Monday, September 2, 2013

Flipped Inquiry, the Way of the Future

As I stated in the last blog post, my attempt at inquiry learning last year turned out really well. On this day before the 2013-2014 school year begins, I am reminded that this is the pathway I want to continue on. Throughout the school year I hope to reflect on the process and outcomes. Below, I will paste in full the reflections I made last year as we worked through this unit in class. Hopefully this will inspire you to give it a try as well.

After dabbling with a flipped-mastery model, I was left looking for something more. After a Twitter conversation with @historyfriend, I was re-invigorated by the idea of an inquiry-based lesson. This has always intrigued me, but I have never been sure how to structure this somewhat unstructured process. My Twitter colleague was kind enough to provide me with examples of how she structures her class and it really helped me get a vision for it. Not only that, but this model seemed to encompass many “flipped” principles even though I don’t believe @historyfriend is a self-proclaimed history flipper. In this inquiry model, students are very active in class researching answers to questions and then coming up with even more questions (great use of face to face time). Throughout the investigation they are actively trying to construct meaning (not just memorization). Finally, in this process, much of the content is student-created and not just read from the textbook or heard in a lecture, so it seems very student-centered.

Some steps in the process,along with reflections:

Creating a driving question. I tossed many ideas in my head about what the questions should be. I chatted with @history friend and brainstormed with my husband. In the end, I found a great question on It was: How influential was the United States in determining the outcome of the war? First of all, it couldn’t be answered with an easy “yes” or “no.” And in order to answer this question, they would need to examine the war before and after the United States entered. Each groups examined this question from a different lense of the war: Europe, Africa, Pacific, and Homefront. For my first attempt with inquiry learning, I am happy to create the questions, but I could envision coming up with questions as a class or student developing their own questions in the future.

The Research Process. Throughout this week students have brainstormed questions they need to answer in order to answer the driving question and collaboratively researched answers. They have complied all these ideas on large piece of butcher paper. Ss could use textbooks, library books, or the internet (in the future I could record some lectures or post videos from other sources). All group members were involved. As they did this, I walked around to groups seeing where they were at and discussing their learning. They rotated the paper around, reading responses from each other, asking clarifying questions. When they felt like they were “done” I asked them to try to answer the driving question and then assess what else they needed to look up. They were working together to help each other understand.

Drafting Day. I explained they are drafting so they have a more polished copy for the rest of their classmates to read. They also have the benefit of having the piece of butcher paper (would be even better with Google Doc) and their fellow researchers. They started today by sharing important points and they asked questions of each other along they way as they drafted.  Each person responsible to create their own response, with the support of their collaborators.

I like the differentiation opportunities. Students that know a lot about WWII can go above and beyond and research new things. Peer editing, “wanna look it over?”

Blog Posts. Students posted their response on Edmodo. Members from the same war theater had similar events but all seemed to have a slightly different emphasis. I felt like the understanding of each student was excellent. I was also happy to see that much of the content I would have taught through lectures or activities was covered adequately and then some!

Commenting. The students then had to comment on a post from all four of the “lenses.” I did a little modeling in class about what an excellent comment would look like (comparing your lense to another) and many of them did that very well. More higher-level thinking! Very few comments just said “good job.” Another positive outcome, was peer feedback. One student stated, incorrectly that the Soviet Union was part of the Axis powers. In the comments another student, very kindly pointed out the mistake.

Final Steps. In class, split up the groups so that each had a representative from all four lenses or fronts. I had them come up with a list of the main events/people/ideas from each front. I tried to emphasize that the Homefront expert should try to forget he/she is the homefront rep and they should all be contributing for each topic. I collected these lists to create a study guide for the students, to my delight, the terms were very much in line with the questions I would ask on the test. Then I had them decide on a turning point in the war. I had hoped this would lead to interesting discussions and debates about the significance of each front, but unfortunately it did not. Word got around that a few groups were picking the Battle of Stalingrad and then everyone seemed satisfied that it was the “right” answer. This little letdown may be due in part to it being that last moments of an afternoon class, on the first day back from a long weekend, and the last thing they had to think about before going to their last class of the day, gym.

Review. After the mini-failure of the last class, I was nervous about how review day would go. Did they want to slip back into their passive habits? So I handed out their study guide, compiled of terms from the day before. In entirely new groups, they took those terms from the study guide a created a web. I loved that students were collaborating and actively creating meaning of the content. Reviewing what they needed to and getting some prodding from me to think a little harder to create those connections. We ended with a short whiteboard review in groups. And I felt that overall students were in a better place than they usually are in the class before the test. I suppose in more traditional models, it wouldn’t be until the night before that students would be reviewing information that they had heard me babble on about a week ago. Why would they review beforehand, they were just trying to cram the knowledge in to get through the test. I feel like in this model, students had been so active in the process of learning it, that there was little to review the night before the test.

1 comment:

  1. I love your example. I am hoping to push myself and my classes further along the inquiry learning journey this year. We will have to share and compare notes along the way!