Supporting Conversations

This the fourth post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer. Here are the links to post one (IBL and Learning), post two (In the Mess of Learning, what will stick?), and post three (Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning).

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Chapter 4 of IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry Based Learning focuses on improving students’ communication skills. I love this chapter because it dovetails so well with the ideas (Harnessing the Power of Talk) presented at the Adolescent Literacy Symposium (#LiteracyON) last month. Like all good professional learning, the Symposium provided layers of learning: participants as learners, participants as teachers, participants as facilitators. One of the threads connecting all the layers was the use of protocols.

Learning conversations do not just happen on their own when groups of people get together to “discuss,” but instead are a result of intentional, systematic planning of the learning opportunity. … Protocols are structured sets of guidelines to promote effective and efficient communication and problem solving (The Learning Conversations Protocol).

Watt and Colyer mention protocols (page 68) as a means of supporting student conversations. Below I have listed some resources where you can access various protocols that may be appropriate to support your students’ conversations.

For example, one protocol that I might use in introducing inquiry vocabulary is List, Sort/Group, Label. Before I give students the list of words and definitions (Reproducible 9), I would give just the words (LIST) to small groups of 3 or 4 students with the instructions that they SORT or GROUP the words into the four categories. Sometimes I’ll give students the categories, sometimes students need to generate their own categories. Finally, students need to explain to the class how they sorted the words. Often I will end this activity with a Gallery Walk so that students can see the variations in the sorting and we can together sort through misconceptions and misunderstandings.

But there are TONS of protocols available AND of course, you can always create your own.

For instance, I am thinking that before I assign a journal prompt to students (LOVE the inquiry journal idea–BUT should it be paper or digital or choice? Thoughts?), I might have students talk through a prompt together. To do this, I currently use the Reading for Meaning Statement sheet, in which students are given a statement and they have to decide whether the text agrees or disagrees with it, and, in the space provided, share quoted, textual evidence to support their agreement or disagreement. Thinking through what the text is saying and providing support for their thinking together gives students confidence in tackling individual thinking tasks like the inquiry journal prompt writing demands.

But there are caveats. It’s important to consider Katz and Dack’s cautionary note because simply using a protocol is not sufficient.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 7.54.44 AMThe Learning Protocol

Resources

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Photo by TerryJohnston

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Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning

This the third post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer. Here are the links to post one (IBL and Learning) and post two (In the Mess of Learning, what will stick?).

 

Nurturing curiosity in all our learners can be a challenge, especially when we detect a high level of reluctance or “disengagement.” Students, as well as teachers, may need to “unlearn” previous habits such as memorizing content as the goal of learning or viewing the teacher as the keeper of “the truth” (page 38).

Except there are times when it is appropriate to memorize content and when the teacher is the expert in the room.

When I theorize about something I don’t know a lot about, I start by making connections to what I do know. I use my existing knowledge to help my build new knowledge. My curiosity might be naturally aroused but if I can’t ‘see’ a connection or pattern or an experience to this new thing, I likely won’t stick with it. I think that my curiosity deepens when I begin to care about the new thing (object, idea, skill, etc.). Of course, (and I do mean this) there are times when I need to learn to do things or to memorize information that I don’t (yet) care about. I can’t understand that I need to care about these things. If I can learn to self-regulate when I am young, I will have better relationships and more opportunities presented to me in the future. But when I am young, I likely won’t understand that. If I can learn math facts so that they are available to me easily, then I will be able to tackle more complex problems with more speed and efficiency. But while I am memorizing them I may not yet get that point.

When we don’t know what we don’t know, where do we start?

The teacher should certainly adopt a co-learning stance with students, but we should never forget that we ARE the experts in the room. If a student decides to explore the government’s relectucance to establish an inquiry for the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, I clearly am not the expert for this content. But I must be the expert in “the discipline and know how to pose intellectually engaging [questions] that will keep the learning moving forward” (page 45).

In terms of learning how to create questions, Watt and Colyer, illustrate how teachers need to teach students how to ask “both discipline-based inquiry questions that develop disciplinary thinking and analytical questions that develoop reasoning and self-reflective thinking” (page 38). I love this because it dove-tails nicely with disciplinary literacies generally (read like a historian, scientist, or mathematician).

This chapter shines a light on the necessity for teachers to be experts in both the inquiry process (formulating questions, gathering and analyzing sources, synthesizing, evaluating, and drawing and sharing conclusions) as well as in their subject areas (essential skills, core concepts and supportive content). I appreciate the list of ‘check-in’ questions (page 55-56) because speaking with students, in both formal and informal conferences, is the work (the teaching-learning process).

I like this series of guiding questions, too.

Figure 18: Analytical questions based on the eight elements of thought

Source: Paul, Richard, and Elder, Linda. The Miniature Guide to the Art of Asking Essential Questions. Foundation for Critical Thinking (2010)

They connect to the learning to be a learner question frames that I use with students.

By Maureen Devlin

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In the mess of learning, what will stick?

This the second post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer.

Here is a blog post where I focus on the assessment process I use in one of my courses. It reveals how to use a rubric to capture the messiness of the project. There is often lots of choice in IBL which can leave you feeling like things are out of control. Not all students have done the same tasks, and even when they have done the same tasks, they may not cull the same activities to represent their learning as other students. Learning how to design an assessment workflow is key to the success of IBL, in my opinion.

One of the areas I’d like to improve in is making feedback “stick” better.

Wiliam asserts that if we can “Make feedback into “detective work”—make the students do intellectual work in responding to the feedback” then feedback will stick.

One way of making sure that students actively use feedback is to make responding to the feedback a task in itself. In other words, make feedback into detective work. In a previous article in Educational Leadership (Wiliam, 2012), I mentioned Charlotte Kerrigan, a language arts teacher who sometimes responds to her students’ essays by writing her comments on strips of paper. She then gives each group of four students their four essays, along with the four strips of paper. The group’s task is to figure out which comments apply to which essays.

Or consider a math teacher who provides feedback on 20 solved equations. Rather than telling the student which equations are incorrect, the teacher can instead say, “Five of these are incorrect. Find them and fix them.”

The same basic principle can be applied to any school subject. For example, in social studies, if a student has included the Emancipation Proclamation as one of the causes of the U.S. Civil War, instead of telling the student that the Proclamation was issued in the second year of the war, the teacher could point out that one of the causes he has mentioned can’t be a cause because it occurred after the start of the war, and ask the student to sort this out.

Such practices ensure that students, the recipients of feedback, do as much work as the teacher who provides the feedback. Making feedback into detective work encourages students to look at the feedback more closely and to think about their original work more analytically. (Wiliam, Educational Leadership, 2016)

I can work on designing detective work opportunities during the conversations and observations of the inquiry process. For example, during the research note-making process, I could say to a student, “This note is almost completed properly. There are three criteria missing. Find out what they are and add them to the note.”

I think that I can generate some canned responses based on my prior experience. I bet you can too. Here is a collaborative document where we can list possible detective work practices.

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IBL and learning.

I have been using an inquiry-based learning (IBL) approach for the past four years in various courses. Each inquiry has looked a little different as I learned how to design, roll-out, and support it. But there has been one constant in all of them. Many students are not engaged in the process, which in turn, does not lead “to increases in critical thinking, the ability to undertake independent inquiry and responsibility for [their] own learning, intellectual growth, and maturity” (page 8).

The question must be asked then, should I persist in using IBL?

This book study will provide me with the opportunity to think deeply about learning, IBL, and my practice.

Here it goes…

Inquiry-based learning is a pedagogy. As the authors state, “Inquiry-based learning is a process used to solve problems, create new knowledge, resolve doubts, and find the truth” (3).  Before I dive into thinking about this pedagogy, I want to think more about what learning is.

I don’t think that this is a crazy idea. I don’t think that because we are teachers, we automatically have a clear idea of what learning is. And I don’t think that we should be embarrassed about this. I do think that now is the time to wrestle with what researchers in various fields are discovering about learning so that we can evaluate any pedagogical moves through that lens. In other words, given my context, what do I believe learning is and how can I best support my students so that they do learn? Where does IBL fit into the learning process?

What is learning?

Learn (noun)– the characteristics or parts of what it is to learn

“Learning is an increase, brought about by experience, in the capacities of an organism to react in valued ways in response to stimuli” (Black & Wiliam, 2009 p. 10).

“Learning is a relatively permanent change in a behavioral potentiality that occurs as a result of reinforced practice” (Hilgard & Marquis’s Conditioning and Learning, 1961).

Learning is a multidimensional process that results in a relatively enduring change in a person or persons, and consequently how that person or persons will perceive the world and reciprocally respond to its affordances physically, psychologically, and socially.” (Alexander, Schallert & Reynolds, 2009).

“Learning, which in the Behaviorist era was defined as a change in behavior, should now have been defined as a positive change in long-term memory.” (Tobias and Duffy, page 131).

Learning is tripartite: it involves retention, transfer, and change. It must be durable (it should last), flexible (it should be applicable in new and different contexts) and liminal (it stands at the threshold of knowing and not knowing). (David Didau)

Learn (verb) — the process of acquiring new capabilities

“A process that leads to change, which occurs as a result of experience and increases the potential of improved performance and future learning.”

From How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan Ambrose, et al.

“Learning is a broad term that includes any gaining of new knowledge or skill. We learn through experience, practice, study, and other means” (Watt and Colyer, page 3)

In his book, Why Don’t Students Like School, Daniel Willingham says this about learning.

For material to be learned (that is, to end up in long-term memory), it must reside for some period in working memory-that is, a student must pay attention to it. Further, how the student thinks of the experience completely determines what will end up in long-term memory. (page 49)

And he says this about discovery learning.

In discovery learning, students learn by exploring objects, discussing problems with classmates, designing experiments, or any of a number of other techniques that use student inquiry rather than have the teacher tell students things. Indeed, the teacher ideally serves more as a resource than as the director of the class. Discovery learning has much to recommend it, especially when it comes to the level of student engagement. If students have a strong voice in deciding which problems they want to work on, they will likely be engaged in the problems they select, and will likely think deeply about the material, with attendant benefits. An important downside, however, is that what students will think about is less predictable. If students are left to explore ideas on their own, they may well explore mental paths that are not profitable. If memory is the residue of thought, then students will remember incorrect “discoveries” as much as they will remember the correct ones. (page 63)

Learning theories:

Image shows four perspectives on learning based on theoretical principles. Instructional methods associated with each, adjacent to respective quadrant. Orange quadrants represent a student-focused learning approach, blue instructor-focused. By Debbie Morrison @ Online Learning Insights

 

Watt and Coyler tell us that IBL is influenced by constructivism (page 4), and they also acknowledge that IBL is only one pedagogy amongst many that we decide to use based on our knowledge of how our students learn. This point is important, and it is why I have begun the book study by thinking about what learning means.

I believe that novice learners (regardless of age or grade) need more “traditional” learning processes; that is, instructor-focused practices. In behaviorism, for example,  “a teacher creates an environment and stimuli (such as lectures and presentations) that produce desired behavior, learning is thought to happen as a response to that stimuli. This response is further reinforced when the consequence is positive and pleasant. Successful learning is thought to occur when the learning process starts from the student’s initial knowledge and then increased gradually. In order for students to master the information, the teacher often provides practice, drill and review activities.” (Wongyauhsiung)

Or  “in cognitivism, learners acquire information, processing and organizing it into their cognitive structures (schema).  Information is processed through the sensory registers and goes into the short-term and then long-term memory. The teacher organizes the information in such a way that the learner can assimilate it. The concepts and skills must be shown in a logical sequence and go from simple to complex. The main points must be emphasized and the differences and similarities among concepts should be pointed out. The content must show relation and continuation from chapter to chapter.” (Wongyauhsiung)

More advanced learners need “progressive” learning processes that are, experiential, inquiry-based or student-focused learning. For example, in constructivism, or active learning, “if the materials are useful and beneficial to [students], they will be likely to master [the learning].  Students should actively understand the learning materials rather than passively absorb and memorize it. The students should be able to construct their own understanding and build on what they already know. They make connections between new information and old information.” (Wongyauhsiung)

Who are the learners in my classes? Are they novice or advanced learners? How prepared are they for IBL?

I am not just thinking about the content (new and prior knowledge) that students need to have in order to achieve positive learning outcomes as John Hattie speaks of below.

I am thinking about the “when” of IBL in terms of Watt and Colyer’s Reproducible #1 How to Model and Assess Inquiry Dispositions. I think that teachers might believe that the dispositions would be an outcome of the IBL process, rather than necessary at the outset.

So, some questions that I am currently thinking about are

  1. Do students arrive in grade 9 with the dispositions required for IBL? Some? Most? None?
  2. Does it make sense to teach (direct instruction) to the dispositions in grade 9 and 10 to prepare them for IBL as senior students?
  3. Does it make sense to focus on the inquiry process in stages (to teach to particular stages) over grades 9 and 10 so that students truly learn them and are able to use them independently in senior courses?

References:

Willingham, D. (2017).  “On the Definition of Learning”.

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CDNcraft: A View from the Classroom

Part 1 in this series was originally posted at cdncraft.com and it described one way of incorporating global projects into existing curriculum. What it doesn’t do is talk about the why. Why do teachers decide to join global projects? What compels them?

students of all ages need in order to succeed in an economy that is marked by ever-more-rapid change, both structural and technological. These “global competencies” build on solid foundations in literacy and numeracy.

what if rather than what’s wrong

collaboration……exchange of ideas…..to build knowledge

Recognize the value of traditional instructional approaches when they are well done

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A View from the Classroom

This post is re-blogged from the CDNcraft website. Click on the image to read the entire post.

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Building Baby’s Library

#nf10for10

Typically the lead up to the #nf10for10 book event is filled with lots of hemming and hawing by participants as they think out loud (on Twitter) about what titles they should include. A lot of the banter surrounds how more titles than the 10 allowed can actually make people’s lists. And, of course, there’s the age-old dilemma–To buy or not to buy?

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Well this year, I am super motivated to buy books…especially picture books!

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Without hesitation, Mandy was on the case. (And my profile pic had not yet changed to include baby!)

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Indeed, I do have a someone special and small in my life. My first grandchild was born on January 29, 2017, and she has been born into a family of readers! That she would receive many, many books from me was never at issue. BUT having an event like #nf10for10 (and then #pb10for10) to focus my thinking about what to get her when is terrific. So without further delay, let’s begin to build a library for baby!

The foundation of a baby’s library has to be the board book. Here are 10 (plus).

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Rule #1 in choosing children’s books is knowing the illustrator as well as the author. In Hello Baby! two perennial favourites collaborate to hook young readers (and their parents) into falling in love with text. If baby loves this book, more Steve Jenkins and Mem Fox will be heading her way!

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Rule #2. Include the dads. Find a book that dads will love reading to baby. I’m betting my son will return to this book often as it captures the hard work and pride that he values so much.

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With dancers on both sides of her family, there is no side-stepping this topic. Mommy and aunties are sure to gravitate to this book and to read it to baby with passion. That’s key, isn’t it? That the parents and relatives of baby will read to her. That they will sow that seed. Baby’s library has something for everyone!

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A police car, pickup truck, sports car, and monster truck clang and bang and screech and vroom! This is a book that demands interactivity. It’s the best kind of read aloud because the reader can offer up his or her own interpretation of the mechanical cacophony presented on the page. This is a lively and fun book!

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As the days and weeks and months go by, baby will be ready to name things. Colours are a great place to start because they’re everywhere! I absolutely love the illustrations and the point of view in this book. I always knew crayons were alive!

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And she will begin to count.

1 is One is classic Tasha Tudor. The illustrations are of days gone by ~ bonneted girls and a boy writing on a slate; simple, natural settings with some of a whimsical nature (I especially enjoyed the “12 baby birds learning how to sing”). In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the text teaches the numbers 1 through 20 in a rhythmical way. A joy for adult and child alike!

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Oh my gosh! It’s Canada’s 150 birthday this year. What an awesome year to be born in! What better way to connect than with a gorgeously illustrated book all about Canada. This book has legs….in the pre-reading years, it offers wonderfully drawn images of Canada’s iconic symbols, souvenirs and events, including the Dogsled, Inuksuk, Loonie, Totem Pole and the Zamboni machine. And as baby gets older, there is depth to the content of the book like information about the provincial flags. Lots of learning to be had here!

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There is no way I could build baby’s library and not include something from Eric Carle. This classic is designed to help toddlers associate colors and meanings to objects. The book contains all the wonderful and simple illustrations that Eric Carle is famous for. And its repetitive story of all the animals that are found, keeps everyone engaged, reading along, and chanting until…SURPRISE!

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Ok. I cheated. I know. But I wanted to include the idea of the series in the foundation of baby’s library. I want to entice my new reader to books not just for information and not just for the illustrations. I want her to notice what authors do when they write/illustrate/create their books. And that knowledge only comes about with some deep diving into multiple texts by the same author.

What is #nf10for10 anyway?

In 2010 Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere began hosting a picture book event that celebrates participants’ most cherished picture books.  I joined the conversation in 2012 and had so much fun that I wondered out loud if a nonfiction picture book event would meet with similar success. Never one to shy away from a conversation on books, Mandy and Cathy replied with a resounding “YES!”

And #nf10for10 has been a huge success, with folks posting 10 books on dinosaurs, or 10 books on the wonder of women, or 10 books for girl readers, or 10 books on architecture and building, or …

Here are the details:

  • What: 10 nonfiction picture books you can’t live without.
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested — educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.
  • When:  Friday, February 10th
  • Where:  All posts will be linked on the 2017 #nf10for10 page of the Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.

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