Reflective Summary of the MSEd Program
When applying for the Master of Science in Education program at the University of New England, prospective students are asked to respond on their strengths and weaknesses. Immediately I thought of problems that I experienced on the very day that I wrote my reply. I had earned an A in an assessment course as an undergraduate student, and I was especially interested in the topic, yet in the classroom I felt inadequate when faced with assessing individual students.
For most of my teaching experience in America I have served as an intervention specialist. I had stronger skills in interpreting achievement score data, but I did not know how to use assessment effectively in the classroom. And I needed to know, fast. At the same time that I applied to the program, I was working in a new job in Cairo, Egypt, where I was responsible for the assessments and instruction of twenty students, grades six through nine. All except one spoke English as a second or third language, and all were in a segregated special education section of middle school.
The second course of the program was on the topic of assessment. And to my surprise, my coursework applied directly to my classroom situation. Taking insight from authors such as Stiggens, and Chapman and King, I learned quickly to assess my students and apply the results to their individual learning profiles as well as to my own lesson plans. I say to my surprise because I had preconceived notions that the program would be more about theory than action. Many times, my students benefited immediately from my coursework, whether it was a new game to play or a formative assessment to drive their learning goals.
Another surprise came in the area of motivation. As we studied motivation theories and learned related best practices, I thought of applying Eggen and Kauchak’s suggestion that teachers show their disappointment in poor quality work. It seemed uncomfortable, as that would be out of character for me. But I had students at the time who turned in projects that were obviously rushed after having weeks to complete them. So I told them that I was very disappointed. The following week, one of the groups surprised me by asking if I would look at their new project and reconsider their grade. Of course I would be happy to do that, and the result was delightful—they made a video creation of a scene for the novel we had read. Again, I became a better teacher that day, and my students were immediate benefactors.
Because of the assistive technology course, I will continue to investigate the tools that can help my students have comparable access to learning. Much of my professional development has been focused on technology in education. I thought I had thorough knowledge of the available aids. Now I know that I have much more to learn. I did not know that I did not know how to effectively assess my students for the proper assistive technology for the task. Now I know. Every time I become a better teacher, my new goal is to become a better teacher. And to do that, I will keep on learning. I am glad that I found the University of New England along the way.