Blog Post 1: Learning & Understanding

The learning processes of experts and novices greatly differ, but each is influenced by the teaching methods encountered throughout the learning process. Inquiry based instruction, metacognitive approaches, along with deep understanding are all proven to improve learning for both expert and novices, as shown throughout How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). However, since the publication of this text, there have been immense advancements in technology and an increase of technology’s role in education. With this in mind, it is important to examine how technology can be used to further learning while keeping in mind the most effective teaching methods available.

 The school I work at is an International Baccalaureate school. Because of this, all of our units of instruction should be inquiry based. Before this school, I had little experience with inquiry based instruction. However, over the past few years, the benefits of inquiry has been made clear to me through talks with my colleagues, administrators, and education literature.

As asserted here, assessments can (and should) be, “… less a test than an indicator of where inquiry and instruction should focus” (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 25). This reminds me that I should be using my assessments, whether formative or summative, to help guide authentic inquiry within my classroom. Both expert and novice learners would benefit from deepening their inquiry into a given topic or concept, leading to overall deeper understanding (Bransford et al., 2000).

Screenshot 2017-07-17 at 9.58.39 AM

Photo from my classroom (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Given that my students each have their own Chromebook in my class, they have access to limitless information through the internet available at their fingertips. If I were better able to get students invested in an inquiry cycle, it would likely increase their own interest in the work. As students deepen their inquiry, metacognitive approaches to learning would help students monitor their own growth, and this would allow students to deepen their understanding of whatever concepts we are addressing in class.

Metacognitive approaches allow students to check in with their progress and understanding, and these strategies should be taught in classrooms related directly to content (Bransford et al., 2000). In my classroom, I teach metacognitive strategies to monitor progress with reading and writing. The most obvious examples of this would be with reading goals. Students set goals for the amount of reading they will do within the school year and each marking period. I conference with students to check in with all of these. Additionally, students receive rewards/incentives for exceeding their reading goals in a marking period or semester. Students come up with the rewards, create a Google poll, and vote on it.

Screenshot 2017-07-17 at 9.44.27 AM

Screen shot from Goodreads of my 2017 reading goal (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

This year, some students began to use Goodreads.com at my suggestion. I am thinking that next year I will use Goodreads for students to set a school year long reading goal and track it there. I also would like to create a group for all students to join so we will be able to see each other’s progress towards our goals, mine included!  I do believe having clear, monitorable goals helps students stay motivated.

My school has recently implemented the Lucy Calkins writing program for middle school, and I am in charge of organizing the lessons for the seventh grade. Though the units are very in depth, I feel that students feel bored with some of them. One benefit of Calkins is that the lessons, and especially the checklists, really enforce metacognition which I immediately appreciated. Ideally, if I could find a way to add more inquiry and student choice with writing, while still adhering to Lucy Calkins, I would be better able to promote an inquiry-based mindset.

As for writing, I was interested in the resource we were introduced to in class, WriteAbout.com. If I could use WriteAbout alongside our new Lucy Calkins lessons, I’d be able to increase metacognition, especially when it comes to writing and research. Metacognition can greatly enhance students’ success in their process of inquiry and understanding–all of which leads them to a deeper understanding of key concepts in my grade seven ELA curriculum (Bransford et al., 2000).

Ultimately, I have a lot to re-examine, especially authentic inquiry within my classroom to deepen understanding. Also, I know I must teach more metacognitive strategies throughout the year, and revisit them. I think I am not doing enough right now. I know I will try harder to use our classroom technology for purposeful learning, rather than an inch deep, mile wide approach, which is far from best practice.

References

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind,  Experience, and School. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/9853/chapter/1.

Images: All images were taken by Guadalupe Bryan.

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