Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Instructional Round - Higher Order Thinking

On April 16th, NorKam was visited by an external team of administrators and teachers from other schools in the district.  They were at NorKam to observe students learning in the classroom and to gather data about what these students were doing. The purpose of this visit was to gather data regarding our problem of practice. "To what extent are students given tasks that require them to think at levels above recall and understanding?"

Based upon the data, the external team made predictions on what NorKam students would be able to do and make several recommendations on what things we could do to improve our student's higher order thinking.  At our May staff meeting, the staff was presented with the external team's data, pattern analysis, and predictions. The staff discussed what they saw and reported out to the staff as a whole.  The staff observed that our intuitions about higher order instruction in the school were supported by the data gathered by the external team, and in particular the staff made the following observations:
  • the wait time given to students as they formulate responses to questions is too short, this is symptomatic of being pressed for time, and what we are doing could be modeling that teacher will eventually provide the answer if the student takes long enough to respond;
  • the pressure of curriculum coverage may be causing us to short circuit the amount of time we spend on higher order thinking;
  • perhaps the amount of higher order thinking questions and tasks will be more evident at the end of the course, once students have acquired the background knowledge;
  • strategies are needed to get students to engage, they disengage if there is dead air from wait time;
  • there is a lack of higher order questioning go on;
  • there is a lack of students asking higher order questions;
  • is it a fine line, when do teachers step in to assist and when do they stand back and let the student eventually figure it out;
  • we need some nudging strategies for teachers to extend student's thinking;
  • we give up too easily on the higher order thinking and therefore the types of questions we are asking tend to lower levels of thinking.
At our next Inservice Day on May 11 we will be developing these ideas a little more and each collaboration team will be coming up with some action steps to improve the level of higher order thinking we engage our students in.