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Learning

Opportunity #2 Lowe 1

Taylor Lowe, 260603576


Professor Buki
EDEC 351 - Professional Seminar

Learning Opportunity #2: Success For All

I. Stage One - Background

Over the past two months I have been working in a unique high-school setting towards

completing my third field experience. I say unique because this school is comprised of 40

students, 5 teachers, and an off-site principal (shared with another school). The size of the

school allows for small class sizes (ranging from seven to sixteen students), and a tightly

knit school community. The secondary V class is made up of nine students; my lessons tend

to be discussion-heavy given this exceptionally small class size. Additionally, participation

in class discussions makes up thirty-three percent of my students’ grades; thus, I feel it is

important to have my lessons reflect this.

During the first two weeks of my field experience, I noticed that one of my students,

Steven (names have been changed for privacy), was having difficulties participating in class

discussions. He would never volunteer to speak, and when called upon, he would freeze

and could barely utter a single word response. I suspected he was suffering from anxiety.

This began to severely impact his participation grade and his learning in my classes. I

selected Steven for my case study project in hopes of helping him to overcome his anxiety

about speaking in class and, consequently, to improve his participation grade and overall

learning in my lessons.

II. Stage Two - Student Profile

Upon observation, Steven is a creative, friendly student. He possesses a deep interest

and talent for visual arts - particularly anime-style drawings. He showcases this talent
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whenever he is asked to do assignments involving drawing and/or painting. Steven is

friendly with all students, and has one or two close friends at school. He sits with his best

friend, Sandra, for all of my classes. In terms of his in-class behaviour, I would describe

Steven as being non-disruptive, non-confrontational, polite, engaged, and introverted. On

an academic level, his work is mediocre: often lacking in depth but within the guidelines of

the assignment. As far as I am aware, Steven has not been formally diagnosed with any

disabilities.

My main concerns about Steven are in regards to his participation in class. I noticed that

his reluctance to speak was really beginning to affect his grades in my classes, as

represented by the following anecdote I wrote on September 14th:

“During Finance, students were asked to research an assigned topic in their textbook

and then present their findings to the class. Steven became very nervous so I tried to

help him with his research while stressing that this assignment did not have to be

perfect and that I would help him while he was presenting. Still, he was very nervous.

When it came time for Steven to present, he froze. In attempt to help him, I introduced

the topic and then asked him very direct questions that he could answer from the

textbook. He was able to answer the questions, but he did so very nervously and with

one-word answers”.

In this instance, Steven’s anxiety severely impaired his ability to participate in the activity.

Although he engaged with researching his topic, he was unable to present this information

- the graded portion of the activity.

I spoke with Steven’s other teachers and learned that this kind of occurrence was quite

common for him. He was doing poorly in many of his other classes on account of his
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reluctance to participate. Some of the teachers I spoke with mentioned that they had tried

“putting him on the spot” and “not giving him an out” to speak. I tried this by calling on him

and not moving on until he spoke. However, this strategy was ineffective. Steven would

stay silent for a very long time, looking extremely uncomfortable. Eventually, he might

utter, “I don’t know”, but he would never give a full answer.

My Cooperating Teacher had a different approach. She decided to give Steven the

opportunity to submit his comments in writing at the end of class. The goal of this

accommodation was to allow Steven to gain participation marks without needing to speak

in class. Unfortunately, this was also ineffective, as the student never submitted any written

comments or notes to us after class. I knew this student was at risk of receiving very low

marks, or even failing, if his participation in class did not improve. Thus, I decided it was

time to implement some strategies to help him succeed.

III. Stage Three - Updates/Strategies Tried to Date

Before I began implementing strategies to help Steven, I wanted to consult with my

classroom practices professor to gain some incite into how I should handle this case.

Following my discussion with Professor Baurhoo on September 15th I wrote the following:

“Professor Baurhoo suggested that I not call on Steven directly as this will cause his anxiety

to spike and he will freeze and feel embarrassed. She also suggested that I have students do

more group work instead of individual work”. I decided to implement these suggestions

during a debate activity the following Thursday on September 21st. During this activity

Steven was paired with his friend Sandra, and I was on the opposite side of the debate

paired with the other student who was present that day. During the debate, I tried not to

call on him directly. I would instead try to give him opportunities to speak by saying things
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like ‘Does anyone else have anything to add?’ but this didn’t seem to encourage him to

participate. Instead, he became very nervous and appeared extremely uncomfortable as I

noted in the following anecdote:

“We were a very small class today (3 students) due to the Jewish holiday and other

absences. Steven and his friend Sandra were both present. In finance we did a small

debate in which I decided to participate due to the small class size. Steven was very

reluctant to participate... He turned to humour, saying things like ‘I can’t… words’ but he

was visibly very nervous. Though he did not actively participate, I could tell that he was

listening and paying attention throughout the debate”.

At this point in time (morning of September 21st), I hadn’t seen any improvement in

Arthur’s participation. Working in small groups and not calling on him directly didn’t seem
Steven’

to be helping Steven’s anxiety.

The next strategy I tried with Steven, though simple, seemed to be much more

successful. As someone who experiences occasional anxiety, I tried to put myself in Steven’s

shoes to gage what he was so nervous about. Our class is very small and he seemed to be on

friendly terms with everyone in the class, so it was unlikely that he was afraid of ridicule

from his peers. By contrast, he seemed somewhat uncomfortable around me. I noticed that

he never approached me to ask questions and that I hadn’t actually made much contact

with him. I decided it was necessary to change this by establishing some sort of

relationship with Steven.

I began forming this relationship with Steven by warmly greeting him in the hallway

each morning (a practice that I’ve now adopted with all of my students). After a few days, I

began asking him how his evening or weekend was before class. Often he would nervously
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respond with “good” or “bad”, but occasionally he would give me details about the

interesting things he had done. In late September we had a pivotal moment when I

approached Steven while he was drawing in one of my classes. I complimented his artwork,

which prompted him to tell me about his creation. I asked him if he planned on pursuing

art as a career because I could tell that he had real talent in this area. He told me that this

was his plan and that he had already done several commissions over the summer months.

This prompted me to tell him about my sister who attended an animation school in

Vancouver and is now working for Disney. He seemed quite fascinated with this and

proceeded to show me more of his artwork. I say this moment was pivotal for two reasons.

The first is that this was one of the first real conversations I was able to have with the

Steven; the second is that after this, Steven seemed to be much more comfortable around

me. All of a sudden he would start greeting me in the hallways in the morning. When I

asked how his evening was, he would respond in full sentences and ask me how my evening

was. This was one of the first signs of improvement towards my goal of helping Steven feel

comfortable speaking in class.

Over the following weeks, I kept up the measures described in the last paragraph and

took any opportunity possible to connect with this student. I started noticing

improvements in Steven’s class participation during the first week of October. I wrote the

following during the week of October 2nd: “Steven seems to have really opened up this

week. In numerous classes he has shown good participation. Generally he is less reluctant

to participate when the class size is smaller, as it was today”. During this week, both my

Cooperating Teacher and I noticed a huge difference in Arthur. We saw him begin to speak
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without being called upon and even volunteer to read to the class. We were both very

impressed with his progress.

I sincerely noticed Steven’s progress during the second week of October when we did a

jigsaw-style activity in class. Since there were only 4 students present that day, I had them

do this activity individually. I had originally planned for this activity to be done in pairs,

mostly for Steven’s benefit as the last time we did a jigsaw-style activity (see Stage Two),

Steven completely shut down and was only able to provide one-word answers to my

questions. The following was written in my teaching journal on October 11th:

“Steven automatically expressed in a joking yet sincere manner that he was

uncomfortable with the jigsaw activity. However, when it came time for him to present

to the class, I was actually quite impressed. With a little guidance and prompting, he

was able to present his summary with personal connections. He did seem nervous but

was not impaired by his anxiety (as he has been in the past). This is a huge

improvement for Steven”.

In the following two weeks, Steven did two other in-class presentations. Though he

struggled to perform these presentations on his own, he was able to do so with guidance in

the way of prompting questions. To present, I feel the interventions I’ve implemented with

Steven have had a noticeable effect on his in-class participation.

IV. Stage Four - Conclusions and Recommendations

Today, I am much less worried about Steven’s participation grade than I was at the

beginning of the semester. While he still participates less than I’d like him to, his

improvement over the past four or five weeks has been monumental. He has gone from

speaking zero times per class to speaking two to three times per class and he no longer
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freezes when I ask him a question. I am very impressed with the effort Steven is putting

forth to overcome his anxiety about speaking in class and would like to see him continue

this in the future.

Though Steven has shown immense improvement, going forward, he will still need

support. Steven will require his future teachers to get to know him and to establish a

friendly rapport. Ultimately, he needs to know that it is emotionally safe for him to speak in

class and that his teachers value his input. Steven may require help in the way of prompting

questions when he is presenting information. Sometimes he becomes overwhelmed and

forgets what he would like to say. I would suggest that his future teachers avoid “shutting

down” this student’s responses, even if they are incorrect. Instead of telling Steven he is

wrong (which may prevent him from responding in the future), simply try to guide him

towards the correct response or ask another student to respond. I think if his teachers

continue to implement the measures I’ve indicated, Steven will continue to progress in

terms of his in-class participation.