Inquiry Teaching and Learning

Teaching and Learning Through Inquiry - Got the right tool?

Hi everyone,

I finally have more time to focus on this ning as the school year is over.
One of my concerns is differentiated instruction. We all know the psychological and pedagogical foundations for such an approach, so I won't insist on that.
What I would like to hear about is how exactly you use it in your classrooms, what are your best experiences in this regard, how you could do it without enough resources, how often do you feel you really make use of it etc as differentiation occurs on three levels:
-the process
-the product
-the assessment.
Flexible timing, for instance, is hard for me to address. Students DO work at different paces as adults do and some need extra time to finish tasks. What do you do with the rest?
Flexible grouping - another apparently easy tool. I posed this question on PYP Threads as well. Some students are more skillful/knowledgeable than others and their peers sometimes depend too much on the former (as in carrying out tasks they had previously agreed upon to share equally within the group, for instance). Certainly, you have essential agreements, task-related "jobs" that each goup assigns for its members, and a constant feedback. Yet...not all students are engaged at all times and some rely on others to finish, say, a common project.
Assessment - how do you differentiate that? All students need a core set of skills, regardless of the fact they individually make use of own talents/interest and contribute to a project. One would express learning by making a video, another would write an essay, the third would maek a 3D -model and so forth. What if the skill relates to something more specific- e.g. writing a report? Do you assess more based on rubrics or checklist? Do anecdotal records work better for you?
I am looking forward to hearing your experiences

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Comment by Cristina Milos on August 18, 2009 at 0:32
Hi Michelle and thanks for the reply :)
I read the document and it does reflect differentiated assessment :) And no, it cannot be applied to many activities - especially those related to language learning. Students in upper grades need to be able, for instance, to write a report as opposed to writing a story or a news article. And that leaves little room for differentiated assessment - aside from, obviously, using Bloom's taxonomy in a rubric or checklist. Thanks for the input, though - I like the approach!
Comment by Michelle on August 16, 2009 at 20:07
I'm new to the Ning! and hoping to continue having a connection to other teachers who are at IB schools or use inquiry learning. I've just be transferred to a new school that is not inquiry based school-wide. I'll share my idea, but welcome dialogue to help push my thinking process, too! I teach in Florida, children 3-5 years old with developmental delays, speech/language delays or other impairments.

With that background, I'll share a strategy that I used for differentiating within an assessment. As you mentioned, the process and the product are sometimes easier to address. I have been trying to apply some of those strategies within my assessments. I think our "Who We Are" assessment is a fairly good example of being able to differentiate within the assessment. (although I'm open to friendly criticism to make it better!)

We started with just one line of inquiry describing physical characteristics. We then created a document that is kind of a cross between a rubric and a checklist and anecdotal notes (I'm sure we could figure out a way to make this better.) This document identified the skills with the physical features that we wanted to address but also the language component of "describing" that we wanted to address.

We gave children a choice of how they were going to create their self portrait: using craft materials and glue, using crayons and markers, or using the draw application on our Promethian ActiveBoard. Then during the conversation piece of the activity we used three different methods for children to answer questions: verbally, using Boardmaker pictures (icon software, you can find more info about this here), or by pointing to objects. This gave me information on how the students were communicating.

I felt like this assessment kept the "integrity" of the skill (identifying and describing physical characteristics) but allowed for differing strengths and needs in the students.

I'm wondering if/how it would be possible to apply that component (the integrity of the skill) to many assessments. Maybe an important piece is to recognize the crossover of many disciplines in one product or assessment piece, but clearly identify the skill that is being assessed. (For example, there many varying levels of fine motor accuracy in our piece, but we were not assessing fine motor skills.)

MichelleLook At Me Assessment Piece.doc

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