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

And so on, and so on, and so on…

 

I don’t know if you are a fan of New Year’s resolutions, or if you’re more of a #oneword2018 tribe member—but nonetheless, with this new year comes new experiences, ideas, and connections, intentional or not. One of the intentional experiences I’ve set for myself this year is to put more of my own ideas into motion. For some ideas, that means tinkering with them and seeing where they go; for others, it entails sharing them so that they can grow, expand, and evolve as they interact with other ideas, creating new connections and likewise new ideas—“and so on, and so on, and so on,” in the words of the classic 80’s Faberge Organics commercial I was so nostalgically reminded of while watching the latest season of Stranger Things. (Those of you old enough to know what I mean get the reference, even if you aren’t a ST fan 🙂 )

With that said, I am happy to introduce myself and share my experiences and ideas connected with Guided Inquiry to this GID community, expanding my own ideas and connections in the process. My name is Teresa Diaz, and I am currently a teacher-librarian at “Tex” Hill Middle School in San Antonio, Texas. Home to the iconic Alamo and the Spurs basketball team, San Antonio’s rich historical past and vibrant cultural heritage make it not only a top spot for tourism but also for professional conferences, including ISTE in 2017.

Hill MS Learning Commons

“Tex” Hill Middle School is one of 14 middle schools total within a large district of nearly 67,000 students. Serving grades 6-8 with 1100 students, my campus reflects the diverse ethnic and socioeconomic demographics of our school district and of San Antonio itself. I’ve been at Hill since it opened in 2014, starting the learning commons from the ground up. Opening a new school can be challenging, but has offered me the chance to brand the library space as a learning commons and set the tone for learning among the students, teachers, and staff from day one.

Now in my 20th year as a school librarian after starting out as a high school English teacher, I’ve worked at both the HS and MS levels in Providence, Cambridge, Houston, Austin, New York and my hometown of San Antonio. Through these experiences I’ve learned of and experimented with myriad philosophies and methods, such as the CES Common Principles, Essential Questions, the integrated team model, Understanding by Design, and PBL, along with more recent approaches like Design Thinking, Genius Hour, and Flipped Learning. Woven throughout all of these instructional permutations is the ever-present Information Literacy thread that us fellow librarians know to be one of (if not the) most essential elements to developing thinking and learning among the young people we teach, now more than ever.

At my previous middle school campus, I also developed an information literacy strand embedded within a campus-level overhaul of 6th grade studyskills elective AIM (“Academic Individual Motivation”) which aimed (no pun intended) to teach essential technology applications along with other digital skills needed in their core content-area classes.

Like most of you, I’ve tried various Information Literacy (IL) and research process models too, like the Big 6 and MacKenzie’s Research Cycle. But finding them lacking, I came across Dr. Carol Kuhlthau’s ISP model on my own, hoping to find a better framework to use with students. It was then in the spring of 2012 when my district’s Library Services department gave each librarian a first edition copy of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century and the then-newly published Guided Inquiry Design as the designated alternative for IL/research process instruction that I became a GID practitioner and advocate. Some of my fellow librarians attended the CISSL Institute that following summer, and shared their experiences through pilot projects on their own campuses, followed by homegrown district-level GID summer institutes in 2013 and 2014.

Starting in 2012, I’ve been piloting my own permutations of GID, specifically through the Technology Innovations Project (2013 version) as part of the 6th grade ACL (Advanced Contemporary Literacy) course, a pre-AP level reading class designed to heavily incorporate the research process as part of its scope and sequence. Since that first iteration, the Tech Innovations project has evolved at Hill to reflect a merging of GID with Design Thinking and PBL, and I am sure this year will continue to change just like technology itself does.

Along with this signature GID project, I’ve been lucky enough to collaboratively incorporate GID into other pre-existing and newly designed research-focused projects across all three grade levels, most specifically in reading and English. The most recent GID projects involved a cross-curricular exploration of World War II and the Holocaust to defining and demonstrating Creativity.

Throughout my own evolution in using GID in tandem with other models and approaches, I have come to see the beauty in recombination. As Leslie so aptly shared in her introductory post about the interconnectedness of things in connection with sharing our practice of and excitement about GID as a change agent in education, I found that what makes GID such a strong process is its inherent ability to connect to and leverage other specific strategies and models to augment its own strength as an overarching framework.

With this in mind, my next post(s) will share how one of my favorite tools, the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), beautifully weaves into various phases of the GID framework. My final post will most likely be a reflection on/exploration of the power of embedding the QFT and other strategies within GID, as I continue figuring out how to make Information Literacy both an embedded and overt facet of my own teaching approach with today’s learners.

And to reconnect with my initial intent of putting ideas into motion, I welcome connecting with you online about your own experiences, permutations, and ideas regarding GID and related strategies that work towards making Information Literacy relevant. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@teresa_diaz) or via this blog. I also blog intermittently at Curious Squid, if you feel like reading a bit more of my own observations and reflections on learning “in real life.”

-Teresa Diaz