School Name: Big Lake Elementary
School District: SD#27 Cariboo-Chilcotin
Inquiry Team Members:Holly Zurak: firstname.lastname@example.org, Travis Flaherty: email@example.com, Michelle Roberts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Not applicable
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To what extent can we improve student growth and ownership of their learning by creating a school-wide culture of thinking and learning?
Scanning: The entire teaching staff is new to the school this year, so the importance of scanning was heightened. Teacher observations indicate that students can be too dependent on adults in the building; 30% of students have support plans/IEPs; our interviews with students, using the four questions showed students are ready to begin to take ownership of their learning and focused classroom emphasis on teaching self-regulation, visible learning and thinking strategies will bolster this for all learners.
Focus: We met as a staff to discuss our PLC inquiry. After sharing our observations, reviewing support plans, and using the four questions, we looked for foundational pieces that we could build upon. We decided that a focus on teaching self-regulation (taking ownership of learning), visible, and thinking strategies would yield good results and provide a solid foundation for future growth.
Hunch: It is possible that the small student population and proximity/ratio of our adults enables students to develop learned helpless behaviors. We need to look at how we support the independence of our learners so they can develop ownership of their learning. Doing this in a coordinated and intentional way may support learners’ independence. We have anecdotal evidence that students referred to past practice as ‘normal’ (regimented, planned to the minute, etc.) Conversations with EAs and some parents suggest that they are open to change.
New Professional Learning: We intend to use a couple of key resources to support our learning and planning: ‘Cultures of Thinking’ by Ron Ritchhart; ‘Visible Learning’ by John Hattie; ‘Number Talks’ by Sherry Parish; the Core Competencies (BC Curriculum); the 8 Successful Learning Traits; POPFASD “8 Magic Keys”; and involving our Education Assistants in our learning/planning.
Taking Action: Actions underway:
• Building a flexible learning environment physically to support diverse learning needs (uncomfortable for some kids)
• Read and implement “Number Talks” by Sherry Parish into our guided math framework. Getting kids thinking and talking about their thinking in Math.
• Implementing Genius Hour (Grades 4-7)
• Using the district resource specialist to come teach about ERAC and online resources
• Using common mindfulness language and strategies in the classroom to support and teach self-regulation
• Look for and provide opportunities for independence in classroom routines
• Integrate technology, as appropriate, to encourage independence
• Implement Ritchhart’s ‘Thinking Routines’
• Adding parent involvement action (communication and aligning language/expectations)
• Celebrating the Learner Traits (HOW students think/learn) through celebration assemblies (monthly) and at the year-end awards assembly.
Checking: We made many changes to our physical learning environment to promote space for thinking and learning, including:
1. Removing most of the desks from the classrooms.
2. Adding flexible seating to the classrooms (balls, wiggle seats, circular and rainbow tables, a student meeting space, floor seating, floor desks, standing desks, rugs and mindful corners).
3. Adding learning tools such as whiteboards, books, technology, robots, apps, and hardware.
4. Interactive bulletin boards to provoke thinking.
5. Displays that celebrate learning.
6. An outdoor learning space.
Pre-inquiry and post-inquiry self-assessment activity through ‘Cultures of Thinking’;
Funnel: to what extent does problem-solving move through the teacher (or other adult).
• Post-inquiry self-assessments reveal that teachers and EAs see more problem-solving happening independently and with less teacher/aide involvement. The work is never done and we do collectively agree that spending time working on the “language” of thinking with our whole staff to support students will be necessary learning for September and beyond.
We took photos and displayed images of student evidence of growth in independence and core competencies.
• Students have increased the frequency in which they talk about their thinking, their learning and their independence.
• At the year-end Celebration of Learning and Awards Assembly we recognized students for achievement in the areas of the 8 Successful Learner Traits. We emphasized the importance of being recognized as a thinker, a creative, strategic, industrious, etc.
Anecdotal feedback from students and parents support the changes we have made in our school environment and culture. One parent’s comment was, “You have changed the school. The students have had an amazing year and have had so many new learning opportunities connected to a new way of learning. Some kids have had the best year they’ve ever had.”
Reflections/Advice: This year, we have begun to transform our school by creating and promoting a culture of thinking. We have made thinking visible by displaying the process of thinking and development of ideas. In our physical learning environment, we have arranged the space to facilitate thoughtful interactions. We have focused on interactions and relationships by showing a respect for and valuing of one another’s contributions of ideas and thinking in a spirit of ongoing collaborative inquiry. We have worked as a good team, with purposeful intent. We are using a language of thinking that provides students with the vocabulary for describing and reflecting on thinking.
Next year, we intend to work towards transparency with students, so they are aware of the inquiry direction and can be involved in its ongoing development. We intend to provide structured thinking opportunities and providing purposeful activities that require students to engage in thinking and the development of understanding as part of their ongoing experience of the classroom. We seek to explore how the use of common language as a staff and school community (involving parents) about thinking and visible learning will increase achievement and continued individualization of learning for our students. We intend to explore how documenting learning through portfolio assessment can help make thinking (and student voice) visible, meaningful, shareable and amplified.
We are proud of the learning happening for staff and students in our school and intend to continue to network, share and celebrate our learning because we think it is meaningful and transferrable to others in our school district.