chose the particular poetic form to describe their students.

Poetic Profiles connects to CIED’s Tenets Three and Six: “One who understands, values, and respects diversity” and “One who makes decisions based upon professional standards and ethical criteria.” It also adheres to Pathwise Domain D, “Teacher Professionalism.”

Yes, They Are Emerging Professionals.

In reviewing my students’ work and reflecting on their progress, I was pleased to discover ample evidence that my interns recognize the importance of getting to know their students, that they are learning how to use that background knowledge for instruction, and that they are going about the vital process of building a community of learners.

Poetic Profiles also revealed the creative and reflective qualities of the interns in our MAT program. Their poems and introductions demonstrate that they are emerging professionals as described by the three traits in the Scholar-Practitioner Model: Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions.

To view this assignment, follow this link:
CMC Poetic Profiles.

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University of Arkansas
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