Autonomy

Benefits of SPIDER WEB Discussion

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students dicsussing with teacherSPIDER WEB discussion in the classroom increases student engagement and provides a vehicle for improving student skills in the area of dialogue. In her book The Best Class You Never Taught: How SPIDER WEB Discussion Can Turn Students Into Learning Leaders, Alexis Wiggins notes the following additional benefits of regularly employing the SPIDER WEB discussion practice that she has observed in her own classroom (pp. 132-141):

  1. Better Assessment Data on Individual Students: All the coding involved in monitoring discussion and creating the web graph provides teachers with a tremendous amount of data on individual students. That data makes it easier to identify things students do well and things that need improvement.
  2. Increase in Homework Completion: Students generally do no want to look bad in front of their peers, so they will do homework in order to meet the participation requirements. Students understand that for a SPIDER WEB to work, all strands must be firmly attached. No one wants to be the weak strand.
  3. An Ethical and Safe Classroom Environment: Since SPIDER WEB discussion results in a group grade, students are more willing to step out of their typical behavior to participate (i.e. the students who are shy are more willing to speak, and the students who are overly talkative are more willing to sit back and listen). Students are more willing to ask good, open-ended questions, often questioning thoughts and beliefs that may have otherwise been taboo in class (i.e. race, religion, beliefs, values, and the like).
  4. Greater Student Autonomy: Students are frequently their own best teacher. SPIDER WEB discussion gives students voice in their learning process, and it allows the students to learn from each other, which allows the teacher to take on a coaching role.
  5. Opportunities for Greater Equity: SPIDER WEB discussion lends itself to equal participation in class. This helps students of all varieties find a voice in the classroom. SPIDER WEB discussion can be enhanced by allowing students to write questions and responses for sharing discussion, further strengthening writing for all students.

SPIDER WEB discussion, as a pedagogical practice, can be regularly used in classrooms of all grade levels and content areas. Over time, students and teachers are likely to become more comfortable with the process, thus increasing student engagement and voice. Keep trying the practice in your classroom. You and your students will learn much in the process!

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!