Friday, November 28, 2014

Teacher Talk Enhances Learning

The 9th Australasian Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Conference (November 20th & 22nd), the University of Waikato.

When quantitative and qualitative research methods are used quite often it can result in better insights. In this case dual analysis appears to reinforce the COR Literacy Framework notion that teacher talk contributes to student learning at three levels.

I recently had the privilege of presenting at this conference held in Hamilton, New Zealand. Hamilton is a beautiful city situated along the Waikato River (see the river walk in the picture). The city's Hamilton Gardens, which won the International Garden of the Year - 2014 award for their internationally unique concept of telling 'The Story of Gardens' (in picture), is well worth a visit. Although New Zealand and Australia are close, I noticed many contrasting details. In Kiwiland the grass and the gum trees are greener and more uniform. The farms are neater with huge hedges instead of barbed wire fences enclosing them.

Associate Professor Rod Gardner (an accomplished author and researcher in the field of conversational analysis) and I presented some preliminary findings from our continuing research centred around the COR Literacy Framework. In the research project we video taped six small group lessons using three camcorders and two voice recorders. There were two teachers trained in using the COR Literacy Framework who consented to teach three small group lessons each. Some of the recordings have been transcribed and coded according to conversational analysis conventions. This methodology is quite a contrast to my previous research where my perspective has been from a cognitive psychology approach. The cognitive psychology methodology is primarily a top-down approach based on theoretical assumptions whereas the CA methodology is a bottom-up approach that attempts to make no prior assumptions but is more concerned with close observation of meaningful conversations.

The presentation of our ongoing research project was in two parts: I presented the background to the COR Literacy Framework and the research findings to date from a cognitive psychology perspective and Assoc. Prof. Gardner presented the preliminary findings using  the Conversational Analysis methodology.  One of the research questions was: Do good teachers focus their questions on the three COR levels: perception (factual), cognitive, and metacognitive? At this stage we are beginning to see that this is the case and that this happens in various ways and over relatively short segments of time and sometimes this can be over more extended segments.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Comprehension and Philosophy in Schools

Philosophy deals with the most fundamental concepts about our existence and what it means to be human in this world. It considers ideas such as: knowledge, truth, meaning, justice, beauty, freedom and consciousness. Our understanding about these ideas influence many aspects of our lives. One of the best ways to involve children in philosophical discussion is to use good children's literature as a vehicle for philosophical discussions in the classroom.

I have included an excerpt from my book, 'Developing Literacy in the Primary Classroom' to show how philosophy, children's literacy and the COR literacy framework can be blended to develop deeper thinking and enquiry learning in the classroom.

"Literature circles and philosophical discussions will position the reader/viewer as a critical analyst who will look for and interpret meanings not just at the surface level but at deeper levels of cognition and metacognition.

Perceptual level: Observing and clarifying: Inferring and clarifying what has been suggested, making a distinction, asking an appropriate question, making an assumption, generalizing, and asking for a reason.
    What is the author saying?
    Do you think these points are the most important...?
    What reasons do you think the author has for saying that?
    Is the author saying that...?
    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't she/she saying ...?
    What do think the author means by...?
    Aren't you thinking that...?
    Could you give me an example from your own experience of...?

Conceptual level: Forming an opinion, clarifying and justifying: Giving a reason, inferring, giving counter examples, and using criteria.
    In light of what the story was about, do you think that...?
    Why do you believe that what you said is correct?
    Can you tell us why you think that?
    Does anyone else have any questions for …?
    Do you agree with his/her reasons?
    Is that evidence good enough?
    What evidence are you using to make that statement?
    Is it possible that you and the other person are contradicting each other?
    Can you try to see the issue from someone else’s point of view?

Metacognitive level: Evaluating individual and group responses: This involves personal reflection and evaluation, and also evaluating the responsiveness of the group.
    Did we listen to each other well?
    Did we respect each others’ opinions and ideas?
    What have we learned from this discussion?
    Did we use good reasons for what we have said?
    What has it changed? (Self-correction, concepts, experience, 
    How did you feel about the discussion?

    Is what you said now consistent with what you said before?"     (Woolley, 2014, p102)

Woolley, G. (2014). Developing literacy in the primary classroom. London: Sage.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Success despite a different point of view

A natural landscape (from nature, not from the show)
This morning I came across an intriguing interview with Philip Johnson in the Weekend Australian Magazine (18-19th October, 2014, p. 6). Philip is an Australian landscaper who had the honour of winning the top award at last year's prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in 2013, to highlight our connection to the natural landscape. The intriguing thing was not that the winner was from Oz but that he was colour blind. The question was, how could a person who is colour blind take out what is possibly the world's most famous flower show? What became apparent was the fact that his father took quite an interest in his son and taught him the dynamics of the colour wheel and how colours can dynamically work together.

What is more amazing is that he has severe dyslexia and he has just published a book. He found it extremely difficult to write but attributes his success to the support of people who made sure that he didn't feel hopeless and inferior.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement

Students with Literacy Difficulties

Earlier this year I published a chapter in "Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement". In the chapter I contend that readers process written text at three levels of cognition. Below I have reprinted a copy of the chapter summary.

"Students with learning difficulties in literacy are affected by a range of factors within themselves and also by other factors outside themselves. These factors interact in a number of ways that will often lead to disengagement from literacy learning. This then becomes a cycle of failure that is often quite difficult to overcome. To reverse this trend students should be shown how to develop self-regulation strategies leading to independence and academic success. For this to be effective teachers need to develop broader assessment practices by looking beyond the notion of learning difficulties residing solely within the learner. Thus, teachers should also consider other factors outside the learner such as texts, tasks and instructional practices within the social context of the classroom and community.

Assessment should acknowledge students’ strengths and consider their educational needs in response to instructional practices. A thorough and responsive assessment should lead to appropriate accommodations and adjustments to the curriculum that focus on three levels of engagement: surface, cognitive and behavioural. Most accommodations and adjustments not only help individuals but also benefit the wider community of learners. Literacy is a social activity and there are cooperative methods that can support students with learning difficulties within the classroom and beyond. Family-literacy programs, for example, extend learning beyond the classroom walls and give impetus to the literacy development of students who may be at risk of academic failure."

Woolley, G. (2014). Students with Literacy Difficulties. In M. Hyde, L. Carpenter, & R. Conway (Eds.), Diversity, inclusion and engagement (2nd ed., pp. 107-127). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.