Can We Differentiate Ourselves?

One of the many challenges that we as pre-service teachers tend to face is the self-doubt that we may not be good teachers.  That aching, nagging feeling that is deep in your stomach and when you do something wrong or when you don’t really understand something you are learning in your education classes.  Yeah, that thing.  We’ve all been there.

After you get past that feeling (sometimes we never really do, but that’s okay, you’re doing great anyways!), we often think if we can really teach someone our subject.  “Will I get through to these kids?”, “Will they enjoy this subject enough to want to learn it?”, and so many other similar questions go through our heads.

We learn the methods of teaching, the ability to manage our classroom, how other subjects relate to the one we are teaching, and so much more.  We even begin to view the methods that teachers in our other classes use to teach and critique them all the time (I can’t be the only one that does this, right…?).  We know all the best practices, but can we really separate ourselves and our experiences of learning from the ways that we are teaching?

Spotting a Difference

I recently came across an article by Heike Brauer and Matthias Wilde named “Do Science Teachers Distinguish Between Their own Learning and the Learning of Their Students?”.  The two researchers and authors of the article did a study to see if pre-service teachers could distinguish their own methods of learning from the methods that are best for their students.

They identified two major  general components of the way that science teachers teach:

  1. Constructivist learning
    1. Learning by making/doing/interacting directly with the material
  2. Transmissive learning
    1. Information being handed to the student
    2. Lectures, iworksheets, etc.

We’ve learned that constructivist learning works better for most students, especially science students.  Most of us hold this belief because we’ve been taught it and our education professors show us the power that it holds, over just giving lectures for students to take notes on.

These general components we tend to differentiate ourselves from our students.  We know when the methods are important for us and when they are important for them, according to the study.

*Transformative approach is another term for Constructivist

The authors also identified two science-specific beliefs that pre-service teachers held:

  1. Connectivity
    1. Relating the content to the students, connecting it to other subjects
  2. Taking Pre-Concepts into Account
    1. How well students understand non-scientific concepts from everyday activities and speech

In this approach to students learning science, pre-service teachers tended to hold the beliefs that their learning and their students learning were the same.

Taking It All In

That was a lot of information given at once, but it’s important.  We tend to think that the ways that we are learning, or the ways that we are going to teach our students are disconnected from one another.  But they’re not.  Our students learn the same ways that you and I do, and that isn’t going to change.  But when we realize how each student learns and how you have to differentiate to each student, that’s when the magic really happens.

We need to get involved in what we are doing, and realize that we will make mistakes, we always have, it’s part of being human.  We know what we are going to be doing as teachers, and our professors are trying their best to prepare us to be teachers.  It’s when we realize that we can do it and to remember the teachers that inspired us, then we know what it means to be a teacher.


  1. @Meghan
    Thanks! I believe the same thing, if you aren’t worried about how well you will do then you might not be the best teacher! I struggled a lot of with understanding the difference between the two, and I’m not 100% if I understand it well yet at all. But I think that it would be modeled by using successful examples of something, but not taking the direct copies of something but rather borrowing the concept then making it their own. If someone uses the framework of a lab report, but types up their own and uses their own ideas then that’s borrowing rather than copying.

    Thanks! I agree, metaphors are wonderful ways to communicate ideas and concepts with students. Having them make their own metaphors to understand a concept is really helpful. Understanding our authority in the classroom is always a difficult task for us as pre-service teachers, but it’s one thing that becomes important that we learn to do now to prepare.

    Thank you! I agree, constructivist learning helps with making sure it isn’t difficult to transition into teaching. Constructivism really helps make it so that you are being a good teacher and not drowning kids in an information dump. I think being seen in the community is important because it really ties into the concept of citizen science. Getting the general public interested/understanding science is really important to our futures. It’s also making it known that schools aren’t just a place where students get an information dump and then that is it, they are a place where students are engaged in learning and hopefully having fun while doing so.

  2. Dillon,
    I really liked your blog! I thought it did a great job of showing readers what effective teachers should be doing in their classrooms, constructivist learning. Once this is implemented in the classroom, teachers won’t be as worried about being a good teacher. I thought your graphics and video did a great job highlighting the importance of alternative teaching. In the video, he mentions that it is important to be seen in the community. Why do you think that is?

  3. Dillon,
    I really enjoyed your post. One thing I especially enjoyed was the tweet you shared regarding metaphors. Metaphors are extremely powerful ways to communicate a message, and they certainly tie into the constructivist theme. I think as teachers it is essential to be able to adapt and respond to the classroom. This flexibility will lead to confidence, but it is also important to remember that you are the authority in the classroom. Therefore, it is your responsibility to draw that line. Really well done!

  4. Dillon-
    Great blog! I like the many visuals you incorporated! Having the confidence to teach isn’t easy, but I think that worry generally shows that you will be a good teacher, because you obviously care a lot about being an effective teacher!
    By making your classroom based on constructivist learning, I think you will stand out to your students, and you won’t be known as the boring teacher that made students sit and copy notes.
    On one of the graphics you included, it discusses “copying from others discouraged” and “learning by borrowing encouraged.” How would you model this for your students? If student A asks student B, “Can I borrow your homework?” how do we point out that that’s not borrowing, that’s copying?

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