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Workshop

Today was the first day of a three-day workshop on guided inquiry and how to teach for enduring understandings. It is being led by two teachers from the International School of Brussels who are involved in the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC). There are about 40 of us attending the workshop, which is being followed up by two days for writing curriculum. The sessions are being held at my school's campus, and there are educators from the Ivory Coast, Argentina, Venezuela, India, the US and, of course, Ecuador.

Here are some of my takeaways from todays' session in no particular order of importance:

  • We learn best when we construct our own understandings (theories) about the way things work.
  • We learn best when we investigate answers to our own questions. 
  • As teachers, we can get the ball rolling and then we must step back to observe and take notes about what we notice. Only then can we plan learning engagements based on students' current understandings. 
  • Teachers need to provide learning events that will allow students to explore their misconceptions and build their understandings over time.
  • We learn in different configurations - alone, in pairs, in small groups and whole class. Kids need multiple opportunities to explore ideas by themselves and with others. 
  • Understanding goals (learning targets, standards) are more effective if they start with the following sentence stem: Learners understand that...
  • Understanding goals are for teacher, not student, consumption.
  • Teachers can collectively create understanding goals by breaking up a topic into concepts and illustrative examples or facts.
  • Everything that we do in a unit should revolve around the understanding goals.
  • It is critical to assess what students understand about a topic or a concept at the beginning of a unit in order to plan learning events that help students build new understandings.
  • It is important to return to initial understandings at the end of a unit so students can reflect about what they learned.
Today was a full day of learning, but it went by quickly. We moved around, worked alone then in pairs and small groups. I built new understandings that connected to my prior knowledge and challenged me to rethink how students learn in my classroom. I left energized and ready to return for another day of learning. I wonder how many of my students feel this way? Do they leave at the end of the day thinking about all they learned in my class? Are they eagerly looking forward to returning for more the next day? I hope so, but I'm not sure this is always the case. I'll be thinking a lot about this during the week as well as what changes I can make to ensure that this happens. 

For example, one change I will make right away is to create a system for keeping track of patterns of student responses to the various learning events they engage in during a unit, specially in the beginning stages. This will help me plan for more effective inquiry engagements in the class. This may sound like a small change, but I think it will help target my teaching toward what students demonstrate they are curious about or where they might harbor some misconceptions.

I am truly looking forward to tomorrow's session!

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