Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inquiry: Teaching Students to Critique Their Own Work

Students are nearing the end of their linoit creations for the War of 1812 and the inadvertent Napoleon Inquiry that this unit evolved into.  I continue to be impressed by their work ethic and discoveries. In examining all that I have learned over the past 3 years about inquiry and project-based learning, I would have to say that this is the first time that I have a handle on the full cycle of inquiry. I get how to create an intriguing entry point. I understand how to build in constraints and boundaries that keep students focused and working within a curriculum yet exploring personal interests.  I know how to draw out thoughtful writing. I have The Thinking Matrix and Critical Thinking Wheel to focus and promote better thinking.  I understand how to frame the use of digital media tools so that students use them creatively but in ways that demonstrate learning. 

My professional growth during this inquiry has centered on feedback, formative assessment and self-assessment. John Hattie's work has influenced me greatly in this as his research reveals that the strategy that leads to the greatest growth in students is teaching them how to critique their own work. At what point should this happen though?

Throughout the week I have been moving around the classroom, answering questions, helping students locate information, pointing out errors in spelling and mechanics. I have also been learning from students who've been sharing discoveries (several students, for example, have found Napoleon's letters to Josephine online and are reading them) and features of the linoit tool. 
Most students are nearing completion and it is at this point that we stopped to take time for self-assessment.

The first thing I asked students to consider was their audience. How will peers, teachers or someone from the public view what they have created? I addressed spelling and was adamant that those who know they are poor spellers seek assistance from peers. I also pointed out that strong spellers must reach out and support poor spellers. They need to use their strengths to support each other as learners.

Next I asked them to consider what kind of thinking their boards display.  Have they relied primarily on Retell/Summary - lots of facts, but no analysis? Can I see their opinions? Their judgements? Have they included their lingering questions or those that arose over the course of the inquiry?

One of my good thinkers countered with, "Doesn't that introduce bias?" My answer was yes, but at some point we are going to draw conclusions, evaluate and judge. What is interesting to me as a reader is what, after all that they have read, viewed and discussed, do they think about the War of 1812 and Napoleon?

Finally, I talked about layout. Does their layout make sense? Is there a flow to it?

Students then returned to their boards to assess what they have done so far and to continue.  Several students called me over to share their boards and explain the rationale for their decisions on what to include. Some asked for my opinion. Some realized that improvements were needed without any feedback from me.  A few students who were finished circulated to provide spelling assistance.

Tomorrow we will take more time for this very important skill. Students will view each other's work and provide useful feedback. 

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