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Week 4B (Oct. 18- Oct. 24)- Process-based Instruction and Engagement

Process-based instruction, in my mind, is instruction that capitalizes on getting students to work on that which they are learning.  In writing, it looks like writer's workshop.  In reading, it looks like either book groups or independent reading.  In math, it looks like group or individually-based problem solving (this is explained further later). In art, it looks like students making their own original works. And in science or history students may be carrying out experiments, examining artifacts, or acting out a scene.

A number of educators may disagree with my framing of these practices as "process-based" because components of products (in writing) or components of lesson instruction (in the form of mini-lessons or follow-up class discussions) oftentimes occur.  My logic goes like this: these teaching practices are less about formal lessons, less about products, and more about students spending time learning through doing.  Although mini-lessons are taught and may well be in a directed-lesson format, mini-lessons are a small part of the overall format of this sort of instruction.  Although problem solving can lead to designing a product, product-development is not commonly part of math problem-solving lessons.

Below are some readings and resources that illustrate this type of lesson design.  Select one or two and examine them for student engagement strategies. 

Writer's Workshop- A slideshow introduction by DIane Moore, Literacy Leader at Hamilton Elementary School.

How to Set Up Reader's Workshop in Your Classroom- by Reader's

Mathematical Problem Solving by James W. Wilson, Maria L. Fernandez, and Nelda Hadaway

A Blog about a teachers experience with "Getting Out of the Way" by Marsha Ratzel.

I am not sure if this article fits here, and yet it feels like it does.  What sort of instrution best takes into account what students choose to learn?  What we Don't Know ABout Our Students by Alfie Kohn.

Discuss in our comments section: In what ways do teachers engage students when they are using process-based instruction?  What elements of engagement work with this sort of instruction?  Are there elements of engagement that are less prevalent or useful in this type of instruction?

Task Discussion

  • Jessica Powell   Nov. 8, 2011, 12:27 a.m.

    All of these articles promote a very concise picture of what teachers should be doing: letting our students take control of their own learning. Of course as the facilitator, teachers need to be there in order to start them on their way. We are like Glinda the Good Witch telling Dorothy that she needs to head down the metaphorical Yellow Brick Road. While we point them in the right direction, the things our students need to truly learn, they must do themselves. We watch what they do, but shouldn’t interfere unless absolutely necessary (like for safety reasons)! The article “Teaching By Getting Out of the Way” is something that I think I would have trouble doing. I remember once being on a field trip with my students who were placed into groups where they had to do physical problem solving. For the most of the trip, the leaders at the various stations had told everyone in the groups what to do, and then had the teachers in charge of the groups lead them in how to work out the problems. Yet in one particular group, the leader at the station pulled me aside, and I almost felt helpless watching the group I was in charge of figure out the problem on their own.

    But realistically, wasn’t that how I had learned? Hadn’t I had to figure things out on my own? For the longest time, I was the student who asked, “Is this okay? Is this what I’m supposed to do?” It wasn’t until middle school when most of my teachers told me I wasn’t allowed to ask if this was “what s/he wanted” that I was able to figure out what was needed. The sink or swim philosophy isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it forces students to learn. What we need to look out for are those who are sinking because they truly don’t understand or because they fear failure. Our job is to show students how to swim then throw the students in the pool, sweat it out as the students flail for a bit, and only pull them out if they can’t learn how to swim on their own, but watch in satisfaction when they are able to do what we know they are capable of doing.

  • Grant   Oct. 17, 2011, 10:49 a.m.

    Teachers allow the students to take the reins and I think that helps in giving the student that self autonomy of being in control of what they are learning in a sense.  I think sometimes students feel like they are in a cult in a sense they are told what they have to learn and when they have to learn it and are not given any choices.  I think by doing discovery or process based learning students get an opportunity to feel that sense of control.

    I feel the same way I do about direct instruction.  I think the teacher makes or breaks the lesson by way of the plan of the lesson and the enthusiasm towards the lesson or concept.  I think students can be engaged by this type of learning and some may not enjoy this at all.  I really do not like this type of learning.  I really despised it when I was in school.  I just wanted the information.  I didn't want to find out myself.

    I read the Mathematics Problem solving article.  I think to summarize it I would say that we want our kids to problem solve but we don't want them to get in a memorization of steps but to problem solve problem by problem with a different approach and be able to apply different techniques and ideas to every problem where as no problem is the same.  I like this but at the same time it causes mass confusion because kids want the quickest and easiest way to solve problems.  :)  The problem for this is that in the real world problems are usually not solved quickly or easily. :)