Nagel Middle School
Team Members: Danielle Cripe, Brenda Kelly, Mary Moore, Carolyn Place, Chris Preston
Community: Dublin-Dallas Community Year 1, 2010-2011
Inventive thinking in the 21st century requires that students are self-directed, curious, and possess sound reasoning. Five middle school teachers designed individual units of instruction that focused on developing inventive thinkers. The academic subjects represented were Social Studies, Language Arts, and Science. Results showed three themes in each of the units of instruction: Authentic Tasks, Student Ownership, and Connected Learning. Student, teacher, and community feedback was collected as well as student work samples.
Play this VoiceThread to learn more about the project:
- Problem, Issue, or Possibility
- Objectives and Assessment
- Implementation Plan
- Evaluation and Results
In Language Arts there were two units:
In one of those units, students had just finished reading Tangerine, a story which includes many environmental issues. The students were asked to choose an issue they knew was something relevant to today, whether local or on a larger scale. Their goal was to use their previous knowledge to drive their research in order to make an attempt at solving or preventing this environment issue. After researching, they were to create a five step action plan for combatting the problem and take action by writing a letter and sending it to a company or individual who may be able to make a difference. Students were able to work with other students, and not necessarily a student within their classroom. Many opted to work with a student in a different class period and used tools such as Diigo to share their research. Their option for the final product could be anything they chose. Some students opted for a pamphlet to send out with their letter, while others created websites or movies.
In the second unit students found solutions to problems that had not been solved. Students were asked to choose an environmental issue in which they felt passionate. To help them think about issues, a Livebinder was created with links to shark finning and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Sites were attached that had short video clips of many types of environmental issues. The students spent time looking at these and then chose their topics. They researched their issue, shared links and information via Diigo and reached out to experts for information (Schoology was used to make contacts). Students collaborated with other students who were researching similar issues. Once students decided how to solve the environmental issue, they had to find someone to write to for help in making their solution a reality. Students wrote letters and sent them.
In Science students were given a problem to solve for the Director of the Duke Energy Cincinnati Children’s Museum: design a Rube Goldberg inspired contraption that has a clear beginning and end that delivers a sticker to a child, ages 2-10. The contraption should be designed to museum quality standards: no choking hazards, inspire children to learn about energy transformation, and keep guests coming back to experience the exhibit through an engaging design. Student designs were judged by the Director and a team of Museum staff. Six teams were awarded a top prize and 12 teams were awarded honorable mentions.
What is the teacher doing before a class where inventive thinking is occurring? Designing authentic tasks. Authentic Tasks invite students to solve problems that have a wide range of possible outcomes and/or solutions. Planning such units of instruction require mastery of content, ample planning time to connect content and problem(s), and ample instructional time to connect content to student outcomes.
What is a student doing when inventive thinking is occurring? Owning their learning and connecting with others. Student Ownership requires teacher respect for student prior knowledge, time for student exploration before formal teacher presentation, and lesson focus on student generated ideas and questions.
Connected Learning should focus students participating in social interactions with their peers, teachers, and outside sources to generate arguments supported with evidence leading into rigorous debate. How do we know when students have inventively thought? Students become vested in the product they have produced. It is more than a grade. It is more than an assignment checked off of a box on a teacher checlist. Passion happens.
About Action Research Projects
Action research is a process in which Powerful Learning Team members collaboratively examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully. Action research is:
- Disciplined inquiry into a problem or possibility within the school or classroom
- Collaborative and usually takes place in a community of practice
- Meaningful, positive, and reflective
- Data-driven, action-based, improvement-focused
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