Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Power of You: How to Personalize Standards-Based Learning

Why is it that we remember the foundational literacy and mathematics concepts and procedures we learned in grades K-3 so well?
Is it because these concepts and procedures are so easy and simple?  Perhaps they are now considering all the skills and stuff we have learned since our time in the primary grades.  However, when we were kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, and third graders, reading and writing text and performing the four operations of arithmetic were all difficult and complex.  
So why is it those lessons and teachings have resounded with us throughout our lives?  Could it possibly be that it's because our K-3 teachers did not focus on demonstrating and communicating the concept, the operation, or procedure they were teaching but instead prompted and encouraged us to show and tell you with what we were learning?
Do we expect them to demonstrate and communicate deeper knowledge, understanding, and awareness of specific details, elements, and terminology and how concepts and procedures can be used to answer questions, address problems, accomplish tasks, and analyze texts and topics in-depth and in detail?
Do we expect them to show and tell how they have processed the ideas and information they have acquired and gathered into extensive knowledge and thinking they can transfer and use in different academic and real world contexts insightfully and in their own unique way?
When we ask them questions that refer to students in the second person - what do you believe, feel, or think; how could or would youor what can you design, develop, or do, we are asking students to think critically and creatively how they personally can express and share the metacognitive knowledge they have acquired and developed in-depth, in detail, insightfully, and in their own unique way.
That's the power of you in teaching and learning.  It personalizes educational experiences by focusing on how each individual student perceives, processes, and presents the ideas information they have acquired and developed into deeper self-knowledge, understanding, and awareness.   It fosters and promotes differentiation by permitting students to demonstrate and communicate the depth and extent of their learning in their own unique way.   It also supports talent development by having students show and tell what can they -- or you -- create, design, develop, do, invent, plan, produce, or write using their innate strengths and skills.
Interestingly, however, as children progress through their K-12 education, teaching and learning becomes more conceptual and procedural than personal.  It becomes more important and vital -- or essential -- for students to demonstrate and communicate their deeper knowledge and thinking about how and why concepts and procedures can be used to attain and explain answers, outcomes, results, and solutions.  At the same time, we want to challenge and engage our students to demonstrate and communicate their learning authentically through by differentiating instruction and through project-based learning.
So how can we accomplish this?  We can emulate what K-3 teachers do so well --ask our students what can you design, develop, and do with what they (or you) are learning.
We can create these good questions that personalize learning using the cognitive rigor question stems associated with the cognitive category to create that lies at the top of the cognitive process dimension of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy.   To do this, replace the cognitive action of the performance objective of academic standards or tasks with one of stems.  Consider how the instructional focus of these academic standards shift from demonstrating and communicating conceptual and procedural knowledge to self-knowledge and metacognition.
You are teaching a unit on performing operations with multi-digit whole numbers and with decimals to hundredths.  Your students are expected to do the following:
  • Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm. (CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NBT.B.5)
  • Find whole-number quotients of whole numbers with up to four-digit dividends and two-digit divisors, using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the relationship between multiplication and division. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models. (CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NBT.B.6)
  • Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals to hundredths, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used. (CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NBT.B.7)
To challenge and engage students to demonstrate and communicate conceptual knowledge, students should be asked the following questions:
How can multiplication be used to find the product of multi-digit numbers?
How can division be used to find whole-number quotients of whole numbers with up to four-digit dividends and two-digit divisors? 
 How can whole-number quotients of whole numbers with up to four-digit dividends and two-digit divisors be found using the following?
  • strategies based on place value
  • the properties of operations
  • the relationship between multiplication and division
To challenge and engage students to demonstrate and communicate procedural knowledge, students should be asked the following questions:
How can the standard algorithm be used to multiply multi-digit numbers?
How can decimals to hundredths to be added / subtracted / multiplied / divided using the following:
  • concrete models or drawings
  • strategies based on place value
  • properties of operations
  • the relationship between addition and subtraction
To challenge and engage students to demonstrate and communicate metacognitive or self-knowledge and awareness, they should be asked the following questions:
How can you fluently multiply multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm?
How can you find whole-number quotients of whole numbers with up to four-digit dividends and two-digit divisors using the following?
  • strategies based on place value
  • the properties of operations
  • the relationship between multiplication and division
How can you add / subtract / multiply / divide  decimals using the following:
  • concrete models or drawings
  • strategies based on place value
  • properties of operations
  • the relationship between addition and subtraction
Notice how simply including the pronoun you completely shifts the instructional focus of the lesson or unit.  The emphasis is not demonstrating and communicating how and why mathematical concepts and procedures can be used to attain and explain answers, outcomes, results, and solutions.  It prompts and encourages students to show and tell their self-knowledge, understanding, and awareness how can you use mathematical concepts and procedures in a different academic and real world contexts.  The problems presented by the text or the teacher will serve as the evidence and examples students will need to strengthen and support their responses.
Also notice there are other performance objectives included in these standards that prompt and encourage students to illustrate, explain, and relate -- all cognitive actions that expect students to express and share the depth of their learning in their own unique way.  We can rephrase these performance objectives that will promote differentiation and individualization by asking the following good questions:
How can you illustrate explain calculations by using the following?
  • equations
  • rectangular arrays
  • area models
How can you relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used?
Again, these good questions prompt and encourage students to think critically and creatively about youthe math being taught and learned.  They can also serve as driving questions that challenge and engage students to demonstrate and communicate the deeper and extensive knowledge they have acquired and developed through a project-based learning experience.  The graphic below includes good question stems that can be used to foster and promote project-based learning.
In English language arts, the writing standards personalizes learning by prompting and encouraging students  to demonstrate and communicate what their have learned through oral, written, creative, or technical expression.  They also challenge and engage students to express and share the depth and extent of their knowledge and thinking through specific types of text.  To challenge and engage students to express and share their knowledge and thinking in a particular form of text, we can use the following question stems:
  • What kind of original argument or claim can you write and defend or refute...?
  • What kind of original informative / explanatory text can you write and present...?
  • What kind of original narrative can you write and share...?
  • What kind of research can you conduct and present...?
These are the question stems that will allow us to transform college and career ready writing standards into driving questions that encourage students to demonstrate and communicate their knowledge and thinking about texts and topics using oral, written, creative, or technical expression.  What follows these stems are the key details and ideas they are examining and exploring in the texts they are reading.  For example, in a novel study about a dystopian science fiction novel such as The Giver by Lois Lowry or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, we could pose the following good questions:
  • What kind of argument could you write and present that defends or refutes whether the world is heading toward the future as described by Lois Lowry / Ray Bradbury?
  • What kind of informational / explanatory text can you write and present that explains how dystopian science fiction serves as a lesson and warning about the past, present, and future?
  • What kind of original narrative can you write and share that incorporates the motifs, styles, and themes of dystopian science fiction and also reflects your thoughts about the future of mankind?
  • What kind of research can you conduct and present that explains the influence science fiction and science have on each other and the impact scientists and science fiction authors have on each other's works?
Notice how these good questions address a variety of academic skills and stuff (I define "stuff" as the content - which is exactly how A Nation at Risk defines the curriculum we are teaching students).  The students are expected to demonstrate and communicate conceptual knowledge what is the purpose of specific texts and how they are written.   They are also expected to think deeply and express and share deeper understanding of the meaning and reasoning of texts and topics.  Most importantly, they show and tell what they have personally learned by producing a work that reflects and represents the depth and extent of their knowledge and thinking - which is truly what we want students to demonstrate and communicate.
The question stems what can you design, develop, and do can also be utilized to engage students in S.T.E.M. learning experiences that promote scientific inquiry and engineering design.  Consider how the following good questions can serve as driving questions for S.T.E.M. educational experiences:
How can you develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death? (NGSS-3-LS1-1)
How could you construct and present an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive? (NGSS-3-LS2-1)
How could you apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another? (NGSS-4-PS3-4)
How could you develop a model to describe that light reflecting from objects and entering the eye allows objects to be seen? (NGSS-4-PS4-2)
How could you develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen? (NGSS-5-PS1-1)
How could you use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun? (NGSS-5-PS3-1)
How could you develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact? (NGSS-5-ESS2-1)
Notice how these good questions are derived directly from the Next Generation Science Standards, which are written to foster and promote personalized learning through scientific inquiry and engineering design.  They turn students into innovators and inventors who demonstrate and communicate and how can you use the scientific concepts and principles being taught and learned to address or explain a phenomena.
Referring to you in good questions also challenges and engages us educators and our students to delve into the Affective Domain of Bloom's Taxonomy.  The Affective Domain deals with how people handle and perceive what they are learning emotionally rather than cognitively.  The categories within this taxonomy address individuals'  feelings, values appreciation, enthusiasms, motivations, and attitudes about learning.  While cognitive rigor and college and career ready standards generally do not delve into these areas, we educators can expand upon and extend students experiences by asking good questions that begin with the question stems listed below..  
Teaching and learning for cognitive rigor - especially at the higher levels - should not only be about demonstrating higher order thinking and communicating depth of knowledge about concepts, procedures, texts, and topics.  It should also extend learning by making it personal, prompting and encouraging students to think deeply and express and share the depth of their knowledge and thinking insightfully and in their own unique way.  To accomplish this, instead of asking just who, what, where, when, how or why, do what the K-3 teachers do so well - ask what can you design, develop, or do; what do you believe, feel, or think; or how could or would you.  Then watch and marvel not only how deeply students learn but how critically and creatively they show and tell what they have learned.
 Erik M. Francis, M.Ed., M.S., is the lead professional education specialist and owner of Maverik Education LLC, providing professional development and consultation on teaching and learning for cognitive rigor. His book Now THAT'S a Good Question! How to Promote Cognitive Rigor with Good Questions will be published by ASCD in 2016.  For more information, please visit www.maverikeducation.com.



1 comment:

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    Stem Learning

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