Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 10

Extending Learning

RUNNING HEAD: EXTENDING LEARNING

Extending Learning by Implementing Decision Making, Problem Solving and Investigation Strategies Dianne J. E. Kraus Wilkes University

Extending Learning

Insight In this course we have been introduced to higher order thinking strategies that increase rigor by having students engage in experimenting, decision making, problem solving and investigation. These strategies push students to take ownership of their own learning so that they find solutions on their own. Students are more engaged by their learning as it is more meaningful to them especially when the topics are based on student interest and have real-world relevance that includes issues from the students life in some way or is connected to their local community. The main component of each of these elements is that students are engaging in hypothesis generation and testing of their predictions to find a solution. I use many of these strategies in my own classroom instruction but what I found helpful from my learning in this course was to prepare structured lessons that are guided by the use of the templates so that students learning is scaffolded and supported as they learn these strategies. Students are still given the opportunity to design their own tasks and to complete their own research based on their questions but the templates provide stimulus questions that provide a map for the students to follow during their learning. For each type of learning goal the students can decide if their question is a prediction or hypothesis that they want to solve which fits perfectly into my labs in my Biology class, or they can study a problem such as those brought to my tutorials during AVID Elective. The problems they identify in AVID are individual and have some sort of obstacle that is standing in the way for them to understand or to solve. The decision making matrix was very helpful in organizing and comparing different criteria for our AVID over night field trip. As a result, of the site team also used the decision making matrix criteria for decision making and we decided that Southern Illinois University

Extending Learning

would be the destination for the fall trip. The final investigation strategy offered some valuable instructional feedback for me from the students and the template helped the students to define and synthesize current theories on cell evolution. I will continue to use the templates and to build them into the context of my courses because they help to clarify how information is to be synthesized and what is the next step for the students to think more deeply about the content. These skills can be taught and practiced before taking the structure of the template away to let them use the skills beyond the classroom. The templates are invaluable for use with ELL students who have been mainstreamed. These students really benefit from having the structure of the templates to guide them through the synthesis of data and text. Another insight that I gained from this course, is the difficulty that some teachers have in engaging the students in these processes. I gained this insight from the discussions that we held on the website. It became a concern for me that teachers in my own district may be having the same struggles or even worse, total lack of awareness of the need for critical thinking strategies. I participate in aligning curriculum for the district, in PLCs for common assessment, and also in providing opportunities for professional development in my district. I have asked questions and observed teachers in Honors classes providing instruction and tests at recall and recognition levels. They do not provide learning goals to their students and the students are not being engaged in any activities that involve higher order thinking. This is a problem for increasing student achievement. There is also a problem with alignment within content specific areas because dependent on the teacher, they may engage in hypothesis generation and thinking skills at a General Level but not at an Honors Level. Some teachers of Honors students expect the students to do more rather than dig deeper. The same problem exists for the assessment portions

Extending Learning

of these classes. The teachers are testing students using scantron and multiple choice tests from the textbook rather than allowing creativity into the classroom by introducing problem based learning or service learning. As part of a team that will be demonstrating strategies to improve student achievement, I will need to ensure that these strategies are observed in my role as a teacher mentor and teacher leader. Finally, it is very important that the students have a strong academic vocabulary before engaging in these strategies and the students benefit from direct instruction on the vocabulary that they may encounter during an investigation or that is likely to be used during research, problem solving and decision making projects. They also need to have the necessary resources provided to them so that they can define their needs and find text that they can understand at a suitable reading level. Many students get frustrated easily and give up if there is so much new vocabulary that they do not understand the words. It is one thing to read the text but we want them to increase their comprehension without becoming overwhelmed. The process should be one of learning and discovery not of information overload due to a lack of reading skills. I think it is very important to practice all of these strategies with simpler content before having them engage in content that might be difficult for them. The strategies should be a mini-lesson of their own, and scaffolded into the content so that students can use the procedure successfully for declarative knowledge. Questions 1. How can we improve the academic vocabulary of students prior to entering high school so that they will be prepared to engage in investigative and problem solving tasks that may require reading texts and journals from academic sources?

Extending Learning

2. How can we support the ELL students in the mainstream classroom so that they are prepared to engage in academic hypothesis generation and testing? Regarding the first question, the answers can be found in collaboratively meeting with teachers at high school and middle school levels in order to align the curriculum for mental processing skills and academic vocabulary, and not just content. The common core provides clearly stated learning goals that we need to establish as power goals. As teachers we can determine the power goals needed within each content area that support readiness for the next grade level, leverage and endurance of learning. If these skills are taught over many years and are applied over many content areas then students will be better prepared to think and learn based on their developed skill at making predictions and solving obstacles to learning. Regarding the second question, the ELL learners in our school district, the AVID program is investigating the cost and possible benefits of introducing an EXCEL/Bridges program that would start preparing the students for higher learning by improving academic vocabulary during an AVID Excel Bridge program. As I am part of the team that is researching this program with the administration, the preparation of students for critical deep thinking and ways to interact more deeply with content is a benefit for implementing the EXCEL program at the middle schools. If the AVID Excel program is successful then the ELL students would enter the AVID 9 Honors program at par with their peers in the AVID 9 Elective class starting their first year in high school. This would be an advantage across the content areas for these students so that they could become fully engaged in their learning without the vocabulary handicap.

Extending Learning

Action Step The action step that is vital for our school to improve student achievement is to provide coaching to our teachers so that they are more effective at including the strategies learned in this course in their instructional practice. As a teacher leader it is not enough for me to improve my instruction without providing an opportunity to introduce other members of the teaching staff, especially the new teachers to strategies that require students to make predictions, to solve problems, to engage in inquiry/experimentation and investigation. After discussing the issues that I observed within my own department concerning instructional practice, problems with alignment between classes and between strands, with my department head, we will be having an informal discussion in our professional learning communities to compare the final exams prepared for midterms next week. My Divisional and I are hoping that when the tests are shared that it will provide an opportunity for the teachers to reflect on their practice and be open to learning about new strategies or to ask questions about differences between the rigors required by other teachers. For the new teachers in the building and the district, I have recruited the help of a colleague who is very experienced in the use of the strategies and who is also involved in the AVID program. We have asked the administrator in charge of the teacher mentoring program to allow us time at one of her new teacher meetings to provide professional development to our teachers. She has offered a meeting in January that is two hours long so we will be able to plan an intensive workshop for approximately sixty new teachers that will hopefully peak interest and improve professional practice within the district.

Extending Learning

Regarding my own instructional practice, I plan to implement the templates learned from this course and then open my class to teacher observers so that I can demonstrate the implementation of these strategies to teachers who are interested in observing them in practice, and to allow the other teachers interaction with the students who are engaging in generating their own problem solving tasks, generating their own hypothesis, designing their own experiments, and how differentiation in learning is possible in the classroom if the resources are available to support the classroom. I have chosen this plan of action because I am skilled at using these strategies and I have collected data that supports their use based on improved student engagement and achievement within the AVID program. As a site team we would like to see our school become a

demonstration school and one of our goals is to see this happen within the next two years. With the support of our administration we can provide professional development to our non-AVID teachers so that they might begin implementation of college readiness strategies through-out the building and this will support the goals of our program. At the student level, all students will benefit from instruction that requires them to think more deeply about content by making connections between knowledge and also make relevant connections to situations that are beyond the school setting and within the community. When students make predictions, test their predictions and compare the results to what actually happened, then they can challenge their own misconceptions about content. They can question their own thinking, reflect on their own learning and determine how their thinking must change as a result of their own research. When they encounter an obstacle to their own learning they learn how to overcome those challenges or constraints with the help of their peers in collaborative groups. They also learn to make decisions between alternatives despite confusions

Extending Learning

and contradictions. These skills are of equal importance to the content that they are required to learn and as teachers we have a responsibility to incorporate power standards across the curriculum to provide students with the necessary resources so that they will master these processes. Students need to engage in 21st century skills during their educational years, so that they can enter a global economy that requires critical thinking and problem solving skills. It is not possible for the students to learn how to be innovative if they are cretins who only recognize basic text based facts. It is important for all students to be engaged in hypothesis generating tasks that require students to make predictions and find solutions. All teachers need to be effective in the classroom and this can be achieved through professional development and collaborative analysis of data that proves student achievement through implementing experimentation, problem solving, decision making and investigation strategies.

Extending Learning

References Marzano, R.J. (2007) The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA:ASCD Marzano, R.J. & Brown, J.L. (2009) A handbook for the art & science of teaching. Alexandria Virginia: ASCD Marzano, R.J. (2009) Designing & teaching learning goals & objectives. Bloomington, IN Marzano Research Laboratory

Extending Learning

10