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Education Program Mission

The Intentional Teacher

A Conceptual Framework
Based on the Works of Robert Slavin and
Implemented at St. Charles Community College

St. Charles Community College Mission

SCC enriches our community by providing life-changing educational and cultural opportunities focused on personal growth and student success in a global society.

Education Program Mission

The Education Program of St. Charles Community College was established to provide each student the opportunities to:

  1. Recognize the issues germane to one's choice of education as a career.
  2. Investigate education as a possible career.
  3. Prepare for transfer to four-year education programs.

It is the concern of the faculty that the courses are offered in a manner that stimulates intellectual growth, fosters social and emotional maturity, encourages reflection, and develops integrity.

The Intentional Teacher

Robert Slavin, Co-Director of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk, Johns Hopkins University, asserts that, while there is no formula for good teaching, the one attribute that seems to be characteristic of outstanding teachers is intentionality, doing things on purpose (Slavin, 2000, p. 7). Expert teachers are critical thinkers (Anderson et al., 1995; Floden and Klinzing, 1990; Swanson et al, 1990; quoted in Slavin, 2000, p. 8). Slavin asserts, "Teachers who get better each year are the ones who are open to new ideas and who look at their own teaching critically" (Slavin, 2000, p. 8). While many excellent teachers seem to know intuitively how to challenge and inspire students to learn, Madeline Hunter, educational researcher and developer of a nationally acclaimed lesson plan schema, suggests that "the problem with teaching intuitively is that intuition is sterile: It can't be passed on" (Wolfe, 2001). Thus, teachers need to be aware of the results of educational research, and they need the time, energy, and inclination to reflect on the effectiveness of their lessons.

Intentional teachers maintain a "working knowledge of relevant research, are purposeful and think about why they do what they do … and combine knowledge of research with professional common sense" (Slavin 2000, p. 17). Intentional teachers establish the habit of informed reflection on their teaching. To facilitate reflection, Slavin (2000, p. 11) suggests five questions that teachers should consider as they plan, teach, reflect on, and revise their practices:

  1. What am I trying to accomplish?
  2. What are my students' relevant experiences and needs?
  3. What approaches and materials are available to help me challenge every student?
  4. How will I know whether and when to change my strategy or modify my instruction?
  5. What information will I accept as evidence that my students and I are experiencing success?

Without such reflection, "teachers must either implement all proposed innovations, implement innovations at random, or never implement any innovations" (House, 1988). Therefore, Gary House, Professor of Educational Statistics at University of Missouri-St. Louis, proposed a development model "in which issues critical to teachers' decision-making process drive both program content and strategy" (Lindstrom, 1990).

Slavins' five questions for The Intentional Teacher correlate well with the nine factors identified by House (1988) in his development of the Method Acceptance Scale for Teachers, a questionnaire which asks teachers to identify criteria they consider in deciding whether to implement a new instructional strategy to which they have been introduced. The nine factors identified in House's research, in order of factor loading, are:

  1. Approval – approval of concept by principal, central administrators, board, parents; and compatibility with official curriculum.
  2. Quantitative Student Outcomes – improvement in student scores on school-wide or system-wide, state department of education, standardized, or teacher-made achievement tests resulting from concept implementation.
  3. Qualitative Student Outcomes – likely influence of concept implementation on students' motivation to learn, enjoyment, challenge, understanding, class work; contribution of concept to appropriate learning environment.
  4. Teacher Career – impact of concept implementation on job security, professional reputation, career benefit, pay (House, 1988, quoted in Lindstrom, 1990).
  5. Teacher Compatibility – concept compatibility with teaching style, beliefs and values, and role of the teacher; also, source of initiative for a search for a new method.
  6. Concept Reputation – skillful presentation, support of research, availability of competent help, reputation of advocate of concept.
  7. Colleague Support – colleague familiarity and willingness to try concept; increased opportunities for collaborative work.
  8. Teacher Enjoyment – renewal, maintenance, or increase in interest in teaching; enjoyment; satisfaction of curiosity to be produced by concept.
  9. Teacher Fate Control – amount of time and effort required to implement concept.

Joyce Lindstrom, Professor of Education and Mathematics at St. Charles Community College, (1990) continued House's research in her Instructional Method Evaluation Criteria of Community College Teachers, which identifies five decision-making factors used by community college teachers. In order of factor loading, these factors are:

  1. Informal Student Outcomes – impact of concept implementation on student learning, competence, comprehension, interest, academic growth, motivation, challenge, and class work; contribution to an appropriate learning environment.
  2. Professional Issues – impact of concept implementation on contact and collaboration with other teachers, colleague interest and implementation, professional reputation, career benefit, job security, performance evaluation, pay.
  3. Concept Reputation – skillful presentation of concept and successful use elsewhere, research support, sufficiency of information for implementation, colleague familiarity.
  4. Teacher/Student Enjoyment – compatibility of concept with teaching style, teacher confidence in concept efficacy, pleasure and enjoyment of students and teacher, satisfaction of teacher curiosity.
  5. Quantitative Student Achievement – improvement on students' academic growth and class work resulting from concept implementation; benefit to teacher's career and job security (Lindstrom, 1990).

The correlation among Slavins' Intentional Teacher questions and the research of House and Lindstrom is demonstrated in the following table:

Criteria Reflective Teachers Use in Making Decisions

Intentional Teacher
Method Acceptance Scale for Teachers Factors

Community College Instructional Method Criteria Factors

1. What am I trying to accomplish?

4. Approval
6. Concept Reputation

3. Concept reputation
2. What are my students' relevant experiences and needs? 1. Qualitative student outcomes 1. Informal student outcomes
3. What approaches and materials are available to help me challenge every student?

3. Teacher Compatibility

7. Colleague support

2. Professional issues
4. How will I know whether and when to change my strategy or modify my instruction?

2. Teacher enjoyment

8. Teacher fate control

9. Teacher career

4. Teacher/Student Enjoyment
5. What information will I accept as evidence that my students and I are experiencing success? 5. Quantitative student outcomes 5. Quantitative Student Achievement

While Slavins suggests that teachers could address each of his five Intentional Teacher questions in each decision they make, each question can also be seen as suggesting specific issues from the MoSTEP Mid-Preparation Benchmarks (identified in parentheses as mpb):

Question 1: What am I trying to accomplish?

Cognitive goals will derive from local, state, and national standards (mpb 1.2.4) and from professional organizations (mpb 1.2.9). Behavioral goals will be based on an understanding of students' developmental level(s) (mpb 1.2.2).

House's work suggests that K-12 teachers are aware of these external guidelines by their use of "Approval" and "Concept Reputation" as decision-making criteria. "Concept Reputation" was also a factor for community college teachers (Lindstrom, 1990).

Question 2: What are my students' relevant experiences and needs?

Analyzing students' relevant experiences and needs requires identifying their prior knowledge (mpb 1.2.2) prior experiences (mpb 1.2.3), diverse learning styles (mpb 1.2.5 ), and developmental level (mpb 1.2.2).

House's (1988) "Qualitative Student Outcomes" factor demonstrates K-12 teachers' concern for their students' relevant experiences and needs, including students' motivation, appropriate learning environment, challenge and enjoyment for students, and student understanding. "Each of [these] items addresses a classroom issue that is difficult, if not impossible, to measure, but which is of immense concern to teachers…[T]his factor has the highest mean. It represents the instructional issues most important to…teachers" (Lindstrom, 1990). The "Informal Student Outcomes" criteria of community college teachers included similar items (Lindstrom, 1990). While both the K-12 and community college factors were labeled "outcomes" and thus suggest post-instruction assessment, these issues are considered by teachers before instruction in their attempt to build on current student knowledge and predict student motivation, enjoyment, and success.

"One of the first requirements of effective teaching is that the teacher understand how students think and how they view the world" (Slavin, 2000, p. 29) in order to provide students with developmentally and culturally appropriate education. The intentional teacher understands various theories of cognitive, social, and moral development and uses this understanding to establish appropriate learning contexts and to create effective learning experiences.

Question 3: What approaches and materials are available to help me challenge every student?

In order to challenge every student, a teacher must have a thorough knowledge of the subject(s) to be taught and their relevant tools of inquiry (mpb 1.2.1). Intentional teachers have strong communication skills, including oral, written, and technological (mpb 1.2.7). Intentional teachers are aware of school and community resources (mpb 1.2.10), experience supportive collegial relationships (mpb 1.2.10), and recognize options for classroom management paradigms (mpb 1.2.6) and for instructional strategies (mpb 1.2.5).

As intentional teachers assess their own strengths and resources, they consider "Teacher Compatibility" and "Colleague Support" (House, 1988). Teachers attempt to plan learning activities and classroom management paradigms that are compatible with their teaching style, beliefs and values, role, and initiative; and they look for opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues. Community college teachers share these concerns with K-12 teachers and also consider the effects of their classroom choices on their careers, job security, and pay (Lindstrom, 1990).

In light of recent research into how the brain learns, the intentional teacher looks for ways to encourage dendrite formation and growth. Patricia Wolfe, author of Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice, asserts, "The more we understand the brain, the better we'll be able to design instruction to match how it learns best" (Wolfe, 2001, p.1). Eric Jensen, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind, adds, "The brain is what we have; the mind is what it does. In other words, the "mind" is not a thing; it's a process…It's the process of making connections that counts" (Jensen, 1998, pp.15, 30). Two of the methods with which the intentional teacher should be familiar are constructivist models and direct instruction models.

"Constructivist approaches to teaching typically make extensive use of cooperative learning …the emphasis on the social nature of learning and the use of groups of peers…[and] discovery learning, in which students are encouraged to learn largely on their own through active involvement with concepts and principles…" (Slavin, 2000, p. 259). In direct instruction, on the other hand, "the teacher transmits information directly to the students; lessons are goal-oriented and structured by the teacher" (Slavin, 2000, p. 220).

"Intentional teachers have a clear sense of how they want students to behave. They consider behavioral learning theories as one set of tools that can help them support positive change in students' behavior and, to a limited extent, their learning. Intentional teachers…modify their actions in light of evidence related to the success of their efforts" (Slavin, 2000, p. 160) in creating an effective learning environment. Intentional teachers choose among or combine components of various classroom management models.

All five Intentional Teacher questions should be considered during planning, before instruction begins. These first three questions must also be answered during pre-instruction this time. The last two questions require reflection and assessment during and after instruction:

Question 4: How will I know whether and when to change my strategy or modify my instruction?

The intentional teacher reflects (mpb 1.2.9 ) on the success of each day's lessons and classroom atmosphere. S/he uses assessment tools (mpb 1.2.8), collaboration with colleagues (mpb 1.2.10), and his/her intuition to determine the appropriateness of continuing present practice.

House's (1900) factors included such issues as teacher enjoyment, commitment of time and effort, teacher invigoration and renewal, and effect on the teacher's career. While these issues appear to be teacher-centered, teachers' enjoyment, invigoration, and renewal are inextricably linked to students' enjoyment and success. Lindstrom's Teacher/Student Enjoyment included items such as teacher and student interest as well as student motivation and challenge. Lindstrom concluded, "What teachers enjoy most about a method is not the specific activity, but its effect on student interest, motivation, and challenge" (Lindstrom, 1990, p. 92).

Question 5: What information will I accept as evidence that my students and I are experiencing success?

An inherent part of one's instructional strategy is assessment (1.2.6), or measuring student achievement as a result of the instruction. "…[T]eachers must have objectives, a plan for what students should know and be able to do at the end of a course of study; their lessons must be designed to accomplish these objectives; and their evaluation of students must tell them which objectives each student has actually mastered and can do by the end of the course" (Mabry and Stake, 1994, quoted in Slavin, 2000, p. 454). Both House (1988) and Lindstrom (1990) identified "Quantitative Student Achievement" as a criterion teachers use in deciding whether to accept new teaching techniques.

Assessment plans should include formative components so that teachers can be responsive to students’ progress, and summative components, so that teachers can report to parents and administrators the levels of student understanding. Assessment measures should be varied to allow students with various intelligences and learning styles to demonstrate their achievement. The teacher should use a variety of measures to assess cognitive, moral and psychosocial growth. Because development takes time, teachers should collect information that will allow them to look for long-term as well as short-term growth.

Works Cited

House, G. D. (1988). Factors underlying instructional method: Decision-making in elementary teachers. Paper presented to the annual meeting of the Educational Research Association, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jensen, E. (1998).Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, Virginia : Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Lindstrom, J.(1990). Instructional Method Evaluation Criteria of Community College Teachers. Unpublished dissertation. University of Missouri-St. Louis .

Slavin, R. (2000). Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice. 6 th Edition, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey , Allyn and Bacon.

Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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