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Preview: Comments on: Starting Next Round Of Personal Research Projects

Comments on: Starting Next Round Of Personal Research Projects

Last Build Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2017 11:40:07 +0000


By: blog of proximal development » Blog Archive » Conversation with Pre-Service Teachers - Teacher as Learner

Fri, 16 Nov 2007 05:46:00 +0000

[...] Does all that writing about things that are important to me personally detract from the curriculum? I don’t think it does. I do think, however, that it redefines what we mean by curriculum. It redefines the curriculum because it shows the students that any topic is of value if it studied in reflective manner, if it is approached as a field to be explored. Northrop Frye once said that “it takes a good deal of maturity to see that every field of knowledge is the centre of all knowledge, and that it doesn’t matter so much what you learn when you learn it in a structure that can expand into other structures.” In other words, knowledge is not a series of fragmented and carefully compartmentalized units (although school does a great job of presenting it that way). Young people who see that their teacher blogs about things he finds meaningful are more likely to see blogs as personal spaces where they can be themselves and explore ideas that are personally relevant. They begin to see their blogs as a powerful medium for research, communication, expression, and reflection. (For a very insightful glimpse into a classroom where personal engagement works very well, check out Graham Wegner’s Starting Next Round Of Personal Research Projects. [...]

By: Notes from the Ridge

Fri, 10 Aug 2007 06:15:05 +0000

[...] and New Zealand were making with it in their educational efforts. Moreover, I learned that students in these regions were truly being encouraged to actively participate in taking ownership of... My first impression was that once again, the US educational system was being outclassed. Further [...]

By: Doug Noon

Thu, 09 Aug 2007 23:08:33 +0000

Here's a bit of a thought I had earlier today, before I read Artichoke's comment, which I think is worth careful study. The idea of there being a "how" and a "what" to consider in teaching refers to the need to account for both declarative and procedural knowledge, both of which are necessary in any creative endeavor. Depending on what you want kids to learn, you can hold one, both, or neither of those things constant. In other words, you can specify the subject matter, the process to be followed, or both, or none of the above. We get the "tunnel of goats" phenomenon when nobody knows what's going on, but everyone seems to be busy with it. The way inquiry pedagogy has gained acceptance among progressive educators seems to be an example of what I learned yesterday is called politician's logic: : Something must be done; this is something; therefore, we must do it. Reformers of all stripes put this principle to work on a regular basis. Guided inquiry is a broad term that might involve the class and teacher in doing a whole group project that's mapped out every step of the way - as a demonstration, more or less - so kids get the idea of what we want them to do. Loosening the reins a bit and allowing the kids choices of subject matter assumes that they know how to identify problems, ask focused questions, locate resources, test hypotheses, generalize conclusions, report their findings, and evaluate what they've learned. That's a lot to ask of anyone who isn't particularly interested or experienced. I think there are ways of leaving options open for choosing, but I also think that inquiry as a concept has to first be embraced by teachers as an overall stance toward everything they do. Taking it slow, and keeping a tight rein seems like the only sensible approach. I am too loose, as I've mentioned elsewhere, with the planning end to responsibly manage what would otherwise be chaos. And too often that's what I get; things spin out of control even when I start out with a tight grip on them. Last year I had an aha moment when I discovered that the word 'research' means nothing to kids. Of course, there is also the possibility that inquiry itself is reduced to a cookbook response to a prompt. What's the use of that? The most concise way that I can express my current view of inquiry pedagogy, or any pedagogy, is to say that I prefer to see lots of structure, with just a little bit of wiggle room. I am not a specialist in any of this, and there are few examples of effective inquiry pedagogy in my personal experience, as both student and teacher. Direct instruction is sometimes the very thing necessary in order to move forward, and it needn't be discredited as somehow regressive. In everything I do, I want to proceed with caution and skepticism. Even the sacred cow of constructivism is being roasted in my thinking these days. But that's a story for another day.

By: Graham Wegner

Thu, 09 Aug 2007 12:30:07 +0000

Arti, I actually get nervous when you offer insight here on my blog because it's offering my process warts and all that leaves me feeling quite vulnerable because of your day job expertise and background. You always point me towards great resources and I would have to admit that I do not read enough educational texts - when edubloggers quote Postman and Ilich and Gatto, I have no idea because I haven't read any of their oft quoted work. (Actually likewise when Bill Kerr quotes Alan Kay.) I would actually be interested in your opinion on what we have done and whether I am actually kidding myself and wasting the kids' time. Your points that you outline are exactly what I need to be thinking about (along with all the other things my job entails) and to get to specifics, I think it would be great to have a Skype chat with you if you could spare the time. 1. "Knowing that" if I understand it correctly is navigating a chosen topic successfully because the student has some familiarity and confidence in knowing where to look and knowing if something answers their question and "knowing how" is the process of generating questions, topics, collecting information, making sense of that information and then structuring it into a solution or maybe a presentation(???). Therefore, while working with a topic of their own choice the "knowing that" aspect works better than if they are then forced into a new topic where the familiarity factor is gone. It would be a bit like first getting kids to go from Point A to Point B in their own neighbourhood, then next time dropping them in a foreign city and asking them to go from A to B again. And if I am getting everyone in my class to pursue totally different topics, then the front loading is nearly impossible - all of a sudden my colleagues corralling their students into one topic with choices within that topic look pretty smart. However, if my goal is to get the kids thinking about effective ways to communicate information and ideas to others (mastering powerpoint or any sort of multimedia might be a goal :-) ) then the content could be seen to be secondary. 2. Your articles point to the concept of guided discovery being a superior method as opposed to minimal guidance discovery learning. Looking back at last term's work I can see that the research part could be classified as the "discovery approach" while the modelling, explicit hands on design work, rubric driven presentation process the class worked on could be termed "guided discovery." With a process and expectations for presentation (and yes, that is also worthwhile learning although it could not be reasonably be termed "inquiry") in place, is abandoning the idea of a previously encountered topic a recipe for disaster because it will be impossible to "front load" 30 students at once? It certainly is easy to model expectations in how to communicate their final content - but is one topic for the whole class the way to go? How is that topic or issue identified? More questions for me as my high moral ground is swamped by the high tides of effective practice! 3. In a task that allows students to choose their own topic, the "to be learned" component is extremely difficult to standardise across the class. 4. This point seems to be challenging me (rightly so). What exactly do I want the students to gain from this exercise? How to communicate to others, effective public speaking, designing supporting visuals, giving appropriate feedback to others, preparing for the presentation - all worthy learning goals straight out of the English curriculum. What about the inquiry component? I suppose I was wanting to put the students in the position of being able to share interesting learning with their peers and expose them to ideas and topics that they might not naturally gravitate towards. This term's approach was meant to be a challenge to expand their boundaries usin[...]

By: Artichoke

Thu, 09 Aug 2007 10:22:35 +0000

Helping schools plan student inquiry so we avoid “all the children are lost in a tunnel of goats” learning outcomes is part of the day job and close to my heart Graham I think when we undertake inquiry with young kids we have to be pretty clear about our purpose – if we are after “learning” then most of us would accept that learning involves a change in long term memory – and although I am certain that many of our students are “engaged” during inquiry learning I am uncertain whether inquiry in schools often leads to any significant changes in content or process memory of the students involved - Since we still have no research to show that students who experience inquiry based learning environments have an understanding that is deeper, more integrated, more coherent and at a higher level of abstraction than students who learn in “one size fits all” environments – when we choose inquiry over other pedagogical approaches we should be mindful of the problems identified with inquiry learning The things we ask our teachers to consider when they are planning inquiry topics for kids is how they will avoid the following: 1. Learners experience a cognitive overload when they need to do both “knowing that” AND “knowing how” thinking. Stahl et. al recommend that students gain at least an overview of content knowledge in the area before research begins. (Otherwise they “research” to learn content and tend to add little new if first source is informative/easy to understand, including ignoring conflicting evidence etc). This suggests students using research to learn new concepts may compromise using it to learn research competencies. Stahl, S., Hynd, C., Britton, B., McNish, M., & Bosquet, B. (1996). What happens when students read multiple source documents in history? Reading Research Quarterly, 31 (4), 430-456. 2. There is all that …. unease over minimally guided instruction through constructivism and inquiry learning to consider - and teh realisation that inquiry is not suited to all abilities in the primary classroom Mayer, R.E. (2004) Should there be a three strikes rule against pure discovery learning? Am Psych 59, 14 Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J. & R.E. Clark. (2006) Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: Educational Psychologist. 41 (1) URL retrieved May 2006 from 3.Then the real chance that at the end of the inquiry learners may not have been confronted with the “to be learned” material Klahr and Nigam Psych Sci 15 661 (2004)The equivalence of learning paths in early science instruction: Effects of direct instruction and discovery learning. 4. De Jong at the 2006 ICCE 2006 Keynote Address in Beijing showed us research suggesting that learners overemphasise communicative activities in inquiry – that is - more time is spent on communicating the new learning than is ever spent on gaining the new learning in the first place - depends what you are after - new learning or mastering powerpoint presentations 5. And his research teams have shown that 15 to 19 year old learners have problems with ALL of the processes associated with inquiry – both transformative and regulative processes, which makes me fret over what younger students might be missing when they do inquiry de Jong, T. (2006) Technological Advances in Inquiry Learning VOL 312 SCIENCE pp532-533 We encourage our teachers in New Zealand to plan inquiry learning with great thoughtfulness – it is much harder work for teachers than direct teaching - all relevant cognitive processes are triggered and scaffolded for - and they work to ensure the right kind of domain is used – student inquiry for intuitive deep conceptual knowledge rather than operational fact[...]

By: Doug Noon

Thu, 09 Aug 2007 08:08:55 +0000

The choice/constraints issue is a very tricky thing to manage, and I'm glad you mentioned it. A good project has some of each, I believe, and finding that balance is key. I especially liked the quote at the end. What I want to see in my own students is the realization, for themselves, that they've changed, been enlarged somehow, and accomplished something that they didn't think they could do before they started. I'm organizing my classroom this week getting ready for meetings and planning (for real) next week. Gearing back up. This was helpful.

By: Graham Wegner

Thu, 09 Aug 2007 06:45:08 +0000

Jo, it's a bit like baring your soul at times - but, I cannot talk about teachers needing to open about their practice and learn by reflecting on their teaching if I don't do it myself. Part of it is also having enough guts to admit that not everything flows as it should, than there is always room for improvement and that unconscious hypocrisy runs through every teacher's veins.

By: Jo McLeay

Thu, 09 Aug 2007 00:50:11 +0000

Wow, what a fantastic post, full of examples and ideas. You are so generous with your blogging, Graham