Synthesis of Models: Is Motivation King?

Comparison and Contrast
I found that covering Anchored Instruction, SKI, LfU, and T-GEM in such a short time had them pretty jumbled in my head, so this was a great chance to sort things out!  I conducted a review by re-reading the main literature surrounding the different frameworks, as well as reviewing our posts.  It is interesting to note that the theories span from 1992-2007.  In the context of changing technology, I think this is relevant.  In comparing the four theoretical frameworks I found commonalities and stand-out features.

Commonalities
All of the approaches we studied are rooted in constructivism, inquiry, and collaboration.  I would probably describe this to as a parent as “hands-on learning in groups” and I’m all in favour!  I have four kids in the school system and I can honestly say that this appears to be how things are done in K-7 here in BC for the most part; there is a lot of social learning and project-based learning.  The 8-12 years, and higher education are a different story and don’t really fully adopt any of these features.  Despite the “flatness” of knowledge that tech offers, my own high school remains highly prescriptive, fragmented, and individual at both the staff and student level.  The movement to a more student-centered mantra is messy and filled with uncertainty.  What are they learning?  What if it isn’t the same thing?  How do I fairly assess students who are working in groups on differentiated projects?  For my money, this revolution can and will only start with encouragement and pro-D investment at the teacher level.

Stand-out Features (for me)
1)  The features of “Anchored Instruction” seem flow from their focus on authentic problem solving.  I found the Jasper Series a bit dated, but this could easily be mapped onto more modern tools or an entirely different delivery mode.  I’m not sure that the ideas need to rest on a video series at all.  In my own classes I have found that building real structures like greenhouses, and wind turbines are the authentic tie in to content that student find engaging.  We experience a lot of failure in tying together the procedural and declarative, but we are making progress.

2)  The standout feature of “SKI” for me is the focus on misconceptions.  This was my least favorite approach, because it seems to presuppose that something worthwhile is being studied in the first place.  Dealing with misconceptions is really important, but from my view of how learning works in the classroom, motivation to learn must occur first.  I found that most of what might be accomplish in SKI is also covered incidentally by any theory of learning that is constructivist, or iterative.

3)  I really like the “LfU” model’s focus on motivation, especially this quote:

“The problem with these traditional approaches is not that they attempt to communicate knowledge instead of giving students opportunity to construct it thought direct experiences, but that the  transmission approach does not acknowledge the importance of the motivation and refinements stages of learning and relies too strongly on communication to support knowledge construction.”  (Edelson, 2000, p.  378)

This framework is the strongest fit with my own experiences in teaching science and mathematics. Our STEM team at Templeton have begun asking a lot more questions about the “lifeworlds” of students and how they engage with school.  This goes beyond “real world” and requires looking at what is relevant to students.  No easy feat and I’m not yet sure how to do it.  Mostly we have been collecting surveys and reflecting on the choices students make when they are allowed to choose their own “capstone” project topics.

4)  The stand-out feature of “T-GEM” for me was the focus on data driven models.  I really like how the approach is inquiry based, and iterative.  This “accretion” or refinement method is a great way to expose and resolve misconceptions or contradictions.  The only weakness is the extreme level of scaffolding required.  The literature stresses “experienced teacher” so many times that I wonder if it is perhaps not the best way to coax teachers into a more “student centered” learning stratagem.  I personally find that time is the scarcest of resources.  This model could be a disaster in our current “all go all the time” K-12 system.

The table below shows a review of the papers and posts, based on the terms and explicit focus given for each framework.  I used this to organize my synthesis:

Explicit Focus

LfU TGEM SKI Anchored Instr.
Constructivist

Y

Y

y

y

Inquiry

Y

y

Y

Y

Student-Centered

Y

Y

Y

Y

Collaborative

Y

Y

Y

Y

Real World

Y

Y

Y

Engagement

y

Y Y
Situated

y

Y

Y

Iterative

Y

y

Technology

y

Y

Lifelong learning

y

Differentiated

y

Complex

Y

References:

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992b). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program, description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385.

Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistryScience Education, 91(6), 877-905.

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

 

6 comments

  1. Hi Michael,

    I appreciate how your connected each of the different frameworks to your own practice. I agree that Anchored instruction does not need to be a video series…the projects your describe provide real-life scenarios as well as providing multiple solutions to a given problem – what fantastic opportunities for your students. Our grade 6 students designed and built living roofs models this year. They were given a real-life situation (a hospital roof – providing seating for patients and their families) and were challenged to construct a solution using their background knowledge and applying it to their design. It incorporated most “subject areas” and “ticked” all of the anchored instruction boxes without being a video! We also shot time-lapse video via iPads to watch the “plants” aka grass and other seed grow and fill in the areas in their design. We could probably add more aspects to make it a more “technology enhanced learning environment” but not sure that it would be necessary. Lots to think about!

    1. Hello Natalie,

      Thanks for sharing! I think K-7 is the perfect forum to adopt constructivism, collaboration, and inquiry–I have a ton of respect for our elementary teachers here, and the work that you are doing at your school. Your hospital roof example is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about. I would like to see more time dedicated to fostering a stronger tie between elementary and high school. I feel these groups could learn a lot from each other in a way that would definitely benefit kids!

  2. HI Michael

    I like the fact that you mentioned there is a teaching style difference between k-7 and 9-12+. I wonder why this is? In my second year teaching high school, the grade 8 teachers got together with the 6-7 teachers from the feeder schools. We discussed curriculum and the different teaching styles and what the students need to know when they came to HS. In 25 years, this has only happened once…I think there should be more collaboration between the elementary and HS teachers.

    I wonder if this course has been modified in last few years? You indicated that “the theories span from 1992-2007″…does this mean no research has occurred in the last few years?

    A good next step might be to see if there is any new research with respect to TELEs.

    Christopher

    1. Thanks for your comments, Christopher. With my kids all in elementary, and me teaching in high school, I have a foot planted in both. Our science/STEM department has been building a healthy connection with our K-7 feeders over the last 4 years, but it seldom reaches beyond a day or so. I would attribute the teaching difference to a bunch of things, including relative sizes of the schools as it relates to collaboration among staff, ages of the student as it pertains to stages of development, and how structure of the day affects what is taught and by what model. Also, there is no “department” expertise structure like high school and beyond.

      A scan of ERIC and Google Scholar searches indicates that the Adventures of Jasper Woodbury are not really being looked at in current literature, but the effectiveness of Anchored Instruction is definitely being explored in different contexts. SKI is being explored to see where it can best be deployed as a framework. T-GEM pops up too, under simulation based learning. Finally, LfU is being incorporated as a contributing framework to some pro-D, and applications to courses on managerial practice.

      Michael

  3. Hi Michael,

    First I would like to say how much I appreciate your table as it is very organized, detailed, and user friendly. Your point about anchored learning rings true to your point about “authentic problem solving” as this is one of my favourite methods for ensuring that students have a purpose when learning something new. As you say, the Jasper videos are a bit dated, but perhaps with collaboration with other teachers mentioned throughout this post and comments, I think it would be very beneficial for students to learn concepts embedded within meaningful context that they connect with.

    In response to Christopher’s comment as well, I think it is critical for collaboration to occur with intermediate and high school teachers. I often wonder about how education might change if students were to have the same teacher for a few years. In Italy, my friend’s children have the same teacher for the first five years of their education system as a way to document their progress. I know this is not an easy feat, but something that might be intriguing to see implemented in North America (perhaps this does occur?!). I think 10 months can be tricky to determine progress and assessment especially with particular age groups when there can be small perceived progression. Throughout the TELE’s the opportunities for scaffolding and teacher-check in do allow for better feedback and assessment to occur.

    Thanks for your post!

    Cristina

    1. Hello Cristina,

      Thanks for your comments–I didn’t know Italy had that arrangement in place. Very cool. I am all in favour of changing the structure of high school. Some questions I’ve collected in discussions with colleagues over last few years are:

      1) Does every class need to be the same length?
      2) Does math need to be compulsory after grade 8?
      3) Do our current subject divisions make sense?
      4) Are year-end exams the best way to summarise a year of learning?
      5) Why do we have honour roll and principal’s list?

      Michael

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