Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Developing a co-constructivist unit of study

A foyer display - Hokowhitu School. Hokowhitu is a school that values in all learners their sense of wonder. A school that values their students thoughts and is keen to develop their school as an inquiry community.

Below is a plan for a school to develop a unit of work which values students' ideas and thoughts and then challenges them to 'change their minds' though interactive activities.

Before starting the unit the staff need to clarify their idea of 'constructivist' and inquiry learning.

1 Select a unit of work either individually or as a team. If a team each team member will develop their own interpretation of the unit.


2 Plan to complete the unit in 4 to 5 weeks
.Junior classes may need less time.

3 Plan to achieve 3 or four major outcomes for the unit. The thought is to do 'fewer things well'. Possibly research findings based on 'key' questions ( research writing), a piece of creative writing,and a piece of art etc.


4 Conclude the unit with a parent open time
( from 2 to 2.50) to share student's work. A good idea is to have 'class walk around' by teachers before the parent open time.

5 The unit is to based on a 'co-constructivist' or 'interactive' approach where teachers gather students' questions, their prior ideas, and then undertake research and experiments etc to challenge students' views; and then to present/ display what they have learnt.

6 The interactive model is in essence an inquiry learning model

7 Consider using four group rotational model ( similar to the one used in the literacy block). Each session to start with few minutes to outline expectations and to finish with a reflective 'wrap up ' session. If such a model is used one group each day to be used to undertake an experiment, or in-depth discussion with the teacher, while others complete work they can do independently, or have drafted out in literacy time.

8 For the above group rotation to work the literacy (and possibly numeracy) times need to be 're-framed' so as to develop skills to be applied in the inquiry time. The literacy block needs to teach information and design literacy, and include experiments and activities to develop science writing etc. All the 'seeking, using, and creating' competencies need to be in place to ensure all students have the 'self managing' skills to stay on task during inquiry group work.

Negotiated group task need to be defined on the blackboard/whiteboard so all students are aware of daily expectations. The group programme will 'break down' as students complete tasks. Students then have the task to finish any work - or do extra tasks.

9 Such a process, as outlined above, will become more effective as both teachers and students gain confidence and skill.

10 The unit concludes with a display, or exhibition ,of the ideas the students have developed. Display will have a heading ( written as a provocation) 'key' question, 'prior ideas', processes used, finished work, any art or language and also including students assessment.

The key to successful inquiry learning depends on the information skills taught in the literacy ( and numeracy) block. Skills will need to be developed as needed if they are to be relevant or transferred. A quick read of students finished work will indicate success or otherwise.

It also not only important to teach a range of information literacy skills but it is also important, during this time, to steep students in facts, literature, and visuals about topic to provide material for students to wonder about. Once it is in students memories ( however interpreted) it becomes available for spontaneous recall later. Or, stated differently, the more students see, read, hear, or experience about a topic the more likely they will be able to ask better questions and to use that information independently. This of course is assisted by teaching information literacy skills.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another very practical blog Bruce.Thanks again.

Jody Hayes said...

Bruce, is the image of children's work? Was it part of their 4-5 week study or an extension?

Bruce said...

No - it a foyer display at Hokowhitu.Just liked it. It represents their school.

Jody Hayes said...

I think it is stunning! Especially the details along the bottom edge.