While thinking about my previous post, I began to consider how I could modify tasks I had set in the past to promote the use of discussion and higher-order thinking skills as well as pupil involvement based on their range of strengths.
For example, not so long ago, my children were researching adaptation. They were in mixed ability groups and each member had a role that changed each session that they worked on the project. The aim of the project was to research an animal of their choosing and how it was adapted to their environment. They then had to collate their research from a range of sources and produce a presentation – they could choose within a range of options how to present their work. The options included a range of ICT choices or a written report.
It seems so simple now but had I changed the task question for example: Would animal ‘x’ survive in environment ‘y’ (somewhere it does not currently live), and if it wouldn’t how would it need to evolve/change to be able to survive? The children would still need to conduct the same research to find out about how the animal they chose was adapted to its existing environment but the structure of the question would have facilitated higher-order thinking and discussion within the group. As it is an open-ended question with no real concrete answers (as there may be some elements of the animal that would cope but others that wouldn’t) it lends itself to more children being able to have a reasoned opinion rather than solely using a range of sources to find facts and information about something.
In terms of task presentation, individuals could have still gone on to do what they did but perhaps each group could have been involved in preparing some form of pre-defined task (different for each group) that demonstrated their understanding AND that involved for example: construction, or art, or music etc. Again, a child who may be highly literate may be weaker when it comes to a construction task so the project as a whole allows for a distribution and understanding of a range of expertise. If children have the opportunity to take part in a range of different tasks to show their learning and understanding over several days, again you will be allowing more and more children to shine and support one another according to their various strengths and weaknesses.
Of course, with anything, this would require modelling and guidance in the lead up and incorporation of independent group work but what a great learning experience for our pupils if they truly understood group work in a way that reflected everybody’s strengths and encompassed Einstein’s quote in my previous post.
I’d love to hear other examples from people about how they might re-design a task they’ve set in the past to incorporate higher-order thinking, promote discussion and encompass the idea that task completion relies on everybody’s strengths.