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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Westborough High School
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