Program Portfolio Alyssa Jones - Masters of Education

Before beginning my Masters of Education program, I struggled to decide which program to focus on. I knew that getting a Masters in Administration would allow for more career opportunities down the road, but that option didn't seem to suit my personal needs. I knew I was very passionate about my students, my classroom, and improving my teaching style. Also, I was a brand new teacher when I chose to start my masters and knew anything that could improve my teaching would be beneficial. The curriculum, instruction, and innovation program seemed to be the perfect fit, and I am so very glad that I chose this path to follow. This program helped me understand how to better lesson plan to fit student needs, how to use technology in the classroom, and how to be an all-around better educator.

I know that I would like to pursue a degree as either an Education Specialist or Administrator in my future to help forward by career. Through my degree, though, I have learned to love curriculum. I now strive to always be the best teacher that I can be by continually researching new ways to teach in the classroom. The best teachers are always looking for new ideas and strategies. We never stop learning; continuing to sit in our old ways only hinders our students’ learning processes.

The Learning Process

As a graduate student, it is really easy to think that the lessons I plan are at the seventh grade level, and that students can finish the activity in a short amount of time if they focus. This class really helped me to understand that all students learn differently, at different rates, and achieve different goals. What I think may only take 20 minutes in the classroom may actually take the full hour. It was noted by Sousa (2011), that it is important to remove the topics of least importance in order to gain the time needed for practice at higher levels.

Also, the idea of primacy-recency, really started to hit home. Students learn new material best in the first third of the hour. Their brains start to lose focus for the middle third of the class, but then pick back up toward the end. Because of this, I now try to teach new material in the first 20 minutes of my class. The middle block of class I try to use for practice time or an activity. Then, I try to review what was covered for the day in the last ten minutes or so. I believe this is helping my students learn more and grow at a higher pace. Before, I would assign a project or a chunk of reading and students would work on it all class period. Chunking has really helped my students improve as well as my teaching style. I also think it is a great time management tool.

This idea helped me to create a unit in which the final project was centered around the student learner, not just the Common Core State Standards. I have come to find it very important, through this course, to focus more on individual student growth. The final project created for this course helped me better understand chunking and demonstration and how important it is for students. During a Holocaust unit taught in my 7th grade class, students learn how to correctly write a literary analysis (Appendix A). Through demonstration and chunking, students learn how to write using claim, data, and warrant.

Instructional Models

Instructional models really helped me become a better teacher. I think, as we settle into our classrooms, we get used to teaching the same way. This class helped me better understand that there are multiple different ways to teach, and multiple different ways to reach all levels of students. Tomlinson (2015) notes that differentiation doesn't mean that teachers change their lessons to meet one individual student's accommodations. Differentiation means that lesson style and teaching change to reach a broad range of students with multiple different activities.

The final instructional toolkit (Appendix B) helped me gather all of my thoughts and new learning from the class and apply it to my literature classroom. I now have more than 60 ideas for different activities that can be done in the classroom that fall under six different instructional strategies.

Global Education in a Multi-Cultural Society

Before taking this class, I had always struggled to help accommodate my ELL students. I knew that they needed the extra assistance because they were still learning English, but I didn't know how to give them the exact help they deserved because we struggled to communicate.

Through the readings, videos, and discussions of this class, I learned many ways to help these students feel accepted and safe to learn in my classroom. Through Ethnographic interviews, I was able to get to know my students' cultures better. Also, pairing them with a bilingual student helped give them a peer mentor that could assist when they didn't understand an assignment in English. Not only did this class help me with this perspective, it also helped me learn to teach more of a global education class; a class that prepares students for the world through the study of culture.

The final project (Appendix C) of this class had me interview a cultural informant of France. The interview helped me better understand how to help international students be successful in the classroom. My informant (R. Anderson, personal communication, September 24, 2016) said it was important to know that culture shock can be just as much of a struggle for international students as language.

Teachers as Leaders

Before taking this class, I had always thought that I had earned my degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English and my only job was to teach. It wasn’t until I took this class that I realized that teachers are more than just classroom educators. Teachers are leaders within their own classrooms, within the school, and within the community.

The reading in this class really opened my eyes to the possible leadership roles within the teaching profession. I had never thought of the impact a group of teacher leaders can have on their fellow colleagues or students. One article we read about a small Idaho reservation school still sticks out to me. Their teachers were able to completely turn around the mindset and testing average of their school; their test scores became some of the highest in the state. From Leadership on the Line, Heifetz and Linskey (2002) claim once you find out where people are coming from, you can connect with them and engage them in change. I still refer to this article for motivation within my own small school district. This class helped me understand that teachers can be the face of positive change, and those ideas are summarized in my final project (Appendix D), a manifesto.

Instructional Coaching

The Instructional coaching class was very beneficial and really helped me understand what curriculum coaching really was. Before this class, I believed that coaching was more of an administrative job creating curriculum. Now, I know that it is really a way to help teachers improve upon teaching methods and skill sets. I can really see myself doing this job in the future now that I understand it more fully.

The final project (Appendix E) helped me step out of my comfort zone and try coaching in my own school. I was able to apply coaching techniques learned in the class to help improve another teacher's methods. In the long run, coaching helps the students more than the teacher; the teacher improves their practices to improve the instruction for the students.

Curriculum, Assessment, and Collaboration

The Curriculum, Assessment, and Collaboration course helped me to take what I had already learned in my undergrad and expand upon it. This class helped me to better understand the reason for state standards, assessment, and a good planning method. As a current teacher living under the Common Core State Standards, I have heard how the standards aren’t helpful and are just hindering student growth. But that isn’t true at all; the standards help teachers and students reach common goals.

While assessment usually sounds negative, assessment should really be used to gauge individual student growth. That doesn’t have to be a multiple choice test. Assessment can be anything that shows a student has met a goal. Also, testing sometimes has to be geared toward individual students. Not all students can sit down and write an essay. This class showed me the importance of making lesson planning and assessment personal for each student. The unit plan (Appendix F) I created for this course reflects more of what a unit should look like for individual student growth.

Innovative Instruction

I believe this class helped me change the most out of any. Before taking this class, I had a real aversion to using technology in my classroom. My classroom used to look like a computer lab. I had long tables covered in really old desktop computers. Most of the time they were broken, but when they worked, I couldn’t keep students off of Google chat or Pinterest. They were a hindrance rather than a tool.

This class opened my eyes to a lot of really wonderful technology platforms that can help enhance student learning. I also really liked the idea of the H.A.C.K model. Through direct instruction on how to use these technology platforms, students can eventually learn to use them on their own, and ultimately pick which platform to use to best express their own learning. This class really caused me to want to change how I ran my classroom. I wanted a “tech” classroom with real computers that worked! So, I came in all summer long, pulled out old desktops, and got them replaced with laptop computers and desks. Now my classroom can be a H.A.C.K classroom; one that prepares students for a technology driven world and allows students to express their learning in their own creative way.

My Innovative presentation (Appendix G) and poster (Appendix H) forced me to think about teaching in a different way. Flipped instruction gives more time for practice in the classroom since all of the learning is done outside of class at home. Students come to school prepared and then have the teacher to help with practice or discussions. I think this model can be very beneficial if implemented in public schools.

Research Project

The research project (Appendix I) really helped me better understand something I am truly passionate about as a teacher. I have always felt that advanced students in the general education classroom are constantly left behind. They are not pushed to their highest academic potential; many become bored and stop participating. As teachers, we are frequently reminded to make accommodations for low learners and those on IEPs, but never are we told to push our advanced students to do better. Because of this, I sought out to solve the problem. I wanted to know how to use the same types of inclusion techniques teachers use for IEP students for advanced students to push them to their highest potential.

I found that creating individual student packets with worksheets and projects geared to their level worked the best. By creating these, the students were able to read the novel, The Outsiders, as an entire class. I was also able to teach the class as a whole without singling out any group of students. But, during work time, students were working at their own, independent level. It worked out wonderfully! T-tests proved that students of all levels, low, general, and advanced, excelled during this unit. Not only did I find a way to push my advanced students, I found a way to help all levels of students. Because of this, I plan to prepare more units this way. It is one of the best instructional strategies I have come across thus far.

Not only did my Masters in Curriculum, Instruction, and Innovation guide me down an additional professional path toward a career, it helped me become a better teacher. I learned so many strategies that can be applied to my own classroom. I also learned how to be a better leader among my students, my athletes, and my colleagues.

Ultimately, I learned that Curriculum and Instruction is something I would truly love to pursue as a career. It is something I am very passionate about. It can truly improve a student's education. Through instructional coaching and writing curriculum, I feel that I can change education for the better.


Heifetz, R. A., & Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the line: Staying alive through the dangers of leading. Boston, MA: Harvard.

Sousa, D. A. (2011). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Tomlinson, C.A. (2015). Teaching for excellence in academically diverse classrooms. Symposium: 21st Century Excellence in Education, Part 2, 52(3), 203-209. doi:10.1007/s12115-015-9888-0

Created By
Aly Jones


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