Monthly Archives: July 2011

Metacognition – constructive controversies


This week my students engaged in a “constructive controversy” using the Endangered Species topic we have been covering. This activity was designed to encourage the development of students’ critical thinking skills using “controversial statements”  that have no right or wrong answer (a Socratic Questioning approach). In order to actively  (and physically) engage my students, they were also required to move around the room (to a Yes/No/Maybe station) when responding to a controversy.  Increasing the blood flow to the brain (neuroscience) and moving away from a “hands up for yes” approach made for some interesting observations:

1.As a teacher, I was situated in the middle of the room – the action took place around me

2. Students, as part of their learning, were visually engaged with each other, instead of me 🙂  🙂

3. Students who would normally be described as reticent contributors, became quite verbal when explaining how they came to a particular decision.

4. Debates raged across the classroom, with the students asking the “How” , “Why” and “What if” questions!!!  These questions required their peers to further elaborate upon their reasoning with others becoming involved in order to present alternative viewpoint s, or support a classmate’s reasoning.

I  just sat back and, to use a hackneyed phrase, “enjoyed the ride”. It was one of those classroom moments that you wish you could bottle! Absolutely loved being a part of this, and so proud of them 🙂

I taught myself out  of my teaching role!!!  They did not need me – they did not ask me to intervene and explain a point. All I was required to do, was read out the next controversy. In fact, some of the “controversies” were not read out because the students, as a result of their debates, came up with these themselves. Next time, I have to film this activity 🙂 so that they can see themselves modelling crtitical thinking skills.

Later that day, we reviewed some of the learning achieved in the morning (revision works best in the afternoon – Le Messurier). It was heartening to observe just how much the class as a whole, had benefited from the morning’s activity. This helped when the students negotiated the criteria for the next summative task, a poster (using ICT) on an endangered animal.

Another thought – reflecting upon the “I taught myself out  of my teaching role!!!” comment, isn’t that what we are aiming for as educators? Not a literal redundancy of our “role” but an understanding of ourselves as facilitators of student learning. Anyway – it was a lot of fun! 🙂

It will be interesting to mark their posters (due 2 wks from now) and assess how this learning activity may have informed their ability to synthesise information relevant to the topic. The poster is designed to be an educational resource aimed at students their own age, as such, my students must also include learning activites incorporating Bloom’s taxonomy into the poster.


The Virtual Community and Professional Development


What I have learnt this year as being a member of the online professional community has value added to my own professional development in ways that would otherwise have taken me years to develop. It is heartening to witness the professional generosity that envelops this world we inhabit. Here is another taste of what can be found out there:

metacognition – social media & the paperless classroom


I have been given permission to use twitter with my students. I have developed this a bit further and the following explains how I am thinking of using this social media site (in no special order!):

  • I would use twitter and blogging as a way to facilitate my students’ metacognitive skills with Bloom’s taxonomy underpinning how they would show this development and, inform the assessment of this development. 
  • The different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy would be explained and  modelled so that students understand the “how and why” of the task. A number of students understand Bloom’s so I would have them lead the discussion and, would have students identify and explain examples of these levels from a variety of examples.
  • As a class we would look at a topical issue ie. global warming.
  • Students would  be given 4 -5 twitter accounts to follow, from which they would use their blog as a journal in which to record their observations.
  • They would not only record the different arguments but be required to demonstrate what the expert is arguing and what this means. eg. Al Gore says “this”, which means “this”. (as well as identify different arguments and explain how they are different).
  • At the end of their journal, students woukld be asked to respond to a prompt, requiring them to argue a point of view in an essay of approximately 500 words.
  • This task would, therefore, sit across the English and SOSE (environmental studies) learning areas, with a dash of science thrown in!
  • each student has a twitteraccount
  • each student has a blog
  • I have each student’s username and password
  • They only follow the sites I recommend
  • I will of course be following each student – haven’t decided whetherthey will be following each other
  • Some class activities will be planned where students are tweeting in “real time”. ie a theory lesson that I give.
  • At the start of this unit of work, protocols of safe online behaviour will be discussed. This will allow students to develop  an ability to protect their online identity and, learn how to behave in the virtual community. The intention is that they will further develop their ability to protect themselves from bullying and other forms of unwanted attention. Students will be taught how to protect their identity.

Creativity more important than literacy!?


Sir Ken Robinson makes a case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than killing it. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says. If you haven’t seen this video, it is a MUST SEE. It will get you thinking and hopefully inspire you.

This man is amazing – how can I meet him!

Let there be Facebook – one teacher’s account re its use in her school.


Our plunge into using FB for summer reading and other learning adventures by Tiffany Della Vedova

(The following 2 paragraphs are just a “taste.)

If there has been one supreme divisive factor among our united classroom forces, Facebook is it. Block it! Ban it! Take their computers! Oh, the drama you have brought to us, dear Facebook, and yet I do believe we have given you too much credit for our frustrations and perhaps not enough for your potential.


I anticipate and hope that we will see more use of Facebook and other medias already widely used by students in the classroom next year. Sure, there are great social media sites being developed for educational purposes specifically, and some schools may be restricted to those for now by fear-based policies, but there is no question that that the two worlds of social media and educational media will ultimately merge. There is great power in this partnership, and it’s time we harness it.

The educational value of creative disobedience


The educational value of creative disobedience

By Andrea Kuszewski | Jul 7, 2011 07:00 AM | 13

The following are excerpts from the article (title above). Have a read and then follow the link to read the article in its entirety. It links very effectively to the Quadrant theory in a previous blog entry.

A question to ask myself as an educator?

  1. How effectively do I balance direct instruction with opportunities for curiosity and creativity?

Anyway … let’s get to the point and read the excerpts!

For many years I struggled with wanting to please my teachers—listening to directions and following the rules—but feeling creatively unfulfilled and unchallenged. At times I had an instinct to speak up and offer an alternate explanation, or an urge to try something a different way, but I quickly learned that only ‘undisciplined and obnoxious children’  challenged authority and caused disruption. These were not the kinds of students that teachers favored. I learned to ignore the pangs of my creative spirit, which only seemed to bring me misery when answered. As much as I loved learning, school was uninspiring and left me hollow. I saw school as a necessary time commitment, but not much else. I ended up doing most of my learning and exploration on my own with whatever tools I had at my disposal—books, observation, watching people, and of course—my imagination.

Let’s take a look at our typical education paradigm: From the earliest days of school, we hammer specific scholastic values into our students: pay attention, watch the teacher, imitate what the teacher does, stay in your seat, don’t question authority, and receive praise. But instead of teaching children to think, we are teaching them to memorize. Instead of encouraging them to innovate, we expect them to follow the outline and adhere to rules.

There are two very interesting studies recently emerging from the field of developmental psychology that address the issue of early childhood education and teaching methodology. The first one, by Elizabeth Bonawitz and colleagues, has to do with direct instruction and the limits it puts on exploratory behavior. The second , by Daphna Buchsbaum and her team, looks at imitation of action sequences—what situations and specific criteria make a child likely to imitate an act, or to perceive it as a “correct” answer.

“Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognitionone from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley —suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.”

Rigour, Relevance and Relationships to improve Student Awareness.


The following is a small but thought provoking snippet from the article “A Useful Framework”. To read the entire article click on the link directly above the article’s title:

Also – have attached a powerpoint I have since found. Both certainly make me think about what I am doing and where on the quadrant my teaching sits. The powerpoint is good because it has a mini-quiz which helps you further understand the quadrant.  Simple to use but very powerful.    powerpoint re rigor relevance and quadrants

Another thought! I would like to teach my students this learning quadrant so that they could evaluate where on the quadrant the different learning activities they are doing are situated. This would enable them to better understand the way the task has been constructed because they would have to deconstruct the task in order to understand the different elements. Surely, this would not only help them develop their metacognitive skills, but also allow them to make deeper connections to the task, therefore increasing the likelihood that they will be committed to the task itself. Hmmm… could have a before and after questionnaire that allows me to evaluate levels of commitment to different tasks (and understanding not only OF the task, but WHY the task has been set). Wow – lots to think about over the holidays!

(thanks twitter – mrsebiology)

A Useful Framework

To ensure the inclusion of both rigor and relevance, the International Center created the Rigor/Relevance FrameworkTM in the early 1990s for teachers to use to examine curriculum and plan instruction and assessment. The framework consists of four quadrants that reflect these two dimensions of higher standards and student achievement.

First there is the “knowledge taxonomy,” which describes the increasingly complex ways in which we think. It is based on the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: knowledge/awareness, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

The second dimension is the Application Model developed by the International Center, which describes five levels of relevant learning: knowledge in one discipline, apply knowledge in discipline, apply across disciplines, apply to real-world predictable situations and apply to real-world unpredictable situations. Relevant learning is interdisciplinary and contextual. It requires students to apply core knowledge, concepts or skills to solve real-world problems.
McNulty chartIn Quadrant A (Acquisition), students learn and store bits of knowledge and information. Quadrant B (Application) requires students to use their acquired knowledge to solve practical problems. In Quadrant C (Assimilation), students extend their acquired knowledge to use it automatically and routinely to analyze problems and create unique solutions. When working in Quadrant D (Adaptation), students have the competence to think in complex ways and apply their knowledge and skills when confronting perplexing unknowns and creating solutions.