Thursday, 1 September 2016

Thinking in Keys Olympiad

As I arrive in the class and contemplate how to get to know my new learners I have hunted for a way to discover the level of their abilities in a real learning setting.  The Olympic Games provided just such a context to see them all in action.  The tool I chose to use was a tweak on an Olympic Thinker's Keys series of Olympic tasks.

I chose to create an assignment in Google Classroom, which they assured me they could use confidently.  This was the first assessment as it turned out.  Some students were able to use Classroom with ease, sending questions and messages using the assignment set as their tool.  They were also able to hand their work in this way at the conclusion of the timeframe given.  Others had to be shown and still others insisted they had handed their work in correctly, but had actually shared the Google Doc into which they had worked with me.

The next assessment turned out to be their ability to research for those keys that required researching.  I did not want to give them a straight out project to 'find out about the Olympics'.  Rather they needed to research in order to complete tasks, analyse their information and use thinking processes to reorganise their findings in order to fulfil the requirements of the assignment. This was something some coped with well, checking their understanding of the task with me before they completed it.  A large group blindly guessed their way through a number of tasks and did not understand the thinking required of them.  Of this group some were able to redirect themselves with encouragement, while others merely completed the finding out phase rather than the deeper thinking they needed to do to process the information and complete their task.

The assessment of the tasks saw me providing feedback to them via the comments function in Google Docs, while also adding suggestions to let them know the value placed on surface features such as grammar, punctuation and spelling.  As these were returned to the students several came to see me and thank me for the depth of feedback they had received.  This has allowed them to identify their next steps in learning and focus on the points I had made in the order they choose.  I should have had them record these reflections in blog posts of their own, but their blogs are yet to be set up.

The biggest frustration of the whole exercise was the lack of regard for deadlines that most of the students had.  Much of the time in class was spent with me trying to refocus a number of students to actually complete tasks they had begun rather than spending a great deal of time off-task.  This led to discussion about why it was important that they meet the deadline given in preparation for the assessment practices they will encounter as they move on to secondary schools.  Some were completely unaware that this was the case.  It has also led me to assess the need for scaffolding time management techniques in future to allow students to build their skill level with this key competency.

What else did I learn?

  • Feedback, in-depth while sharing learning steps, is welcomed and I hop will be acted on by this group of students.
  • Thinking skills should be scaffolded as part of future learning tasks.  A large number of students demonstrated only low level thinking skills, so teaching the higher level thinking skills must be a focus in the future.  When challenged to attempt these skills during this assignment the reactions ranged from acceptance of the challenge to tears, resistance and refusal to even try.  Some way to go I feel!  
  • Listening skills must be developed, particularly in relation to following instruction and interpreting the task completion scaffolds that are offered by both myself and classmates.
  • Continued and scaffolded use of Google Classroom is required so students are able to hand work in correctly, access the resources shared and, in some cases, actually find the assigned tasks.
  • Research skills are needing to be taught.  Many students copied straight from their first source of information, without ensuring any accuracy, plagiarising the work they handed in. Others were able to do this but unable to reorganise their information to complete the given task.
  • Surface features within writing require some attention.  The best way to do this is now upper most in my contemplations.  Do I teach specific skills as I have in the past or do I teach to the needs of the student as I notice them arise?  Or do I combine these teaching methods?
The use of Tony Ryan's Thinker's Keys has had the intended effect - assessment of the students in many ways.  Now those Keys have me thinking - what is the best way to manage the learning I have had about my students?