School Name: Burton Elementary
School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes
Inquiry Team Members: Tracey.Wallis@sd10.bc.ca
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Mathematics / Numeracy, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment, Inquiry-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To study the relationship between teacher and student using 6 “thinking moves” that regularly were applied in class by students, for understanding and making thinking visible.
Scanning: The four questions were posed to one student in each of the grades (k-4), with the exception of kindergarten. All grades could define most questions, with the exception of the last two: 1) How are you doing with your learning, and 2) where to next. This finding made it evident that although students are understanding what they learning, and in some cases why, they are having difficulties in the relationship between learning and themselves. I have often wondered, in such a large gap in skill level, if students are able to internalize the various levels of information they are exposed to?
Focus: With the grade composition in class, combined with variation of skill and developmental level within each grade, finding the most effective way to instruct can be difficult. Implementing the ‘gradual release of responsibility’ effectively is not always possible, and/or differentiation approaches are not always applicable when the content covered is so vast, such as mathematics. Whatever the approach, students are often left with more independent time than in a traditional classroom, and myself (or my cohort) are often teaching or instructing someone with limited time to monitor. Therefore, making observation a purposeful activity within a prescribed framework will provide valuable information on the effectiveness of what is occurring in class and the teaching approaches that are implemented.
Hunch: Currently, the practices within the school have either focused on whole group lessons with subjects such as, social studies, science and art, with grade directed lessons in mathematics. Reading and writing have been usually done with smaller groups (2 to 3). This year, another teacher is in the classroom for 0.5 and lessons are done using the latter approach for reading and math. I believe that in stepping back and purposefully observing this change and gathering evidence of other approaches, we can find the most effective strategies for teaching a wide range of grades and include/find an entirely new approach to our current practices (i.e. flipped classroom).
New Professional Learning: During this time, I took a course on mindfulness fundamentals from Mindful Schools, read more on mindfulness, and started a daily meditation practice. The purpose was to increase my observational skills when implementing the “thinking moves”. In addition, I began to implement an emerging curriculum approach, to better connect students to their learning.
Taking Action: In September, I began using 1 “thinking move” weekly, to understand the relationship between students and learning. The “thinking moves” included: Observe and Describe, Circle of Viewpoints, Complexity, Wonder and Investigate and Reason with Evidence. For instance, one week I used “Observe and Describe” to reflect and monitor the effectiveness of our weekly math walks outside. In observing and describing the activity, I noticed that older students did not apply the math content they were learning in class, although younger students “played” with the math concepts being taught. After the first couple of months I applied only 1 thinking move a month. At this time, I also began to apply the “moves” to only a specific grade and/or student. For instance, I had one student who seemed unable to understand/focus on lessons being taught (in whole or small groups) always needing one to one direction afterwards. I applied “Wonder and Investigate” to more accurately document and assess his behaviour. My questions included, “Did the subject matter make any difference,” “Did the use of visuals make any difference”…
Checking: I definitely believe the class benefitted when I began to purposely reflect and assess the changing relationships between the learner and teacher. I moved deeper into understanding (with concrete evidence) what approach, activity and environments were effective (or not). For instance, when “Observing and Describing” what students did during their “Forest Free Time,” I made the decision to extend this time into Free Play as students were experiencing a myriad of learning (oral language, science, co-operation, math, etc.). I did not have the opportunity to re-ask the four questions.
Reflections/Advice: I learned that we need to purposefully slow down and observe where our students are throughout the day – often we have timelines, content and goals that take up a lot of our energy (and focus). Perhaps because I was doing something (taking notes, applying a thinking move strategy), I gave myself the “permission” to experience the moment as it was, and in doing so experienced more fully the relationships of “learning” within the class.