Reflection, Toolkit 2: Inductive Learning, Reading for Meaning and Socratic Seminar
The artifacts I selected for Toolkit 2 are:
- Creativity, Inductive Learning: Modeling and abstractions with the Scientific Method and the Engineering Design Process
- Understanding, Reading for Meaning: The Create Performance Task
- Inquiry and Discussion, Socratic Seminar: Freshmen seminar on whether the internet and Google are changing the way we think
Creativity: Inductive Learning
In the creativity sessions in EDGE 6003, we learned about creativity strategies for differentiation. I chose to implement an inductive learning lesson plan in my Foundations course and for future implementation at the beginning of my Research course. Two of the main standards in Foundations are modeling and abstractions, and my students were just starting their final project of the semester, which is an independent choice project. One important objective in Foundations is to introduce my students to research using the scientific method or the engineering design process. As I was reading the creativity material, it struck me that the concept of providing examples and having students figure out the rule through induction provides an excellent base through which to help students recognize that the scientific method and engineering design process are essentially the same (as are the art design process and problem based learning), when you look at them as models of the abstractions of the steps in each method/process.
I used a formative assessment Office 365 survey to first determine which students are working independently, which in groups, and how knowledgeable students are about the scientific method (SM) and the engineering design process (EDP). All but one had never been exposed to EDP but all were familiar with the SM. I started by grouping the students with their project group or as a pair of individuals. We used our tables to draw two different models of the EDP and to map them to one another. Several students also recognized the EDP at this point and added another on their tables. (I do love our writable tables!) We then did a think-pair-share of the similarities and differences of the SM and EDP. The sharing was done on a Today’s Meet so that the stream was running on the SmartBoard. I then showed models of the SM and EDP that are aligned almost perfectly, and we talked about how simply the method of flowcharting can aid in the way we understand a particular model. Finally, we considered each step in the two flowcharts as abstractions and rated them in terms of how similar they are. For example, doing research and communicating/reporting are 9 or 10; asking the question/defining the problem, the class decided was a 9, but steps inside the loops are less similar, we decided (but still high – 7 or 8.) Finally, we looked very deeply at the abstraction that is one step – doing research – and then compared the Art Design Process to the two we had studied in depth.
Students then answered directed questions and mapped their plan to either the SM or the EDP as appropriate for their independent research. My expectations for groups versus individuals are different in terms of expected work product, and my expectations for different student abilities ranged as well. I did not grade the mapping and questions but am using them as a guideline for checking in with students as they work toward their final project. I also am using the level of detail in the questions and mapping to differentiate my level of involvement in their planning and the frequency with which I measure their progress.
Understanding: Reading for Meaning
In the understanding lesson in EDGE 6003, we learned about several strategies that are designed especially for the understanding learner but benefit all types of learners in terms of reasoning and decision-making. I selected reading for meaning as the particular strategy to implement, although I was initially hesitant about how successful this would be, as we rarely in high school specifically work on reading for meaning. I was not only pleasantly surprised by the success of this lesson plan but also changed my thinking on this, now believing that I and other high school teachers should intentionally teach and use reading for meaning.
As my Foundations class was about to start the second and more important of their two portfolio pieces the AP Exam, it was critical that the students understand and follow the detailed expectations and directions. In this multi-day lesson plan, I first formatively assessed what the students found challenging about the first performance task and what they predicted they wanted to be sure to understand for this performance task. My intention was to use Padlet, but we were displaced that day and so simply used a whiteboard. Student recollection of the first performance task and depth of prediction for the second varied in a way that matched the groupings I had already made this semester for very high, high, medium and low depth of thinking.
For the main part of the lesson plan, we previewed 10 true/false statements about the performance task as a whole class. Each individual student then filled out an Office 365 survey in which they first answered T or F to the statement and then cited specific evidence and the location of that evidence in either the Create Directions or Rubric. I used their answers to assess whether individual students needed one-on-one work with me (one did, missing 4 of the 10). I also assessed whether certain parts of the directions were less well understood than other parts (there were 3 statements in this category.) We then went over those particular aspects of the directions several times. Finally, when we returned from Thanksgiving Break, we spent a day grading a high and a low example from College Board to refresh our memories on the directions.
Inquiry and Discussion: Socratic Seminar
In EDGE 6003, we were introduced to several different strategies for facilitating student inquiry and discussion. I selected Socratic Seminar as the differentiation strategy to implement, again in my freshmen Foundations class. In this lesson plan, students previously took Meyers-Briggs personality and learning style inventories, and I have them noted by style, especially extrovert/introvert for this activity. My class has 19 extroverts and 5 introverts, and of these, 3 are strongly introverted. At the beginning of the week, which was a four-day task differentiated task rotation plus the Friday Socratic Seminar, the students were assigned to read and take notes in their Abstraction Notebooks on two articles, “The Internet: Is It Changing the Way We Think?” and “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” In addition to noting evidence, the students were instructed to note the location of the evidence to use in the Socratic Seminar. This meets several standards of the class including the internet, use of the internet, citing evidence, and communicating.
On Friday, the students conducted an inner/outer circle Socratic Seminar with one hot seat in the inner circle. We rotated three times, so that each student had a turn in the inner circle except for three introverts who strongly did not want to be in the inner circle. Interestingly, one of the three went to the hot seat twice in the last rotation. Students in the outer circle had an inner circle partner to track, and I tracked the path of the inner circle conversation. I also designated a leader for each of the three rotations.
Overall, through my artifacts of inductive learning, reading for meaning and Socratic Seminar for my Foundations class, I have learned how to further implement and assess differentiated learning in my classroom. These three categories of differentiation strategies are particularly well suited for the classes I teach, all of which involve student research, inquiry and communication. As I created and implemented each, I had opportunities to reflect on how creativity, understanding, inquiry and discussion can be effective in meeting the needs and engaging of diverse gifted learners as well as non-gifted learners. Likewise, each strategy implementation provided me with an opportunity to reflect on new ways to meet the need to continuously and effectively assess student learning. Each of these three lesson plans had a positive impact on both my students and me.
Inductive learning is a particularly powerful strategy for understanding learners, but I found that all learners in my class were actively engaged in this particular lesson and that it was very helpful in terms of each student’s ability to model their own final project in a step-by-step detailed model. Early in the semester, I found that many students struggled with any sort of long-term planning, and several different strategies I tried were not particularly successful. However, this strategy, in which the students looked at examples and drew their own conclusions about the rule (in this case, the model), was extraordinarily successful. Students who made no real attempt to outline and plan a multi-week project were able to successively detail each step of their project within the model of either the Scientific Method or the Engineering Process. In addition, several students who were still struggling with the concept of an abstraction made sense of it within this model. I am also excited about using this as a first lesson plan in my senior capstone research class, as noted below in the Refine section. The lesson plan was designed to be ½ of one class, but the student were so engaged in it, I continued it until almost the end of class.
Reading for Meaning
Reading for meaning is not a strategy I have ever considered in my classes before this session. Most of my colleagues and I simply expect that our gifted high school students can and do read for meaning well. I discovered, however, that there is a great deal of benefit in being intentional in lesson plans about reading for meaning. College Board’s directions and rubrics for the two performance tasks are several pages long and complex. By implementing this lesson plan as a graded individual assignment that required citing evidence, I met an important standard in the class itself while also making sure that every student understood the directions fully (and that I understood which students did not.) In the first performance task, I simply assumed that reading the directions and rubric together was sufficient for understanding. From this lesson plan, I learned that this is simply not true: one student in particular (who is a very strong coder and thinker) missed many important parts and several other students missed between 1 and 3 of the important directions.
I have tried Socratic Seminars before with moderate success but without understanding myself the essence and important details of a Socratic Seminar. In addition to the learning in this class, I asked to and then observed a colleague who is known for running great Socratic Seminars. This helped me tremendously in implementing a much-improved seminar that featured accountability for all students, clear preparation and citation of evidence by the students, and student leading of the questioning. The inner and outer circle with one hot seat implementation in particular, in a class of 24, facilitated great engagement of all students at all times. I believe this class period was the only one all semester in which I never redirected any student to put away a cell phone. In addition, I really was the “scribe on the side,” observing my students leading their own discussion and inquiry. While the topic and readings are among the class standards, so too are communicating and citing evidence. This lesson plan served double-duty in meeting our standards.
The discussion went very well, with all students engaged. I was fascinated by some of their questions and answers to each other. One long portion of the seminar became the topic of when and in what way is the Internet positive for homework and when is it negative. Students had passionate discussions about it being a negative when used to just find the right answer but a positive when used as a resource to figure out how to arrive at the answer. Students also noted how addicting the Internet is and how much more difficult it is to read on a screen than on paper. The students as a whole asked me to provide paper copies for future reading.
In terms of refining, I received feedback from my EDGE 6003 peers, from my students and from self-reflection for each of the three artifacts. I made some refinements during the implementation and have made or will make some for future classes.
Most of the feedback I received from EDGE peers were in the form of questions about technology and relationships with models of the EDP they were using. My students responded very well to the strategy. In self-reflecting, and in parallel with other professional development in which I am engaged, my main improvements are in adding to and refining the lesson.
Specifically, there are two improvements that I intend to make before the beginning of Spring Semester, when I will use this as the first lesson in senior capstone research. In research, the first independent work each student creates is a concept map of his or her plan for research at internship. Many students who are not performing traditional science experiments struggle with this, along with the idea of data outside of the kind of lab experiment data they have collected in school. I plan to add to the lesson specifically asking students to figure out where in each model “final decisions” are made (support hypothesis or accept prototype) and what data drives that decision. We will then go a step further to figure out for different kinds of scenarios, which model is better used and at which step decision criteria must be developed, at which step data collection happens, at which step decision criteria is applied, and when the student researcher loops back versus accepting the hypothesis or prototype. We will then directly create sub-problem-level concept maps for different scenarios: science, engineering, law, education, marketing, non-profit, etc. I am really excited about this, as students have always struggled with this particular step, and my freshmen “got it” when we did this lesson plan.
Additionally, right now we are working toward STEAM certification from the state in the spring. I am going to use this lesson plan as a base but take it further to also include the art design process at the same time as the other two. In this refinement, I am also going to focus on the different kinds of decision making that is used in science, engineering and art (traditional science measurements, design rubrics, and Feldman’s Model, respectively) and how the three are essentially the same with different kinds of data and decision models.
Reading for Meaning
Most of the feedback I received from EDGE peers had to do with the technology component and specific strategies for students who struggle with reading for meaning. Students were focused during the activity and appear to be using the directions well in their portfolio pieces (I am not allowed to interact with them or to grade the portfolio pieces.) In my self-reflection, I note that likely students’ understanding of the first performance task was not as good as I assumed it was, and I will return to that first task next week. I also plan next semester to use more diversity than just T/F statements in the Socrative Quiz. I will use whatever information College Board puts out about what students struggled with, in addition to score information I receive about this year’s students to drive the questions that I ask in their reading for meaning of the task directions.
Overall, I also plan to have more reading for meaning (probably paired with Socratic Seminars, as noted below), as I believe based on this experience that high school students do need continued and intentional practice in reading for meaning. By the time they are seniors, I expect them to read and understand difficult scientific papers and perhaps intentional practice will facilitate this by their last year of high school.
Most of the comments from my peers in EDGE 6003 had to do with the accountability, plus a great suggestion from Jeanna about allowing outer circle students to pass a note to an inner circle person to be articulated. My students were extremely positive about this experience and have asked repeatedly to have another one. In my self-reflection, I note that preparation is absolutely key, as is finding a topic that has breadth and depth and meets class standards.
As I further develop this class – I an a colleague are essentially writing the curriculum as we go this semester – I plan to have two-week cycles that include reading-for-meaning on topics pertinent to the class at the time with a Friday Socratic Seminar every other week. This requires a good bit of planning on my part, but I think that it is extremely beneficial to students. Foundations is intended to provide the students with the tools that we believe, holistically, all Magnet freshmen need to succeed in our program. Reading for meaning, research, citing evidence, and communicating and listening respectfully are all learning opportunities in a Socratic Seminar.
Overall, the three new artifacts that I have implemented in this part of the semester, along with the three implemented earlier have been wonderful learning experiences for me and have had strong positive impacts in my classes. I am looking forward to sharing these differentiation strategies with my school in February, when I have been assigned to provide Professional Development on flipped learning. My plan is to create a flipped lecture in Screen-cast-o-matic on differentiation strategies and technology tools, coupled with a Socrative Quiz. Colleagues who wish to either learn more or who prefer not to watch the flipped lecture or who do not score well on the Socrative Quiz can come to the planning period meetings while others can opt not to. My learning in this course has been very beneficial to me, and I continue to find that there is a strong positive correlation between the depth and differentiation in my planning and the engagement and learning in my students.