School Name: École Nesika Elementary
School District: SD#27 Cariboo-Chilcotin
Inquiry Team Members: Holly Zurak: firstname.lastname@example.org, Kaarina Fichtner: email@example.com, Lacey Nasuszny: firstname.lastname@example.org, Naomi Miller: email@example.com, Todd Routtu: firstname.lastname@example.org, Kari Johnson: email@example.com, Leona William: firstname.lastname@example.org, Melissa Therrien: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Mathematics / Numeracy
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving)
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To what extent will using the “Thinking Classrooms” best practices increase thinking habits in students at École Nesika?
Scanning: At École Nesika Elementary, the school goals of improving literacy and numeracy outcomes for students in all grade levels, will be directly impacted by an increase in thinking skills and a decrease in “studenting” habits. We know learning takes patience and time, and with low marks on the FSA tests. These practices will align with Visible Learning strategies for teaching and learning that are already in use. These “best practices” are best for all students, inclusively.
Focus: In support of School District 27 goals, “The change and transformation are really not about curriculum. It is actually about how we engage students in learning.”
By building school (staff) wide capacity with a team approach to support continuous improvement in practice, we can encourage the shift to best practice. Using “Thinking Classrooms” research — evidence-based “best practices” for numeracy — to better our practices, we were hoping to create a community of thinkers.
Hunch: Our hunch was that if we tried something different, student engagement would go up with the novelty of something new. We know that engagement leads to thinking and learning, and if we could get students involved with open-ended problem solving, we could engage them in other aspects of academics as well.
New Professional Learning: Teachers participated in Peter Liljedahl’s Pro-D days, to learn how to implement the “Thinking Classroom” in their rooms. His book Building Thinking Classrooms was invaluable in helping guide us. Teachers also visited other classrooms to observe.
Taking Action: Implementation ranged from some classrooms only creating random groups, to some using “Thinking Classrooms” in every subject area, not just math. All teachers involved used random groups instead of teacher created groups. All teachers found this worked extremely well, as after the first few times random groups were chosen, students had no problem working with any other student in the class as they were used to it. Students reported there was less stress with random groups because they didn’t have to make a choice of who to work with, and everyone was guaranteed to have a partner. They also knew they had to complete a task, and because the groups were completely random and changed often, students could work with anyone for a short period of time.
The other major component of the Thinking Classroom was standing while using vertical, non-permanent surfaces. Students were more apt to take risks and chances when there was no permanent record of their work, and it is easy to erase. Students were also thinking more because they were standing up instead of sitting at their desk. This enabled students who need to move in order to think, more leeway with their movements.
Checking: Students were interviewed to get feedback on their “Thinking Classroom” experience, as well as the 4 questions. When students were asked in the beginning what they were learning, most of their answers were along the lines of “math” or “multiplication,” and were very vague. When asked again at the end of the year, they were clearly able to articulate their task and what was expected of them. One student answered the question, “Where are you going with your learning?” with “There is no end to learning. You have to keep working until the end of class because if you think you have the answer, there is another part to the task, so you have to keep thinking and learning.”
Reflections/Advice: Next year, we plan to continue with this inquiry and expand it to language arts and social studies as well. We also plan to delve deeper into assessment, and implement the independent student accountability portion of Thinking Classrooms. I would highly recommend anyone who is wanting to have a classroom of thinkers to implement this researched-based practice into their classroom.