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.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

SOLO and connectives lesson reflection

My year 8 students are currently studying a module called " Do we still need fossil fuels?" which culminates in an extended writing piece in response to this question. They will peer critique (review) in small groups producing a journal collecting 5 different articles.This is part of our school wide focus on developing literacy.

As part of the preparation for this writing, I wanted to share with them useful connectives that would not only develop their literacy but also their thinking within the article. An opportunity presented itself with our use of the Electrocity SIM game. The Electrocity game was to be part of their on going research. before they started gaming each group had to name their town and come up with its priorities/ principles/mission statement. This serves two purposes, it establishes a narrative at the start of this enquiry of things they are interested in and secondly tells them that they can use the game as a way of researching what "will happen if...." scenarios.
I came up with the idea of listening into student conversations,recording on post it notes the the connectives used.I planned to debrief the students frequently, around every 7 minutes or so, ranking the connectives against SOLO taxonomy,thereby creating a just in time need to be taught about using connectives to develop our thinking.This was primarily achieved by understanding that their initial game playing session would involve a combination of "how do i play" and ""Hey we are playing games distraction. I knew that much if the conversation would be Prestructural at this point, with comments along the lines of "Cool you can build a stadium" or " Get a wind farm" So the second part of the debrief would be about compiling the connectives that they knew and I (surreptitiously) offered and again ranking them against SOLO. We were providing the next step.
Note how SOLO has been added as students started using returning to the SOLO feedback unexpectedly .
Another vital part of this session was the non judgemental feedback provided against observed use of resources. The helpful resources that we had made in previous lessons such as the "info scrolls", their notes, the information on the EON and Electrocity websites. All were highlighted at the beginning of the session, with a clear expectation the they should be used to inform decisions. Of course they were not, but this would change simply by counting usage and feeding it back. As can be seen in th ephotograph above.

The procedure was repeated once the students had settled back into game play. Notes were made on a different coloured set of post it notes to allow us to see progress made.It was pleasing to see that nearly all groups were now dipping into the resources albeit tentatively. The conversations began to change and they began to at least give reasons for the choices they wanted to make (i.e. the prevelance of "because" became noticeable). Many students returned to the principles they set up at the beginning with statements along the "we wanted to be as green as possible so we must use the wind turbines", demonstrating the power of establishing a narrative in enquiry work.
Again the students were gathered and their comments assessed against SOLO taxonomy. It was obvious with the different coloured post it notes that progress was being notes. NB; I am fully aware that the students were able to play the "Connectives" game and say the things they thought I wanted to hear. However I am unconcerned by this "imitation" work as they are actually practising the use of connectives. Exactly the point I was making.

I was very fortunate to have  @JamiePortman and @Gwynap visiting and acting as observers with me. So the of connectives was practiced consistently by all throughout the lesson. Although, the progress the students made over the whole lesson suggests that they had began to use these as their own. They had learned to use them through practice.

The following picture can be read as follows . The left had side is what the students had said i.e they current position. The post its on the right their next steps. SOLO taxonomy made this very easy to do for both my students and me. Orange Post Its were used in the first attempt mainly Pre and Unistructural. Blue the second attempt which is mainly Relational but with some Prestructural and Unistructural showing that some students required more practice at using this (well I never! Graham Nuthall correct AGAIN) and the final attempt in Green which interestingly had nothing below Relational!
I think what this shows is that SOLO taxonomy is a great way of giving and structuring feedback, and how by sharing the progress they are making can lead to more progress due to greater engagement.