Meaningful Reflection in the Inquiry Process

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reflection photoI am a student of reflection and believe in its power to inform and guide toward increased performance. Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, promotes reflection in the inquiry process. She indicates that meaningful reflection (pp. 108-113) should:

  1. Reflection should give students the opportunity to think about their thinking. Could this be better? How? What steps should I take? These types of questions help students better understand the thought processes that led them to their final outcomes and help them better prepare for future endeavors.
  2. Reflection should give the students the opportunity to think about what they are doing and apply the thoughts to the final product during the process of producing the product. I think of this in a similar fashion to formative assessment – when we test to see how students understand the content and adjust instruction according to the outcome of the assessment. I suppose I would term this formative reflection.
  3. Reflection is often viewed as a solitary act – an individual alone with his/her thoughts. The real power of reflection is revealed through sharing with another person, one who can help sort out the thoughts. In the classroom, students can think about what they have learned, what they would do differently, and share that information with one another. This leads to dialogue and further engagement in the content.

Are you creating opportunities for students to reflect on their learning processes and products? I believe if you build reflection into your classroom plans, students will engage at deeper levels and genuinely learn the content delivered.

Five Recommendations Regarding Student Presentations

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student presentation pictureLarissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, indicates that the following components be part of the student classroom presentation framework (pp. 90-102):

  1. Acknowledge two stages of presentation: Product and delivery. Teach students to prepare the best quality product by having students draft their work, receive feedback from peers, and adjust accordingly. Teachers should also provide feedback on the draft product. Allow students to develop an assessment rubric for both the product and the delivery. Give students ample opportunity to deliver the presentation in a peer-reviewed setting.
  2. Let students pick the medium. Giving students a choice in the medium to be used will help them further invest in the content preparation and delivery process. They will engage in content in meaningful ways.
  3. Let the presentation influence the outcome. Again, involve peers in the review and assessment process. The author suggests the use of a game show motif in which students ultimately choose to award “Best Of Show” prizes for a variety of pre-selected components.
  4. Present beyond the school walls. Publish the presentation on a website or blog. Post videos of presentations. This will allow students to access the content outside of the classroom.
  5. Practice on the micro level. The author suggests employing “think, pair, share” sessions, speed lessons, and micro-presentations throughout the regular classroom routine to help students prepare for the full presentations.

Apply this framework to your classroom presentations. Students will be fully engaged in content and will learn much!!

Three Components of Successful Classroom Presentations

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student science fair picIt is important that students have the opportunity to present the findings of their inquiry. Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, indicates that all successful classroom presentations (pp. 86-90) are:

  1. Flexible. A presentation does not just involve an individual standing at the front of the room speaking. A presentation can take on many forms – speaking, singing, and creating – and can incorporate a variety of mediums – pictures, movies, songs, and other artifacts. Students need to have the flexibility to choose the method and medium with which they are most comfortable presenting information to others.
  2. Shareable. The presentation and the product thereof should be available to students after its completion, so that the content remains accessible for all students.       Handouts, electronic discussion boards, and video can be made available to students, so they continue to learn from the work of their peers.
  3. Interactive. Students who are receiving the information from a peer presentation need to have some vested interest in the presentation. This can be achieved by having students assess the work they are receiving or by having students provide opportunities to improve upon/add to the presentation.

In our classrooms, students have been enjoying the opportunity to collaborate and practice inquiry. Help your students plan for flexible, shareable, and interactive presentations about what they are learning. They will engage in content in meaningful ways and enjoy the process. You will, too.

Three Qualities of Successful Student Collaboration

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student collaborationA classroom environment that allows for collaborative grouping produces significant learning gains. Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, identifies the following three qualities of successful student collaboration (pp. 64-68). Successful collaborations are:

  1. Documented: Successful collaborations require that the contributions of each member be documented. Far too often great ideas come from collaboration and are lost because they were not documented. Assigning a student the role of scribe will help provide a record of the work being done.
  2. Asynchronous: Successful collaborations require times of group work and times of individual work. Both are critical to the collaborative process.
  3. Classroom-based: Successful collaborations require face-to-face interaction. As much as we rely on technology to make our lives more efficient, it is not an effective replacement for person-to-person time that leads to creativity and problem solving.

Collaboration requires considerable planning if it is to produce significant results. When you plan for collaborative time in your classroom, keep in mind that students need face-to-face time, time away from each other in the process, and documentation of the contributions made by group members. Your students will benefit from your work and will learn and grown together.

Student Collaboration in Inquiry-based Learning

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collaborationStudent collaboration is a powerful tool for learning.  Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, provides the following framework for student collaboration in the classroom (pp. 68-78):

  1. Spend time on the set-up. Planning is essential to successful student collaboration. Establish ground rules and protocols for student collaboration and review them regularly.
  2. Model collaboration on a daily basis.       Arrange the classroom so that students have the opportunity to work with one another in a collaborative manner a little each day.
  3. Monitor progress and allow students to police themselves. Keep your finger on the pulse of the groups, so that you know if they are functioning at a healthy level. Create opportunities for students to also monitor their own progress and share their concerns with group members or you.
  4. Connect beyond the classroom. Encourage students to meet outside of the classroom in face-to-face gatherings or in some electronic meeting form.

Keep this framework in mind as you plan for student collaboration in your classroom next week. You will find that students enjoy the collaborative environment and learn much!

Student Research in Inquiry-based Learning

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researchStudent research is a vital part of inquiry-based learning. Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, identifies the following three qualities that must be present in student research if genuine inquiry and learning are to occur (pp. 42-46):

  1. Autonomy – Students need to have some choice in what they research, how they research, and how they share the results of their research.
  2. Activity – Students need to have a variety of activity levels throughout their research. They need opportunities to engage information, whether through text, image, or some performance medium.
  3. Metacognition – Students need the opportunity to look within themselves and reflect upon their own learning and growth throughout the inquiry process.

As you are planning for instruction, include opportunities for autonomy, activity, and metacognition. Students will engage content in meaningful ways and learn much. You will engage content in meaningful ways and learn much, too!

Questioning Is Only The Tip Of The Iceberg

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icebergOn the surface, inquiry appears to involve the asking of questions and the seeking of information from which to make some response. Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, indicates that questioning is only “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to inquiry (p. 18). Pahomov indicates that inquiry in the classroom should also include:

  1. Choice – Choice is necessary for personal and educational fulfillment. Students should have some choice in the questions they pursue and in how they find answers, and one of those options should include technology.
  2. Personalization – While there has been a tremendous movement toward standardization in the educational environment, learning remains a very personal endeavor. In the inquiry process, students need the opportunity to personalize using whatever means may be available.
  3. Relevance – Students will gain the most from real experiences that can be translated into practical applications.
  4. Empowerment – Students need some sense of control in their learning environment. They need the freedom to explore their own questions and pursue knowledge that is both interesting and useful for their development.
  5. Care – Respect for students, for their interests, and for their abilities demonstrates care. When such respect is present, students are free to learn and grown.

As you are planning for next week, include choice, personalization, and relevance in your content. Empower your students to learn and demonstrate respect for them in the process. They will find much success and you will find much joy in your work.