Structuring an inquiry-based classroom in the 21st century
A place to clean up classroom clutter by reflecting on daily practice, blogging, saving articles, posting practical tips, and all random things that have to do with education.
The more I study about technology in education, it becomes more apparent to me that technology has shifted further learning from a behaviorist paradigm to a learner-centered socially constructivist paradigm. But that does not mean we should leave students to their own devices (pun intended). As much as we see the potential for technology to enhance the learning experience for students there can be drawbacks as well.
Positives of Technology and learning (Hickey, 2014) :
Drawbacks of Technology and learning (Hickey, 2014):
Hickey, G. (2014). The importance of learning philosophies on technology selection in education. Journal Of Learning Design, 7(3), 16-22.
Simply imposing reform-based ideas on schools and teachers will not result in substantial adoption of these practices into teaching and learning (Chen, 2008; Uluyol & Sahin, 2016; Vrasidas; 2015). For sufficient change to take place, teachers need motivation to use technology in innovative ways (Sang, Valcke, van Braak, Tondeur and Zhu, 2011). There are many factors that can prevent or encourage teachers’ motivation for meaningful technology integration that should be considered when implementing a technology integration plan into any educational institution. Here is a brief outline of a number of these factors.
Motivational Factor: Support from peers
Anytime wide scale reform takes place in a school, teachers who already feel the pressure of being responsible for student growth and learning may feel anxious. Given this context, it is important to put in place conditions where teachers feel supported. Cifuentes, Maxwell and Bulu (2011) state that “professional learning communities provide a social context for dialog and experimentation to support teacher growth” (p. 62). Fullan (2011) furthers this notion by saying that “when it comes to socialization there is no better teacher than one's peers” (p. 85). When professional sharing between peers is structured into daily and weekly schedules, a culture of learning is established and can be invigorating for all involved.
Motivational Factor: Time
During his observations, Vrasidas (2015) says that many teachers feel that planning a “technology” lesson takes a lot more time than a traditional lesson. Even though technology has the potential to help a classroom or lesson run more efficiently, teachers may feel that they do not have time to integrate it into their own practice. Schools can provide more flexibility in structuring the school day in a manner that allows for teachers to engage in professional conversations and establish what will work in their personal contexts (Whitehead, Jensen & Boschee, 2013).
Motivational Factor: Collaboration
An extension to support, collaboration is a motivational factor. Collaborative creation of lessons has a motivating influence on a team, generating a learning experience that can positively affect an individual teacher (Chong & Kong, 2012). When this factor is present, a change in teacher practice can be tied to the broader change initiative, developing a school community support network, influencing not only teachers to implement but for the community to implement as well. Collaboration also allows teachers to reflect on their own practice, whilst sharing their experiences with other members of their community. According to Slavit and McDuffie (2013), “self-directed teacher learning is an avenue for exploring questions of practice generated by teachers. When these questions are constructively negotiated by a teacher community, buy-in is almost certain” (p. 104).
Motivational Factor: Confidence
Having digital literacy (MacCallum, Jeffrey, & Kinshuk. 2014) and a positive attitude towards technology (Vrasidas, 2015; Sang et al., 2011) is a deciding factor on whether a teacher will successfully utilize technology in their daily practice. Being able to select from a wide range of technologies that support their pedagogical practice will also benefit lessons in a more authentic way (MacCallum et al., 2014).
Motivational Factor: Perceived Usefulness
In the end, teachers need to see technology as useful and beneficial to their students’ learning (Chen, 2008; Uluyol & Sahin, 2016; Vrasidas, 2015). This realization grows in part due to the other factors of time, support, collaboration and confidence. Having fluency of technology use as it applies into one’s own context, will take some time to cultivate but the benefits will most certainly emerge over the course of time.
A final Consideration: Learner-centered pedagogy
It should be considered whether one’s teaching is of sound practice even before the integration of technology. Chen (2008) points out that if technology has allowed for learners to seek out their own needs in learning, a more learner-centered approach in teaching and learning might mismatch with a school curriculum that is more teacher-centered and lecture-based. Curriculums that are not flexible or accommodate more interactive, learner-centered pedagogy may not be sufficient for technology integration (Uluyol & Sahin, 2016). An analysis of the current state of school curriculum as planned, taught and assessed can be a worthwhile endeavor before integrating technology into schools.
Leadership needs to keep in mind that teachers cannot just merely implement change without inquiring into how technology can affect their own personal practice. That is why the factors listed throughout this post may be crucial to teacher motivation and technology. Teachers will be the change agents who will not only implement reform but will also be valuable partners when assessing the level of its effectiveness. “When the nature of teacher learning is embedded throughout the educational system, more opportunities emerge to embed the practitioner knowledge into classrooms and the professional knowledge into broader educational contexts” (Slavit, & McDuffie, 2013, p. 104).
Cifuentes, L., Maxwell, G., & Bulu, S. (2011). Technology integration through professional learning community. Journal Of Educational Computing Research, 44, 59-82.
Chen, C. (2008). Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology
integration? Journal Of Educational Research, 102(1), 65-75.
Chong, W. H., & Kong, C. A. (2012). Teacher collaborative learning and teacher self-efficacy: The case of lesson study. Journal Of Experimental Education, 80(3), 263-283.
Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader: Learning to do what matters most. Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Mac Callum, K., Jeffrey, L., & Kinshuk. (2014). Factors impacting teachers’ adoption of
mobile learning. Journal Of Information Technology Education, 13, 141-162.
Slavit, D., & McDuffie, A. R. (2013). Self-directed teacher learning in collaborative
contexts. School Science & Mathematics, 113(2), 94-105. doi:10.1111/ssm.12001
Sang, G., Valcke, M., van Braak, J., Tondeur, J., & Zhu, C. (2011). Predicting ICT integration into classroom teaching in Chinese primary schools: Exploring the complex interplay of teacher-related variables. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 160-172.
Uluyol, Ç., & Sahin, S. (2016). Elementary school teachers' ICT use in the classroom and
their motivators for using ICT. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 47(1), 65-75.
Vrasidas, C. (2015). The rhetoric of reform and teachers' use of ICT. British Journal Of
Educational Technology, 46(2), 370-380. doi:10.1111/bjet.12149
Whitehead, B. M., Jensen, D., & Boschee, F. A. (2013). Planning for technology: A guide for school administrators, technology coordinators, and curriculum leaders. SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
I was on a 4-day course this weekend completing my International Schools Services (ISS) EAL Certification. The focus in the third installment explored how linguistics can be used to address specific language learning issues with our student populations. We analyzed how language and learning interact by looking at syntax, phonology, morphology, semantics, pragmatics and the historical evolution of the English language. I am going to share this with my students and tell them how it informs my teaching (in the most kid-friendly language possible). Hopefully I can make some connections for them as to why whenever they follow their instinct on certain patterns in the English language, they often hit anomalous road blocks.
In this conversation, I hope I am showing them that I am a learner and that I can always improve my instruction to support them in better ways.
When teachers explicitly show that they are also learners, students get the message through modeling and not just through authority that learning is the most important thing we can do in school and in life.
Although there are set patterns and established knowledge, there are also unique contexts that require thinking and synthesis. As international teachers we need to inquire on our unique teaching and learning contexts, striving to reach every individual student in our schools. If we just apply our ideas without fully understanding how it affects our students’ learning and well-being, then we are often not reaching student hearts and minds.
When students see teachers striving further to understand them and to understand the world, the passion that drives this becomes infectious. Students feel less systematized in a world of schooling and more encouraged build the skills needed to chase their curiosities.
When learning is the number one priority for all community members in the school (parents, teachers, students, administrators…etc) students develop the art and science of making great connections that are authentic, meaningful and possibly life-changing.
If I am to now call myself an action researcher, I feel like my biggest purpose as an action researcher is to show students that learning about how we learn, why we learn and what we can do with what we learn is the most valuable lesson we could ever model as teachers.
The most distinguishable aspect of qualitative research for me is that it is more applicable to the smaller sample sizes (our classrooms) available to us as teacher/researchers . It also considers the whole of our local situations as opposed to particular variables in larger quantitative research studies. For most of us teaching in international schools, the application of our action research will take place in the qualitative realm of research.
In my context, learning is very student-centered and promotes learning that meaningful to students, building within them skills and concepts that they can carry with them into the 21st century and beyond the classroom context. An advantage of qualitative research is that “the goal is to understand the situation under investigation primarily form the participants’ not the researcher’s perspective” (Hancock & Algozzine, p. 9, 2011). If curriculum is to be successful in the education of students, then it should not only align with the goals of the school but it should also be meaningful to the students. Qualitative research can be a very powerful tool for an action researcher in understanding how to promote more meaningful learning in a school.
When we view general data from quantitative studies with larger samples and more general populations, we can compare a smaller sample from our unique contexts through qualitative research methods. Having a more holistic view of how certain phenomenon apply, we can make more specific conclusions for the implications on our teaching and learning.
Hancock, D. R., & Algozzine, B. (2011). Doing case study research: A practical guide for beginning researchers (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press. (ISBN-10: 0807752681, ISBN-13: 978-0807752685)
Stay Thirsty My Students: Alexander Von Humboldt - The world’s most interesting scientist. (c. 1804)
I couldn't help having images of the "World's most interesting man" from the Dos Equis television commercials in my mind as I read about Alexander Von Humboldt. Von Humboldt was a champion of inquiry and science. In his time he truly was the world's most interesting man. Read on.
I was given a copy of Alain de Bottons The Art of Travel recently and had been trudging through its essays this summer. In this collection, De Botton develops his views on travel by exploring the perspectives of some intellectual greats in western history. Each essay left me somewhat unsatisfied until I came across On Curiosity.
On Curiosity mirrors De Botton’s own lethargic, travel-book guided approach to experiencing Madrid one weekend to that of Alexander Von Humboldt, the German scientist/explorer. Von Humboldt explored South America from 1799-1804.
De Botton describes Von Humboldt as a relentless explorer in the name of science who traveled unknown lands, never fearful of what lied next. Driven by his curiosities, he gained heaps of information and facts about different plants, animals, peoples, geology, and geography of South America. His interests were not confined to any particular discipline or expectation as he wondered, questioned, collected data and conceptualized.
De Botton also writes about how Von Humboldt’s inquiring ways as a child were supported by his parents. They bought him a microscope, books about nature, hired tutors who understood botany, and hung pictures he drew of plants on their walls. Von Humboldt was obsessed with knowing more about the natural world at a very young age and he had the means to do so.
After his 5-year journey he returned to Europe in 1804. Many people of higher influence in the scientific community and general society pursued him to hear about his experience and findings. Like a modern day rock star he was sought out wherever he went.
“He once travelled 15000 km around a territory virtually unknown to any other European.”
“He traversed the (once thought to be) world’s highest mountain.”
“He formulated laws on how flora and fauna were shaped by climate and geography.”
“…and he did it with that same too-cool-for-school look present on his face in every image included in the essay.”
“He is the world’s most interesting scientist.”
The only thing that was missing from the portraits of Von Humboldt was a tavern, a bar table, an entourage of admirers, and goblets of his favorite ale.
All joking aside, accounts of Alexander Von Humboldt’s exploits and his drive for discovering new facts, heights and territory are inspiring to anyone who has curiosities but are reluctant to pursue them. Reading this has led me to reflect on how I should approach travel and how what I should be reminded of when teaching.
Travel: Having travelled to nearly 30 countries, I have often bought guidebooks and read information before even really asking questions about the place I am traveling to. In the beginning, a Lonely Planet would guide me through unchartered waters. After awhile however, I should be more apt at making comparisons from country to country, history to history, and culture to culture to the point where I can let my own questions be my guidebook. Rather than passively travel through a country by rote, I should pass through a country by inquiry.
Teaching: I remember a time around the age of 7 when I was obsessed with ants. I collected them, I tried to tame them, corral them and force them to walk pre-determined lines by trenching out mini pathways which wouldn’t work. I would even try baiting them with sugared water trails. I would cut parts of their bodies to see what they could survive with out. I had formatted various types of fighting matches between the three different species to determine the strongest one. I did all these things because I truly wondered what the results would be. I still think about those days fondly. I didn’t do it in school; I did it for hours in my own backyard. Imagine what I would have discovered with a little bit of guidance in a program of inquiry.
A comparable memory is when I had to force myself to study for high school physics and chemistry exams out of my notes and textbooks, an arduous and un-engaging experience.
Having your own questions in travel and in learning will take you furthest. Guidebooks and textbooks just might weigh you down.
Which type of experience will stick with my young learners?
Read “On Curiosity”. It will inspire you towards inquisitiveness and perseverance in travel, teaching and learning. Keep it in mind as you teach your students. You might just inspire them to become the world’s most interesting scientist someday.
Stay thirsty my students!
Botton, Alain De. "On Curiosity." The Art of Travel. New York: Pantheon, 2002.
I recently completed a MOOC through the University of Melbourne called Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills. It gave me a chance to reflect on my teaching through inquiry in the PYP. Upon completion, I am further convinced of the importance of teaching our pupils trans-disciplinary skills. In fact, it is the most important aspect of our program.
What is the difference between these two pupils? One grew up in a school, memorizing content so that they could do well on tests, achieve high scores, and use them to get into university. The other is an inquirer equipped with research skills, communication skills, self-management skills, social skills and thinking skills and able to engage in various realms of learning.
In the cultivation of these skills, the latter pupil developed them through feedback from teachers and peers. They had the luxury of being challenged to approach ambiguous problems collaboratively or individually towards solutions. As they developed from child to adult, these skills became imbedded in who they are as a learner.
Today and in the future, people need skills that can now navigate the endless amounts data that have become available to us since internet and digital technologies immersed us in a sea of information.
Standards or content-based curriculums that teach in a deficit model using specific, pre-determined content should now make way to skills and concept based curriculums. Today and in the future, students need to know how to access content, how to organize it, how to analyze, compare it, utilize it and how and where to access it.
This should be achieved in a classroom environment that engages students in problem solving, through inquiry, through projects, through collaboration. Teachers should not necessarily be concerned with the final outcome but the process of how the student got there. Rubrics, developmental progressions, observational/formative assessments, goal setting, portfolios, modeling and conferencing inform the development of these skills.
Skills should be the primary focus on report cards, overshadowing the traditional subjects, which of course still have applicability. It is difficult for parents and society as a whole to trust this change. Therefore, schools need to explain the reasons why we teach this way and how it will benefit their child’s future. Having ongoing communication, transparency, portfolios and accessible data will help them grasp this approach.
Most schooling is still fixed in pre-internet foundations and have only included ICT and media literacy as a curriculum add-on. The shift needs to happen now. Students need skills that are transferable from discipline to discipline. They need skills that will help them traverse the endless amount of content that is available today and in the future. These are skills that will allow our students to sail the open waters confidently, with grit, and with grace as they crash through the waves of challenge throughout life.
Griffin, P. and Care, E. (2014). Assessing and Teaching of 21st Century Skills.
PYP Grade 4 Teacher