GUEST POST: An Interview with an Elementary School Teacher and Doctoral Student

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GUEST POST: An Interview with an Elementary School Teacher and Doctoral Student

Quincey Farmer is an elementary teacher and administrator who has taught both domestically and abroad. He is an advocate of data-based instruction and evidence-based approaches. Quincey finds data particularly important as he transitions to a specialized role focused on identifying and nurturing academically and intellectually gifted learners in grades 3-5 and talent development in grades K-2 while ensuring equity in the process. He is a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University concentrating on Learning and Leadership in Organizations. As part of his final project, he is working with The Learning Scientists to administer a survey to gain a better understanding of how teachers and students utilize our resources and content to improve their learning outcomes.

As a consumer of Learning Scientists content, please consider participating in the survey (click here).

What is your favorite aspect of teaching?

I genuinely believe much of my success in teaching elementary students is relationship building. We often hear about teachers utilizing data, but much of it involves academic performance data set against curriculum standards and objectives. What about personal data? Student interests? What about the student’s background and the context for learning it develops? Naturally, it is difficult to tailor every single lesson you teach to the perspectives of your students when you have 20-30 students you are responsible for, but I take advantage of the opportunity whenever I can. Creating math problems that are applicable to the careers of my students’ parents, their favorite cultural icon, or movie characters makes learning fun and engaging for my students. It is amazing to watch students increase their investment in their learning as they come to realize your efforts in investing in them.

In an ideal world, how would your students study and engage with the material you present in your class?

Ideally, students would have the ability to engage and investigate their learning in real time. Unfortunately, this is not always available. Teachers are amazing at helping students visualize and understand concepts beyond the scope of what can be seen within the four walls of their classroom and should applaud themselves for it. How do you teach poetry to students who have yet to fall in love? How to do you teach students about simple machines who do not observe their use in everyday life. Teachers find out how and that is so impressive! Therefore, I enjoy observing the process of teachers designing project-based learning for students. I believe it is quite outstanding to see teachers at the elementary level who teach about trade and currency working with students to create a product, determine advertisement strategies for communicating why their product is beneficial to their potential customers lives, set prices based on their analysis of inventory and profit, and engage with each other in buying and selling to advocate for an entrepreneurial mindset. I believe teachers should seek opportunities for students to apply their knowledge in authentic contexts whenever feasible and possible.

Where do you get your information on learning?

I consider myself the Google Search King! I look for blogs, scholarly articles, and dissertations that meet my needs. I believe there is nothing I cannot know if the omnibox on Chrome is open and available. It is such an exciting time to teach when technology is so supportive of the profession. I am extremely specific with my searches. They can range from broad searches such as “real-life examples of fractions” to bring awareness to students who are not aware of their day-to-day strategic thinking around parts of a whole, to searches that are specific to my students at that time such as “how to encourage hand raising in shy children” and “how to gauge cognitive overload in children with memory challenges”. I have personally found that any stress that came along early in my career was a result of not knowing how to transform my challenges into researchable questions.

What are the types of things you and your fellow teachers would want to know, and that you would find useful in the classroom?

As my career journey shifts towards specializing in gifted education, I am growing an interest in screening measures and methods for identifying gifted learners. Additionally, I am looking forward to continuing research on supporting teachers’ efforts to enhance rigor in the classroom. The gifted population in our schools are often overlooked as teachers naturally seek to prioritize their attention on struggling learners. While their intent is admirable, we must address this as an equity issue. This is without even considering the equity issue that is a lack of diversity within gifted education. We would find useful in the classroom strategies for nurturing asynchronous development where students may show academic promise but lack maturity or what we call “teacher pleasing behaviors”. I would also like to see a greater push on research about the cultural implications of identifying gifted learners. For example, I find the work of Donna Ford, who addresses challenges like the difficulty of expressing knowledge through writing faced by students who were raised in cultures that value oral tradition in an effort to increase awareness around the need for various methods of measuring aptitude and academic performance.

How has your experience been working towards your Doctorate in Education and what is the focus of your research?

The value of this experience cannot not be measured. I have been blessed to be presented with some high achieving and knowledgeable professors who value learning over grades. I am so impressed by the network within my cohort which includes backgrounds outside of education spanning business, medicine, law, and public relations. Yet, we all find a way to connect each other’s’ experiences in a way that enhances our own. The focus of my research towards completion of the program is organizational performance. In that, I seek to research and understand ways in which organizations can monitor their progress towards their mission statement, how the culture of the organization is aligned to their mission, and how organizations seek to stay “current” by informing themselves of the needs of their end-users. I am so excited that The Learning Scientists has allowed me to interact with them in this way.

I hope that everyone can take a moment to respond to the survey candidly so that I may present The Learning Scientists with possible opportunities to closely tailor the significant work of cognitive psychology to the learners within our schools!