What Kindergarteners Can Teach Us About Research, Creating Content, and Connected Learning: Part 2

Today’s post is the second in a series relevant to the learning that has transpired in Lockport teacher Heather Bitka’s kindergarten classroom this spring.

  • I introduced Heather in this post.
  • The prologue to this learning experience, which explains our work as co-learners with greater depth, can be found here.
  • This post speaks to the common questions that began provoking us right from the start and what the adults involved hoped the kindergarteners would know and be able to do when we were finished.

Today, I’ll share a bit about how each of us pursued those guiding questions, despite the fact that our roles and purposes within this experience were different.

When I say that these questions began provoking all of us, I mean that literally. We didn’t generate these questions prior to our work together. We aligned purposes and outcomes to the distinct roles and needs of different learners involved in this process, but these questions emerged on their own, revealing themselves early on in the unit and winding a common thread through our work together, regardless of what we were studying individually.

For example, it is easy to see how these questions are relevant to kindergarteners engaged in research about creatures who hatch from eggs.

But they also worked for Heather as she put a critical eye on her curriculum design and instructional practices.

And Kay Shanley, the classroom aide who supports Heather and her students, kicked questions like these around as she considered the role of technology in helping learners seek, record, and share their learning with increasing independence.

They also worked for Sheri and I  as we invested ourselves in a deeper study of  instructional coaching practices.

Some discoveries and things I’m still reflecting on:

  • Questions like these transcended the content of the unit, which opened up new possibilities for learning and also created some unexpected challenges. I’m rethinking which content and skills were really at the “center” of this unit, and I know that Heather and I will have time to talk about this more later this week.
  • Attending to these questions purposefully also seemed to create greater opportunities for children and adults to shift between the roles of teacher and learner. I was blown away by how interested these kindergarteners were in sharing their unique expertise, walking me through their processes, and revealing the details of their thinking and how it was changing. I truly learned a ton from them, and will be devoting the posts that follow this one to a bit of elaboration around all of that.
  • Finally, it seemed that revisiting the questions, reflecting on them in different ways, and opening dialogue around what we were learning as a result amplified their power and inspired the creation of new ideas and the consideration of different possibilities.
  • Again, these were not pre-planned essential or guiding questions. They were questions that seemed to be relevant to each learner’s work, and we discovered them by paying careful attention to what was happening while we were learning. Could they evolve into those other forms? I think so, and just as I have been intrigued by the idea of designing rubrics with students, I’m now very interested in studying what would happen if students actually worked with teachers to fleece out the essential or guiding questions from a unit as they were experiencing it.

Thanks for joining me here today! The third post demonstrates the beginning of instruction, where researchers applied strategies that helped them gather facts. Read ahead if you’d like!

 

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