The MAT degree program in elementary education offers advanced coursework in a particular academic discipline to increase one’s knowledge in a particular subject area. It usually requires a minimum of 30 semester hours in addition to the essential bachelor’s degree. The program is targeted at people, including instructors that wish to begin their teaching careers with both a master’s degree and teaching credentials (Spivy, 2010). I also enrolled in the program and had an opportunity to amass a large amount of knowledge, competency, and expertise. Additionally, I was able to understand how the program’s outcomes enhanced my professional work. It changed the definitions of my professional goals and thinking and enabled me to gather sufficient experience in how to improve student achievement.
Growth of Knowledge and Competencies
As a curriculum and an instructional leader, the program allowed me to gather a lot of knowledge and competencies regarding instructional planning skills. I was able to gain insight into the appropriate selection of materials for diverse learners, the selection of age- and ability- appropriate strategies for the content areas for students. During the rigorous classroom activities and fieldwork, one is exposed to instances that require critical thinking. In such instances, the student-teacher/instructor has to analyze a variety of issues critically that enables him/her to learn tools and techniques for teaching students various approaches to critical thinking (Sibbett, Polychronis, & Rich, 2010). Essentially, the program allows the instructional leader to pass through a process that reflects the processes in elementary classes that makes him/ her learn the ropes of that particular process. I was also able to learn the importance of establishing short- and long-term goals. Setting short and long-term goals is critical, especially when the institution requires that the instructor develops a career plan for the students at the elementary level.
The course program covers multiple competencies crucial for the job descriptions and activities of the instructor. For instance, I learned the tools for effective evaluation and integration of standards, assessments, learning outcomes, instructional strategies, and the learning resources useful in developing and modifying the unit and lesson plans. Also, I am now able to integrate effective and appropriate presentation strategies to facilitate the planning and delivery of lessons for different groups of learners (Spivy, 2010). During the program, we were taught how to develop active learning opportunities for a variety of students. It is critical for an instructor to learn this in order to promote relevant, meaningful, and engaging student-focused instructions (Sibbett, Polychronis, & Rich, 2010). Closely related to this competency, I acquired the ability to develop instructional materials that efficiently incorporate cross-curricular learning outcomes and prior learning outcomes that promote specific and comprehensive instructions. The development of instructions requires that the instructor knows how to integrate grouping strategies into instruction so as to facilitate learning for all students (Spivy, 2010). In addition, it requires that the instructional leader uses the technology appropriately in the planning and delivery of interesting, meaningful, and relevant information. Moreover, an elementary institution requires a safe and appealing environment so as to foster community and cultural understanding and positive social interactions, including individuals with special learning needs (McCray, 2012). As part of the program, I learned how to do this. By the time the program was coming to an end, I was able to use data effectively to plan, deliver, and evaluate meaningful, engaging, and relevant instructions.
Program Outcomes and How They Helped Me to Enhance My Professional Work
One part of the course work of the program requires that the instructor knows and understands the MAT’s program/ learning outcomes for elementary education very well. These learning outcomes are similar to the standards set by the Association for Childhood Education International Standards. The productive outcomes are divided into curriculum standards/outcomes and instruction standards/outcomes. There are also professional standards and standards related to development, learning, and motivation. The curriculum standards/outcomes for the instruction leaders require that they have sufficient knowledge regarding the subject of science, mathematics, social studies, arts, health education, and physical education (Sibbett, Polychronis, & Rich, 2010). The most critical however were reading, writing, and oral language skills. The instruction standards included the need for the instructor to learn how to tie these curriculum standards to the students’ needs and how to incorporate the strategies mentioned above in the implementation of these standards well.
Learning about the productive outcomes proved to be very significant for facilitating my professional growth in various ways. I understood the need to be well versed in different curriculum standards in a way that enabled me to deliver easily and instruct other elementary teachers how to cover these areas (Spivy, 2010). I also learned how to integrate and apply the knowledge that I have acquired both in school (undergraduate and MAT) and in my career as an instructor. I learned how to adapt to diverse students. This involves recognizing the diversity among the students and searching for efficient ways of catering for the diversity without causing division in the learning institution (McCray, 2012). Additionally, I developed my critical thinking and problem-solving skills a notch higher than before. These are necessary for my career as a curriculum and an instructional leader, particularly in instances where I would have to mediate conflict or propose a solution to a learning problem. I also learned how to foster active engagement in learning among the students as well as using communication as a tool for promoting collaboration among the students and the teachers/other instructors (McCray, 2012). Furthermore, gaining knowledge and understanding of the productive outcomes enabled me to understand how to assess the instruction provided in an elementary institution. Understanding this would prove crucial, especially in the development of curriculum plans and instructions for the school. As part of the program’s professional outcomes/standards, I developed effective skills of assessing, reflecting, and evaluating my own professional growth (Sibbett, Polychronis, & Rich, 2010). I understood that effective instructional leadership requires that the instructional leader follows the curriculum and knows how to collaborate effectively with colleagues, families and community agencies.
Change in My Professional Goals and Thinking Patterns
As a curriculum and instructional leader at the elementary level, one of my goals included increasing the quality of individual teacher instruction. I used to think that the achievement of this objective depended on facilitating and creating increased training opportunities for the instructors and teachers under my leadership. I imagined that the acquisition of more knowledge and competencies was the sole determining factor of the student achievement levels (Prytula, Noonan, & Hellsten, 2013). Ironically, however, my involvement in the same education programs for which I had so much advocated has changed this pattern of thinking. I have realized that enrolling in a higher education program does not add value if the instructors do not involve other players in their activities after subsequent return to work. Essentially, this means that the increase in levels of student achievement in elementary school requires the collaborative inputs of a number of individuals (Prytula, Noonan, & Hellsten, 2013). These include the instructor, the students, the parents/guardians, and the community. The instructors need to learn how to translate the skills they have into fostering learning in the elementary classrooms even during their absence. The teacher/instructor needs to get to capitalize on the student-student relationship to encourage learning through association. For home purposes, the instructor should be able to teach and make sure the parents, guardians, and community know how to create suitable environments that can facilitate additional student learning (Forbes & Zint, 2011).
Prior to the program, my additional goal was to increase the overall degree of the efficiency of the school functioning as a way of fostering higher student achievement levels. While this pattern of thinking has not changed significantly, it has however undergone marked improvements (Prytula, Noonan, & Hellsten, 2013). For starters, I noticed that this goal was not exactly clear in terms of what the institution should change and to what extent. Additionally, I had not laid out a specific map work to increase the overall efficiency of the school structure. Among the program’s list of instruction standards, there was one specifying the need to create a conducive and suitable learning environment for the elementary learners. An environment conducive to learning comprises a variety of factors. It requires a risk-free environment where students are encouraged to express their interests, set goals, self-reflect, and evaluate themselves through the provision of equitable treatment and positive re-enforcement (feedback) (Prytula, Noonan, & Hellsten, 2013). Also, a conducive environment would require that the learning environment fosters collaboration, positive social interactions, and cultural and community understanding. Recognition of diversity in such an environment would be critical for facilitating an environment conducive to learning. All in all, the program allowed me to specify and pinpoint what areas I would have to improve to increase the overall degree of efficiency of the institution.
The program helped to reshape and redefine my goals rather than completely change them. I had initially thought that creating a comprehensive, coherent, and rigorous curricular program would be the best way of ensuring that other instructors and teachers were involved in the achievement of high levels of student outcomes (Forbes & Zint, 2011). However, I realized that it was more productive to involve the instructors and collaborate with them in formulating such a program. This can be explained by the fact that they represent the direct link with the elementary students and can effectively gauge how appropriate a curricular program is (Forbes & Zint, 2011). I also noted that instead of acting as a supervisor and support instructor in the institution, it would be more productive to assign or delegate roles to specific individuals that better understand the requirements of particular roles and functions.
Summary of My Experience
The MAT program provided useful experience in facilitating the improvement of my knowledge regarding ways of increasing the levels of student achievement. It did this by preparing me for several distinct elements critical for promoting and fostering higher levels of student achievement. I was able to learn how to plan and implement instructions that would address cultural diversity in the classroom. It is important that every child feels equally treated, only then he/ she can fully participate in the classroom activities (Sibbett, Polychronis, & Rich, 2010). It prepared me for the planning and implementation of effective formative and summative assessments of instruction details and statements. Such assessments should be comprehensive and hold the children as their primary focus as, in the end, they would be the most affected by the introduced instructional tools (McCray, 2012). The program enabled me to know and understand the developmental characteristics of the learners and how, as an instructional leader, I can use these features for planning.
The theme of a favorable classroom climate and learning environment came out more clearly at the end of the program. I learned that this involved creation of risk-free, safe and equal learning conditions that would facilitate student learning and growth, which is essential for boosting their levels of achievement (Prytula, Noonan, & Hellsten, 2013). Learning about the curriculum standards and the recommended outcomes enabled me to understand adequately how to convey and communicate accurate subject matter knowledge pertaining to different topics, such as reading and writing, maths, physical education, oral language et cetera) (Forbes & Zint, 2011). The program helped me understand how to lead other instructors to employ a variety of strategies that support literacy development and individual growth of children. I also gathered much experience of planning and implementing instruction so that they can meet the students’ special learning needs that were distinct from other ordinary needs (Spivy, 2010). As an instructional leader, the program enabled me to achieve a greater understanding of how instructors can use technology to enhance student learning.
The program helped me realize the need and importance of collaboration as a tool for promoting student learning and thus improving student achievement. Collaboration involves the integration of the instructors, students, the parents, and the community into facilitating learning among elementary students (Forbes & Zint, 2011). Moreover, it is imperative that, as a curriculum and instructional leader, I learn to cooperate with other instructors to design and plan the curriculum program.
All in all, the program proved to be critical for shaping my role as a curriculum and instructional leader. It provided ways that helped me redefine and set specific goals for achieving high student achievement levels in an elementary institution. It also enabled me to acquire specific knowledge and competencies that would allow me to implement these goals efficiently. The experience has given me insight and courage to embrace my profession enthusiastically.