Catalyst: Tools for Effective Teaching

Program components descriptions

Below are descriptions of the eleven parts of the program. They are intended to provided you with a sense of the content of the components to help you make a decision whether to purchase or not.  Catalyst: Tools for Effective Teaching 2.0 is written with you, the user in mind. Make no mistake, it is a serious program, but I have taken pains to present the information and learning exercises in an easy-to-read and understand format.

R. J. Kizlik

The first section, "How to Write Learning Objectives,"  is the core component of the program, and in terms of size and complexity, the largest component. The purpose of  "How to Write Learning Objectives" is to help you learn to be very clear in your professional communications about student learning outcomes It is designed to help you develop skill in writing learning objectives that accurately describe what a student must do for a teacher to infer that the student has learned what was intended. The section on how to write learning objectives is the result of many years of teaching others how to write objectives that meet demanding behavioral criteria, or to select objectives written by others that meet such criteria. The acquisition of this skill is fundamental to all teaching designed to lead others to acquire new skills or understandings, as well as to the development and improvement of curriculum.

Competent teachers always have in mind some written description or clear idea of what students do to show they have learned what is intended for them to learn. Student learning cannot be inferred by osmosis, reflection, or wishful thinking; it never has and never will be. This section of the program you are considering purchasing is about learning objectives; how to compose them, recognize them, and improve them. 

The second section, "How to Write Effective Lesson Plans" is intended to give you a sense of the components of a good lesson plan by providing descriptions of the parts that are included in most lesson plan modules taught in schools and colleges of education.  It is strongly recommended that you read this section AFTER you complete Part 1, "How to Write Learning Objectives."  The skill of writing learning objectives is a sub-set of the skills needed for lesson planning. Without a doubt, learning to write effective lesson plans is a skill that all new teachers must develop and practice. There is no better way to organize the content you teach and how you see yourself teaching it than developing lesson plans that work. After a period of time, many teachers do not need to develop lesson plans with the degree of specificity described in this program. They "own" both the content and teaching methods to the extent that much of the planning they do is purely mental. With time and experience this will also happen for you. It is a fundamental milestone in the process of becoming a professional teacher.  

The Third section, "Teaching for Understanding"  seems at first blush to be a sort of a "no-brainer." After all, we as professional teachers should always seek to help our students understand what it is we are teaching. Fostering student understanding is a core principal of the teaching profession. This section is intended to give you some different perspectives on what it means to understand, and provide some ideas for differentiating teaching for understanding in such content areas as social studies and literature from teaching skill development in such areas as mathematics and writing. The point is made as clearly as possible in this section that in order for a teacher to infer that a student "understands" some content (usually expressed as a concept) the assessment must be based on more than an objective test. Teaching for understanding requires teacher analysis of student writing, projects, essays, and oral presentations. Teaching for understanding, as you will see, requires more teacher time in the assessment than does teaching for skills.

The fourth section, "How to Write Assessments Based on Learning Objectives" provides a description of what you need to do in order to ensure that the assessments or tests that you develop are connected to the learning objectives upon which they are based. Assessments are ways that teachers determine whether certain conditions exist that clearly show whether learning has taken place. In lesson planning, it is absolutely essential that the actual assessments you develop accurately reflect and measure the specifications of the learning objectives. There is no alternative!  This section will show you how to do this, including what to consider as you formulate assessments.

The fifth section, "Teaching Methods: Pros and Cons" is a list of teaching methods with information on their advantages, disadvantages, and information about what sort of preparation teachers must make in order to employ the methods effectively. The methods are not described in detail, but are categorized in terms of being primarily direct or indirect instruction. The listed methods encompass a wide range of techniques used by teachers at all grades and with all subjects.

The sixth section, "Quick Tips on what Works" is just that. This section provides some very brief ideas and descriptions of both teacher and student behaviors that have utility for teaching in a number of subject areas. It is not intended to be any sort of comprehensive list, but presents a consensus of experience and opinion of what works in a real classrooms. It is neither comprehensive no so long as to cause you to take notes, or ponder the deeper meaning of these little gems. Were that the case, it would not make sense to call this section "Quick Tips."  Taken it face value, they present some sound advice for a new or beginning teacher. Hopefully, they will spur your own ideas and thinking about what works for you and you own particular teaching style.

The seventh section, "How to Select Instructional Programs" provides a discussion with examples of what constitutes a complete instructional program, how the parts fit together, and what questions to ask of others, including sales personnel, education administrators, teachers, college professors or others who make recommendations to buy, adopt or otherwise cause a school or school system to purchase and implement a particular instructional program. Knowing the difference between a complete program and anything else that purports to be so, but is not, is very important.  The information in this section will help develop your professional thinking skills in this area.

The eighth section, "Classroom Management Fundamentals"  is quite large and is intended to give you some perspective about what works and what doesn't work, including  how to deal with the parents or guardians of your students.. The examples and information presented are drawn from a variety of sources, including personal experience of the author, interviews with successful teachers, including National Board Certified teachers, observations, journal articles, and reference materials. As you will see, being successful in managing your classroom is just one part of the total package of being a successful teacher. You must also know your subject matter content in more than one way if possible. You must be able to translate what you know into forms that assist students to learn. You must be able to plan effective lessons, and actually deliver instruction, prepare and implement assessments, and, yes, make preparations and decisions about the conduct of students in a variety of settings. Effective classroom management requires understanding the rules, knowledge of basic principles of human psychology, plus common sense, and consistency, Generally speaking, teachers get better at managing their classrooms with experience and the willingness to learn from mistakes and make appropriate adjustments.

The ninth section, Classroom Management Traps gives you a list and brief descriptions of  all too common mistakes that new and inexperienced teachers often make in managing their classrooms. It is such traps that can make the initial teaching experience for new teachers extremely stressful, and that can lead to burnout and disenchantment with teaching. This section also offers some sound advice regarding what to do about these situations.

The tenth section, "How to Rank Priorities and Goals"  describes a very logical and efficient model for ranking priorities and goals.  The model is useful for working in groups or on an individual basis.  As a teacher, you will find that participation in various groups, and committees usually comes down to making lists of objectives or activities and then ranking them. This easy to understand, yet very powerful technique can improve the process and result in more valid and reliable results. 

The eleventh section, "From Goals to Objectives"  provides a description of the fundamentals of goals analysis as it applies to education. You will see the importance of understanding the differences between performances and goals and how goals determine the behavioral events that provide a basis for making inferences about their attainment.

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