Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Pulling Your Thinking Together to Take Next Steps

Now that you have had three learning experiences involving assessment for learning practices you should be able to try out a few ideas within your practicum. Your overall purpose is to design opportunities within your instructional design that will allow you to check on students' understanding throughout the lesson. Then you can provide opportunities for students to move forward with their learning while you or a support person takes a small group to target instruction more intensely to clarify meaning for others. Community of learners, as Jessa says, is a critical component to keeping the flow of learning going. It will be difficult to manage the diversity of learners within the classroom if they don't have guidelines and understanding of what learning should look, sound and feel like. See what you can manage to do in consultation with your sponsor teacher or perhaps your support teacher, counsellor, speech and language pathologist or educational assistant. As professionals we are trying to work more as a collaborative team in taking collective responsibility for learning in the classroom. Every school and classroom is different so you will have to check out what the possibilities are in your location. Good luck on your practicums and happy learning! If you have a great idea to share and want to tell us how it goes, feel free to blog away.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Clarifying Understanding

How is your understanding developing after Tuesday's class with Paige regarding assessment practices? I would be interested to hear how you are piecing the concepts together. Last week we realized that this will be a long process and these aren't practices you can completely understand within one or two sessions of information. Each week should help you take one step closer in being able to try one or two ideas within your practicum.
I would appreciate if those that didn't post a comment last week try to post this time so I know you can manage the technology. If you need help please let me know. Thanks to those that shared thoughts last week.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Talking about Assessment for Learning

It was great to meet all of you today and explore the assessment for learning practices with students from Brechin Elementary. Hopefully each of you will take away at least one thing that you can use to move your learning forward in this area and support students with their learning. Let me know your thoughts by commenting on the blog and joining as a follower.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Keep on Learning

Starting a new phase of my teaching learning work with student teachers and teachers has led me to coaching a group of learners in exploring assessment practices. My particular passion lies in assessment for learning practices because of its particular capacity to engage and augment any learning situation. When I reflect on my own learning I am constantly trying to incorporate the assessment for learning practices to help me clarify understanding. In otherwards, I try to practice what I teach. (or is it preach) Either way when we use these assessment for learning tools we become effective learners.
Take the time to reflect on your own learning and try to incorporate the assessment for learning tools as you learn them to support your understanding. Tell us what you notice and we'll build on that thinking. Cheers!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Phase Three Inquiry Cycle

To deepen the inquiry cycle we have tagged the community of learners concept onto various strands of learning. Cycle one used an Aboriginal strand to connect to the community of learners. Cycle two used a healthy living strand to connect community of learners and cycle three uses a making a difference strand. Therefore, phase three's question reads, "How can we continue to transform ourselves and others to deepen a community of healthy living learners that makes a difference in the world around us?" This is our third umbrella question that spearheads the cycle and ties all the learning opportunities together. After a couple of weeks students will begin to create their own personal inquiry questions that link into the umbrella question.

Our Overnight Visit to the Vancouver Aquarium
One of the learning opportunities focuses on a mini-inquiry question that helps students strengthen their critical thinking skills. We introduce several organizations that have made a difference to our world either through their support for people, the environment, or animals. Trying to connect to community partners to support this learning augments the experience. Therefore, we  plan a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium overnight to get a behind the scenes look of the organization and the role it plays in the local and broader community. This organization is controversial in nature because many believe animals should not be held in captivity. As a result, our mini inquiry question is, "When is it justified to keep wild animals in captivity?" The trip becomes an opportunity to collect data that would support both sides of the issue which will later be taken to an academic controversy. Afterwards, the examples from the point of view they wish to justify are moved into the creation of a persuasive essay. In this way, we tie many curricular learning outcomes into this mini-inquiry question. 
Hands on experiences that are unforgettable
Integrating real world experiences to support learning is a great way to engage students. It brings relevancy and meaning to the learning experience. When we plan a fieldtrip, we use it as a way to deepen the learning of the more difficult or challenging learning outcomes within the curriculum. Fieldtrips and community projects are very effective in motivating learners to take ownership of their learning. They begin to see how their own learning can work to transform a broader community.
Imagine sleeping next to the beluga whales!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Concluding the Inquiry Cycle

Showcasing Learning 

At the end of each inquiry cycle we celebrate our learning with a showcase. This has become part of our classroom culture for several years and we feel it has many features that solidify the learning process and support what we are trying to achieve in helping develop lifelong learners. In planning a showcase for learning celebration students prepare by gathering evidence that justifies their transformation of their thoughts, beliefs and actions with respect to the overall inquiry question and their own personal inquiry question. Students select the best evidence of learning throughout the inquiry cycle to showcase at the celebration. The process of selection requires one to self assess and articulate how their choices prove transformation.  

As teachers we prepare for the showcase by sending invitations to parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. We open the invite to close relatives because sometimes parents are unable to attend. This allows for students to share their learning with their support network. Sometimes we include other classes from within and outside the school. School District representatives and school trustees are also invited along with Vancouver Island University education students and faculty as a way to support their program and preservice teachers. Visitors are asked to come with three questions for the students: what are you learning about, what supported your learning and what will you take to your next learning experience. (These are questions I got from the Network of Inquiry and Innovation, Halbert and Kaser.) This predictability of knowing what they will be asked allows students to feel more comfortable in preparing and sharing their learning. 

A showcase usually takes approximately 2 to 3 hours in length depending on the age of the learners. Students take this event seriously and some even dress up in their best outfits because it is so special for them. They are eager to share and talk about their learning with everyone that stops to visit. As their teacher I feel proud of their efforts and recognize their sense of ownership for their learning as they prepare for the event. A community of learners is strongly evident at our learning showcase celebration. 

Checking the criteria to give descriptive feedback
 When visitors listen to students present they are in awe of how articulate and confident they are about their learning. Students are able to personalize their learning experience in such a way that it captivates their audience. This results in most visitors taking the time to visit as many students as possible. Evidence of students being metacognitively aware is recognizable by the  way they answer the three questions: what are you learning, what supports your learning and what will you take to your next learning experience. In addition, they are able to answer who believes in them as learners. Often they will name their parents, classroom teacher, principal, another teacher in the building, but most importantly they answer, "We all believe in each other because we are a community of learners!" Then they spontaneously chant each other's names. When learning looks like a community of learners it is a joy to learn and teach.

Students preparing for showcase by giving each other descriptive feedback on their showcase presentations.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Continuous Feedback to Transform Learners

This week Val and I have begun the most rigorous work of the inquiry cycle. The crunch is on while we try to support all learners in taking that leap to transform themselves through their personal inquiry passion projects that tie into the overarching inquiry unit: How can we transform ourselves and others as a community of healthy living learners? Since the beginning of January students have engaged in exploring various aspects of healthy living. Now that they have a strong foundation of background knowledge they are working hard on their personal inquiry passion projects and are needing lots of descriptive feedback to support transformation. This is a huge task to manage in a classroom. Having supportive educational assistants, learning assistant teachers and librarians are important in helping to reach all students and ease the workload. However, the culture of having a community of learners to support self regulation in the classroom is essential if we are going to meet students one on one to give them descriptive feedback to transform as learners. The guidance of the 4 C's, commitment, control, communication and cooperation act as a set of foundational values to maintain a climate of support. Students self monitor their behaviour to keep themselves on track as we meet one on one with each student. The culture of a community of learners ensures the cycle of inquiry completes its spiral and students transform. 

Providing feedback to take the next step in learning
In a community of learners students also provide each other feedback to support learning.