Immersed in Learning

In my current GID unit, my 5th grade students are exploring the world around them. Over this unit, students will gain knowledge  of Earth’s four spheres: hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and atmospheres. The goal in this Next Generation Science Standards inquiry based unit is to lead students to an inquiry project about human’s impact on the environment.

Currently, we are in the Immerse phase of GID. This phase is all about building background knowledge, connecting students to content, and guiding students toward those inquiry based questions. Throughout this unit, I have specifically selected technology tools and resources that are highly engaging, fosters critical thinking skills and promotes communication with peers and experts. 

The beginning of a student ThingLink Inquiry Journal

Throughout this inquiry based unit, students are keeping digital inquiry journal. This will be a place where they will record their ideas about what they are learning and their questions that will guide research later on.  There are many options for student digital inquiry journals. I work at a Google Apps for Education district, so a majority of my students’ work is housed in Google Docs and Google slides. For this GID unit, I wanted to introduce a new web tool. I decided to use ThingLink. I love this website! Students were able to take this image of the four geospheres and create an interactive image. Within the website, students can add images, videos, and audio to images and videos. Through this activity, students they are learning how to organize ideas, synthesize information, and create. In addition, they can take this with them as they move to ahead in their education, where they will develop even deeper knowledge of our world. That is way more powerful than a notebook that most students will throw away at the end of the year.  

The most powerful technology tool that I have used, thus far, has been Skype for Education. A few weeks ago, my class was able to Skype with a ranger from Yellowstone National Park. He spent a half hour talking to my students about the geology and wildlife of Yellowstone. While being in Yellowstone would have been an amazing experience for my students, facilitating a field trip for thirty-two 5th graders Wyoming would be nearly impossible. Just because we can’t bring our students to the experts, doesn’t mean we can’t bring them to our students. Skype for Education is completely free for educators, and there are experts in just about every field who want to share their passion with students.  This was the second Skype we did this year. The first was with author, Christina Farley, who spoke with us for almost an hour about the writing process. The process is so easy. Each time, I received a response in a matter of days. All you need is computer with a camera and microphone and a free Skype for Education account. It’s that simple. 

My students may not remember every lesson I carefully planned, but I know they will remember the day we talked with a real Yellowstone National Park Ranger. They were completely glued to every word he said and had a ton of questions at the end of his presentation. Immersed in learning…I think so.

 

Rebecca Wilkin
Selma Unified
@msmorris2013

Questions? Questions? Anyone have any questions??

We introduced Guided inquiry to our biology students using the DNA unit. DNA was the perfect choice because it offered different avenues to explore: from DNA analysis to the Ethics of Genetic Engineering.

Since Guided Inquiry motivates students to develop their interest into a research topic, it only made sense that we start with teaching students how to write upper level questions.

First, we watched a video on how to write Level 1, 2, and 3 questions. Then we practiced bringing level 1 questions up to level 3 questions in groups of three using carousel writing style. For example, a student may write the level 1  question: “What is the function of DNA?”. The next person changes it to the level 2 question: “How is the function of DNA similar or different to the function RNA?”. The next person has the most difficult task, changing the question to level 3: “How would exposure to radiation (UV, gamma, x-rays) affect the way DNA function?”  We did this twice on separate days to get them used to the different types of questions and to learn how to increase the rigor of their question.

Second, to get them ready for the Identify phase, I had students practice taking level 3 questions and breaking them down into level 2 and level 1 questions. I gave each group a large piece of paper with a thinking web containing a level 3 question in the center. I then asked the groups to think about questions that would help answer the level 3 question. Students took a moment to think, but began to branch off simpler questions (“What is DNA?”) and questions that could be answered by looking in their notes or simple web searches (“How do DNA mutations affect proteins?”). By breaking down their question into simpler questions, they had formed a starting point for their research.

Third, once students had identified their research question, I set up a “question verification process”. In this verification process students needed to receive four signatures and comments: 2 signatures from other students, 1 signature from a different teacher, and 1 signature from me. After each signature, students reviewed the comments and made edits to their question. Why did I love this process?? Well for one thing it got students talking to each other and practicing identification of level 3 questions. Also, it cut down on edits that I would have needed to make on each student’s question. By having them review their comments and make edits, all I had to check for was the subject content.

DNA analysis and Genetic Engineering can be difficult topics for adults to undertake, so it was important that we did not make it too hard for our students to understand. Since this was our first Guided Inquiry Unit and they are not used to writing questions (many of them explained to me how much harder that was compared to just answering questions), I knew that structure and scaffolding would be key to their success!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

Breakout Box

My goal this week on the blog was to share my experiences and thoughts about making time for critical learning experiences in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning. Analyzing our own attitudes toward how we decide to spend our time in our classrooms is the first critical step. Then remember that you are not alone! When classroom teachers and school librarians collaborate, we can create some truly exciting opportunities for our students!

On Wednesday, I shared an idea to invite local community members to your library during the Immerse phase and plan gallery walks to expose students to lots of different types of information sources during Explore. Another fun idea to try during the Immerse phase is a breakout box activity!

Modeled after escape rooms, a breakout box activity can take many different forms and can be used in any classroom and level. Students can work as a whole group, in small groups, with a partner, or individually to solve clues, unlock locks, and discover what’s hidden in the locked box! Even our high school students get active and enthusiastic. One teacher said, “I see some of my students participating who usually do nothing!” One school librarian in my district planned a breakout activity for the faculty during an in-service day before school started.

We have successfully designed 3 breakout experiences: library orientation, book censorship, and the beginnings of the Cold War. We began by purchasing a box set from Breakout EDU which was $100. However, you can buy your own boxes and locks for less than that. The advantage to buying from the website is that you get access to hundreds of lesson plans. The set includes invisible ink pens with a special flashlight, which is incredibly fun for the students to use to solve clues. Also included is a small USB drive. I made a short video of myself giving a clue, saved the video on the USB drive, and hid the drive in a book.

To begin, create a scenario that is exciting for students. For example, when we use the breakout for library orientation, we play music from Mission Impossible while reading aloud the following:

“You and your friends have been investigating a biochemist on suspicions that he is making bioweapons. His evil plans are locked in a black box in order to prevent you from finding them and destroying them. You must find the evil plans and destroy them or this mysterious villain will unleash a deadly virus in 30 minutes!”

For book censorship: “A group of parents is angry about some of the books available for checkout in the library. Specifically, they are complaining about To Kill a Mockingbird, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Harry Potter. They have locked the offensive books in a large, black box and are planning a book burning ceremony in order to get rid of these controversial books! You have 30 minutes to save these books from an untimely and unjust end!”

For the beginnings of the Cold War: “World War II has officially been declared over with the unconditional surrender of Germany. While people around the world celebrate, another conflict has been brewing between the Allies, even before the war ended. The new world superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States are battling for territory and influence after the Nazi threat is defeated. As the United States is concerned about the imminent spread of communism, the Soviet Union also begins its own nuclear program. This new cold war has the potential to end in total devastation. You are the superpowers, the Americans versus the Soviets, working against the clock to prevent a world-ending nuclear holocaust. Be the first country to unlock the nuclear codes and get them out of the hands of the enemy. If you fail, your opponent will acquire your country’s nuclear codes, and a mushroom cloud may be in your future. You have 30 minutes to overcome Cold War mistrust and tensions to save the world.”

For the Cold War activity, we passed out paper copies of Soviet Union and American flags to students as they walked into the library, dividing them into two teams. This idea helped create an atmosphere to mirror the tensions of the Cold War (obviously on a smaller scale!). Each team worked to solve clues, but the box wouldn’t be completely unlocked unless both teams were successful. 

Design the clues so that students must access a variety of library resources in order to solve the puzzles and unlock the locks. For example, we use print books, eBooks, databases, infographics, and more. When we use this for library orientation, it’s a great way to test if they know how to use an index. And if they don’t, they’ll figure it out quickly because they become competitive and don’t want time to run out!

Here’s one clue from each of our activities so you can see examples if you haven’t created one yet. Library orientation: Those pesky librarians are always changing things around…this time, they have adopted a new way to use online resources called MackinVIA. Apparently they have given each student their own login. Go to schoology and open the MackinVIA link. Open the Opposing Viewpoints database. Some people call me a bully (imagine that!) and I want to know just how many news articles are available for me to read under the bullying topic.” Book censorship: “It’s not easy to stop people who want to burn books! For the first step in finding the key, figure out which book is number 6 on the list of books most challenged in 2016 as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.” The Cold War: “You must find the type of uranium used in the center of the secondary fusion device to accomplish the most powerful explosion from the nuclear bomb before the other team. What is it? (Hint: Find Matt Bougie’s Strategic Inventions of the Cold War.)”

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Use a free website to create fake text messages. I created the following conversation between Truman and Stalin as part of what was in the locked box during the Cold War breakout. You can get really creative with a breakout activity! Use QR codes. Maybe your principal could play a role or make a guest appearance.

Breakout experiences are effective during the Immerse phase because students become exposed to lots of information through solving various clues. Design the clues so students use content area knowledge to solve them. After the breakout experience, debrief students. Have them share answers to clues if they worked on solving different ones. From here, students can choose which aspects they encountered during the breakout to investigate further in the Explore phase.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts for this week. I truly believe in the importance of educators making time for what matters and modeling their own curiosity and excitement to learn for their students.

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC

@gregorjm    jamie.gregory@spart5.net

An Invitation to Learn

In Monday’s blog post, I asked everyone to dig deep and analyze their own attitudes about time. Today, let’s think about how we present the learning process to our students (which definitely relates to time). In short, is learning a drag, something to merely tolerate? Or is it a process of discovery?

When you want to learn more about something, do you reach for a textbook or Powerpoint presentation? Or do you ask a person, do some research, watch a film or video?

 

What can educators do to establish a warm, inviting, exciting mood for learning? In Guided Inquiry Design, the first three phases of inquiry learning (Open, Immerse, Explore) are critical. Kuhlthau et al establish again and again how important it is not to rush students because establishing a learning purpose affects successful implementation of the rest of the inquiry process.

Educators learn from studying the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning that they should not begin a unit of study by handing out an assignment. No learning context has been established! Just yesterday a student told me, “We just started reading a speech in English class today and answering questions about it, but I have no idea who was giving the speech and why.”

In my school, students can take an elective called Media Center Service Learning. We have had success implementing a unit on social justice. When we start talking about it, they all inevitably ask, “What is social justice?” That question shows me their lack of previous knowledge, so imagine how ineffective it would be if I simply handed out an assignment sheet or packet on the day we began the unit.

Units of learning should begin with an open invitation to spark students’ curiosity. Students should be curious about lots of things because they typically haven’t had many life experiences yet, so there’s a lot they don’t know. What would make you curious to learn more about something? (Probably not a textbook or PowerPoint presentation.)

At the high school level, I’ve had success using the New York Times Op-Docs website for short documentary clips to engage students and get them thinking. For the example of our social justice unit, here’s one clip we used, featuring an all-girls school in Afghanistan. Students wrote questions during viewing on a shared Google Doc which we discussed after viewing. The clip prompted some great discussions among students who before viewing the clip didn’t know the meaning of social justice. They were astonished to discover some of the information presented in the clip. Some students went on to research the school because they were curious, naturally leading into the Immerse phase of GID.

In Immerse, educators need to give students opportunities to encounter the breadth of the topic. Building background knowledge is critical if students are going to have enough information to eventually narrow down a topic in the Identify phase of GID. During my unit, the students continued their discussion about the clip. I also arranged for some guest speakers to visit my library. A representative from a local organization which works to help victims of human trafficking attended as well as a representative from a local community center and a public librarian. These three individuals spoke with students about how their jobs involve issues of social justice. This event helped show students the breadth of social justice issues around the world but also in our local community. Students took notes and also participated in discussions in inquiry circles. They were particularly interested in the human trafficking organization (SWITCH).

At this point, students have already encountered a great deal of new information as a group. As we transition into the Explore phase of GID, “students browse through various sources of information to explore interesting ideas and prepare to develop their inquiry questions” (Kuhlthau, 2012). In our unit, we prepared 13 stations each featuring an issue of social justice. Students rotated among the stations, writing down questions. We included books, articles, political cartoons, photographs, video clips, and much more. Remember that students should only be browsing, skimming, and scanning at this point. They may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, and now is not the time to be bogged down in detailed note-taking. As Kuhlthau (2012) states, “when students rush through exploring, their thoughts about their ideas have little opportunity to evolve or develop. As learners slow down and relax, they can read and reflect on the information they are exploring” (79).

Here is proof that GID works: some of my students ended up choosing a topic that was not featured in the Open, Immerse, or Explore phases! These same students who began the unit asking “What is social justice?” had progressed enough to find their own topics. I could not have been more proud of them. And yes, some of these students were reluctant learners.

As an end product, students wrote a letter to a local representative, organization, or newspaper explaining the social justice issue and proposing a solution or course of action. Their end products were much more effective because they were given time to explore issues that interested them and that they cared about. They gained a much clearer, detailed picture of social justice because they moved through the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. Imagine if I had merely provided them with an assignment sheet including a list of possible topics. The students would not have developed an emotional connection with the unit.

All of these activities took time. Use your fellow teachers and school librarians to collaborate. Branch out into your community and see which learning opportunities are available. Ideas provided in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases can make learning so very exciting!

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC

@gregorjm    jamie.gregory@spart5.net

 

Observations, Coaching and Presenting GID in Vancouver, Canada

Hi Readers!

It’s Leslie Maniotes, the author and professional developer for Guided Inquiry Design.  I try to reserve this space for practitioners to reflect on their work.  However, as you may know, if you follow me on twitter and facebook, I’ve been traveling.  Two weeks ago, I was in California presenting workshops, sessions and a keynote at the California School Library Association conference. And, last week, I was in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada and had the great pleasure to work with the faculty at St George School and present at their local Independent school Professional Development day conference.

Through my days in BC, I coached teams, planned with school leaders on how GID can be used as a professional development framework for personalized teacher learning, and hashed out some details about the connection between Design Thinking and Guided Inquiry Design, as well as why we would bother to blend the two models.

I also had the privilege of seeing students engaged in the Immerse phase in 4th grade.  I also interacted with 6th grade teachers and students in the Explore->Identify phase.  These observations and reflective conversations with the teachers were inspiring, enlightening, and capacity building for all involved.

Saint George has been working on the Guided Inquiry practice in their K-12 environment for 3 years now.  They have taken an alternative route to implementation and training, and have found great benefit in  coaching to make incremental shifts. Coaching conversations are a powerful way to sustain and grow Guided Inquiry Design practice. After high quality professional development,

coaching offers a personalized approach that reaches teachers where they are and helps them to make that small next step forward into deeper use of the model.

Guided Inquiry Design is not the phases of the framework alone, though they are the core of it. The embedded tools and how/when to use them require practice, implementation and a cycle of reflection to ensure growth.  There is so much to learn from reflecting on how we engage inquiry in our classrooms.  That’s why coaching is such a strong support.  Through coaching and conversation about the work challenges arise, teachers biases and fall backs are exposed, and with an open mind, together we can reset expectations with tweaks to our practice, and go at it again.

A few questions from teachers (and myself) that arise while coaching GID:

  • When do we have and espouse that inquiry mindset?
  • When might we be shutting our students down by the prompts we offer or the resources we present?
  • How can we open students up to learning about their world and not worry about the project?
  • How can we get the best questions and the optimal results each time?
  • How long should we linger in each phase? How do I know when to move on?
  • When should a protocol be used and when should we be more open and fluid with the phases?
  • When should we return to a previous phase? In what ways is the process iterative?
  • How are we being flexible in the GID process, are we sticking with the intent of each phase?
  • Are we using the tools to facilitate the process or are they holding students back in some way?
  • When should we use technology and when should we stick with pen and paper?
  • How are we meeting the needs of diverse learners through our design and scaffolds?

I found the teachers at St George, ready to reflect, open to change and improvement, and dedicated to doing only the best work possible.  It was inspiring to be with such dedicated professionals.

I will share some of those experiences in the coming days, but want to encourage reflective conversations on the process with your colleagues, even if you don’t have a person coaching you, find that think partner and make it part of your routine practice of GID.  Use the Guided Inquiry Design book as your guide and reference for your decision making.  Feel free to reach out to me with questions you might have.

I look forward to sharing the learning from these experiences with our community.

Happy learning, questioning, and going deeper- it’s what we do!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author and Consultant

Guided Inquiry Design

 

 

Asking the Questions, Connecting the Dots…

 

In my previous post I shared how app(roach) smashing the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) within the GID Framework is not only worth trying, but well worth doing.

So now to the nitty gritty—where exactly might you use the QFT within GID?

Open Phase:

The opener is the hook that sparks curiosity and paves the way for inquiry. One way to do this could be to use an artifact, object, image, photograph, quotation or video related to the curricular focus and use that as a QFocus.

Immerse Phase:

In the Immerse Phase, everyone builds collective background knowledge via a particular experience or interaction, from reading a common text to watching a performance or role playing in a simulation. The QFT could become a possible post-immersion activity, using collaborative crowdsourcing to leverage what everyone has picked up from the Immerse phase. The cool thing about doing the QFT after the Immerse phase (or Explore phase) is that students now have some prior/background knowledge in order to ask higher-order, open questions beyond basic fact-based ones. Students could use these as “under the radar” questions in their minds as they enter the Explore phase, without making any serious commitments to a particular research focus as of yet.

For example, in a recent WWII/Holocaust collaborative project between 8th grade reading and English at my campus, our learning team structured the Immersion phase as study of various nonfiction articles about the time period students read and discussed in their reading classes, while students studied the book Night in their English classes. Then before going into the Explore phase, we set up a double-class QFT involving 9 different “QFocus statement stations” based on core historical themes and issues paralleled in their collective readings. The Explore phase was an online interactive LibGuide that hosted these QFocus areas in more depth through varied multimedia content.

Explore Phase: During or After

As students explore in this phase, they “survey” myriad sources, “read when they find something interesting,” and “reflect on questions that begin to shape their inquiry.” They still remain uncommitted to any driving question(s) or collecting information from what they discover; the point is for them to “keep an open mind” as they explore, read and reflect on what they come across. While doing this, the questions generated by a QFT done between the Immerse and Explore phases can help dovetail into guiding students into narrowing down what they want to explore in more depth at the end of Explore, moving into the Identify phase. Their level of questions will also be higher, since the “Exploring strategies are designed to put the ideas generated in the Immerse sessions to work.”

Identify Phase:

In this “pause and ponder” phase, students identify their inquiry question that will propel them forward and decide the direction they will take through the remaining GID phases.

There are three ways a QFT could work in this phase:

  • To help students develop driving questions individually
  • Through a Learning Team intervention
  • Through smaller inquiry circles or classmate consults

Students could revisit a previous QFocus and generate additional questions via their own QFT, or use a specific area of interest they uncovered or explored during the Exploration phase.

The Learning Team could check the pulse of inquiry and see where students are, using any formative assessment “intel” to then shape into a more solid QFocus either for the class or individual students.

Another option is to pair down an inquiry circle into a classmate consult pairing of questioner and listener. The questioner seeks feedback on any “emerging insights” as potential fodder for a QFocus and subsequent questions, and the listener offers feedback by listening and making suggestions based on their interchange.

The QFT lends itself to these peer conversations by using co-construction front and center; if the QFT is done individually at some point in GID, then students and the LT can still collaborate and share ideas for QFocus statements and related questions in smaller inquiry circles or pairs, and larger inquiry communities that comprise the entire class.

Some ideas for helping students to generate a QFocus on their own or via a classmate consult or LT conference/conversation:

  • Use a title or significant quotation from a discovered source, image, etc, that they found most intriguing
  • Make a visual diagram of the pit stops of exploration, and choose one to generate more in-depth higher level questions from that
  • Use a question of interest from any previous QFT activities and turn it into a statement

Getting Meta about Inquiry

There’s another connecting thread between the QFT and GID—that of reflection and metacognition.

The last essential step in the QFT is reflecting on the process itself; this step mirrors that of Evaluation as the last phase in GID. In GID, the Evaluation phase focuses on evaluating the student’s product and their own process used to create it.

As cited in Make Just One Change, metacognition is an essential part of learning how to learn. As students reflect on the QFT process they have just used, they are doing more than that—they are using metacognition to cement the process and see themselves as agents in their own knowledge construction.

Likewise, the Evaluation phase in GID asks students to evaluate how they have learned along the way by assessing their process along with any products they’ve created as a result of the inquiry process. Students self-reflect on how they internalized the inquiry process to propel their own learning and develop their own self-directed processes for learning in the future.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

In reflecting on my own process and learning through this week’s blogging experience, my mind keeps coming back to something Seth Godin asks in his TEDX Talk, Stop Stealing Dreams: On the future of education & what we can do about it, which admittedly I just recently watched for the first time. Besides everything he says, one line keeps resonating with me: 

Are we asking our kids to collect dots or connect dots?

Yes, we are asking them to connect the dots. Every time we try something like Guided Inquiry or the Question Formulation Technique, we are creating experiences that lead to new connections for our students and for ourselves. But likewise through these approaches, the students are doing the real connecting, thinking, and learning. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thanks for letting me share my own experiences and ideas connected to Guided Inquiry via this blog. I am excited to be a part of this community, and want to stay connected and keep learning with and from you all. I have learned so much from reading and reflecting on the posts already shared, and look forward to what I can read next here in 2018!

-Teresa Diaz

Related Posts:
And so on, and so on, and so on…
A Fresh Take on App Smashing

@teresa_diaz

tamarindster@gmail.com

https://curioussquid.net

 

A Fresh Take on App Smashing

 

Click here to read my introductory post in this series

Flipped Classroom. Formative Assessment. Differentiated Instruction. Blended Learning. These terms are just a few among the growing list of popular approaches gaining traction in today’s classrooms, either because they offer innovative twists on valued instructional methods, or uniquely pair new and old strategies that work effectively together.

Take Blended Learning, for example—a mash-up of familiar face-to-face instruction with technology-rich digital content or activities that offer students a way to learn that’s multidimensional, differentiated, and engaging. Then there’s App Smashing, another form of blending specifically involving technology tools—a mash-up of various tablet-based applications to “create projects or complete tasks” that play upon the apps’ strengths to augment the learning experience for students.

This kind of Conceptual Blending may be considered de rigueur, but is actually one of “six essential aptitudes” Daniel Pink spotlights in his book A Whole New Mind, coined as Symphony.

According to Pink, we no longer live in an Information Age, but are actually in the midst of a Conceptual Age—where the Symphony “aptitude” is one we will all need to flourish, student and teacher alike:

[Symphony] is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.

In the spirit of conceptual blending, one way to embrace our own symphonic abilities and cultivate those among our students is to try blending or “smashing” approaches that might work together synergistically. Like chocolate and peanut butter, sometimes two great approaches can work well together, and as a result, become something more powerful as a sum of this new combination.

Pink calls this use of conceptual blending the “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Theory of Innovation,” which ventures that “sometimes the most powerful ideas come from simply combining two existing ideas nobody else ever thought to unite.”

Take the Question Formulation Technique and the Guided Inquiry Model―two approaches that make sense to “smash” together based on their complementary attributes.

What is the QFT and How Does it Work?

Just as the GID framework offers a fresh way to approach research with students through inquiry-based learning, the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) offers a fresh way to approach and cultivate the art of questioning with students.

The QFT “requires one small but significant shift in practice”—students asking the questions instead of the teacher. In Guided Inquiry, a parallel shift happens—from the usual norm of curriculum-dictated research questions to one where the students generate them on their own via a multiphase process of inquiry.

Blended together, these two approaches make for a powerful pairing, highlighting inquiry through questioning.

Developed by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana of The Right Question Institute, the QFT is a deceptively simple technique designed to get students to produce, improve, and prioritize questions centered on a Question Focus (QFocus). Through a step-by-step process, students engage in sophisticated, complex thinking and subsequently deeper learning.

Rothstein’s and Santana’s book Make Just One Change offers explicit instruction on how to put the QFT into action, providing examples of how other teachers have used the technique across disciplines. You can also join the Educator Network for free and gain access to the Educator Resources that include downloadable presentations, guides and handouts for you and your students.

I first discovered the QFT by happy accident, and since then, have become not only a huge fan but an active practitioner, self-taught facilitator and devoted advocate after seeing firsthand how effective it can be in transforming the questioning abilities and thinking capacities of those who try it. You can read more about my experiences with the QFT here. In the summer of 2016, I was lucky enough to attend one of their conferences, gaining a deeper working knowledge of the technique through lots of hands-on practice.

Since then, I look for every opportunity to use it collaboratively with teachers and students. During our October campus staff development day, I trained interested teachers in the QFT using our school mission statement as the QFocus. Last week, students practiced it to generate questions about the novel The Outsiders. In the upcoming weeks, all 8th grade students will use the QFT to generate guiding questions for their own Genius Hour projects. See this slideshow for examples of QFT questions generated by my campus students and teachers.


QFT in a Nutshell

Facilitating the QFT centers on following this step-by-step process:

{Note: The explanation of these steps is paraphrased from a more detailed document available in the Educator Resources}

  1. A Question Focus (QFocus)

A stimulus; a springboard you will use to ask questions; it can be a topic, image, phrase or situation—but it CANNOT be a question

  1. The Rules for Producing Questions
  • Ask as many questions as you can  
  • Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any questions  
  • Write down every question exactly as it is stated  
  • Change any statement into a question
  1. Producing Questions

Formulate as many questions in the allotted time, remembering to follow the rules!

  1. Categorizing Questions

Identify open/closed questions; change one closed into an open & vice versa

  1. Prioritizing Questions

Prioritize your top 3 questions; if working together, this must be a consensus decision

  1. Next Steps

How will these questions be used?

  1. Reflection

Reflect on the process of generating questions; what have you learned and how can you use it?

In the Educator Resources you’ll find some very handy presentation slides to easily guide you and your students through the process. The QFT’s magic dwells within the step-by-step technique and the QFocus itself. Choosing an effective QFocus takes some finesse, hovering somewhere between an art and a science. But when you find that sweet spot, you will be amazed at the types of questions—and the types of thinking—that students share and show.


A Perfect Pairing: Where the QFT Connects to GID

When looking at the GID framework and the QFT together, their overlapping qualities make a strong case for interweaving them instructionally.

Asking Questions

Both GID and QFT move students beyond basic fact-finding questions to those that involve higher-order thinking by prompting them to develop their own questions about a notable concept, issue or problem. In GID, students “form their own questions through experiences, reflection, conversation, and writing in the early phases of the inquiry process.” In QFT, students utilize the technique to form their own questions through a systematic process that reflects their own curiosities and as a result, their own thinking.

Third Space

As in GID, the QFT has a similar intention to merge the worlds of school and student by allowing students to construct their “new worldviews rather than having to take on the teacher’s perspective or those mandated by the curriculum or textbook” via developing their own questions and using those throughout the inquiry process.

The QFT uses a streamlined formula that draws on students’ own world by allowing them to generate the questions without bias or intervention, versus answering those generated from the curricular world. In that sense, students can then begin creating the Third Space themselves in a way through the questions they are generating.

Self-Determination Theory & Zone of Proximal Development

Self-Determination Theory and Zone of Proximal Development are key players in making both Guided Inquiry and the Question Formulation Technique dynamic and impactful methods to use with students.

Self-Determination Theory is based on three conditions that underpin and foster intrinsic motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The Zone of Proximal Development is that “sweet spot” between what students can do with help, and what they can do on their own.

Both GID and the QFT strategically place students in the driver’s seat of their own inquiry. In GID, students use their own gravitations and emerging questions to propel their inquiry, developing independence and control over what they learn during the inquiry process. Since the QFT doesn’t layer on stringent parameters as to the kinds of questions students can ask, this stylistic freedom creates autonomy.

Both approaches layer in competence (the feeling of being capable enough to reach success) and relatedness (the ability and opportunity to make connections to each other) through the structure and nature of what is asked of students. In GID, the Learning Team designs and plans specific guidance in the form of feedback and interventions for students as needed to ensure that they are still on track while comfortably struggling within a “zone of intervention,” based on the Zone of Proximal Development.

With the QFT, students can be grouped in a variety of ways that leverages interpersonal connections through collaborative brainstorming of questions, which are then classified and evaluated in a team-based format. Along the way, teachers act as guides on the side, facilitating without intervening, avoiding modeling the questioning process while keeping the students actively caught in that “sweet spot” of learning on their own, the only safety net being the technique itself.

Creating a Community of Self-Directed Learners

The QFT and GID work toward the same goal—creating a community of inquiring minds who want to know, and can learn on their own. Guided Inquiry provides a pathway to developing a “dynamic inquiry learning community” by creating a safe atmosphere that encourages consideration of “varied points of view” from both information and from learning peers. The QFT leads to a new kind of self-actualization and empowerment in the classroom by encouraging students to take learning in their own hands; this in turn helps create “an informed citizenry” that can move beyond questions to making decisions and taking action:

“This way of learning prepares students to think for themselves, make thoughtful decisions, develop areas of expertise, and learn throughout their lives.”

Just as developing fluid and sophisticated questioners doesn’t happen through one QFT experience, building an Inquiry Community will take practice and time. The QFT can be a lynchpin strategy to not only build questioning capacity in students and lead to thoughtful and provocative guiding research questions, but also play a significant role in building an Inquiry Community within GID. Using the QFT embedded within GID offers the Learning Team and the students additional opportunities to cultivate independence, divergent/convergent thinking, and metacognition via as-needed intervention experiences.

My next post will share specific points within the GID framework for integrating the QFT. As I’m guessing you can tell, I love to talk about the QFT, so feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@teresa_diaz) or via this blog to continue the conversation.

To see my first post for this 52GID Challenge, click here 🙂

-Teresa Diaz

5 More Strategies for Guiding Student Questioning

Happy Monday! Today I’m sharing five more strategies for guiding students in inquiry questioning. Let’s dive right in!

 

Set Students up for Success in Explore

My mind was blown the first time I realized I could directly impact student questions with the resources curated for the Explore phase. This strategy is especially useful for a learning team that is concerned that students may miss out on critical content in a GID unit. By carefully curating the resources that inspire inquiry questions, we can guide students toward required content and help ensure their questions are right for the unit.

Here’s an example from a real-life unit: 8th graders rotated through several stations during Explore. At each location, there were primary and secondary sources, photographs and video, articles, infographics and more for students to dip into the content. Each station had a theme under the unit concept of Displacement: the Syrian refugee crisis, Japanese internment, the Holocaust, Natural Disasters, and so on. After exploring each station, the vast majority of student questions came from the materials they had interacted with during Explore. We were intentional with the content we included and that which was excluded from the first three phases of the unit in order to guide students toward the content we wished to cover.

 

Provide a Structure

As in everything else, students benefit from structure in questioning. A questioning structure helps students to recognize the quality of their own questions in a way that they can continue to use in the future.

There are many ways to structure questions: Thick vs. Thin, Leveled, or using a Question Builder. But the way I have found that works best for my students is Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 questions. Based on the AVID questioning structure, I have found that this structure is complex enough to help my students write high-level inquiry questions, yet simple enough that they can clearly distinguish the three types of questions.

Here is a video I made for my students explaining the 3 Levels of questioning:

 

Get Started on the Right Foot

Another strategy I use to help students write excellent inquiry questions is to actually start their questions together. As a group brainstorm, we list as many question words as we can: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How, Does/Did, etc. Then together, we cross out those question words that always lead us to Level 1 inquiry questions, leaving us with What, Why, and How. These are the question words that are most likely to begin a quality Level 3 inquiry question.

For students who continue to struggle with getting started, I have also provided sentence stems to help set them off in the right direction. With questioning, we want students focused on a question they are excited to answer, not feeling frustrated with the questioning process. Questioning often needs scaffolding just like anything else.

 

One on One Conferencing

In over 20 GID units, I have never passed the Identify phase without conferencing individually with every single student. Though it can seem logistically daunting, the benefits of face time with every learner as they work through their own questioning process far outweigh the costs.

In these conferences, I discuss with the student the level of their question, how it relates to the unit concept and their own interest, and how they will approach researching the answer to the question. I try to ask vague and open-ended questions that help the student come to their own conclusions about their inquiry question. Some students require more guidance than others, but eventually I know that each student will end up with a high level inquiry question that meets the needs of both the classroom curriculum and their own interests.

 

Let Them Ask the Bad Question

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if we conference or how much structure and support we provide to a student, they will insist on writing an inquiry question that does not meet the criteria we are looking for. In these cases, sometimes it is best to allow the student the opportunity to pursue their question and find that their avenue of inquiry leads to a dead end. It’s important that students understand that they always have the opportunity to loop back to Identify after moving on should they find their question does not work.

In this same vein, I often have students ask questions so specific, they find very limited information to answer them. In these cases, the trial and error involved in adjusting the question after beginning to Gather can be a valuable learning experience for the student. Real life inquiry is not perfectly linear, and Guided Inquiry units don’t have to be either!

 

I hope that you find these strategies as useful as I have for facilitating student questioning. If you have your own tricks or tips for helping your students write awesome inquiry questions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Until next time!

Kelsey Barker

Intentional Practice

 

Focused reflection is what allows us to pause and mindfully ask ourselves the tough questions, think about different strategies and approaches, and then implement change where needed. Building in time for the teachers to reflect during the GID process gives space  for individual thoughts and individual processing time.  Reflection opens an opportunity to conversation.  Finding the time to reflect can be a challenge and collaboration can be really hard. During collaborations emotions, expectations and vulnerability have the potential to collide at any given moment. In my last post, I mentioned the 3 things that I keep in mind when collaborating.  I am intentional with reflection in all collaborations, but especially in GID.

Typically my reflective practice is quick sticky notes of thoughts that occur to me during a class with students. I later journal about my observations.  The observations are typically first about what I could’ve done differently to engage, to assess learning, or to be more transparent to students about the objectives of the lesson or activity.  It’s typically not until after I’ve processed these observations myself that I approach my colleague. In this way, I am able to articulate better as to what I think the pluses and deltas are.  Approaching a colleague with this type of discussion can be challenging for both parties.  A level of awareness of self is truly important to a successful interaction with colleagues and especially when it involves a long term collaboration.  Framing the conversation around student learning and the goal of pushing the learning deeper allows the conversation to be reflective about improving teaching practice.  

This past year, a colleague and I were able to move this to a deeper understanding of collaboration within the digital context.  As we have collaborated for several years now, we are able to be authentic with each other and openly ask for feedback regarding our collaborations.  Bringing it to the digital context was a helpful layer of reflection for each of us. Because it’s in a document that we can both access, it becomes a place that we can begin our next collaborative conversation.  It’s also a judgement free zone, where we are sharing thoughts but not placing blame. Establishing this understanding is helpful to moving forward with building GID units.  Each student, class and teacher are different.  Being able to bring the reflections to conversation allows us to think about what could be different next time and to discuss what we each noticed.  Bringing in the pluses and the deltas allow us to keep the good and shift the not so good.

Here are some things that I’ve personally learned from my own reflections about working with students and Guided Inquiry Design:

  1. Teaching with this process does not mean that instruction is unnecessary and that expectations are lessened. Instead, scheduled check-ins for students allows for personalized engagement during the process. Creating an Inquiry Community builds these into the learning process and allows teachers to personalize the necessary instruction and support for each student. It also ensures that students know that you are aware of their work and effort throughout the process.
  2. Giving students the ability to establish a reflective process before beginning Guided Inquiry allows students to transition easily from research to reflection and to develop an understanding of the complexity of reflecting. If students have not spent time thinking about their thoughts prior to GID, they will struggle with the reflective writing and the inquiry circles.  Reflective practice at other times during the class give students the ability to learn strategies that will transfer.
  3. Determining the habits and attitudes that individual students will need to be effective with GID is beneficial to developing appropriate instruction for each phase of the process. Integrating inquiry, information literacy, digital literacy, and ethical practices in other areas of instruction will prepare students.
  4. Allowing students ample opportunity to discuss their learning throughout the process will keep students passionate about their topic. These opportunities could include interactions with students, teachers, administrators as well as digitally.
  5. Students crave an authentic way to share their research. Finding  ways that help them do so opens opportunity for engagement, motivation and learning. Authentic sharing may be in the school or beyond.  Allowing other teachers to interview the students gives purpose to the research. Showcasing the work digitally creates a wider audience.

 

These ideas and thoughts are just some things I am thinking about as I prepare to work with my colleagues this school year.  Allowing opportunities for engaging with complex ideas and to make meaning of them brings a deeper understanding of the intellectual process to our students.  To me, Guided Inquiry Design is the avenue that gets our students there.

 

Anita Cellucci

Westborough High School

Follow me on Twitter – @anitacellucci @librarywhs

 

Irrational Perseverance and Our Unit on Children in Wartime (2)

Irrational perseverance

You will need a good dose of irrational perseverance to stick to GI” and implement it in your curriculum,” say the authors of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21 Century. After seven years of trying, I must say it is perfectly true. You need perseverance to learn all the time, perseverance to endure futile tries to convince your colleagues to collaborate with you, but most of all you need perseverance to monitor you students and make changes in your practice when you see that what you are doing is not helping them learn. But perseverance I have, because I believe Guided Inquiry is the best model of learning we, school librarians, can use to help students grow.

Guided Inquiry is in accordance with my personal mission to do everything I can to sustain children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. Have you ever seen a small child who is not eager to learn? It breaks my heart when I see how this eagerness withers as children grow older, and by the middle school they end up hating school because it is boring. The answer is, I believe, in constructivist approach to learning. Guided Inquiry is the answer. D. H. Wells once said that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. Guided Inquiry is such a powerful tailwind for education. It makes learning meaningful for students, gives them skills to use for further learning, it helps them to gain deeper understanding of the curriculum.

After carefully reading and rereading and studying the books (one mentioned before, Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School and Guided Inquiry Design in Action: Middle School) attending free webinars held by Leslie at EdWeb, I gradually started applying GI in my teaching.

First, I applied some of the tools in our ongoing school projects. I talked about GI at our school staff meeting. There was a language teacher who proposed that we give it a try together. We asked history teacher to join in for our first GI unit. My colleagues did not read about Guided Inquiry, so it was my responsibility to explain the concept to them. They were familiar with KWL framework and project based learning which made me easier to explain GID. However, it took a lot of patience and persistence from all of us.

I was grateful to them they were willing to try something new and I took care not to make them feel uncomfortable in the process. Our first GID unit was not perfect, but I think we did excellent job. We connected literature (Bruckner: Sadako wants to live – this is obligatory book for 8th graders which most of them never really read), history curriculum – WWII, and civic education (Human Rights).

Photo -3rd grade students preparing for sharing what they learned about healthy food and habits.

Our big question and concept was: “What happens to children in wartime?”

The Open session was rich. It took place in the library. We managed to acquire beautiful posters and brochures about contemporary Japan from the Japanese Embassy. After discussing that we watched two minutes video from Hiroshima Memorial Museum and an excerpt from a documentary about atomic bomb survivors. Our discussion helped students to better understand the book, which was the task for Immerse.

Deciding what is important to share with the rest of the class

In Explore sessions they had a lot of material, both print and digital to go through. After that they had to pick a role to prepare for, because the create and share phase were preparation and staging of a mock trial in which all the children had to play a role of a character in a book or a role of a court official (judges, attorneys etc.). Students were engaged and motivated during the process. There was so much to talk about. They studied the period described in the book to the detail, but they also draw connections with current affairs. Unfortunately, the topic of war is familiar to them. Although they are the generation born after recent wars in our part of the world, they hear it discussed in their homes, in school and in the media.

Next school year, I made another presentation about GID for my colleagues in school, presented the concept again, together with our last year’s experience. I asked for volunteers again. There were more teachers who were interested this time. Next year, a few more. My goal is to enable every student in school to experience Guided Inquiry. So, there is still a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, I had several opportunities to share the experience in GID with my follow librarians at the district, but also at the national level. The last one was a workshop at our Spring School in Trogir in April 2017 which was very well received.

Gordana