Title Image, A Note: I’m the little fella in the above photo. That’s me with my family on a trip to Drumheller, Alberta in the early 80s. Like so many littles, I fell in love with dinosaurs. I spent every waking minute learning and asking about dinosaurs. They were the coolest thing in my life (until Back to the Future came out)… and I could not turn that fascination off – not for school, not for chores, not for church, not for family dinners… nothing could turn my attention away. I didn’t set learning goals. I didn’t monitor my progress (except for comparing notes with other dino lovers), I didn’t understand how I best learned information and I didn’t set a path to take advantage of my skill set – I just learned. Because I had the luxury of time, curiosity, and parents who could provide me with learning opportunities like field trips to the coolest place on earth.
This may come as a surprise – but I didn’t start working a job until I was much older. I didn’t start having other competing interests like girls or football or the great works of literature, art, and film which I so love. When I was loving dinos, I didn’t have to prioritize my life to such a degree. To think of it – it was in middle school where I started understanding who I was and how I was being pulled in multiple directions. I would have loved to continue learning quality dino information at the same pace through adolescence and into adulthood… but I ran out of time. That’s sad for little Sean – but oh so inspiring for all of the students with whom I have the privilege of working.
I realize now that I could have benefitted from Self-Regulated Learning Skills and processes as a child… and it is because of that, and this learning, experience that I feel this is such an important skill set to transfer to my own students.
The following reflections offer a glimpse into what I’ve learned. I’ll continue writing and sharing for the next weeks, months, and years on this website – but the process is ultimately more important than the result.
To what extent did you achieve your goal?
My goal was to explore the links between collaboration and the development of higher-order thinking. This is such a huge topic that I had a number of possible derailments along the way… For example, I had to be careful not to get drawn too deeply into the definitional debates surrounding higher-order thinking. That said, I feel that looking at higher-order thinking in terms of students remembering information and transferring that information to make sense of what they’ve learned is where I focused my attention. After a good review of the development of higher-order thinking in this context, I turned to articles and studies exploring collaboration. While an explicit study of collaboration as a determinant of higher-order thinking development has not been completed (to my knowledge), I was able to identify a number of links. One potential narrowing of my original inquiry is to look at how we can enhance critical thinking skills by peer vetting of task responses.
Overall – I feel quite happy in how my understanding will be used. At a classroom level, I am working towards designing a collaborative group assessment protocol which can be used to identify student achievement in a group setting.
What were the reasons for how your inquiry turned out?
I want to credit Schunk’s article from the course readings as a an influential piece of my ability to continue with the readings and the reflection activities I have completed. With so much information, it would have been easy to get off task without a strong set of initial goals and the monitoring tools I used to ensure I stayed on track. Given the choice between working to my own students’ needs and those of the course – I chose my students 100% of the time. This did not allow me much more time to explore my inquiry more fully in the timeframe of this course.
Also – the conversations with my classmates near the end of the course, via Skype, really clarified the focus of my final few weeks on the project.
Upon final reflection, what might you do differently if you were to do it again?
I would do two things:
1) I would create a goal which was less research-based and more tool-creation based. That is to say that while I feel that I explored the links between collaboration and higher-order thinking, I wish I spent time creating highly effective collaborative group activities. I would have devoted more time to identifying and implementing best practices in collaboration instead of only pursuing a theoretical grounding. Because, after devoting this time, I am only more committed to providing authentic and meaningful collaborative opportunities for my students. I have the justification now, but I feel that I had sufficient justification prior to my inquiry.
2) I would have really engaged with some classmates and the instructor at the onset of my goal setting process to vet out my question. Both to probe their experience and understanding of the topic to get early and valuable resources and to set an appropriate goal for the time frame.
What effect has working toward this goal had on your own feelings of self-efficacy as an SRL learner?
I am less confident about the mechanisms through which my previous schooling and investigations have been performed. That is to say that while I performed well and could meet the demands of my schooling – I was not always working at peak efficiency. I have known about what motivates me – yes… but this process of SRL has allowed me to re-frame my own internal discussion surrounding my deficiencies. That is to say – instead of seeing my shortcomings in some areas of learning as a negative – I instead chose to focus on the positive aspects of my work in those areas. For example, I look at timelines and tracking my work. I have had difficulty sticking to plans – when things pop up in life or in career obligations, I would drop my coursework and attend to those other matters. I would always feel bad about that. But, through understanding who I am as a learner, I now look at those situations and say “I am intrinsically aware of my priorities. So how do I ensure that everything I do for my personal and professional growth is given top priority?” It allowed me to cut out the fluff and really hone in on my research.
What effect has working toward this goal had on your own feelings of self-efficacy in the domain in which you were working toward your goal?
My students are better for me having gone through this experience. I thought I had a good handle on inquiry-based learning. And, to some extent, I did. I attended to my students’ needs constantly, set student conferencing as a high priority, took responsibility for identifying student achievement and inquiry direction. I did not see this as a controlling position before the course – but now I see students as having the capacity to work to meet their own needs, conference with peers as a necessary and valuable step in the inquiry process, handed over assessment of learning – ultimately, my comfort and discomfort in this SRL process has allowed me to extend more responsibility to my students for their own learning. Now we can all benefit from the pure love of learning which SRL can bring. This has been a positive experience… as a student, I was frustrated, but as a teacher, I feel empowered to empower.