Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Collaborative Inquiry. Still Messy.

Ah, the collaborative inquiry…

What is not lacking is the creativity or the knowledge to begin this work, and, in truth, much of it has been initiated already. What may be lacking, however, is the energy, discipline, and patience to study what is involved in the transformation and the courage to test our capacity for commitment to sustain such change.  -Emihovich, C., & Battaglia, C. (2000). Creating cultures for collaborative inquiry: new challenges for school leaders. International Journal of Leadership in Education. 3(3), 225-238. Taylor and Francis Ltd.

Last year, I was part of a teacher collaborative inquiry with a grade 2, 5, and 6 teacher. It was a time of firsts. We had never worked cross panel before. We had never belonged to a Collaborative Inquiry (CI) before. LLCI Glogster We had never dabbled with student inquiry before. We had  never made our thinking visible to our colleagues before. We had never presented our learning at a regional Ministry of Education event (Leaders of Literacy Collaborative Inquiry) before. I did write a post about our LLCI, and although it captures a snapshot of teacher learning, it does not capture the process. But, I can tell you that we had never had a professional learning experience like this before: Powerful.

This year, I have been part of a high school CI that has had its share of firsts, too. For some, it was the first time observing another teacher; for others, it was the first go at student-teacher conferences. We tackled the question

What is the impact of explicitly teaching reading strategies on students’ ability to comprehend complex text?

Here is a summary of our process and our learning:

http://prezi.com/embed/to2a7dj8cdpw/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&features=undefined&disabled_features=undefined

 

Again a powerful learning experience.

That final note in the reflective video in the above Prezi is the thinking that moved us into our second CI of the year. How might we support students in knowing how to make their own decisions in their learning? How might we help students identify which strategy is the right one to tackle the task before them, and what tools will help them?

Identifying the student learning need is, I believe, one of the hardest parts of the CI process because we can think we know what the learning needs are, but can we be sure? What assumptions might we be making that stand in the way of us realizing what our students need? What is the combination of hard data and perceptual data that will direct the team’s thinking and support its decision?

We certainly had evidence from our work in first semester that students were not self-directed, independent learners, and on the strength of that perceptual data, we decided on a metacognition focus for our second CI. But metacognition is a tough thing to measure, isn’t it? Not for Jenni Donohoo.

 

ci2

We had met Jenni Donohoo, author of Collaborative Inquiry for Educators, earlier in the year, when she was brought on board to assist the CIs in learning the process. Jenni was back at our school at the end of January to deliver a workshop and to participate in our CI ‘celebrations’. I approached her with the problem of creating a tool to measure metacognition, and she responded with a statistically validated questionnaire (Metacognitive Awareness Inventory)! Very cool.

We eventually generated our question:

What’s the impact of explicitly teaching metacognition on students’ abilities to know and apply appropriate strategies when needed?

The second hardest part of the CI process is identifying the teacher learning need. This should be straight forward, right? If I know the student learning need, then I know the teacher learning need. If my students need to learn how to become more metacognitive, then I need to learn how to explicitly teach to that need. So we develop teaching tools, we design lessons around a Strategy Evaluation Matrix, we challenge each other’s thinking around learning goals, we revise, try again , revamp the tools, and run out of time.

 

CI Concluding Statement

It’s messy, this business of learning.

But it’s ok. We’ll go back at it in September because what we know we have is the energy, discipline, and patience to see it to the end.

What are your collaborative inquiry experiences? What part of the plan, act, observe, reflect cycle is challenging for your team? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

 

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PBL: What Shifts Do Your Students Have to Make?

A contribution to OSSEMOOC‘s pic-and-post series:

I almost fell off my chair when I read “We Don’t Like Projects” by Shawn Cornally of Iowa BIG. Without a doubt he is writing about my students!
 

OSSEMOOC Projects Pic

  1. The word “project” is not a happy word. When I say project-based learning, most students grimace as they imagine prescribed PowerPoints.
  2. If a teacher doesn’t plan it, it’s not learning.
  3. If there isn’t a test, it wasn’t real.
  4. Their personal interests cannot inform their learning. Learning is sterile, and the actual usage of the word “learning,” to them, is quite different from what a professional might consider learning.

For my students, learning is definitely something the teacher ‘makes’ you do. The move to inquiry this year was rough. Student push back was hard to take and shook my confidence regularly. I will never forget the day when one student in grade 10 called my course “slack”.

 But we need to persist. Students (and teachers) need to own their learning. And the rewards – what we don’t know about until we own it – are transformative. Here is how one student concludes a course summative essay about what he has learned about creating digital stories:

Writing these stories has helped me get better at writing down my full thoughts. Writing these stories has changed the way my mind works. Writing these stories has changed me as a person.

Learning is the work

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BUILDING CONTENT KNOWLEDGE: COLLABORATE AND CURATE

A contribution to OSSEMOOC‘s pic-and-post series:

Sylvia Rosenthal-Tolisano (@Langwitches) is one of my favourite bloggers. She does visually represent the learning in incredible ways, and I have a number of her posters hanging in my classroom. BUT, it is her teaching through her blogs that I so appreciate.

In this post, “Building Content Knowledge: Collaborate and Curate”, she includes video, images, and annotations to help her reader really “see” the Digital Learning Farm (Alan November) in action!

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 7.28.11 AM

Tolisano never forgets the role of technology in the teaching and learning cycle. Skill-building in reading for meaning, gathering information, and note making–all key components in the research process–are front and centre here without the traditional teacher lecture and notes for students and in ways that support students’ acquisition of information literacy skills.

Take some time to explore Langwitches’ Blog. It will be worth your while.

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“T-SHAPED” PEOPLE

A contribution to OSSEMOOC‘s pic-and-post series:

This post by  David Culberhouse  (Educator, Senior Director Elementary Ed, Previous Principal CA Distinguished School, Co-Moderator West Coast #satchat) is the fourth in a series called  “The Creative Leader”.

Here he explores the notion of ‘T-shaped’ people. His message is clear: leaders need to understand what creativity and innovation look like, and they need to intentionally build a staff with people who have depth of knowledge in one area and who can also branch out and work creatively and collaboratively in another.

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 9.39.47 PM
Shared by: David Theriault,  English Teacher in southern California (@davidtedu)

The work of leadership is not just to ensure that educators have deep knowledge of their disciplines, but that they have the flexibility to move laterally across the building, across disciplines, across grades to be innovative and creative.

I love this post because I do think that we need to figure out how to become more interdisciplinary in high schools. We need to not just have ‘open doors’, but flattened walls. We need people who can think and create and innovate and initiate from their deep curricular and disciplinary knowledge and who can also take that thinking, creating, innovating beyond their curriculum and discipline to uncharted waters.

Bring on the Ts!!

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