GSE Professor Leads Practitioner Inquiry to Jump Start the GSE Journey

The Graduate School of Education values our students’ work and innovative ideas as they begin to explore and discover what education means to them. GSE Professor Tasha Austin organized a visit at the behest of her students for their two-day presentation for her students’ cohort to demonstrate their understanding of the GSE’s mission of Advancing Excellence and Equity in Education as well as their personal teaching missions. Based on student interest, the cohort was divided into four separate groups as to focus on specific aspects of teaching. Team Star examined student-teacher connections, Team Sunflower discussed designing a culturally relevant classroom, Team Creativity targeted teachers’ ability to foster creativity in the class, and Team Tech looked at technology’s effect on students. Through each focus, students established the importance of a teacher’s role to have agency in the classroom.

            To guide this agency, teachers can provide educational support for students. A teacher’s first step in supporting their students is creating a successful learning environment. This environment includes a safe and positive space where students can learn in a social and emotionally responsive classroom. This will allow students the opportunity to express and identify their emotions as well as supplying them with daily routines to establish a sense of belonging.  Instruction delivery allows teachers the chance to connect the curriculum to students, however, teachers must differentiate teaching styles to fit each student’s needs as everyone learns differently. A great way for teachers to engage with their students is by connecting with their parents, peers, and community. By including and engaging with a students’ support system, teachers get to know the student in a unique and personal way.

            Setting expectations for your classroom and each student individually is the best way for them to grow. Teachers should set these goals at the beginning of the year and continue throughout as each student makes progress. Through this process of goal setting, it will show the student that their teacher cares about their progress, achievements, and wants to see them improve. There is tons of research arguing that when teachers show they care for their students, their students will have higher scores all around in the classroom, in addition to increased attendance. Students are more likely to engage in the class when they perceive their teacher as supportive. Support can be displayed through positive language, motivational feedback, and allowing students to feel their voices are being heard.

            It is a teacher’s responsibility to reinforce culture and identity in the classroom. Through this form of engagement, the goal is to get students to feel proud of their cultural differences. Encouraging students to use their home language and bring home activities into the classroom is a great way to start this process. There are several activities students can engage in to showcase their unique culture. Teachers can even call student’s parents and ask them to come in to help share their culture with their child and his/her class. This creates a relevant classroom where students can learn about cultural difference and other families in their community.

            Emphasizing the importance of individual creativity is an essential duty for educators. It is no secret that the creative element is prevalent in grades kindergarten through second. These young years are the most important as students are beginning to develop their identity. Allowing students to work in teams rather than compete is a great start as students can brainstorm with each other. As a teacher it is critical to be aware of our own misconceptions about creativity and to not shoot down a student’s idea. We must encourage them to be innovative and find solutions when they fail. Teachers can incorporate more games into the classroom that enhance learning. The GSE acknowledges that play is learning as students develop social skills, exercise their attention, and explore differences they encounter. Playing allows students to meet others and develop acceptance as they are exposed to other’s unique ideas. Including students’ families is also a great way boost creativity as students can bring their parents in to do Storytime or Show and Tell.

            Technology can be used as a tool when trying to improve engagement in the class. Teachers can add technology platforms such as Kahoot or Go Noodle. Using technology to engage allows students the chance to learn by doing and seeing rather than memorizing information. Each student having their own laptop can provide the opportunity for different stations where students are able move around the class and interact. Additionally, technology can make students responsible for their own learning as they can develop a sense of ownership over their individual or team projects. Through technology, students can collaborate with peers and share their work with the class. It is an opportunity for innovation, creativity, and individual development.


We would like to highlight Tasha Austin’s student’s work, as they developed and presented this information in teams.

Team Creativity: Jennifer Arias, Janine Farraj, Genisis Olmedo

Team Star: Sabeen Khan, Sarah Park, Stephanie Stelmack

Team Sunflower: Taylor Bogensberger, Corissa Scalzo, Christine Yousseff

Team Tech: Troudai Ayoub, Isabella French, Hannah Lee