Problem of Practice
Over the past few years, our school has experienced a decline in student success in science and in expository reading as assessed through the MAP test as well as classroom assessments and observations. Informal observations show that students are reluctant to think deeply about more difficult concepts, yet struggle even with questions or problems that have answers found directly in a text, video, or other resource that has been provided to them.
Our school recently purchased the Discovery Education Science Techbook for grades K-8 to help remedy this problem. The Techbook provides quality text, accommodations for a variety of learners, videos, interactive elements, and is tied to the Michigan GLCEs, potentially making the process of planning more simple and focused. Instead of solving the problem, however, this has caused more problems for some teachers due to inadequate resources in some classrooms and especially due to the fact that we lack professional development time for the teachers to become familiar with the Techbook.
In deciding upon a problem of practice within the school in which I work, I initially had a hard time deciding, but finally settled on science and expository text since I teach both science and language arts. I chose these areas because I feel that they are connected, but are often ignored in favor of focusing on general reading skills.
When choosing the instrumental and missional questions, I actually drew a little inspiration from TE 846 (Accommodating Differences in Literacy Learners), which I am also taking this semester. This week's reading (from chapter 7 of Best Practices in Literacy Instruction by Lesley Mandel Morrow and Linda B. Gambrell) talked about student motivations to learn, which I think tie into the idea of instrumental and missional thinking pretty perfectly. With instrumental thinking, the motivators provided to our students are external. We are seeking to appeal to the children (or in the case of my school, their parents) externally with the best, newest, or trendiest tools. With missional thinking, on the other hand, the motivation to learn is more internal. As teachers and leaders who think missionally, we are seeking to appeal to students internally by eliciting curiosity and interest in the subject matter and use appropriate technologies as a tool rather than a focus.
By discussing the instrumental questions with my staff, the focus of our discussion would likely focus on the hardware and software needs of more effectively using the science Techbook. We would probably discuss ways to fund the additional technology as well as the viability of implementing a “Bring Your Own Device” program. The end result would likely be more tech tools that many of the teachers would still not use since there is unfortunately little emphasis placed on professional development in my school.
In discussing the missional questions, I feel the outcome of our meeting would provide better results for both teachers and students in terms of both the areas of science and expository text. One possible outcome would be improved student motivation to problem solve and think deeply. By discussing the these ideas, we could work together as a staff to figure out effective strategies for improving student thinking skills. Another possible outcome might be increased attention in the area of expository reading. This would not only improve science performance, but would likely improve other content areas, such as social studies, where expository text is prevalent. Finally, by looking at the Techbook, we would be able to decide whether it provides resources and experiences engaging enough to shift student attitudes towards science. If it were found to be deficient, we could devise a plan of action for swaying student attitudes in a more positive direction.
I'm Edie - wife, mom, teacher, instructional designer, home renovator,
and lover of nature, travel, technology, and vintage campers!