Broadening my teaching philosophy

“When we give students the impression that we value the right answer more than critical thinking, we may drive them to take shortcuts and cheat.”

~Cris Tovani

 This is a very interesting quote as I can relate easily to it and find it is very true. When we give students the impression we only care about right answers, that’s all they will focus on. This is opposite approach to science that I would like to take. Science concepts that seemed so concrete decades ago has been proven wrong with new technology- this is why it is much more important to focus on critical thinking and inquiry than it is to right answers. This leads into one of the topics covered in last weeks class: inquiry. 

Inquiry-based learning is the foundation of science education. Based on previous experiene, inquiry is the best way to get students engaged and motivated about certain concepts. To use inquiry-based learning efficiently and appropriately, it needs to be scaffolded using the 4 levels of inquiry. The first level of inquiry is confirmation. This level students are given the question, procedure, and know the results in advance. This is to get students familiar with the process of inquiry. The second level of inquiry is known as structured. This allows a little more freedom as students are presented with a teacher-provided question and procedure of investigation but need to find the result on their own. The third level is guided- this is the level I would like to get all of my students to as it is a big step of learning to think critically. Students are provided a question but must come up with their own procedure to find the result. This is shifting the classroom from simply doing experiments and not being required to think, to setting up students to think for themselves and gain problem solving skills necessary for life. The final level of inquiry is open. This is a level that may not be reached in highschool, but is the goal of inquiry. Students come up with their own questions, procedure, and results. Teachers are simply present to ask guiding questions and get the student thinking critically. According to the textbook “Comprehension and Collaboration” there are 4 steps that make up inquiry-based learning: immerse (building background knowledge; finding topics), investigate (develop questioning; search and research), coalesce ( refine research, synthesize information), and finally ‘go public’ (share learning, take action by activism, awareness, and aid) (2009). Inquiry-based learning on a large scale should not be overused; however, inquiry can be applied to everyday lessons to help scaffold. 

Another topic last week was around student contracts and student opinion. Similar to inquiry-based learning, we dove into the importance of providing students options for showing their evidence of learning. When students are able to learn/show evidence of a curriculum outcome the way they want, they are more highly motivated to do their best. One of the examples I’ve been shown for student choice is choiceboards (like a tic-tac-toe board) and the 100 point projects (students have a list of choices that are made up of different points and must choose enough assignments to reach 100 points). With these I’ve seen student contracts used. These are usually documents, similar to rubrics, that specify what type of work completed gets the corresponding marks. This shifts the responsability to primarily the student. 

Finally, I watched a video by Rich Wormeli about Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs. This helped open my mind to redos and see importance of them. I was always that student wh did good on tests the first time and got mad when students were able to re-take a test, after failing, and do better than me. After watching this video I know how to chnge that for my teaching profession. I do believe students should  be able to show progress and grow in their understanding- this philosophy supports the use of redos. This is a very delicate process that can leave some students very upset and respecting you less if they find you unfair. One of the ways of going about this making sure the student had to work and put in efort before the redo- an example of this is requiring students to redo their practice worksheets before being able to redo the exam; or, creating a student contract of the way they are going to prepare differently for the redo such as creating flashcards and studying well in advance. I think its important to not include that initial mark, the one they did poorly on, if they put in the work and effort to redo and use the new mark to replace the first. 

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