Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Design Project Part Two: Interpretation | Angela K. Johnson

I began conceiving of this project in a former post by sharing what I do and do not know about my design dilemma:?how to share the Socratic Seminar method with fellow educators, beginning with a one-hour introductory presentation. This phase began with an effort to address what I did not know, so in this post I?ll?discuss and interpret what I have learned. The issues are repeated below in bold type, and my research findings and interpretation follows.

1) How will I get quality videotape of the sessions I do?

I tried two methods for getting videotape?videocamera and Flipcam, and I?m not sure either one provided great clips, but a variety of student behaviors were recorded that could, I think, provide evidence of each skill. For one session I had a person available to work the videocamera, so clips from that day follow the conversation from student to student. I have compiled below a list of the desired behaviors the videos show. While the audio is low in some cases, I think my being miked and frequently paraphrasing or following up comments the students made helps to follow the conversation. One solution is to include subtitles in portions of the film that are difficult to hear, which will not be difficult in imovie.

2) How will I (or should I) edit video from several sessions to show what I need people to see to understand the power of the method?

I think I?ll need to splice video from a number of different sessions, though in some cases I?ll want to present two clips of the same class side by side to show a contrast or a progression.

I think it would be most effective to present the skills in roughly three sets: process skills, cognitive skills, and metacognitive skills. These skills also align well with the natural progression of a seminar, so they work chronologically as well.

Process skills will include skills such as taking turns, speaking up, listening attentively, involving everyone. Cognitive skills would follow: citing evidence, social construction of meaning through dialogue, group questioning, and summary of collective understanding. I would conclude with Metacognitive skills: individual self-assessment and goal-setting, group self-assessment and goal-setting, highlights of what worked, suggestions for improvement. The following chart lists skills in progressive order on the left and specific video clips that would show those skills on the right.

Skill Demonstrated by Students Specific Clips Highlighting Skill
1. the ability to share the conversation by taking turns Clips (2 back to back?) showing students yielding the conversation to one another, as in ?You can go first? or ?Oh sorry, I?ll wait.?
2. the ability to assert themselves in a large group setting Clip of students who rarely speak voicing an opinion.
3. the ability to involve others, by asking for the opinions of classmates who are more reticent Clip of student saying, ?What do you think, x??
4. the ability to refer to the text for evidence Clip of students citing specific lines, especially two in disagreement using those to support their assertions.
5. the ability to disagree and question each other?s assertions respectfully Clip of student saying, ?I disagree with x because??
6. the ability (of some) to build on the ideas of others over the course of the seminar Clip of students referring to what someone else said, as in ?I think x may be right because?? or ?I agree, because it also says that??
7. the ability (of some) to forward the conversation by asking relevant and authentic questions of the group Clip of student saying, ?I have a question: I wonder if anyone thinks??
8. the ability to move from limited to more complex understanding of a text as a collective group Clip of a person with contrasting thoughts at beginning and end of seminar, as in a sequence where ?I think ? because?? turns into a different interpretation: ?well, then, maybe ??
9. the ability to reflect metacognitively on the group?s performance and their level of success in sustaining meaningful conversation Clip of round robin at end of session where students discuss self-rating.
11. the ability to suggest and apply specific methods for personal or group performance improvement Clip of round robin recommendations for future performance: ?I think it would help us if we would??
11. the ability to reflect metacognitively on their individual performance and participation Slide of student self-eval sheets with goals for next seminar and written self-eval.

3) How will I divide up an hour session to include everything I need to convey adequately and effectively?

An hour isn?t much time, so I won?t really be able to TEACH people how to do this. What?s more important is to convince them of the power of the method and provide basic tools for starting. The specific skills and strategies for conducting a seminar are, in large part, learned by practicing. So, I need to motivate people to try and I need to make it easy to start. Then, perhaps in a web site, I can provide support for later challenges along the way. And it will be important to reiterate that this is a PROCESS which takes time to learn?risk taking is essential, and there WILL be times when the process feels like it isn?t working, but THAT?S PART OF THE PROCESS.

4) How will I gather and organize resources for supporting teachers?everything from how to teach kids the method, how to choose a text, how to choose a question, how to troubleshoot when the discussion isn?t working, how to help students who have difficulty, how to assess students, how to progress the group from one level to the next, how to deal with large classes, and much more?

These need to be presented in an organized way, available to teachers indefinitely into the future, and should be constantly evolving. Teachers need the basics that are essential for starting the process.???These would include the following.

1. rules of the process

2. physical setup, also for large classes

3. texts to start, and rules for choosing texts in progression

4. lists of possible questions to choose from for a variety of texts

5. basic troubleshooting for early sessions

6. assessment in early and secondary stages-round robin, goal-setting, tiers

7. moving up the expectations?

The Next Steps

These are steps I need to accomplish in the next phase of the project:

1. Review all video and make notes of sections that fulfill the criteria above?clips that will effectively show what I need to show. Order and organize these according to chart above.

2. Compile a list of questions that are good options for seminar starters. I have collected a list from the training I attended many years ago as well as lists from a couple of web sites about Socratic Seminars. I?ll take those questions and perhaps divide them up in categories depending on the type of text for which they can best be applied?so, for example, questions for fiction, for nonfiction, for video, for images, etc.

3. Compile the basic essential information a teacher needs to start seminars. This would include the rules of the process, the physical setup of the room, the basic elements of a seminar.

4. Compile a troubleshooting list in progression from problems likely to be seen in the earliest seminar attempts to those that will emerge as students continue in their development. I think this may be most useful in chart format, in which the problem is listed in the left column and the exact words a teacher may say to address that problem when it arises are in the right column.

5.?Compile a tiered progression of evaluation tools, from round robin verbal-only to early paper evals, to goal-setting based on those, and evaluation based on extent to which goals are met. This would also include the progression of tiered goals through which students must work.

The Presentation

I envision the presentation as scaffolded by video clips showing the progression of student behaviors. These might be divided by Ken Burns-style title screens with the skill in bold letters and the clips following them. These should include contrast between the earliest attempts and the most successful moments near the end?I want to leave people with a vision of what can be accomplished. Many of the resources listed above can be made available on a website, but I?ll need to give the audience a taste for these (with linked references) as the presentation progresses so they understand the importance of going back to find the resources. I?m thinking one slide per type of references, with an example or two and then a link to the full list.

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