Tuesday, 30 July 2013

#artinquiry - week one - post two... three cheers!

I’m in the class! Happy day. With this MOOC there will be readings and videos, quizzes, discussion forums and a final project. We are advised to read first – then watch the videos… Our overall score will be comprised 25% each for our quiz and forum participation – and 50% for the project. We will peer review each other’s work.

Big Ideas For Week One:
·                 What are inquiry methods and object-based teaching?
·                 Why should we engage in inquiry around art?  

Week One Components:
·                 READINGS (see below) 
·                 INTRO VIDEO:  https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/lecture/27 
·                 LECTURE VIDEO: https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/lecture/13 
·                 DISCUSSION QUESTION: https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/forum/list?forum_id=10012
·                 QUIZ: https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/quiz/start?quiz_id=29 

Required Reading: 
Required Discussion Forum Question:
Why are you interested in the topic of Art and Inquiry? You can give an example or anecdote from your classroom practice, anything that will give us a sense of what your current classroom experience is like and how you want to improve it. Don’t be shy—I want to hear any reservations about, and expectations for, taking this course and welcome any questions you might have about how this course might help you in your classroom.

Reading Notes
First reading: Laurel Schmidt (2004) Classroom Confidential: the 12 secrets of great teachers Portsmouth; Heinemann - Chapter 5: ‘Great teachers don’t take no (or yes) for an answer…’  upon Inquiry Based Teaching (https://d396qusza40orc.cloudfront.net/artinquiry%2Fsecret5.pdf)

Schmidt’s fundamental proposition is that we need to wake students up with the Socratic method and create gymnasiums for the mind:
  1. Ask initiating questions
  2. Respond with follow up questions
  3. Insert information at key points.

Ask initiating questions
So – if using this in my latest course – instead of telling students why the University or School wanted the course and explaining my reasons for designing it the way that I had, I could ask the students these things as questions. And prompt further responses… yes – and what else? What else… Not just to be contrary – but to demonstrate that there really is more than one right answer to the question.

Respond with follow up questions
Whether the response you get from the students is insightful, fuzzy or lazy – the best response is more questioning – and don’t panic! Better thinking covers the ground more slowly – but it is better covered! So – push, probe, ask for clarification… From a, ‘That’s interesting, can you tell me more?’ approach to ‘Your answer assumes …. Why have you taken that approach?’ ‘What would someone who believes … say?’ ‘When wouldn’t this approach hold true?’ ‘Can you explain your reasons to us?’ ‘Is there any reason to doubt that evidence/stance/approach/opinion?’ ‘Tell us more about how that would work?’

Insert information at key points
When, desperate to share your great knowledge, you feel the need to feed in information – try to do that in a way that also promotes further thought in your students – rather than a, ‘Okay, I’ve let you maunder about, here’s the right answer…’ We are advised to intrigue – offer a tidbit – and invite the students to explore further themselves… and help the students keep track of their learning – making an illustrated set of notes on the board [– or ask different students to do so].

If you’re wondering why go to all this trouble: surely it is quicker and simpler to just TELL them the answer – and by god they so just want you to leave them alone and tell them the answer! - Schmidt argues that we so under-challenge and under-stimulate our students that at best they are having a nap whilst with us and at worst some sort of angst fest is taking place in their minds as they wonder what torture we will inflict next. Thus, it is not only better to provoke interest and engagement – to stimulate thought; this mode eventually builds confident thinkers. The inquiry method shows students how to use their brains: developing the ability to find and evaluate information, solve problems and create new ideas. Training in the inquiry method allows students to develop sensitivity to the clarity and rigour of the arguments of others; arrive at judgements through their own reasoning; adopt a penetrating and rigorous approach to subjects from the arts to politics… and mirrors the way they will have to live in the world much more than any MCQ ever can. The chapter concludes with examples of how to teach using the questioning technique – and shares many useful questions for us to use in our own practice.

Smoking alert
A lovely analogy in this text is the smoker’s wait. Schmidt warns that most teachers cannot bear the pause that happens when students actually think about a question; in our panic we blurt out more variations on the same question – we start asking questions with answers in… we cause fear and reaffirm the suspicion that learning *is* about supplying teacher with the right answer. So, she says, lean against the board and visualise smoking. The slow proper, long in – slow out, smoking of a dedicated smoker who meditates as they inhale and exhale… This models that you have all the time in the world to wait for the answers to flow… and when they do, you will nod, note – and say, ‘And what else…?’

Second reading: The Shuh, John Hennigar. Teaching Yourself to Teach With Objects in The Educational Role of the Museum: Second Edition . New York: Routledge, 2001, pgs. 80-91.  article is very user-friendly and illustrates the power of  objects to initiate thought and inquiry. This piece concludes with 50 questions to ask when examining objects – and demonstrates beautifully the inquiry method’s potential for developing thought and voice.

Third reading: Creating Classrooms We Need: 8 Ways Into Inquiry Learning offers us Diana Laufenberg’s eight strategies that support inquiry:
  • Be flexible: relinquish some control – create space for students to follow their interests.
  • Foster inquiry by scaffolding curiosity: think of an approach – a question – a task – that is interesting – and that will seed curiosity.
  • Design an architecture for participation.
  • Teach students not subjects: show you care – and students will know it is safe to take risks in your space.
  • Provide opportunities for experiential learning.
  • Embrace failure: we must fail if we attempt – discuss the difference between praiseworthy and blameworthy failure. Have failure festivals celebrating great attempts…
  • Don’t be boring: even though students may react against your interesting style don’t be boring – and don’t let them be boring.
  • Foster joy as a condition for learning – see her TEDTalk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up4hFj-jcTY

Fourth – Thom Markham’s Inquiry Learning Vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist? examines the viability of the inquiry method in a content driven system. His context is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of the USA – but is equally applicable to the National Curriculum of the UK. Markham argues that rather than being ‘entombed’ in ‘the truths of the past’ this ‘multi-polar world’ requires the development of a critical, flexible mindset and more of a ‘just in time’ approach to creativity and development. Markham strives to placate educational ‘measurers’ by emphasising that these more process-focussed qualities can be assessed we just lack a ‘performance rubric’. His six factors include:
  • Redefine rigour: an information age requires empathy and the ability to ‘move gracefully through a connected world’.
  • Blend critical thinking, social-emotional learning… he cites Prensky’s four E’s - Effective: Accomplishment, Action, Relationships and Thinking - emphasis on teamwork, persistence, mastery and rigour.
  • Make team work the norm not the exception.
  • Create a dynamic relationship between content and inquiry.
  • Relinquish some of our own control.
  • Teach inquiry skills: creativity, problem-solving, design- and critical thinking can all be taught … and measured (!).

The video bit – modelled the MOMA method with school teachers and for us watching. Key elements include that we learn to:
  • Observe – look – describe – focus…
  • Analyse – generating more and more subtle observations and developing own hypotheses and interpretations
  • Communicate – by articulating and listening
  • Engage in a Community – understand ourselves in relation to others
  • Have group conversations – share thoughts in welcoming, supportive, challenging atmosphere.

Discussion: So Why am I interested in the topic of Art and Inquiry?
I love the idea of IBL – and PBL and Project Based Learning. I see it as a way of harnessing the human animal’s genetic desire to learn, where so many educational practices seem designed to turn off that imperative.  I can see that the US education system is as caught up in transmission and measurement as the UK one, at the same time they both fail a high proportion of the students. Perhaps searching for a measurement rubric for IBL is therefore fundamentally misplaced. I would argue that all this measurement rubric yardstickery is what got us into difficulties with learning in the first place. Even before the digital age it could be argued that students would learn more and of a higher quality by doing, by projects and by experiential learning – than the majority can by rote learning. But these things were more costly to deliver – especially to hoi polloi who inherently were not worth it – or who could become dangerous if educated… so the argument was made that the more measurable should be taught. So rather than argue that these inquiry skills can also be measured and disappear down the route of working out how – let us argue that measurement itself is part of the problem – and embrace the depth and breadth that inquiry fosters? 

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