My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Simple Enquiry Based learning structures

Firstly, I will point out that I don't think this lesson is a true enquiry, but a stepping stone towards enabling students and me to reach that goal. This blog post is all about the processes involved. In the previous lesson the students had experienced a similar structure whereby they moved around our open learning space, with simple experiments, experiences or demonstration for them to observe/ do / reflect upon. The received non judgemental feedback on their "on taskness/ learning".

The lesson began with a simple circle time, with the students asked if they needed to add or change their what good learners do poster. They were then given the challenge to produce a brief lesson to teach Conduction, Convection and Radiation and the structure of the room and resources was explained to them. They were also given the big picture of the process too.

We then came up with the success criteria for their lesson plans. Asking the students what they thought success would be like, gives clarity to the task and ownership of the task to the students. This example, is basically a recounting what they know goes into a lesson, a recap (and subsequent application) of our learning to learn course.

They then picked numbers from a pot to find a partner, the novelty of this technique threw up a couple of interesting exchanges. Firstly, two students who I would never place together came up. They looked at me and said is it OK for them to work together, I lied and said " Of course I trust you to be productive". To their credit the issues I had managed throughout the year did not manifest themselves and the students responded with a high level of responsibility. The second came from a quiet student, who offered in the debrief that he had "enjoyed working with people he had not done with this year... it helped me think in different ways". I was spell bound, I will use this randomisation again.

The classroom was arranged in the following way.

The sofas had been pulled up in front of a whiteboard and the PC had three videos on the this topic for them to watch through our school version of Youtube. On an a joining whiteboard a sign in system asked the student to record what they watched, if they recorded notes and if they had subsequently went onto use the information.

Four laptops were set up on one desk as a research station. Students had to again sign in and state the question that they we going to search an answer for. They had a time limit of 10 minutes per person, although this was used flexibly as a way of providing non judgemental feedback on time management. This was designed to remove the random googling that my students do and for them to consider how much time they spend on tasks. Students too often passively research, and glance at web pages gleaning non related facts, this strategy forced them to identify the thing they wanted to learn about before addressing a resource. I hope the limiting of IT access does not seem too controlling especially in this age of IT ubiquitousness. The aim of this session is the development of the student skills to use these effectively. The structures were chosen to facilitate this. I also find it useful to consider a sliding scale from teacher to student to control where the responsibility lies for each decision. This session is this light a slight nudge towards the students in this regard, but one that I hope will allow them to take up the reigns themselves.

A further book based resource island with six general school text books was set up in one corner of the room. The limiting of this resource was to encourage sharing of resources and hopefully discussion of the information.

One final area was set aside with pens and paper where the students gathered to plan and create their lessons.These were circular tables to encourage good communication rituals.

The students set about this task, I took a back seat and circulated with a sheet of flip chart paper noting down what they were saying and doing. I noted the time at which these observations were made. After about 15 minutes or so I pinned these to the wall and invited the students to gather around. As they did they bean to read what I heard, after a few initial chortles the students settled down and looked a bit brow beaten. I remained impassive doing my best man waiting for bus impression, I did not want to show any sign that I had made a judgement. You can clearly see that the behaviour was not as on task as it could be. I asked for an opinion and the consensus was that they needed to be more focused.

As the lesson proceeded these sheets clearly demonstrate the students becoming more on task. Again the same impassive strategy was used to pass this praise on. This is so important as it allows them to build their own intrinsic motivation rather than be reliant upon mine.

The students worked to a deadline to create their lessons and then were again randomly paired with another group to teach each other. The students were very focused and confident in their conversations here, asking questions and challenging one another. I must say it was a pleasure to see this happen.

The end of lesson debrief started with the question "What has helped you be successful?" Implying that they have been successful and probes to find out why. This metacognition is vital in this style of learning experience to highlight the process and the transferable skills used, as things like content and we worked on computers tend to dominate the student experience. The students were very aware of the reasons they were successful. They came up with
1. Learner attributes- "we were on task", "we helped each other when we got stuck"
2. Learner skills " I found the success criteria told me exactly what to do ?"
3. Collaborative learning , with one student in particular being astute " Working with someone new, was really helpful, He helped me look at the problem in a different way, I would have described what was going on, but we actually talked about why it was useful, I wouldn't have done that on my own".
4. Content Knowledge- Several students referred to "last lesson" , "what we did last lesson" and "my notes from last lesson"
The pride from the students was palpable, not only in their successful learning, but in the way they had achieved it. To celebrate this I asked them to identify the one thing that they were most proud of, to think about what it feels like and how they might get that feeling again. I specified that they would not be asked to share this, it was just for them. I gave them a minute or so of silence to reflect on this.
I then asked them to identify one person who had impressed them and share how they had done this. I gave them a minute to think about this and then started with a volunteer, as I felt confidence would be important in building momentum, we then progressed in a clockwise fashion around our circle. they did this very well, giving specific praise, identifying resilience, creative, detailed explanations, thoughtful questions, patience and pleasingly every student was named at least once. Some were praised more than others, but none the less everyone had impressed someone. The reason for this was to reinforce the good learning behaviours, make it clear that it's not only me who sees what is happening in our learning space and vitally consolidate our learning community.

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