Thursday, September 1, 2016

Approaches to Teaching and Learning

John Hattie (2011) believes that teachers and students need to be able to answer three key questions to maximise growth and engagement in learning:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I doing?
  • Where to next?

As part of the planning process at Seisen, teachers meet regularly to collaborate and discuss the possible learning outcomes of a unit of inquiry. Teachers need to know where the students are going with their learning before they plan the possible learning journeys or activities (Where am I going?). Most importantly they need to find out the students' current level of understanding so they can plan to address any misconceptions throughout the unit (How am I doing?  Where to next?).

Grade 2 homeroom teachers collaborating with the PYP Coordinator, the Media Centre teachers, the school Counsellor and the Visual Arts teacher for their current Who We Are unit of inquiry
All units of inquiry begin with provocations to get students thinking about the concepts being introduced and to allow them to make connections to previous learning and experiences.  Students are also give pre-assessment tasks.  These not only provide teachers with valuable feedback about each child's starting point for the unit, but they can also be accessed by students at different points throughout the unit to allow them to reflect on how their thinking has changed and developed. During subsequent collaborative planning meetings, teachers examine students' pre-assessments and plan possible next stages of learning to enable the students to progress to a deeper level of understanding.

You can see some good examples of recent pre-assessments below (click images to enlarge).  You can also visit our grade-level blogs to read more about them, such as these recent Grade 5 and Grade 6 blog posts.
Grade 5 provoked students' thoughts and questions with a Silent Conversation, where they asked the students to respond to images with their initial thoughts and questions.  This started conversations on the page and allowed teachers to join in, adding more questions to try and determine what the students were thinking. 
This Grade 4 Examples and Non-Examples task required students to take the examples and categorise them into 'IS EXPLORING' or 'IS NOT EXPLORING'.  If students were not sure, or if they needed more information, they placed the example in the middle category '?????'.  When all the cards were placed, it provoked a debate with students and got them identifying criteria for what exploring is.  This can be revisited at different points in the unit as thinking changes. What do you think - is watching an ant an example of exploring?
A simple way to pre-assess students' existing understanding is to define key terms in the unit's central idea.  Here is an example from the Grade 4 Multi-Faith class, where students discussed the key terms with partners then offered examples and explanations.  It will be interesting to see how their understanding develops throughout the unit. 
I See, I Think, I Wonder is a great pre-assessment or provocation technique that promotes observation and questioning as well as providing the teacher with valuable feedback about the students' current understanding.  Here, Ms. Diane has started her Grade 2 Self Portraits unit by asking students to respond to different artists' portraits. 
Asking children to make groups or categorise items gives an insight into their thinking.  Here, Grade 3 students have been asked to group different kinds of foods.  This allows teachers to identify whether students have misconceptions about the different kinds of foods and will allow them to plan inquiries to help students understand the scientific groupings of food. 

To see where these units of inquiry could go over the next several weeks, click on the links below and download the SOLO Taxonomy learning outcomes for each unit.  You can also take a hard copy from the display area next to the Cafeteria.

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