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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in inquiry-based learning
Posted by on in Early Childhood

I have been teaching Art, Music and Movement to college students for a while. There are certain concepts we try to get across to practitioners that are important to ECE professionals, and encouraged by our professional organization, NAEYC. One of those concepts is the idea of open-ended activities.

What are open-ended activities?  Do you put out a mass of materials and say, “Go get ‘em”, like one workshop participant opined? If you change materials, are you being too “teacher-ish”?

Well, yes and no…

Because many tend to think, in this post-social media age, that each question has a right and a wrong; that the right is might, and the wrong is way too strong, we have trouble seeing the grey areas. Perhaps I’d rather say the value areas. In art, adding white or black to a color changes its value. When we consider concepts, our values may change a tiny bit or a lot, depending on what is added or subtracted. So, as Diane Kashin has written, there is a continuum between a concept such as “open-ended” and its opposite. Open-ended might mean throw the lot of your materials on a table and see what they do, and closed might mean giving children directions and materials, saying what they must do with them (generally not recommended!). But in between, ah, there is a rainbow of values!

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Posted by on in Project Based Learning

Grant Wiggins defined feedback as, “information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal.” A few specific examples he included were:

  • A friend tells me, "You know, when you put it that way and speak in that softer tone of voice, it makes me feel better."
  • A baseball coach tells me, "Each time you swung and missed, you raised your head as you swung so you didn't really have your eye on the ball. On the one you hit hard, you kept your head down and saw the ball."

For both examples, the recipient receives specific guidance in regards to what to do next…When we provide feedback during project based learning (PBL), or any type of learning, we should have this same goal in mind. Students should walk away with an idea of what their next steps will be (otherwise, what we’re giving probably doesn’t meet the definition of “feedback”).

John Hattie, who has synthesized over 1,000 meta-analyses related to student achievement, identifies feedback as among the most powerful influences on student success in the classroom. He says feedback, when goal-focused, has “twice the average effect of all other schooling effects.”

But, when and how do we make time for feedback during project based learning?

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Posted by on in Project Based Learning


How will my students and I know they are learning what they are supposed to learning? How will I assess this?

These are easily two of the more popular questions that emerge as educators make the shift to project based learning, and some form of a rubric (and its effective use) is usually a big part of the answer.

As I continue to analyze rubrics (or adaptations of rubrics) there are a few specific look-fors that help to immediately indicate whether the tool is spot on, or if some revisions are necessary. Here are five look-fors that suggest your rubric needs a makeover.

Problem #1: Your rubric closely resembles your project’s directions. 

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Posted by on in Inquiry-Based Learning

As I began my student teaching about ten years ago, I attended the first-day-back faculty meeting, during which the building principal chastised teachers, “Don’t use worksheets! They’re not best practice!”

Thinking about what she said, the same two questions come to mind now as they did back then: What should teachers be using instead? Can all worksheets really be that bad?...Let’s focus on answering the second question (which will then naturally help to partially answer the first).

So, here are three reasons to embrace (some) worksheets, reasons that are based on my work as a teacher.

1. Worksheets Can Promote Higher-Order Thinking

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Don’t worry, they aren’t hoarders.

You may be relieved to hear that it’s very common for young people to collect things. Starting from about age 7 through to about age 14 or 15, collecting is a popular pastime for many young people. What did you collect?  One thing I collected was stickers. I still have my sticker books and–believe it or not–30+ years later those smelly stickers are still smelly. (Probably not organic.)

In addition to collecting things, many young people also take up hobbies, focusing their attention on learning a new skill or learning all they can about someone or something. What was your obsession?  Did you attempt to master a musical instrucment?  Did you dedicate hours to the basketball court or hockey rink?  Did you read everything from a particular author or spend hours absorbing the music of a particular singer or band? 

Collections and hobbies are features of the imagination and important learning tools.

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