Tag Archives: pedagogy

Preparing for #SEACCR Data Collection – Week 5 Reflections

Photo: research

research – cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dayna Bateman

Despite feeling a bit off the pace of my Alaskan colleagues in #SEACCR, I am persevering and pressing on with my action research  project. One thing that I have found is that my teaching schedule and planning has not exactly matched up with the timeline established for the course. Some of this is a function of jumping into the mix without a complete sense of the timeline at the start, and some of it is merely a consequence of how I have plotted out the ninth grade sections that I am observing for the project.  Unfortunately, it is not looking like these two time streams are going to align any time soon.

One thing that has absolutely crystalized for me, especially since I engaged in a much lengthier action research project last year, is my fascination with reading the research on a subject. This is one of the most fascinating aspects of any research project. I love the searching, digging, reading, discovering. I tend to collect reams of related articles and books. In fact, for my project last year I had material shipped in from Australia, fascinating stuff at that.

As a result of all of this, I always find myself feeling I have so much more to read and learn. One week’s time never felt like it would be enough. I couldn’t read enough, fast enough. Plus, I spent a good chunk writing up a literature review, which I may post in future when I have finished the project.

Nevertheless, I am still in more of a planning stage for my data collection now, rather than actually collecting it. Since my interest is in peer response groups and Google Docs, I actually have to provide some opportunities for the students to participate. It is not something we do daily, but something we will be doing with greater frequency in future. Unfortunately, with this week being a shortened one, it may take even longer to begin data collection than I had imagined. Still, the class is moving from a more reading-focus to a more writing focus now. So there will be more opportunities, perhaps just not synchronized with the class timeline.

All of this is leaving me feeling a little disconnected from the group. However, I received some great feedback this week from @ak_teacher, Lenore Swanson, who is doing some great work herself. I am also continuing to stay involved in at least one of the two weekly Twitter chats. As my work drags on I am hoping to be a bit more engaged in helping and providing feedback to others.

So, despite Professor Lee Graham‘s awesome support, I can’t stop that nagging feeling of being behind a group of pretty awesome fellow educators.

Image: Lee Graham Single Tweet

It all remains great fun. Plus, there is a definite feeling of community within the group.

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Annotating an Initial #SEACCR Bibliography

Photo: Bibliography

Bibliography – cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by Alexandre Duret-Lutz

Running behind a bit, again. Still, once I got a chance to sit down and start compiling things, the process moved much faster. I also came to realize that the more precise term for what interests me is peer response groups, not reader response groups. Still, my inquiry is essentially the same: How does the use of use of Google Docs impact peer response groups and change or shape the writing process? Of course it still subject to revision, but that is where I am at present.

While I tried to examine a number of documents, so far I have found that there is not as much material specifically related to my line of inquiry. This potentially opens a small window for a substantive investigation that examines the impact of Google Docs on peer response groups. I may need to widen my reading to include more background on the theory that underlies peer response groups to both deepen my understanding and attenuate me to ways in which Google Docs as a tool might alter the experience. I definitely found some good articles to get started with a lot of leads to more potential readings.

Lastly, just for the sake of easier reading, I formatted the actual citations with a subtle background shading just to aid readability and keep the sections visually separated.

Kittle, P., & Hicks, T. (2009). Transforming the group paper with collaborative online writing. Pedagogy9(3), 525-538.

While only tangentially connected to my inquiry, this article behind framing out more theory and practice behind the related concept of collaborative writing. It is primarily focused on providing a number of practical activities for teaching and learning collaborative writing, using technology tools, as well as addressing how groups work together in multiple contexts. It is a great introduction to the concept of collaborative writing, which is related to my inquiry about peer response groups and highlights where a lot of the most current inquiries seem to headed.

Lacina, J., & Block, C. C. (2012). Progressive writing instruction: Empowering school leaders and teachers. Voices from the Middle, 19(3), 10-17.

This article investigated seventeen populous district’s views on middle school writing instruction for the 21st century. It itemizes a list of research-based writing instruction practices geared for improving adolescents and tried to identify their presence in classrooms across the observed districts. This article contains a rich array of references to other studies and articles, perhaps providing its greatest potential value. Considering that the sections I am observing are ninth graders, this middle school study seemed relevant.

One of the recommendations specifically discusses peer response groups, although they are more geared toward responding to literature and not peer generated writing specifically. However, it promotes the concept of real-time collaborative writing, using technology tools. While similar, it is not quite the same concept of my inquiry. There is definitely a tension point between collaborative writing and peer response groups.

Lin, W. C., & Yang, S. C. (2013). Exploring the roles of Google. doc and peer e-tutors in English writing. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 12(1).

Despite this study being in a English as a Foreign Language context with a tutoring component, this study has a quality review of literature regarding peer feedback. The findings are confirmed Google Docs as a success platform for social interaction between parties. They did however find challenges with the Google Docs service, which may potentially occur with any cloud solution. Also, considering continued upgrades and improvements to the service, it is unlikely that the problems experienced account for more than inconveniences.

Hedin, B. (2012). Peer Feedback in Academic Writing Using Google Docs.

Courtesy of Lee’s tutorial video, this might be the best pure article related to my inquiry. In it, a number of students in an undergraduate program participated as they developed degree project reports, using Google Docs for Peer Feedback Marking (PFM), which is essentially the kind of peer response method I am currently using with students.  In survey questions, respondents ranked written peer feedback and oral feedback similarly, although supervisor written feedback outranked both. Additionally, nearly 70% preferred the comment features in Google Docs over threaded discussion comments as available in an learning management system (LMS). The study also explores a high acceptance for reading electronic texts, which seemed surprised the investigator. This was something that I had not necessarily considered when conceiving my investigation. There are definitely some quality questions and methods to be gleaned from this study.

Pae, J. K. (2010). Collaborative Writing versus Individual Writing: Fluency, Accuracy, Complexity, and Essay Score. Officers & Executive Board, 1(2011), 121.

An interesting tangential article examining collaborative and individual writing. The main value of this piece is in the literature review and the references regarding collaborative and individually produced texts. It is not of primary concern but does provide some quality background on the theoretical opposition that I have kind of discovered is a bit more widespread than I understood prior to my inquiry.

Pargman, D., Hedin, B., & Hrastinski, S. (2013). Using group supervision and social annotation systems to support students’ academic writing. Högre utbildning, 3(2), 129-134.

In a subsequent study, Hedin and company were interested specifically in the social annotation system as a support, as well as how it fit into overall a supervision model. Again, using undergraduates this study required students to comment on each others writing, working in pairs only with the addition of supervisor input. There was very little advice about how or when to comment, something that they will choose to emphasize in future iterations. In fact, they will in future focus on what good performance is and facilitate the development of self-assessment, which is similar to the protocol that I use with students. A finding that is mentioned in both Hedin studies is an increase in student on-time completion rates, something that I had not thought to measure at all.

Beginning the Year Focused on Literacy

Image: Reading and Writing Connections Title Slide

Reading and Writing Connections Title Slide in Haiku Deck

I took time to reflect on the first day of school recently, mentioning how I like to dive right into the work of the class. So, I thought I might share a little about what that work looks like in the opening weeks of my ninth grade classes.

Backstory and Acknowledgements

In the summer of 2007, I spent most of my summer in a National Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute, with the local Boston affiliate.  There are a lot of things I could say about that experience, which warrant many posts of their own.

However, I had the pleasure of viewing an interactive presentation with UMass Boston professor Janna Jackson about the connections between reading and writing. Jackson had recently finished a chapter in a forthcoming book about the research that connects reading and writing, which was fascinating to me at the time. It ran deep into a topic I had contemplated but my understanding was still in its infancy. It was a solid presentation. Most important, her methods and questions got me thinking immediately about ways that I could remix the heart of the presentation for a high school audience. The result was a variation that I have been using to begin my English classes ever since.

Remixing with My Own Spin

My approach has evolved over the years, and I like to think that I have improved in how it goes. Chief among the things that I nicked form Professor Johnson was a pedagogical approach that is essentially guided discovery. A handful of her core questions still serve as an anchor. I also use the same short story, “Fetch,” by Robb White, because it can be read quickly and easily, as well as having a twist ending that beckons a higher degree of reader consciousness.

Once I distribute the story, I ask students to read and mark the text up, whatever that means to them. Their mark-up ends up being a diagnostic tool for me as I scan the room to see what they think is meant by that term and how I will adjust my teaching as a result. Additionally, I ask them to pay attention to how they read the story, to be aware of what is going on in their minds as they read and make note of it.

After a quick couple of formative questions to make sure everyone understands the story, I take a poll of how many anticipated the ending, which seems to annually float between one-third and half most of the time. I record and store the results for a later exploration into how they know what they think they know about the story.

Then I simply ask students what stood out or leaped off the page for them in the story, recording all of their responses on the white board. Their responses really lead the way, from that point. Once I have collected a number of responses, I look for one that will provide a good transition to one of the reading strategies, I know I am going to highlight (I riff off the six in Strategies that Work). I might ask some questions about why a student chose to identify a particular item to see if the strategy will rise to the fore. Often one of the strategies will bubble to the surface. If not, it is not too difficult to reframe something a student has noticed in a way that has them identifying the kind of thinking or strategy that explains the noticed element. Easily within a class period a handful of strategies can be revealed all from what students have noticed.

Encouraging Students to Notice What They Notice

I always stress that they exercise many of the strategies without even thinking about it. Yet, I push more and explain that I want them to become more reflective and aware of how they operate, why they draw certain conclusions, why and how they notice some things and not others. This effort serves a few purposes that have much longer implications.

First, in naming the strategies that are being employed they necessarily have to be more observant and aware.

Second, I want to establish the students as the driving force for the direction we are going. What they notice leads the way. I may guide things and fill in holes, but I take my cues from them, and try to make that transparent to them.

Third, we begin to assemble a  vocabulary of how we will talk about the process of reading, which they will later discover is almost identical to the process of writing.

Fourth, in discussing strategies like, relating, inferring, questioning, and more, I am laying foundations for later inquiries that drill-down on the nuances of certain strategies individually. For example, I spend a lot of time later focused on how to develop and ask really good questions, which will be foundational for later essay writing.

Last, the experience is preparation for the kind of meta-cognitive reflection that I will routinely ask them to do, as I spend considerable time asking students to self-assess their own work and experience as an antidote to a lot of teacher driven assessment and evaluation. Ultimately, I increasingly try to put students in a position of power to make choices and think about the results from those choices. It is all an effort to help them own their own learning.

All of this is likely to take a class period, sometimes spilling into a second. It really is dependent on the students in the class. Yet it serves as only a beginning to chasing bigger game.

Building on Reading and A New Wrinkle

Once strategies and other groundwork has been established, the big game question, which comes right out of that long ago presentation by Professor Jackson, “Are reading and writing similar?” Pursuing an answer to that question takes many days, but it sets an agenda, adding to a foundation of class norms, expectations, and practices. Examining the similarities and differences between the two leads to more questions, of course, and shapes nearly all of our initial reading and writing in class. Perhaps I can post more on that in future.

Since I have an iPad and have been messing about with Haiku Deck for awhile now. This year, one of the tweaks I made in my delivery was using Haiku Deck. So here it is, for what it is worth. I was having terrible trouble with efforts to embed it.

Foundation for Class

This is the first couple of weeks of my English class and how I attempt to prime the pump for all I hope the students to yield during the course of the year.

As I begin to mix in short works of fiction and non-fiction, we return to the connection between reading and writing, which proves a theme for the early part of the semester. Students discover all kinds of connections, without me having to tell them. I just keep asking them questions with a greater goal of getting all of them to start reading like writers and writing like readers. In truth, that is probably the meta-goal of any course English I teach, regardless of content, level, whatever. It is an inexhaustible journey.