Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dilemmas Help to Focus Inquiry Based PLCs

In our first round of Inquiry Team meetings, teachers identified a dilemma they face in their practice. A dilemma is what I call a ‘bang your head against the wall’ problem with teaching and student learning. A teacher has a dilemma when he thinks, no matter how many times I’ve taught this concept/expectation, I still see a considerable number of students struggling with it.

You aren’t dealing with a dilemma if you know the solution or if you’re on your way to resolving the issue. Most importantly, it isn’t a dilemma if it is about changing someone else. Thus, it isn’t a dilemma if you want the elementary school to better prepare students for your grade 9 course or if you think, my Principal needs to buy me a SMARTboard for this to work. Ultimately, a dilemma needs to be phrased as a How can I question such as, How can I help students learn to provide complete responses to questions and show evidence of higher order thinking? When teachers struggle to distill their dilemma into a concise question, the PLC helps them clarify their thoughts. I have yet to meet a teacher without a dilemma.

Some of the questions teachers posed to their PLCs include:
  • How can I help math students who aren't communicating their thinking?
  • How can I help students learn by bringing more collaborative learning into my classroom?
  • What can I do to improve students’ written responses to questions?
  • How do I get students to initiate and engage in reflective writing?
  • How do I help students learn to add supporting detail to their writing?
  • What can I do to help students reflect on and write details about their coop placements in journals and logs?
  • How can I help students improve their procedural writing in construction technology?
  • How do I get students to complete and use process work to improve their writing?
  • How do I help students improve their use of science-specific vocabulary in written communication?
  • How can I help my students correctly apply the structures they are learning to their writing?
  • How do I get students to improve their lab report writing, specifically their hypothesis and conclusion?
  • How do I, as the SERT, help students transfer their understanding of written structure from one subject to the next?
  • How do I get students to give clear written responses using technical language?
  • How can I get students to provide thoughtful writing that shows they are making connections to historical events?

Our teachers will be focusing their PLC inquiry around these questions. Do any of the questions resonate with you? Which ones? Have you tried any strategies that might be helpful or inspiring?

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