- Students as co-designers: Questioning Techniques
- How do humans and artificial intelligence (AI) co-exist?
- Empowering Students Through Peer Feedback
- Deeper Learning with Essential Questions
- Driving Learning with Goal Setting
- The Power of Reflection
- Student Discourse Through Spider Web Discussions
- Collaborative Learning
- Inquiry Based Learning
- Engaging Students in Productive Struggle
- Supporting Social-Emotional Learning Through Student-Centered Practices
- Encouraging Metacognition
Students as Co-Designers
Who asks more questions in your classroom: you or your students? In a learner-centered environment, students ask a majority of questions and use the questions to drive their learning. Of course, it may seem overwhelming to unleash control and empower your learners but the benefits include student engagement, increased understanding, and ownership of learning makes the experience worthwhile. As a teacher, it is essential to identify your target standards and learning goals prior to engaging students in this process. In addition, you may want to consider kicking off the unit with an essential or driving question. In this type of environment, the teacher takes on the role of facilitator/coach to guide student learning. Check out the links below with protocols to encourage student questioning in your classroom!
Question Formulation Technique
Description: Step-by-step routine for learners to formulate questions around a video, image, experience, or primary source and use their questions to become curious, self-directed learners.
Take a closer look:
- 5 Tips for Blending the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) with NGSS
- Using the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to Rebrand School Libraries
- Creating a Culture of Questioning: Inquiry in Lower Elementary
- My QFT Journey: Putting Students’ Minds into Motion with Their Question
- Sparking Joy in the Classroom with Student-Formulated Questions
- Step-by-step: Question Formulation Technique (QFT)
Keystone Media Resource:
Making Thinking Visible
Description: Making Thinking Visible offers thinking routines to use in a variety of disciplines and contexts to evoke student depth of understanding, engaged thinkers and learners, and promote an open-minded, curious environment.
Take a closer look:
- Visible Thinking Routines
- Think-Puzzle-Explore 2nd Grade Classroom Example
- See-Think-Wonder Secondary Classroom Example
- Boosting Engagement with Notices and Wonders
Take a moment to reflect on what life was like when you were in school. What technological advancements have been made since then? Today, we have the internet which provides information at our fingertips. We can ask Siri and Alexa to send us reminders, set alarms or timers, and even answer questions for us! Artificial intelligence (AI) is continually evolving. AI is now capable of detecting anxiety, depression, and language disorders in humans by listening to them speak and is more accurate in diagnosing certain diseases than trained professionals. Now, more than ever, we need to be able to augment what we know with adaptable thinking tendencies. For fun, check out this Washington Post website to enter your birth year and see the evolution of technology in your lifetime.
We are now moving into what author Daniel Pink refers to as the Conceptual Era where human-only qualities will be essential skills for success. In order to prepare learners for post-secondary success, we need to go deeper than content acquisition. The Institute for the Future has predicted that 85% of jobs that today’s learners will have in 2030 don’t exist yet. Emotional intelligence, the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, is predicted to be the most valued future job skill.
You can begin fostering human-only qualities in your students by incorporating protocols and thinking strategies in your classroom. Explore the link below to filter strategies based on intention/purpose, grade levels, and group size.
Emotional Intelligence Resources
Emotional Intelligence, Travis Bradberry
Activities Teaching Emotional Intelligence (Elementary)
Activities Teaching Emotional Intelligence (Middle School)
50 Activities for Teaching Emotional Intelligence (High School)
In a class period, there never seems to be enough time to get everything accomplished that we plan. Peer feedback maximizes classroom time by offering students the opportunity to receive immediate feedback. When engaging in this process, learners are operating in higher-order thinking and strengthening their communication skills.
The purpose of peer feedback is to assist the creator in improving their work by identifying strengths and offering suggestions for improvement. Grading continues to be the responsibility of the teacher while peer feedback is supplemental. This process thrives in classrooms that have established a positive, respectful culture.
Peer feedback can be successful at all ages when educators take the time to scaffold learning and set students up for success. This can be accomplished by practicing how to give feedback in a structured environment. When students are given the same work sample, they can offer feedback in small groups then share whole-group to discuss effective statements generated. Question stems, similar to the ones below, are another effective scaffolding tool.
You did a great job at …
It was interesting when you …
A strength of … is…
Have you thought about…?
What makes you think …?
Can you explain …
What might happen if …?
When engaging in peer feedback, learners should have clear expectations in the form of a rubric or checklist to anchor their comments. These can be established and shared by the teacher or better yet, co-created with students! As students progress and are ready to give feedback independently, teachers should circulate to offer comments on the practice.
Austin’s Butterfly- First-grade students offer kind, helpful, and specific feedback to a drawing. This video can be viewed as a class to begin a discussion on appropriate feedback characteristics.
Warm and Cool Feedback- High school video example
“I noticed, I wondered” - Fourth/fifth grade video example
20-Minute Peer Feedback System- Feedback protocol
Ladder of Feedback- Possible structure to follow when offering feedback
- Praise- Explain strengths, why you like the piece
- Questions- Ask questions about what was unclear
- Polish- Provide suggestions for improvement
Deeper Learning with Essential Questions
As educators, we have all heard the following question from students, “Why do I need to know this?”. At times, this question can be frustrating or seem as if students are being challenging. Daniel Pink’s motivation theory reminds us that in order to be intrinsically motivated, people need to have autonomy, mastery, and purpose. When students ask the question “Why do I need to know this?”, they are lacking purpose in their learning which often correlates to low engagement. As educators, we can help build purpose by connecting the concept students are learning to other content areas, previously learned information, and/or the real world.
Essential questions (EQs) are often used in learner-centered environments and help establish the purpose of learning. Essential questions create a focus for the unit, frame content in a way that deepens understanding, and promotes student understanding at a transfer level. A well designed EQ is open-ended/(not “Google-able”), provokes students to ask additional questions, recurs over time, and is centered around big ideas or concepts. Essential questions are universal and can be used with any grade level or content area.
Examples of strong EQs include the following:
How is a person’s legacy established?
What motivates people?
Does history repeat itself?
Challenge: Think about the standards and overarching concepts in one of your classes/units. Keeping the characteristics of a strong essential question in mind, develop an EQ for an upcoming unit. Share it with your learners at the beginning of the unit and keep cycling back to it as the learning progresses. By the time you reach the end of the unit, students should be able to answer the question. Many times answering the essential question becomes the summative assessment in the form of a performance assessment.
B 6690133 Drive : Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
B 6639256 Drive: Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Digital audiobook)
B 94844 Drive: Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
B 94920 Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units
Driving Learning with Goal Setting
Student goal setting is proven by research and feedback from teachers to increase academic performance and student engagement. This practice assists in establishing a culture of learning in the classroom and promotes student ownership. Student-generated goals add an element of personal relevance and students have an opportunity to develop agency.
Creating student-goal setting habits in the classroom begins with discussing the purpose and importance of goal setting. Introducing and using the SMART goal framework (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound) with students can assist them in setting quality goals. After the teacher facilitates discussion around goal setting and students are able to create their own goals, teachers can individually give feedback on student goals in the form of student conferences. Students should then be encouraged to self-monitor their goals and have checkpoints with their teacher to discuss progress.
Goal setting is often thought of as a practice used with older students, but it is also effective with younger students, as it gets them in the productive habit of goal setting. To introduce the concept of goal setting with younger students, reading books about goals sparks productive discussion. Below are suggested books in our collection to begin the conversation with students.
Challenge: Using a teacher or co-created rubric, have your students self assess their learning or performance. This becomes more effective when we have students justify their reasoning through elaboration or attaching evidence of meeting the learning criteria to justify their rating.
The Power of Reflection
When we are crunched for time during a lesson or when the bell rings as we are still teaching, often reflection is the first task eliminated. We tend to underestimate the power of reflection on student learning. Through reflection, we learn from our experiences. Reflective practices promote students taking ownership of their learning and make learning meaningful to students. Reflection can promote deep, lasting learning (Suskie, 2009).
As educators, we need to prioritize time to teach students how to be metacognitive and reflect on their learning experiences. This can be done by modeling reflection with think alouds, showing reflection exemplars, offering scaffolding with sentence stems, and giving time to foster reflection skills. Reflections can be written, conversational, or audio/video recorded.
Reflection sentence stems/questions:
- One thing I could do to improve my work is...
- From this experience, I learned…
- My thinking was challenged when…
- What do I already know about the concept?
- What does this artifact show about your learning?
- What questions do you still have?
Use Seesaw as a digital tool to capture student reflections by taking pictures, drawing, and recording videos.
Flipgrid can be used to give students an opportunity to record themselves reflecting on their learning and goals with the opportunity for classmates to respond.
Also available on MackinVIA!
Scrum is a framework that integrates goal setting and reflection and is the “how” of managing a learner-centered classroom. If you are interested in learning more, join us on April 20th and 27th for Agile and Scrum training: #274397 Students Co-Creating the Learning Pathway.
Student Discourse Through Spider Web Discussions
How do you generate a culture to analyze challenging questions, ideas, and people?
Spider web discussions foster a culture of collaboration and are learner-centered as students lead the discussion without direction from the teacher. The process becomes part of the classroom philosophy and allows students to work with challenging questions, ideas, and people. Students work towards a common goal as a team and no longer compete for air time. The collaborative nature of spider web discussions prepares students for the workforce and post-secondary success.
- Rubric, a pencil, and some paper
- Largely silent
- Sit in the back away from students
- Avoid eye contact
- Allow 30-40 minutes - provides enough time for 22 to 24 students to explore topic
- Choose something the students will want to discuss (article or a video clip) - provide print outs of materials to reference
- Explain Purpose of new method for discussions
- Practice high levels of collaboration
- Potential employees like Google are looking for
- Could be different from discussions they have had in the past, okay to not have experience
- Primary Goal: Have great discussions so that when the bell goes off they will not want to stop
Show them video (from slide - Why do we need Spider Webbers?)
- What do you notice?
- What do you think?
- Remind students that this is a goal we are working towards
Have students seated in a circle or oval shape - so everyone can see each other
Hand out hard copy of rubric to students so they can feel the importance of the rubric. Put away computers and turn off screens during all discussions as they can be distracting and interfere. Ask them what stands out on the rubric.
Between 30-50 minutes depending on how in depth the assigned text is
- 9th grade: 30 minutes
- 12th grade: 45-50 minutes
- elementary : 10 minutes
Teachers sits in the back of the classroom with a chair and writes the names of the students in a circle and begin graphing the conversation the class has - Do not jump in the conversation - let there be awkward silence
- Careful not to show students what you are doing during the first conversation
- Circle name of first student that starts
- Write codes next each name
- Announce that the person currently speaking will have the last word - ending the discussion
Share the web graph with them
- “Here is a map of your discussion.”
- Powerful visual tool for feedback
- Go through rubric together and have students agree as a group if they did or didn't meet each point
- “According to our rubric, then, what should our grade be?”
Collaborative Learning is an approach that encourages students to work together to solve a given problem. Working collaboratively allows students to interact with and learn from each other through tasks and projects. According to Forbes, the ability to collaborate and demonstrate interpersonal skills will be one of the top 10 attributes companies will be looking for in candidates in 2020. By incorporating opportunties to build these skills in the classroom, we are preparing students for post-secondary success.
Benefits of Student Collaboration:
- Developing social skills
- Learning from peers
- Building trust
- Engaging in learning
- Gaining confidence
- Learning and practicing skills to be successful beyond the school walls
Take a closer look: See in action and/or process to implement
Inquiry Based Learning: The Power of Purpose
Inquiry is the dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlements and coming to know and understand the world. (Alberta, Focus on Inquiry, 2004)
The work of academic disciplines is inquiry. And the most recent research in cognition shows that reading and writing are forms of inquiry, and are best learned in the contexts of inquiry (Hillcocks, 1999, 2002) and through the questioning and discourse that is central to it. As John Dewey and James Britton have asserted, learning floats on the sea of talk. That means that students must be the ones asking the majority of the questions and doing the bulk of the classroom talk. Students are no longer in the passive role of receiving information; they become apprentices who actually do the work of the disciplines they are studying (Wilhelm, 2007). A student’s understanding is measured in terms of the correspondence between how they know and use the concepts and strategies under study and how experts do.
In the most generic sense, we can look at a graphic by Trevor Makenzie, author of Dive into Inquiry, 2016). In this model, the Types of Student Inquiry is a scaffolded approach to inquiry in the classroom, gradually increasing student agency over learning while providing learners with the necessary skills, knowledge, and understanding to be successful in their inquiry. Scaffolding is critical to an inquiry journey. Too often teachers enter the inquiry pool in the deep end, heading straight to Free Inquiry.
The amount of time students engage with different types of inquiry may shift over their PK-12 experience. For instance, elementary students may spend more time in structured inquiry learning opportunities as skills and content knowledge develop. Gradually, more autonomous inquiry opportunities shift to the right. Protocols have been established and content learning depth has moved beyond surface level, skill based understanding to the transfer stage. High school students may have developed the skills and background knowledge to spend less time on the left and more time on the right.
THE FOUR TYPES OF STUDENT INQUIRY
Structured: Students follow the lead of the teacher as the entire class engages in one inquiry together. On the Structured end of the inquiry pool, the teacher has complete control of the essential question, the resources students will use to create understanding, specific learning evidence students will use to document their learning, and the performance task students will complete as a demonstration of their understanding.
Controlled: The teacher chooses topics and identifies the resources students will use to answer the questions. In the Controlled section of the inquiry pool, the teacher provides several essential questions for students to unpack. Students deepen their understanding through several resources the teacher has predetermined to provide valuable context and rich meaning to the essential questions. Students demonstrate their learning by a common performance task.
Guided: The teacher chooses topics and questions, and students design the product or solution. In the Guided section of the inquiry pool, the teacher further empowers student agency by providing a single (or selection of) essential questions for students to study, and the learner selects where to search for answers and how they will demonstrate understanding.
Free: Students choose their topics without reference to any prescribed outcome. In the deep end—Free inquiry—with the support and facilitation of the teacher, students construct their own essential question, research a wide array of resources, customize their learning evidence, and design their own performance task.
Within Free Inquiry and authentic learning, there are risks; certain conditions are necessary to its success. Many of its advocates assume that independent, discovery-based assignments and projects should be the primary, dominant mode of instruction. They believe that if students are free to work alone or on group tasks, they will acquire essential skills and knowledge on their own. And they often assume that such “student-centered” or self directed instruction is superior to explicit or teacher-led instruction.
These are not safe assumptions. In “The Perils and Promises of Discovery Learning,” Robert Marzano (2011b) writes that research simply doesn’t support unstructured instruction, which characterizes so much of “discovery-based learning.” Marzano, Hattie, and Rosenshine-- all arch-advocates of explicit instruction-- make plain that independent or collaborative projects do belong in the curriculum-- but not until students have been explicitly taught the prerequisite skills and knowledge necessary to succeed on these tasks (Hattie in McDowell, 2017; Marzano, 2011b; Rosenshine, 2012, p. 13). And, as Marzano points out, even such projects should be built around the elements of effective teaching (p. 87).
The Power of Provocation
Inquiry starts with a call to action, a question to be solved. These are often called big ideas, essential questions, guiding questions, phenomena, provocations, or hooks (depending on which content area you teach and the inquiry-based framework you are referencing). Despite what they are called, how do you provoke student curiosity to bring about questions to investigate and figure out?
Find out more! Check out "Inquiry Based Learning: What it Looks Like In A Classroom Setting."
What is Productive Struggle?
Productive struggle is developing strong habits of mind, such as perseverance and thinking flexibly, instead of simply seeking the correct solution. Not knowing how to solve a problem at the outset should be expected. The key is working through a problem, encouraging students to think outside the box, and not letting them get discouraged if their initial strategies are not working to come to a solution.
To state it simply it is the idea that attempting to perform a task and initially failing can improve learning. Students are provided opportunities to apply their learning to novel situations with minimal instruction provided from the teacher. Productive struggle encourages students to attack the problem in a way that makes sense to them based on what they know.
How Can Educators Promote Productive Struggle?
As a teacher, you are finding a balance in the student learning by giving problems for students to tackle that is right in that sweet spot of what the student has for prior knowledge and applying that to a novice situation. It involves designing activities or tasks to stretch the students’ thinking and performance just beyond the level they can do on their own. Students persist in trying to make sense of a difficulty problem by either extending a known strategy or developing new strategies for solving it. It’s finding the balance of new learning being productive for the students’ learning rather than frustrating them, leading to them giving up. Students are needing to use metacognitive reflections to process their thinking by sharing their strategies with peers.
Teachers create a safe learning environment that allows for students to struggle appropriately and productively, which serves as a building block for future learning struggles. Students are valued and mistakes are celebrated. Activities are designed to challenge the specific weakness of the students’ thinking and not overwhelm them.
As a teacher, you create, facilitate, and monitor the process of learning. This occurs when students are purposefully paired with peers to help facilitate the learning of each student. Students are paired together or placed into small groups which are designed based on slight differences in their acquisition of learning a skill. Teachers facilitate by asking guiding questions when students are involved in the learning. It’s a balance of providing time to allow the students to “struggle” and not jumping in to “save them”
Warshauer, H. K., (2015). Strategies to support productive struggle. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 20(7), 390-393.
In our current reality, the importance of incorporating social-emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom has never been greater. Fortunately, the CASEL SEL competencies incorporate aspects of learner-centered practices. The foundation for both social-emotional learning and student-centered learning begins strong relationships between educators and students. When trust is built, learners have a sense of belonging and feel safe in the classroom. This contributes to a culture where students drive their learning with the teacher coaching students along the way.
Authentic learning involves students taking an active part of their learning by establishing learning goals, mapping out a path to achieve the goals, and reflecting on progress throughout the process. Engaging in these practices helps students develop self-management skills, one of the five SEL competencies. To learn more about these authentic learning shifts, check out this webinar by Catlin Tucker.
Two other SEL competencies that are fostered through authentic learning include relationship skills and social awareness. Collaborative learning and project-based learning are two teaching practices that are fundamental to authentic learning. When students work together towards a common goal, they need to problem solve collaboratively, practice teamwork, and communicate successfully. When interacting with diverse individuals and groups, students build empathy and hear perspectives differing from their own. These are lifelong skills that will enable students to be productive members of society.
Start incorporating learner-centered practices today to meet students academic and social-emotional needs! For authentic learning integration ideas, check out the other quick wins!
Balance with Blended Learning by Catlin Tucker is available on MackinVIA!
When students engage in metacognition, they are thinking about their own thinking. This process positively impacts student learning and promotes deep understanding. Students with strong metacognitive skills show increased self-regulation and resilience.
A common way students can be metacognitive is self-assessing their performance on a set of criteria or a rubric. To encourage deep reflection, students should justify their rating with an explanation and evidence of their work. This process helps the learner identify where he or she needs to devote additional time and focus to improve with a concept. Metacognition lays the foundation for establishing academic goals and allows students to be independent and strategic thinkers.
Goal setting and monitoring progress is another way to promote metacognitive skills. This encourages the shift from passive to active learning where students are cognitively engaged and asking questions. Student-driven portfolios can be a place to track individual growth, have students reflect on progress over time in relation to a learning goal and/or standard, and share performance with an authentic audience. When goals are based on artifact evidence, students can self-identify areas of their own work that need improvement. Examples of portfolio platforms include Google Sites and Seesaw.
Especially with older students, when teachers implement learner-centered practices such as metacognition, students resist. They are not accustomed to this type of learning and need direct instruction with scaffolds in place to be successful. Metacognitive skills can be taught, and they enhance with practice (Schraw, 1998, Prins, Veenman, & Elshout, 2006). Helpful scaffolds for student metacognition include prompts or sentence stems and graphic organizers. Teachers can model the process by talking through their thinking aloud. Below are questions to encourage students to use metacognition and think about their thinking.
- What strategies did I use that were effective in this task?
- What will I do differently when faced with a similar task in the future?
- What are my next steps?
Tips for Building Metacognitive Muscle
Five Ways to Boost Metacognition in the Classroom
Goal Setting Template
Flipgrid- Powerful reflection tool where students can reflect aloud and share their thinking with others
- Central CSD Clayton County BEST Program
- North Fayette Valley Spark Program
- New Hampton Iowa BIG North
Rachael Strong, Spark Program Lead Teacher
Rachael Strong shares her perspective helping to establish the NFV Spark Program. She discusses measuring growth through student portfolios, partnering with the community, and her instructional shifts in this environment.
North Fayette Valley Spark Students
NFV Spark students discuss their experience with the newly developed program including projects they've engaged with and the skills they've been developing as a result.
NFV Spark Partnerpalooza
Current and prospective NFV Spark students participated in a Partnerpalooza to learn about projects available in their community. As part of the experience, students participated in a mini-hackathon.
Mike Kuennen, Iowa BIG North Facilitator
Mike Kuennen shares what he has learned as a facilitator of Iowa BIG North. He advocates for this type of learning experience for all students who express interest.
New Hampton Iowa BIG Students
Iowa BIG North students discuss how they have personally grown as a result of participating in the program. Listen to them elaborate on the variety of learning options available through Iowa BIG North and how their experience is influencing future plans.
Listen and be inspired! This podcast features educators sharing their successes with a variety of authentic learning practices.
Read more about authentic learning experiences on the blog!
- The Center Statewide Hub
- Portrait of a Graduate
- The Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning
- Instructional Protocols for Deep Learning
- EmpowerED Voices Unite
The Portrait of a Graduate process is all about defining competencies of a successful graduate are and acting upon that definition. The process, originating from Battelle for Kids has a five phase design process to help districts create their own Portrait.
You can also find additional resources on The Center's website.
Looking for an online or in-person solution to engaging students in future-ready learning opportunities that align with standards?
Consider the Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning, Iowa’s first-ever statewide digital project board. Find a wide variety of authentic projects and project ideas that align with a wide variety of PK-12 Core and Elective standards.
More than 200 projects have been added to the "take and bake" project ideas. Here you can get authentic learning project ideas that you can incorporate into your classroom. With this opportunity, educators connect with local business partners.
This blueprint is designed to guide leaders in education in decision making around the planning and implementation of authentic learning experiences for K-12 students. This blueprint also serves as a support for practicing teachers to inspire more authentic learning opportunities as apart of core course work.
EmpowerED—Voices Unite is designed to bring communities together for live performances through storytelling by area youth that encourages learning about the world in new and different ways. The EmpowerED—Voices Unite format is perfect for engaging and inspiring kids, and to highlight young voices from diverse communities.