Tag Archives: inquiry

Harnessing Provocations for Deep Learning

Harnessing Provocations for Deeper Learning
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What are Provocations?
Strategically created questions based around a specific concept.  They encourage students to:
Initiate new ideas and questions
– Us
e Higher Order Thinking Skills
– Be involved in rich discussion

What makes great Provocations?image
– Provocations that use  variety of stimulating media to initiate and open up thinking.  Engaging and relevant media will be more likely to motivate quality student responses.

Hooks – Provocations that are designed to create interest, but also to ensure that that this interest is aligned to the concept (hooked).  They aim to create student interest and inquiry within the boundaries of the concept.
Thinking Questions – Provocations that are Higher Order thinking Questions.  These are Open Questions that are often ‘unGoogleable‘.  Answers to these types of questions will offer greater visibility into student thinking and create great opportunities for formative assessment.  Answering these types of questions will also develop the skills required for students in ‘Tomorrows World’ – skills as ‘critical thinkers’ and ‘question askers’.

– When provocations are structured to be collaborative they will help develop many Higher Order Thinkingimage Skills.  In addition collaboration will also offer and opportunity for the students to spend more time ‘In the Question’.  More time discussing and considering the question will allow more opportunities for students  to make connections in their learning.

Video – Harnessing Provocations for Deeper Learning

Positioning Provocations in the Learning Cycle
As we explore concepts we aim to strategically position the provocations using a simple Inquiry model Explore – Explain – Apply.   Using this model we aim to guide students inquiry around the concept.  We aim to utilise provocations in the ‘Explore’ phase prior to supporting students with explanations.  In this phase we want to connect to previous understanding, explore solutions and expose misconceptions.  Provocations are also useful in the ‘Apply’ phase where it again offers the opportunity to connect learning.  Using the provocations in this way could also be the starting point for self directed experiments and student led investigations/inquiry projects.image

Working with Provocations effectively in the Classroom
We have been using an online app called Verso to deliver many of our provocations in class. Verso not only allows us to effectively manage the provocations, but it also has a number of features that enhance this pedagogical approach.
Accountable – it is easy to track each students responses and comments to ensure each student responds.
Authentic Reponses – Students can’t read other responses until they have posted themselves.
Student Voice – Responses are anonymous (for students) giving them the confidence to respond.
Collaborative – By structuring the provocations around collaboration it encourages the students to spend more ‘Time in the Question’ allowing more opportunities to make connections in their learning.
Peer Acknowledgment – Students are able to offer ‘Likes’ and ‘Helpfuls’ to each others responses and comments, which encourages collaboration.
Personalisation – You are able to easily group students to create teachable moments in the class – address misconceptions, group in similar ideas/different ideas.

I have discussed the trial of Verso in my previous post ‘Flipping Inquiry -Exploring Verso’.

Video – A Tour of my Verso account discussing features and impacts on learning

If you use Provocations in your classroom and have some great ideas or feedback I would love to hear?

How do you structure provocations?            How do you use them in class?
What makes a good provocation?                  Why do they work? 

The 3 Flavours of Flip

    3 Flavours of Flip    image


The Evolution of my Flip
The flavour of my classroom has evolved considerably over the last few years to include flipped learning.
In this evolution I can identify a few main phases:

  1. Phase 1: Delivering Content – The Initial focus was to purposefully utilise video in the homework space.  This closely followed by creation of my own videos and making these accessible on the class website
  2. Phase 2: Student Centred – This involved a real change to the classroom (physical group space) where things became a lot more student centred.  This type of classroom is described well in the document  ‘What is Flipped Learning’
  3. Phase 3: Responsive – More recently I have worked towards creating quick videos to respond to student needs.
  4. Phase 4: Collaborative –  Also recently I have moved media related to questioning and collaboration to the Virtual Space.

imageThree Flavours of Flip
This evolution has framed 3 main aspects of flipped learning in my classroom today.
I explain these below (and in the video) as ‘3 Flavours of Flip’
– Repository
– Responsive
– Questions

3 Flavours of Flip. A discussion of the evolution of Flipped Learning in my classroom

RepositoryThese are the videos that are pre-created to explain particular concepts. I often use Camtasia to produce these screencasts and if possible keep them to a few minutes to allow them to be easily digested. They sit on our class website so they are accessible when and if the students need them – this really helps to personalise learning.  I believe this to be different approach to a teacher who strictly schedules the watching of videos for homework. To compliment my own videos I also include a range of other videos from YouTube and related resources on our class website. I consider this to be our ‘filing cabinet’ of resources for students to access.

responsiveThese are the videos that are quickly created in response to what is happening in class. They could be solutions to problem that a number of students need help with. They might also be the quick explanation to a part of a concept that a few students are finding difficult. Often they are the things that I realise I might be repeating a few times and could be better on video so they are accessible. I produce these videos quickly and quite often use the iPad App Explain Everything to make a quick diagram and post theses directly to our class space.

questionsA recent focus for our team  has been ensuring that we create Inquiry in the classroom. It has involved us strategically using provocations to ensure students ‘Explore’ content prior to participation in tasks where content is explained. This is a consistent theme in many models of Inquiry – ‘Exploring’ always comes first!  It is likely that those who follow flipped learning have come across Ramsey Musallam (Chemistry Teacher in US) who has adapted the ‘Explore–Explain-Apply Model’ (Karplus) to ‘Explore-Flip-Apply’ to suit flipped learning. The use of provocations can also be quite useful in the ‘Apply’ phase where students are able to develop further connections in their learning. Where possible this provocation and exploration can be part of the initial process of an Inquiry Cycle where students create original investigations/experiments.

A tool that we have found very useful to achieve this collaboration is an online app called Verso.  In other posts ‘Flipping Inquiry – Exploring Verso’ and ‘Harnessing Provocations for Deeper Learning’ I have discussed the use of Verso.

Great Cakes………………..…Yum Lots of Flavour!
Creating a classroom learning environment is sort of like baking a cake.  In either case you need carefully chosen ingredients with the plan of creating just the right balance.
It could be considered that Great Cakes:clip_image002

  • Rely on a number and mix of ingredients (Pedagogies). You can’t just use one!
  • Are tasted as they are mixed to ensure that these are in the right balance.
  • Result in specific flavours just right for those eating the cake.
  • Have evolved from good recipes. This evolution could include new ingredients (tech/research)

I believe that as part of a Flipped Learning Model we are able to create opportunities for deeper learning by moving structured inquiry to virtual space.

So some questions this raises for me:

  • Is moving the questioning and collaboration to the virtual space part of flipping?
  • Could this be described as ‘flipping’ questioning?  or is ‘flipping’ really just about flipping   the direct instruction?
  • Have improvements in online tools meant that we are now able to work more effectively with collaboration and Higher Order Thinking with students?

I would love to here your thoughts on these questions.

Flipping Inquiry – Exploring Verso

Recently our Science team has had a focus on how we position Inquiry in our classrooms.  We have been working towards planning activities that encourage students to explore concepts prior to delivering an explanation.   Following this explanation we will plan for students to apply this understanding to further experiments, group activities and more analytical questions.

When studying Scientific Concepts there are a lot of different Inquiry models that are designed for the construction of understanding.   One of the keys principles of most models is that ‘Explore’ comes before ‘Explain’, then followed by some application or Higher Order Thinking.   An early model of this was presented as Exploration, Invention, and Application (Karplus) also as Explore, Explain, Apply.  Many will be familiar with an adaptation of it in the 5E Instructional model (Bybee) – Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.

In recent years our team has increasingly used short snippets of online video to engage students and to offer a version of the explanation.  In some classes we have been working towards a flipped classroom where there has been a clear focus on using the video to create a more effective use of class and homework time.  I have been inspired by the work of Ramsey Musallam who has adapted the ‘Explore-Flip-Apply’ Model as he has fit Inquiry into a blended learning environment (a flipped class).

This need of fitting Inquiry into a blended learning environment (1:1 netbooks) led our team to eagerly trial the Veso App over the last month.  The principles of its design are in alignment with exactly what we are trying to achieve pedagogically during the ‘Explore’ phase.  At Verso describe this as ‘provocations’ (read an extract from their site below):

Deliberate and thoughtful challenges created by the teacher with the intention of initiating thinking, extending ideas and exposing individual learning needs in order to inform practice.

Effective provocations cultivate curiosity through a combination of carefully selected stimulus and high quality prompts or questioning.

Provocations motivate students to think creatively; to discuss, question, predict and hypothesize.  They challenge learner s to engage in big ideas, encouraging further inquiry whilst supporting students to take control of their own learning pathways.

An example of a provocation

Student Responses

Student Responses

The Trial with Verso
Verso is a web based app (works well on everything) that creates opportunity for student collaboration/discussion around a stimulus question.  This includes the ability to add stimulus material – YouTube, Dropbox, links, photos, video………  Students are then required to post before they read and comment on others answers.   For us this really met our need as we sought opportunities for students to ‘Explore’ a concept.

Similar to when we have used Blogs and Discussion Boards in the past, we see more students having a voice compared to a traditional class discussion.  As also commonly seen with online discussions we see students who were normally quiet in class now having a voice.  However, a significant difference was that Verso was set so students were anonymous and that students were required to post themselves prior to reading the posts of others.  This really encouraged student confidence to generating original ideas and to use original wording in their explanations.

Student's comments

Student’s comments

Following the students writing their own posts, it was equally important for them to confidently comment on the posts of others (also anonymous).  This requires them to use their current understanding to analyse someone else’s post and write feedback.  Such a task involves Higher Order Thinking and really exposes current knowledge and misconceptions.  This is what it is all about – expose what’s there and have students construct their own understanding of the concept.  The engagement in this peer collaboration is also encouraged as students can ‘Like’ comments and they can reward someone for a ‘Helpful’ comment.

The sign of a great student centred activity is that all students are actively discussing the concept in their own words – Verso definitely hit the mark here.   As a teacher being able to see each student’s original post and comments also offers a visibility of their learning – you can almost watch it happen!

Verso also enabled levels of differentiation for our students.  In its collaborative nature this sort of activity allows students at all levels to be able to participate and improve their understanding.   Students with a limited understanding can build their understanding with the support of their peers; students with a higher level of understanding can test the limitations of their understanding by analysing and discussing the posts of others.  Additionally, as a teacher one of the great features is that you are able to group student responses together.  The creation of groups of students with similar responses or similar misconceptions can then allow responsive instruction where you might focus particular instruction on specific student groups.  This offers another level of differentiation as your enter the ‘Explain’ phase in the Learning Cycle.

It is this sort of match, where Technology is enabling the Pedagogy that working as a teacher is really exciting.   We are looking forward to ‘Exploring’ Verso as we purposefully ‘Explore’ with our students.

If you are interested in having a look, check out the Verso site.

Letting Go and Letting the Questions Flow

Q's pic 2

I am sure there are no arguments that the effective use of questioning and genuine classroom discussion is one of the keys to maximising learning.  In recent years many of my students interactions (including questions and discussions) have moved online……………. and wholly virtual cow, this is a game changer!

The last couple of years I have been flipping a number of my classes with the use of online video.  This has allowed time in the classroom to be increasingly student centred and to be all about the learning activities that work best when we are as a group.   This has resulted in the shift online for both the independent work (mostly at home) and for some of the collaborative work that can flow in/out of the classroom.  Sitting alongside these tasks is our questions and discussions, which we have trialled in a variety of formats – learning management systems, quiz tools, blogs, Google forms and message boards.

I see these online questions and discussions mostly slotting into a few main categories (See detailed reflection of my current state of affairs HERE):

1. Checking student progress – What has been finished? What were the key words in your summary?  What were the concepts that you have summarised?

2. Student ‘help’ questions – What don’t you understand?  What do you need help with? What do you want me to cover in class?

3. Formative assessment – Question’s to test understanding of the concept?

4. Student Inquiry – Genuine student questions related to the concept. What does this make you wonder?  Why does this occur? What areas interest you?

The last category (Student Inquiry) is really where I want to shake things up a little.  After all, when we learn Science, what we are really talking about is the process of students understanding the amazing world around them.  With this in mind, it means that the ‘what does this make you wonder’ questions are what we need to hit to truly cognitively engage students in Science.

I believe there are some great benefits to the other types of questions and strategies I am using in my class.  However, I am wary that with these alone it could lead to a more ‘factory like’ content delivery schedule and I could miss some of this essential engagement and inquiry.  I also wonder if my previous attempts to curate these types of student inquiry questions on our blog/message boards have actually got in the way of the natural flow of this type of questioning – too much control!

Some questions for me:

  • As a science teacher how can I foster natural inquiry and discussion about Science?
  • Could this be another area in the student centered classroom where I need to step back and release responsibility?  Am I able to let the questions flow naturally?
  • Where in the learning cycle would be the best place to encourage this?
  • How can I facilitate this so that it will be intuitive for students to ask and answer?

As I step back and decide where to next, I have a few guiding thoughts:

  1. Don’t start with the tool – I want to be really clear about my needs before I choose and settle into a tool.  Don’t get me wrong, I still intend to get really excited by the fantastic tools out there.   Currently I am looking forward to getting on Verso to enable the setup of the inquiry.  There are also some great options for putting quizzes alongside your videos – Google forms (now with embedded video), Sophia, Camtasia and TED Ed.
  2. Go for something intuitive – It needs to be intuitive for students.   It can’t be too many clicks away or too hard to post.  Having notifications could also be beneficial to hook students back into the discussion.   For many the discussion formats of Facebook, Verso, Edmodo , Schoology and Ask 3 (if an iPad school) are all the sort of online discussions that seem intuitive for students.
  3. Plan for Inquiry – Plan opportunities and activities that encourage students to inquire.  Plan activities that scaffold the skills to ask and answer questions.  Consider the timing/position of these discussions in the learning cycle.

I would love to hear from other educators about their approaches in using ICT to create questions and discussions that promote inquiry.