I am a big fan of inquiry learning and welcomed the opportunity to attend a full day workshop with Kath Murdoch last week.
I unreservedly support an inquiring classroom… however I am not a big fan of inquiry models. I am sure you know what I am referring to, normally some kind of cyclical or linear process to follow and guide inquiries in learning. It may seem a bit contradictory, how can you ‘do’ inquiry without a model, but the workshop with Kath only reinforced this for me.
To support my point of view I am going to refer the notes that I made during the workshop but I am going to remove any reference to inquiry. When you do this the essence of what you are talking about is simply effective learning and effective pedagogical approaches.
Kath discussed four main areas which to her are the foundation of an effective inquiring classroom. My take on these were; relationships, student voice and choice, how are we learning what we are learning? and provoking curiosity. Let’s briefly unpack them:
- Know your students
- Students finding out about each other
- Students valued for who they are
- “Do you know me well enough to teach me?”
- Respectful connections: student/student, student/teacher
- Vital in order for students to take risks and colborate
- Becomes the fabric of an effectively functioning classroom
Student Voice & Choice
- Students involved in decision making around their learning
- Students co-constructing learning
- Different options are provided for learners and their learning
- Rich learning conversations with prompts for deeper thinking
- Inclusion of ‘passion’ type projects directly related to student curiosities
- Student voice/choice is deliberately planned for, regular and authentic
How are we learning what we are learning?
- Visible student goal setting and action plans
- Clear learning intentions and success criteria
- Rich in the characteristics of the Key Competencies
- Looks like: participation, planned, focused, reflective, open minded, questioning,note making/taking, making connections to known/unknown
- Using objects/resources that provoke curiosity and trigger further learning: fascinating images, compelling texts
- Deliberate questioning: What are you wondering about? What are you curious about?
- Making use of any opportunity to ask and answer questions
- Planned opportunities to model and record curiosities
- Planned opportunities to reinforce processes, follow-up actions and how to’s
When you look at these characteristics of learning there are a number of elements that I believe are the foundations of effective learning and teaching. There is a clear alignment to the characteristics of assessment for learning through co-construction, learning intentions, success criteria, goal setting and reflections. The concepts of a differentiated and personalised approach are captured by involving students in decision making, having different options and outcomes for learning and allowing students to ask questions and follow their own curiosities. The richness of student voice clearly positions the learner in the middle with their learning built round them as opposed to learning being done to them. Building relationships “knowing where students come from and building on what students bring with them” (Ka Hikitia) is central to a trusting and healthy learning environment.
I would argue that an inquiry model takes the focus away from these attributes of effective pedagogy. It puts the focus on packaging learning up into a formula to be followed. If you were to ask teacher’s what is inquiry learning, what answers would you get? Would you get, “An approach to learning that is rich in student voice, relationships and student understanding of how we are learning what we are learning” or would the responses more likely be, “When students ask questions and find out the answers to their curiosities… oh and there is an action, a social action at the end.”
I am being deliberatley provocative but I think there is substance in the claim that inquiry models blur the essence of what an inquiring classroom is all about. Inquiry to me is just good ‘old fashioned’ effective pedagogy and I don’t need a model to tell me what that looks like.
Below is a short presentation for the EBE ICTPD cluster focusing on student voice in schools.
Unfortunately I am not able to present this in person nor am I able to Skype in to facilitate the meeting. So I have undertaken a new learning experience in creating a slidecast/webinar in Slideshare. A straightforward process but the recorded voice just doesn’t have the same impact as F2F…
In the presentation I have tried to give a brief overview of student voice in four areas:
- student voice in reflections on learning
- student voice in student led conferences
- student voice in learning and school design
- student voice in a democratic curriculum
Pulling together all the threads of student voice has been a great process to go through for me professionally. There are some great resources out there that support the importance of engaging students in discussions about learning and school. This quote sums it up nicely:
What pupils say about teaching, learning, and schooling is not only worth listening to but provides an important – perhaps the most important – foundation for thinking about ways of improving schools. Rudduck, Chaplain & Wallace (1996).
Have also being playing with LiveBinders to act as the online portal for this presentation. This allows me to collect all the resources the audience needs for the presentation, organize them neatly and easily and present them with ‘pride’.
For example, the Livebinder below has a tab for the presentation, my blog, two videos to view, my Delicious tags for studentvoice and a Google doc of the presentation notes. Essentially a one stop shop for supporting the ideas presented and any follow up.
Thanks to @janenicholls for alerting me to this tool. Would appear to be a really simple way to effectively support a presentation you are giving.
Although, having seen Jog the Web (thanks @miriamtuohy) used before for a similar purpose, and liking the layout and look better, will probably jog rather than bind. What do you think?
[iframe http://livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=20133 600px 350px]
My formal teacher inquiry for the year is continuing to develop, not a fast as I would have liked but none the less there is progress. The broad goal of the inquiry is to increase quality feedback from parents in the students’ portfolios, and therefore contributing to improved student achievement. We know that feedback has a huge impact on improving student learning through the research from such people as Hattie, Black and Wiliam and Clarke. Our AP at school has also blogged about it here highlighting our school’s belief on the importance of feedback.
Last term focused on getting the students involved in giving each other quality feedback on their peers learning. This was structured, modeled and discussed with the students and success criteria co-constructed.
The students suggested and agreed that quality feedback would:
- tell them how to get better
- give positive comments as well as advice on how to get better
- use the success criteria to guide your comments
- make the comments easily understood
A great start to providing quality feedback! Time was specifically set aside for the feedback to take place. It was planned for and valued rather than a last minute or accidental.
Here are some examples of what it looked like in practice:
I think that your art is great!!!! I really like your quote. You didn’t have any dead space and it doesn’t look like you have rushed it. You also have the same style writing as Colin McCahon. Next time you should blend your colours more.
I really like your Colin McCahon art work. I like how you put your picture into three different segments but you could have used a thinner brush and made it a bit more smooth.
I think that you kept it really simple, you used a great range of colours!
Next time I think you could blend your colours a bit better.
Hi, I think that your Colin McCahon art work is really good but I think that you could have blended a bit more and use more colours. I like it how you used lots of sections and I like your colours.
Your crossword was a bit challenging some of the clues I didn’t really get but I figured it out in the end. I think you need to make your clues a bit more easier next time.
I think that it was great because it was hard but not to hard. Next time I think that you should have photo of a snake as well.
Wow that was hard. Your colours where good and you had interesting words and great synonyms. You needed to have picture that were related more to the thing you were talking about.
These are just a selection of some really great examples of student feedback.
So where to now?
The inquiry focus in the classroom context will be to make seeking and receiving peer feedback a natural part of the learning process. At the moment this is very much a teacher directed part of their learning. The second focus of the inquiry leading into the term is with the students themselves taking their understanding of how to give quality feedback home to their parents and involving them in giving quality feedback on learning.
I look forward to the students taking on board the role of the teacher in engaging their parents in this process.
I have been asked to present some thoughts about what it means to be literate today to an EHSAS cluster conference involving Ashurst, North Street and Roslyn schools from the Manawatu.
The presentation is not designed to provide a list of what is required to be literate in the 21st Century but instead to prompt thought and discussions regarding some of the trends and issues in educating students today all based loosely on what it could mean to be ‘literate’.
I remember a discussion we had on the eFellow forum about this very topic. One can argue that there are no skills or literacies specific to the 21st Century learner. I agree with this to the better part and my main message to come out of the presentation (hopefully) is that we do need to change how we teach to incorporate new technologies and existing literacies that will enhance the ability to create and share new knowledge and understanding. This blend will effectively set our students up for success.
Better explained by the experts, as in the CISCO publication, Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century (PDF link) describes:
…a key component is the integration of technologies that can fuel new forms of teaching and learning, nurture 21st century skills, and prepare learners for participation in the global economy of this century.
JISC has released a new publication, Effective Practice with e-Portfolios: Supporting 21st century learning, available here.
JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) has the mission to provide world-class leadership in the innovative use of ICT to support education and research.
While this report is based on findings and studies in higher and further (beyond secondary) education, it is a wealth of information for anyone interested in eportfolios whether you have your own established system or are embarking on the journey.
It looks at eportfolios from 5 different perspective: the learner’s, practitioner’s, institution’s, life-long learner’s and audience’s. It includes narratives from people as they experience eportfolio-based learning as well as many diagrams to clearly explain the processes involved.
This is not a one stop, how to use eportfolios to support learning guide, but the experiences, advice and case studies highlight many considerations and decisions that you will need to make in order to successful implement eportfolio-based learning.
JISC also has an online resource JISC Infonet: good practice and innnovation, which provides details on more projects and provides plenty of links to other resources.
Having just made my breakout selections for uLearn 08, I was pleased to see 3 sessions dedicated to the use of mobile phones and other portable technologies.
I am particularly interested in this breakout: Using the I-Pod touch to instantly inform parents of their child’s learning… by Paul Wright.
I see a huge potential in how mobile technologies can contribute to this area and it relates closely to some of the core beliefs I have about ePortfolios. The ability to share, for the purpose of receiving relevant and constructive feedback to improve learning, can only really happen if the learning is shared or made available almost immediately.
The web can make his happen. A blog post with embedded media takes minutes and then it’s there, ready to share. But a web based portfolio does not necessarily mean that parents will view it and share in the learning. And if they do, will they leave a comment? Will they view the learning with their child?
The physical presence of a portable device, like an iPod touch, could significantly change this. A child bringing home an iPod containing their learning gives an opportunity for sharing, not dependent on a broadband connection, taking only on a few minutes of time with mum or dad. Feedback is instant. Praise here and a suggestion here. Done.
If I think of a typical Year 3 child that takes home a reader to read with mum or dad. Why not slip an iPod Touch into the reading folder too and share some learning?
I look forward to this breakout to see how successful the pilot programme has been.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/
I have just read this article:
Developing digital portfolios: investigating how digital portfolios can facilitate pupil talk about learning.
Kate Wall, Steve Higgins, Jen Miller and Nick Packard
Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of Newcastle, UK.
Technology, Pedagogy and Education
Vol. 15, No. 3, October 2006, pp. 261-273
As part of this research project I read a lot of articles in the areas of eportfolios and assessment for learning. Like anything you read, be it a magazine article, novel, or newspaper, as you are reading you can immediately connect (or not) with the text and message. This article was one of those. Throughout reading it I found myself nodding my head and murmuring consent to the ideas and concepts it was discussing as they mirrored some of the central aims of my research.
If you are interested in eportfolios, assessment for learning and thinking skills I thoroughly recommend you source a copy of this article.
Some ideas the conclusions that grabbed the attention of my highlighter:
The combination of a digital portfolio and thinking skills has been revealed to be a powerful one with plenty of scope for development in the primary classroom.
The reflective nature of the pupils’ comments regarding their learning and achievement as part of the digital portfolio gives valuable evidence to support formative assessment theory.
…a digital portfolio has the potential to create independent learners who are responsible for the collection of their own evidence of achievements across the curriculum and this process has impact on the pupils and how they perceive themselves and their learning.
Another couple of reasons why this research interested my was that it included many quotes from students. The students’ voice really gave the article added authenticity for me and less academic blah.
Finally, the fact that this research was undertaken with primary aged children was a breath of fresh air as the majority of research and published articles are predominantly secondary of tertiary education based.