What happens when four individuals with diverse teaching experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds get together to form a collaborative group in a graduate level class? Besides sharing good company, food, stories, teaching ideas, and insights, they create a Wiki, of course! We chose as our final assignment for this course the creation of a Wiki that is designed as a resource for teachers and graduate students. The process of creating this Wiki allowed us to work within the framework of six andragogical principles: learner's need to know; learner's self-concept; the role of learner's experience; readiness to learn; orientation to learning; motivation to learn. We gained many interesting insights as a result of our collaboration not just on our final project, but throughout the entire course as well.
One of the points that resonated with all of us during this course of study is that effective teachers of literacy engage in a constant process of reflection, inquiry, and revision. As teachers, we are a curious bunch with an intrinsic need to know more and a desire to deliver the best possible instruction. Thus, we set as a goal for ourselves to create a final project that would highlight many of the things that we have accomplished, discovered, and explored during our time together. We also wanted to create something that would serve as a guide and resource as we move forward. Completing the Wiki was a rewarding collaborative effort. Our work together allowed us to bring our individual teaching, professional, academic, and personal experiences to bear as we engaged in mutual, meaningful inquiry and discussion of course readings and key ideas. The creation of the Wiki was sometimes overwhelming and challenged some of us to move beyond our comfort zones. In many senses it can be easier to work within strict parameters. However, the broad assignment to create a Wiki allowed us to push ourselves and enjoy the journey as we set our own parameters. Each of us was given the task of completing one section that corresponded to our respective grade levels, and then we were also expected to add to other sections of the Wiki according to our interests. The process of working within such fluid boundaries to complete an assignment can serve us well as a model for our own classroom instruction. Not only did we have specific tasks to accomplish, but also the freedom to explore.
Our first task was to examine the continuum of literacy across the K-12 spectrum. In examining this continuum, it becomes apparent that the grades have more in common than one may at first think. Students don’t necessarily transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Instead, learning to read is ongoing, only changing in the type of reading material and the level of independence expected from the reader. Reading is simply a daily task in every grade, and as reading becomes more complex, invaluable teaching is still needed to support readers as they move to higher and higher reading levels. The opportunity to work with a group of educators who span across the grade levels only reinforced our belief that literacy tools are not always grade specific, and many strategies from Read Aloud to using picture books can be used as easily in 10th grade as in 3rd. We only wish this conversation between grade levels and disciplines could continue as we move forward in our professional lives.
Another task we tackled was to address "the standards". We are aware of the reality that teachers are expected to tie their curriculum to core standards. In creating our Wiki, our group wanted to make sure we addressed the continuum of K – 12 reading instruction as it relates to standards. In keeping with this “real-life scenario”, we added as a component of our wiki a section for each grade level in which the standards are delineated and companion teaching ideas or resources are listed. We hope that this will give educators a few practical ideas from which to choose when planning lessons that will correlate with standards.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of all, the Wiki format will allow us to continue our ongoing conversation as we move forward down our respective paths. Because we are all learners as well as teachers, the Wiki will provide a venue for continued exploration, research, discourse, and the sharing of ideas and resources to inform and guide our teaching. Though we are four teachers from diverse professional and personal backgrounds, our conversation will not end here.