One of the major issues that faces students is the “jump” in the levels of thinking between junior high school in Year 9/10 and senior schooling in NCEA Levels 1-3. Students need help to build “bridges” as they navigate the progression of courses in my area of Geography especially with their conceptual understanding.
This year, my inquiry has focussed on examining trying to help students build better “bridges” in navigating these complexities. One of my findings from previous inquiries has been that students need to reduce the quantity of writing and regurgitation, but increase the quality of their writing with a greater focus on more complex levels of progression.
What do we know about this problem? Data from the Year 10 cohort in 2018 is interesting, and is reproduced below
Looking at the gap between our Year 10 SS program and NCEA Level 1 progress, there seems to be a significant gap, especially for our Stanine 3 and 4 learners.
How does this translate to the transition to NCEA Level 1, and what can we learn about about this progress?
Sasse and Wood (2017) explore this issue and recommend that rubrics developing values, perspectives and conceptual understandings are the most effective ways of helping to prepare our young people develop what are sometimes termed Higher Order Thinking Skills or HOTS. This concentrates on more critical and complex thinking patterns rather than mere content and regurgitation/ rote memorisation of material learnt in class.
Further work will be completed with Dr Bronwyn Wood from VUW in this regard as we look to ways to increase conceptual progression and further dissect values / perspectives participation in society.
Tables 1 and 2 below illustrate these levels of progression:
This closely mirrors work already underway in regards to the Junior Assessment Framework and also ties in closely with work on SOLO (Pam Hook and others) around extending abstract thinking etc.
Developing a hunch
What are our assumptions about what is contributing to the situation?
My own teaching practice: perhaps only reflects less complex exploration of values/ perspectives and participating in society. How can I promote and encourage my own teaching practice to become more critical and complex? How can I promote this in my students learning? This creates questions of around / efficiencies of “delivering” standards using direct teaching methods. This links to a presentation that I heard at the Future of Education conference in Melbourne Australia in 2018. Peter Grattan identified that there is a “sweet-spot” between teacher directed methods and inquiry directed methods. This intuitively makes sense, however there is work (reproduced above) by McInsey & Co. (2018) that provides emerging evidence that “Students who receive a blend of teacher-directed and inquiry-based instruction have the best outcomes.” My assumption here would have previously have been focussed on facilitating good inquiry, this research necessitates a shift towards more teacher directed methods where appropriate. At a junior level, it is difficult sometimes to find the “sweet spot” between high engagement and directing students to Fullan’s “deep learning,” one of the PC way principles.There is a strong preference in my pedagogy to privilege Social Inquiry over Direct Teaching. How can I alter my teaching practice to hit the “sweet spot?” This spot is aiming the teaching and learning at the space where student interest is met by more teacher directed strategies to optimize student learning. This creates the need for students to be able to both take greater agency and control over their learning and the ability for these students to be able to take ownership of their own feedback. Currently, my hunch is that there is a wide variance in the ability of students to assess their own abilities.
The major piece of work from our department this year has been a shift in our assessment practice towards a “generic” assessment criteria sheet (right). What this means is that all of our marks now are comparing “apples with apples” as all assessment fall under the Junior Assessment Framework.
For example, Year 9SS students did an inquiry into Earth Rights in Term 2, and also completed an inquiry in Term 3 that was focussed on Early (pre Treaty) New Zealand. This allows for direct comparison of results. Whereas previously, different mark schedules would mean that these results were not necessarily indicating a progression.
This will have significant implications for our practice here at the College.
Rapid Cycle of Inquiry (RCI) 1 – TLIF: “Self Reflection” Using Derived Grade Exam results to require students to reflect and target their areas required to optimize their results.
RCI 2 – TLIF: Reflection Tools: One of the outcomes from the recent TLIF project has been around finding strategies to help students reflect and grow from their reflections.
Some of the evaluation from students on themselves is too harsh – overly hard on their progress, while some are too lenient – over confident in their abilities. It seems that the edges are where expectations around results are where students need to temper their results – mostly through growth mindset strategies. For instance the Excellence student who says: “I’m going to fail this assessment.” versus the Not Yet Achieving student who would say: “Oh yeah, I did alright.” Both require a shift in thinking to become more able to more accurately identify their abilities and next steps.
Ignoring the outliers and what one colleague terms the “trumpeters,” I think that I’ve done my level best in helping to work with students this year in making a difference at the Year 10 and Year 11 “bridge” in helping students assimilate to the rigours of NCEA Level 1. … The feedback from Year 11 Geography students on the help provided on this “bridge” can be seen in the student feedback in the course evaluation to the question,
“How did your teacher help you to learn this year?”
“With helpful feedback and assistance throughout projects
“He told us about all of the aspects of each assessment that we needed to do so that we didn’t miss anything out. “A lot of good feedback and one on one conversations in class “made sure that I understood what I was doing and tried to explain things to me “he helped a lot by giving me feedback on all my work “he gave the class resources on PC4Me and he could have maybe done some more one on one or early tutorials for externals. “By giving detailed and specific feedback to assessments, and how better marks can be attained.. By growing my curiosity with cloud knowledge. “I liked that he explained everything very clear[ly] (e.g what the exam looked like), he was easy to ask questions to and gave heaps of feedback. “He provided lots of resources and examples for all the assessments, for achieved, merit and excellence and gave lots of helpful feedback on assessments. “He explained everything in detail and guided people when they were struggling. “He made sure not only me but the whole class knew what they were doing and if we needed help that he would help us.
Students of Year 11 Geography in 2019 Course Evaluation
“My teacher helped me learn by providing many different resources so that you could learn in many different ways [such] as audio and visual. He drew diagrams on the board and showed us how to do something before giving us work on that topic. He gave us freedom but structured freedom so that we were focused but it didn’t feel boring. He gave us feedback and many revision resources. He showed us videos and connected all topics to our life outside of school. “
And a comment from a Year 13 student, summarizes how this is perceived quite succinctly:
“My teacher helped a lot with my learning this year. It was very helpful when he would leave us comments and feedback on our documents so that we knew what we had to change or add to make it better. He also helped by writing lots of important information on the board so that we knew what we had to know.“
This website was developed as a support for staff to navigate personalisation and elearning as part of a year long collaboration through an SCT role at my school (click to follow link):
What is personalised learning?
Although personalisation might sound like a simple concept, finding a single definition is not an easy process. The term is common in an educational setting, however, its usage is complex and varied. The terms active learner, metacognition, self-motivation, collaborative learning, differentiation, choice-based learning, self-regulated learner and individualisation all appear across the literature. Aspects of each of the above have links to personalisation pedagogy, yet a single overlap of ideas is not apparent. Personalised learning can also be defined as helping students discover what makes them want to learn.
For the purposes of this project we considered personalised learning to mean students understanding how they learn, owning and driving their learning, and having a voice in the construction of the curriculum and their learning environment. This also encompasses the need for learning to target student individual strengths, interests and needs. We do not consider personalisation to be viewed as an individualised activity, but a collective one. It is not to be confused with individualised learning where students sit alone in front of a computer.The act of working together can help lead to individual growth in learning.
Why focus on personalisation?
In developing a personalised learning approach using digital technology as a tool, the undertaking of the teacher is to help students master the process of learning (Fullan & Langworthy, 2014). This involves making the learning process visible (Hattie, 2009); integrating learning areas, and allowing students to have a voice in determining their own projects (Rosenstock & Kluver, 2003); connecting to the students interests and aspirations (Fullan & Langworthy, 2014); and evaluating the learning process to ensure that learning is taking place and adapting as necessary.
Personalised learning has also been postulated as a means of putting the child at the centre of the learning by shaping the teaching around the way young people learn (Padget, 2010). This also involves planning for a combination of collaborative opportunities as well as independent learning whilst using the strengths and needs of students to guide decision making. It has been found that when a teacher is willing to incorporate student input into the learning, and to relate the learning experience to the needs of the students, this will be of greater benefit to the student (Burger, 2007). It is important to understand that actions and choices of the teacher remain critical because it is through the teachers’ understanding of learning that opportunities are opened up to which the students can respond.
The type of personalised learning we espouse is based on the strengths and needs of students in a setting which offers choice. Reinforcing the notion that personalisation is not synonymous with individualisation, Johnson (2004) states that within a personalised learning framework, there is greater opportunity for collaboration and connected learning.
Why connect with e-Learning?
Technology is a powerful tool that in the hands of capable teachers can result in significant achievement gains for students, enabling the realisation of the holy grail of education, personalised learning (Domenech, Brown, & Sherman, 2016). Underpinning this is the concept that technology should be considered a tool that can be utilised to achieve teaching and learning goals; this implies that positive outcomes of the use of technology should not be considered guaranteed, but are dependent on varied influencing factors. Many teachers want to embrace technology as an embedded component of a 21st-century classroom, however, the task arises to ensure that the focus is on improving engagement and learning through including students’ strengths and interests, and not simply using digital tools because of their ubiquitous availability. The technology must support the learning, rather than be used as a replacement activity. Instruction should not be driven by the technology; technology should be selected to suit the pedagogical approach and the learning needs.
Some of the readings we considered when devising our project:
Conole, G. (2010). Personalisation through technology-enhanced learning. In G. Conole, & J. O’Donoghue (Ed.), Technology-Supported Environments for Personalized Learning: Methods and Case Studies (pp. 1-15). Hershey, New York: Information Science Reference. doi:10.4018/978-1-60566-884-0.ch001
Crook, C., Harrison, C., Farrington-Flint, L., Tomás, C., & Underwood, J. (2010). The Impact of Technology: Value-added classroom practice. Coventry, UK: Becta.
I would like to focus on the “diversity of teaching strategies” that are mentioned by Hattie’s (2008) research, to create multiple opportunities for students to create and control their learning in a collaborative fashion and so as to allow the maximum opportunity for feedback. Universal Design for Learning will be a helpful guide on this journey:
The following Prezi was my first attempt at trying to summarize 12,000 words and 150 odd references to some colleagues:
This presentation (click on image above to access the Prezi) has now been accepted into a Journal for publication which is very exciting, Here’s a link to the publication – in the Journal for Youth Studies.
Smith, RAL & Walsh, KM(2019)Some things in life can’t be ‘Googled:’ A narrative synthesis of three key questions in outdoor education.,Journal of Youth Studies,22:3,312-329,DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2018.1506096
I am interested in the process of the social inquiry model and would like to explore how a diversity of eLearning teaching strategies can lead to transformative learning (with deep engagement) at Puentedura’s (2012) M/R depth of understanding, piquing curiosity and this deep learning in students to optimize peer learning and maximise feedback. I am interested in what piques curiosity in the social inquiry process we undertake in Social Studies. In essence, my question would be: what are the barriers and facilitators to enabling transformative social inquiry to take place through a personalised approach to e-learning?
Inquiry Focus Question:
How can elearning tools improve the personalisation of inquiry processes within social studies?
How do elearning tools support students to shape and pursue inquiry?
Peep into the Black Box:
What do you expect to see as a result of your inquiry:
The students are already familiar with technology in my classroom and have used the social inquiry model before in Social Studies.
I predict that students will appreciate a variety of teaching strategies in their classroom environment, engaging them and piquing curiosity into their learning.
Often, students have had significant amounts of screen-time in any given day, and I wonder whether providing variety in this learning could increase engagement with the learning content.
I expect that this survey will reveal that the Personalisation approach is a lot more rigorous than I expect. Similar to the Guided Inquiry approach investigated in a previous Teacher Inquiry that I completed, the Personalisation of eLearning involves the teacher in a significant manner to be more involved (not less) within inquiry process for Social Studies.
What’s going on for our learners?
The majority of learners in my Year 10 Social Studies lie somewhere on the dyslexia spectrum. This requires a significant amount of “chunking;” “scaffolding;” and “stepping” learning to allow students opportunity to engage. This makes the barriers to the social inquiry process significant. The Personalisation of e-Learning tools to assist these learners is a helpful methodology (but where do I find the keys for this process? Perhaps lying within the UDL toolkit?). At the other end of the spectrum, lies my extension Year 9 class. What can we learn as we compare?
How do we know?
I hope to adapt work from a previous survey I used in 2014, developed to ask questions about the skills needed in the inquiry learning journey. The survey is called the SLIMs toolkit (Todd, Kuhlthau, & Heinstrom, 2005), which acts as a checkpoint. Like a waypoint on a journey, I hope to use this survey to check how my students are going. The SLIM Toolkit (Todd, Kuhlthau, & Heinstrom, 2005) asks simple questions regarding inquiry learning. This toolkit has a set of surveys which I will gave out at the start, middle and end of the unit. These surveys will gather information on how well my group of learners can do such things as find, process, gather, analyse and use information. This data will be gained through anecdotal reflections; student work; and survey responses (Todd et al, 2005, p. 18).
Alternatively, I could use this one from PISA in future iterations. What resulted was a combination of anecdotal, qualitative and quantitative data in the forms of KWHLAQ’s, PMI & survey.
Find out the experiences of the learner at school by drawing on a range of information, especially from the perspective of the learner.
Where will our energy be better focussed? How will we check with learners that we are on the right track?
One of the issues with my extension class is that there are a number of highly capable students, who need directing into some rewarding learning activities. As described in the TLIF proposal:
“In analysing evidence of equity, access and use of technology, Warschauer and Matuchniak (2010, in Biancarosa and Griffiths, 2012) found that high-achieving students were more likely to use technology for interest-driven activities such as researching topics or collaborating online to create new media, and they were more likely to have adult guidance in its use.”
Therefore, I would like to work with my extension Year 9 Social Studies class to see if this experience rings true, and if I can direct these students to create and collaborate with some new eLearning tools within the Social Studies curriculum to investigate new ways of learning that might transform their understanding of the content that we are going to cover this term. In addition, I would like to make a comparison to my Year 10 class which has a majority of dyslexic learners. Hopefully this comparison serves to highlight different approaches to the personalization of eLearning strategies that works best for Social Studies.
What changes would we like to see?
Further, deeper engagement with material
Using technology as a tool to help engage students in learning activities that help them to understand the material in a more nuanced way.
Examining the reflections of the PMI activity of this group from last term, it is evident that students would like to engage in more learning activities, rather than just “research.” Another student said:
“Some of the lessons that used sites other than Drive were a bit confusing.”
Set a focus that can be worked on collaboratively and is manageable:
Evaluating various eLearning tools to find out how these can serve to increase learning and in particular curiosity.
Developing a hunch about the focus
What are our assumptions about what is contributing to the situation?
Examining the barriers and facilitators to eLearning and Personalisation, provides some navigation through the situation. The barriers I can identify are threefold and include: firstly, social media and the distraction from learning are real and hugely problematic for lower achieving students in my care. Secondly the “fad” of the latest shiny toy distract from deep learning is evident throughout learning as we engage students in surface level learning to keep “engagement” high but lacking real substance. Thirdly, Puentedura’s (2012) SAMR analysis reveals that much of eLearning is merely just substitution, and in my own pedagogical frame of reference, I find that this is enormously true still. Against these barriers, are a number of facilitators, including Hattie’s (2009) analysis of computer-assisted instruction (or “pedagogy” as Osborne labels); UDL and literacy strategies.
Keep the focus on what we can do something about.
I would like to focus on the “diversity of teaching strategies” that are mentioned by Hattie’s (2008) research, to create multiple opportunities for students to create and control their learning in a collaborative fashion and so as to allow the maximum opportunity for feedback.
What research or theory is informing our learning? Why is an approach or principle important? How can this learning be collaborative?
All of these UDL Guidelines are aspirational but overwhelming to be honest, requiring new training and an enormous amount of effort from staff to learn these new approaches. How do I sustainably teach in such an environment? Who will support me? How will I effectively teach in my classroom with all these best practices competing for attention. meanwhile Matt Groening’s depiction of the classroom is happening everyday I walk into the classroom (picture below).
This is about professional learning and how ideas, theory and research can be used or adapted to make a difference in our environment
What opportunities are there for dialogue, observation and reflection with others?
Survey – sent to Year 9 and 10 Social Studies classes
What’s going on for our learners?
Survey results – indicating that there are a variety of approaches to inquiry.
How and when can I share my learning?
There are different approaches to inquiry for my two case study classes. For the “extension” streamed Year 9 Social Studies class, it seems that I need to take a more “open” inquiry approach, stepping back more and allowing the students to frame and set their own learning goals. At the other end of the spectrum is my class with a majority of dyslexic learners who require a lot more structure and it seems prefer an approach where they are guided more into the learning intentions.
How and when can I share my learning?
Actions are informed and we understand why we are using particular strategies or practices. It’s a process of exploring a new strategy, trying it out, rewriting it with others and modifying it to try again. We need to get expertise to develop our own. This is a process, we need to try something out, reflect on how it went, discuss it with others to understand it more deeply, then try it out again.
Have we made enough difference? There is still a long way to go in this ongoing inquiry. The inquiry leads to further questions of how to maximise curiosity in the Social Studies classroom. In many aspects, this question is left unanswered in my mind. While it is helpful to know that my different classrooms require different input and different strategies, the question of how to maximise curiosity will differ for each child. Have we made enough difference? Probably not, there is a long way to go.
What’s going on for our learners? What has been established is the spectrum of inquiry required for Social Studies classes. At one end of the spectrum is a more teacher centric model of inquiry (entirely appropriate for my current Year 10 class with majority dyslexic learners); through to a more open ended approach (which may work sufficiently with my current Year 9 extension class). Other approaches may yet afford opportunities for students to further develop. Students enjoy constructing meaning in topics of their choosing but often need directing towards topics if they have little knowledge in a subject.
How do we know? The reasons for this formative conclusion involve a combination of both anecdotal and empirical findings. Anecdotally, the more teacher centered approach to eLearning tools works well for personalising eLearning with my majority dyslexic class. This wouldn’t be appropriate with my extension Year 9 class who will benefit from negotiating their own learning intentions to extend their inquiry into our chosen topic. The result from the survey and the reflective evaluation of the different units also lead to this conclusion. Students in my Year 9 class found the more open ended approach helpful as they were able to go and construct their own inquiries into various issues and foci that they wanted to research about (below at right), this same approach would not work and would serve to reduce the curiosity of my Year 10 class which has a majority of dyslexic learners. Lessons and sequences of learning that were experimented with this term where a more open ended approach was attempted with this class resulted in more sporadic and fragmented approach to learning. The group work meant that some students carried the workload heavier than others, while other students used this as an excuse to remove themselves from the process.
What changed for this Year 10 class was an approach of trying to provide a much more structured approach to this inquiry learning (click on worksheet example – below at left), whereby students were given more directed inquiry activities using tools such as EdPuzzle and Actively Learn to engage them with the inquiry process.
An inquiry into inquiry: HOW DO I AS A TEACHER KILL CURIOSITY?
Who are the learners? My Year 9 class is a learning support environment that provides opportunity to investigate “success” in learning. I return to the my first TLIF inquiry and learnings around modifying pedagogy; and my second TLIF inquiry of provoking curiosity through the use of questioning. For this group of learners, “success” will be defined differently to a mainstream environment, and a comparison I would like to therefore make is against my extension Year 10 Social Studies class.
Intro (20/5/2018): Students either enter classes curious and engaged with learning, or are seeminlgy adverse and disengaged, inherently adrift from the learning. Hattie and Donoghue (2016), propose a model of learning based on the “skill, will and thrill” of learning. I wonder how this can be used in my classes. I wonder about the purported benefits of eLearning and this raises questions for my own practice when students say: “Always working on devices becomes tiring and can kill curiosity,” and “By being on devices all the time and not getting a say on what you want to learn [kills curiosity]” (student voice). Puentedura SAMR model and iterations of TPACK may be informative for my own practice and more broadly for the school context more broadly.
So what? If a student is disengaged from learning, the challenge is to re-engage that student at many phases of the learning cycle. As a student explained to me (2018 student survey results):
“I think the strongest way to kill curiosity [depends] on the student. If the student doesn’t like the class, or think that what they are learning is important, then they aren’t going to be interested in the class, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about that.”
Therefore, I would like to break down these barriers to learning, finding out if it is possible for students to more effectively self-manage themselves by using various strategies at different stages of the inquiry process. Therefore, in this inquiry, I am interested in the intersection of curiosity and the inquiry process and thus my key question becomes: How do I, as a teacher, kill curiosity?
Developing a hunch about the focus
The Junior Assessment Framework
The implementation of the Junior Assessment Framework (JAF) this year will assist this aim, as we look to establish a derivation of Pam Hook’s SOLO framework. Her demarcation of the declarative and functional knowledge overlaps neatly with Hattie & Donoghue’s references to declarative and procedural. One of the big debates in Social Studies is often to do with the development of content vs skill, it will be interesting to analyse the results this year as students engage with purported “deeper level” learning as advocated by the JAF at a Year 9 / Level 5 Social Studies curriculum.
The decisive element.
Asking students about their understanding of “curiosity” has been revealing: students say that the opposite of curiosity is boredom. Yet, the opposite is not achievable. Entertainment is not learning. We return to Hattie and Donoghue’s notion of the “thrill” of learning. I therefore wonder how to maximise curiosity in my teaching to best leverage this thrill? This brings to mind Kath Murdoch’s (2010) practices of inquiry teachers – I am the decisive element.
Reflecting on pedagogy and praxis
Interestingly, many of the students in my extension class complain that “Always working on devices becomes tiring and can kill curiosity,” and “By being on devices all the time and not getting a say on what you want to learn [kills curiosity]” (2017 survey). I wonder, what this says about my own practice and how my school and how I can adopt the “diversity of teaching strategies” identified by Hattie (in Osborne, 2018 below);
and how this will redefine learning as per SAMR (reproduced below).
Pilot Inquiry Model
Below is a proposed model that allows students a framework to work through an inquiry process. This model was employed across Y9SS and Y10SS classes within the JAF and Hubs space. This model finds genesis from work by Kulhthau, Hattie & Donoghue, Lupton, Notttingham, et al., and was developed in response to the opportunity created by the JAF as the Social Studies department re-imagined the assessment and inquiry process.
The Year 9 Hubs provided an opportunity to work within the JAF to see if a new model of inquiry could be created for students. In my Y9SS class, we completed a highly structured investigation into the Afghanistan Refugee Crisis. In comparison, my Y10SS (extension) class, inquired into various environmental issues as part of “Earth Rights.”
Student work from each of these units : Earth Rights (Y10SS EXT) and Human Cargo(Y(SS LS) provides evidence for the needs across different learners for the use of models such as UDL and the “kete” to equip students at different stages (H&D). This strongly correlates with learning from the first iteration of the TLIF that the pedagogy of teaching responds to a continuum that requires different modes of employment in different contexts.
Pilot Inquiry feedback
Student feedback from this process was that the inquiry process was complicated and non-intuitive. The worksheet which was designed to help assist students structure their research process was invasive and sometimes overly-complicated. This was not the intent, however, provides room for review of this approach.
Conversely, student understanding was extended and stretched as students engaged with a modified inquiry that allowed for a much more critical approach to inquiry. This did not occur universally, indeed mainstream classes investigated topics in a sometimes cursory fashion. For my extension class however, these students were able to engage at a much more critical level, as we utilised the CRAAP test for instance to evaluate sources of information.
Much more is needed, therefore to further develop this model, equipping students with their ‘kete’ or toolboxes to investigate the worlds around them as they employ inquiry processes used in their learning.
The proposed template below elicits the inquiry model at a general level but also informs practice for Year 9 and 10 Social Studies.
The next steps are to develop the “kete” for these students as they work their way through the Inquiry process. Kuhlthau (2013) highlights the “Zone of intervention” (working from Vygotzky’s ZPD) as the moments in time across the inquiry process students need assistance in their inquiries.
Kuhlthau’s insight is that students are most uncertain about inquiry at the beginning stages of an inquiry. The need for a teacher therefore, to intervene changes as time progresses. I wonder what intervention is needed as students progress through an inquiry. I wonder what actions need to be taken across this progression of an inquiry.
Anecdotally, evidence points to the need for students to be equipped with the critical skills needed and from a colleague’s work (SGS) from a well-being perspective.
Student voice: “Social Studies is about the world and yet we’re stuck in a classroom all day” >> Action stations!!
Have we made enough difference? This ongoing inquiry leads to further questions of how to maximise curiosity in the Social Studies classrooms..
How can I grow curiosity?
Various student responses help to summarize these ideas, better than I can:
“it really depends on how open minded you are as a person; if you’re very open minded and love new information, it’s going to be a lot easier to grow your curiosity than it would be if you close yourself away from people and opportunities, it will be a lot harder to become a more curious person.”
“Yes, by finding more information about it or if you have someone to talk to about who has the same curiosity”
“Depends. If there isn’t curiosity, then you can’t do much about that, but you can grow curiosity in students, or at least engage them more by: varying up the lesson plan; make your teaching style more unpredictable, and different; make lessons more fun, and radical, by changing up the types of things you do in class, like with the death penalty debate (I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a student who doesn’t love that subject).
“With a deeper understanding of the topic.”
“Yep. put it in [a] hole then cover it with soil, water it then watch it grow. Just kidding. Yes it is because the more you learn about the thing you’re curious, the more you want to know. This grows [your] curiosity on the subject.”
This year, I have been provided the opportunity to be part of a Teacher Led Inquiry Fund (TLIF) into the nature of eLearning and Personalisation. These two terms are loaded with meaning, and are easily confused. According to the TLIF application, these terms can be defined as follows:
Personalising education involves: a highly-structured approach that places the needs, interests and learning styles of students at the centre, engages learners who are informed and empowered through student voice and choice, assessment that is related to meaningful tasks and includes assessment for and by students and a focus on improving student outcomes for all and a commitment to reducing the achievement gap. This pedagogical approach is seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to teaching and learning.
As part of the project, we are not aiming for individualised learning and will avoid this confusion by making the distinction clear. According to Pollard and James (2004) a focus on individualised learning is likely to limit knowledge creation. What we seek is “participation in communities of learning and partnerships between teachers, parents and young people” to enable us to build a solid basis for 21st century education on the Kāpiti Coast. Personalisation leads to students collaborating on areas of interest, focus and also areas where personal learning needs have been identified.
e-learning is defined as learning and teaching that is facilitated by or supported through the appropriate use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). E-Learning can cover a spectrum of activities from supporting learning to blended learning (the combination of traditional and e-learning practices), to learning that is delivered entirely online.
I was invited to conduct three separate teacher inquiries. For this first iteration of the cycle, I am interested in curiosity. Essentially, my question boils down to: …
…how can I provoke the curiosity of learners in my classroom?
If students enter and are curious about the world, then I reckon half of my work is over. If students are not curious, then it’s an uphill battle trying to do any teaching. Below is an adapted version of the presentation that I gave to other colleagues participating in the TLIF project and summarizes my understanding so far:
I find myself in Nottingham’s (2015) Learning Pit, in a process of “self-examination” (Foucault, 2001) trying to figure out the best way forward. My questions are threefold and surround firstly, the nature of eLearning itself; secondly, the underpinning philosophy of personalisation; and thirdly, the expectations on my personal well-being. Taking each in turn, I examine these questions below.
1. The problems with eLearning
The problem I find in my classroom setting with eLearning is that while this is an excellent tool, my experience rings true of the inequality of access to eLearning experiences as identified by Warschauer and Matuchniak (2010). As described in the TLIF proposal:
“In analysing evidence of equity, access and use of technology, Warschauer and Matuchniak (2010, in Biancarosa and Griffiths, 2012) found that high-achieving students were more likely to use technology for interest-driven activities such as researching topics or collaborating online to create new media, and they were more likely to have adult guidance in its use. They also found that lower-achieving students were more likely to use digital media for socially-driven activities such as chatting and playing games using social media. This led Biancarosa and Griffiths to question if the differences in the way students use technology may not only do little to shrink the knowledge gaps, but may in fact exacerbate them.”
2. The underpinning philosophy of personalisation
Personalisation has a great many components and a strong theoretical basis for tailoring learning and educational approaches to the individual. Gone are the mass-produced models of learning, the challenge for teachers today is to provide personalised approaches to the learning environment. As Mark Treadwell argues in “The Conceptual Age and the Revolution,”
…Education has reached a critical point at which it is unable to improve performance without a paradigm shift (Treadwell 2008). He asserts that no matter how much money we put into the system or how much effort we make to improve it, there is no possibility of any ‘substantive increase in performance’. Treadwell compares education to other ‘technologies’ and points out that as a technology reaches its upper limit of efficiency, new technologies based on innovation rather than ‘an iteration of present technology’ emerges. Thus, for example, the technology of flight transitioned from ballooning to gliding, to powered flight, to jet engine, to scram-jets. In contrast, schools have moved ‘backwards’ to basic skills and standardised tests rather than leaping into a new paradigm. Treadwell argues that if we are going to substantially improve education then ‘doing nothing is simply not a choice unless (we) wish to deliberately empower learners with a dysfunctional set of competencies, skills, knowledge and belief about learning which are now almost totally irrelevant in the 21st century’.
The problem with this approach lies with the underpinning neo-liberal assumptions. That teaching and learning is a process that can be maximised for its outcomes is highly problematic. I find myself in disagreement with the many assumptions enclosed within this philosophy, trying to maximise learning, at the expense of the well-being of those involved in the learning process seems to kill off any sense of curiosity and wonder.
3. Expectations on personal well-being
Hunkered down, I’m seriously questioning Tanim’s (2011) assertion that technology boosts learning by 12%. How does this work? Is a 12% gain measurable? In what type of classroom is this technology used and what does this look like? Examining Puentedura’s SAMR (2012) model, is this 12% at the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification or Redefinition stage? Many questions arise at this stage regarding this improvement that is identified.
Clarity comes from the UDL Guidelines (CAST), an approach already employed by the Ministry of Education and CORE education, of which I attended a session.
All of these UDL Guidelines are aspirational but overwhelming to be honest, requiring new training and an enormous amount of effort from staff to learn these new approaches. How do I sustainably teach in such an environment? Who will support me? How will I effectively teach in my classroom with all these best practices competing for attention, meanwhile Matt Groening’s depiction of the classroom is happening everyday I walk into the classroom. Have you ever experienced this situation in a classroom?!
My Teacher Led Inquiry
Nottingham’s Learning Pit gives significant opportunity for self-reflection. I find myself employing David Rock’s (2008) SCARF model to work through the anxiety that I currently find myself in. Rock’s SCARF model refers to aspects of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. I feel high levels of anxiety currently as I approach this “brave new world” of eLearning at the bottom of Nottingham’s learning pit. The many and varied questions I have are majorly based around the premises of the project with its assumptions surrounding eLearning and personalisation discussed above.
Examining the barriers and facilitators to these two intertwining ideas, provides some navigation through the situation. The barriers I can identify are threefold and include: firstly, social media and the distraction from learning are real and hugely problematic for lower achieving students in my care. Secondly the “fad” of the latest shiny toy distract from deep learning is evident throughout learning as we engage students in surface level learning to keep “engagement” high but lacking real substance. Finally, Puentedura’s (2012) SAMR analysis reveals that much of eLearning is merely just substitution, and in my own pedagogical frame of reference, I find that this is enormously true still. In contrast to this idea, however, my mentor for this TLIF project says about the SAMR model:
“It might pay to also look at some of the critiques of SAMR, such as this one here. Sometimes I wonder if SAMR puts too much emphasis on the technology, rather than the learning. For this reason, I prefer the eLearning Planning Framework (and just focusing on the Teaching and Learning strand in this context), and sometimes TPACK.”
Against these barriers, are a number of facilitators, including Hattie’s (2009) analysis of computer-assisted instruction (or pedagogy as Osborne labels it in the slide below); UDL and literacy strategies.
Despite my many reservations therefore, I am reminded of Kuhlthau’s ISP model (below), pertinent to this discussion and significant at driving the necessary curiosity proposed by Callison’s inquiry cycle (next page).
Hattie’s (2009, p. 220) findings on the diversity of teaching strategies rings true for me moreso, and I’m wanting to explore this further in my context. One student voice from my 2016 teacher inquiry indicated that more project-based social inquiry with reduced screen-time gave the ability for “freedom of what I wanted to study and learn”. I appreciate Cardno, Bassett and Wood’s (2016) guidance therefore in this process on being: “open-minded, fallible and persistent.”
I am interested therefore in the process of the social inquiry model and would like to explore how a diversity of eLearning teaching strategies can lead to transformative learning (with deep engagement) at Puentedura’s (2012) M/R depth of understanding, piquing curiosity and this deep learning in students to optimize peer learning and maximise feedback.
I started out this unit with high hopes. Having heard a lot about inquiry learning, I was keen and excited. Looking back on what I learnt in writing this blog, however, gives me cause to reflect. At the start of this journey, I began with the analogy of maps and exploration. Evidently, this changed. It’s become a journey with an open road and new horizons beyond.
I began by questioning where inquiry learning comes from in Geography, wanting to know how learners learn best and what changes would occur as a result of national curriculum. My essay generated further questions about the pedagogy of Geography and my own practice. Having analysed the theories and models that underpin geographical inquiry, I now have more questions than when I started.
What did I learn?
The most significant thing that I have learnt in doing these three modules is an appreciation for the emotional or affective domain. Nottingham (2009) provides the analogy of the “learning pit” which was very helpful for my journey. In this model, learners experience different emotions as they approach learning. I started started off nervous and excited but as I entered into the learning, this changed. For one thing, I certainly got mad with some of the digital literacies that I needed to learn! Blogs are a whole new world for me and I had to contend with two of these beasts this semester. Having completed this stage of the blog, I’m feeling pretty happy which is where Nottingham (2009) predicts learners end up.
This model is similar to Carol Kuhlthau’s (2004) model of the Information Search Process. I have mentioned this multiple times throughout my blog, so will not repeat the explanation here. Suffice to say that it covers the same territory as James Nottingham’s (2009) learning pit. In addition, Kuhlthau (2004) examines the physical and cognitive domains and I found this to be a true estimation of the process that I encountered. So too, in my experience of teaching my unit on Sustainable Communities, students also encountered all of these domains, making progress through all of these.
A nice connection was made for me when examining Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Krathwohl, 2002). I realised that teaching is a linear process in many ways (my unit plan for instance has a list of the weeks and lessons from start to finish and runs from the top of the page to the bottom). The problem I came across when I tried to fit Bloom’s taxonomy with my learning plan became that I had to invert the pyramid into a pit. if I was to overlay the following picture onto my unit plan now, this is not a bad estimate of the deeper knowledge created in learning. I thought this made a good connection to Nottingham’s (2009) model as well as the theoretical explanation provided by Kuhlthau (2004). In my inverted pyramid, I began digging with my students as we delved into topics, removing layers of misunderstanding, analysing the soil before getting to the evaluating and creating levels beneath.
One of my frustrations in this process has been a lack of scaffolding. I felt that I became that annoying student in class who says ‘I don’t get it.’ I can now empathise because I couldn’t ‘see the forest for the trees.’ While the requirements for each post were spelled out in great detail, I found it difficult to learn the new digital literacies and missed the interaction of being in a physical classroom. Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari (2012) outline that a team approach is needed for students to make the most of their learning. This team approach appropriately extends the model of social-constructivist frameworks as developed by thinkers such as Bruner (1961), Dewey (1916), Piaget (1950), and Vygotsky (1978). In such a team, there would include such people as industry representatives, librarians, teachers and other specialists.
In this process, it’s felt a little lonely to be honest, sitting at a laptop tapping away at a virtual world. There hasn’t been any real connection to a team of teachers who could help in this regard. No disrespect is meant to my lecturer. She works tirelessly and would respond to emails at all hours, I’m certain there are reasons that the class remained external. Some tutorials on the digital literacies required would have been super helpful, which highlights the critique of Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006).
I agree to an extent with the critique made by Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) criticise the guided inquiry approach by arguing that as learners, we need an enormous amount of guidance in our journey. Unguided discovery learning is not helpful to maximising learning. Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn (2007) provide a helpful response by showing the distinction between unguided discovery learning and inquiry learning. Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn (2007) argue that inquiry learning is not unguided. Scaffolding is key in such inquiry learning projects. Interesting then. Universities are able to produce fantastic research with such insight into the learning process. Yet the learning and teaching environment does not always follow these guidelines. Interesting. Why is this so?
While efforts were made to create online spaces for learning and increasing this interaction, as a learner, I feel that the prerogative lies on the teaching team to provide such a physical space. Perhaps I’m a “technophobe” and need to adapt to this new digital online environment. Or perhaps, there is reason to believe that real classrooms provide an excellent space for learning to occur. Or is it instead, that this is the way that I’ve learnt in the past and I just need to adapt? This was not the focus of my blog I understand, but it is probably more relevant to discuss given the modality of the learning that I encountered.
Like many things then, it is probably a matter of tension. I don’t think that learning should be completely teacher centred, nor should it centre on the student. Rather a middle ground approach is useful in teaching and learning processes. Lupton’s (2013, p. 11) “inquiry learning continuum” is helpful to this discussion therefore. If learners learn best by co-constructing meaning and knowledge from their experiences, it makes sense that this should also continue in the classroom. Perhaps then, rather than the continuum pointing outwards in Figure 2, the arrows in the following diagram should probably turn inwards to indicate the guided approach.
What has challenged my pedagogy?
The most challenging thing for me apart from the learning environment and digital literacies would be the model of GeST windows (Lupton & Bruce, 2010). This allowed me the opportunity to critique my own practice and that of the unit I taught. I realised that the vast majority of my teaching and learning fits squarely within the generic window. In fact, I’m quite accomplished at this. On occasion, I venture into the situated and transformative windows with my students and can recall some incidents in my teaching career where this has happened. Mostly though, my teaching is preparing students for university and a neo-liberal view of the economy. In critiquing the geography syllabus, I realised the opportunity it afforded to enter beyond the generic.
Perhaps I’ve become too critical of myself also and students are afforded the opportunity to critically examine their worlds. After the QCS this year, my class and I were reflecting on the unit of Sustainable communities and revising for our upcoming exam. In our reflections, I asked my students what helped them prepare best for the QCS test. One student surprised me by saying:
“I’ve learnt most of my opinions about how the world operates through taking Geography.”
Having engaged this particular student extensively in discussion over the course of Geography, I hope that’s a good outcome. Like Barnett (2012) argues, the more important feature of schooling has to be an impartation of values. Like Lupton and Bruce’s (2010) GeST windows, emphasising values allows students the chance to move beyond “disciplinary initiation” towards an ontology of “human beings as such” (Barnett, 2012, p. 72). This means that the values and ideals that students form are far more important than many of the generic skills I competently impart. I wonder then, what is the best way to engage students. If this student learned “most of his opinions about the world through geography,” what values come to the surface?
My epiphany this afternoon was that if teaching is more cyclical than linear, inquiry learning estimates a fractal. As we learn, we are constantly gathering new information, and this generates questions for new learning. With apologies to Daniel Callison’s (2006) model, I propose a fractal as a backdrop to his original model to indicate the tangents that we encounter in our learning cycle as follows.
Callison, D. (2006). Information inquiry: Concepts and elements. In D. Callison & L. Preddy. The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy (pp. 3-16). Westport, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York, NY: WLC Books.
Hmelo-Silver, C., Duncan, R. & Chinn, C. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-bsaed and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99-107. doi:10.1080/00461520701263368
Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational psychologist, 41(2), 75-86. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep4102_1
Krathwohl, D. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview.Theory Into Practice , 41(4), 212-218. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2
Kuhlthau, C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C.; Maniotes, L. and Caspari, A, (2012). Guided inquiry design: The process, the learning, and the team. In C. Kuhlthau, L. Maniotes, & A. Caspari. Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school (pp.1 – 15). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Piaget, J. (1950). The Psychology of Intelligence. New York, NY: Routledge.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.