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Inquiry Based Project — Scripted Discussions

August 6, 2010

Toward the end of the 2009-’10 school year I was getting the hang of inquiry based learning and decided to try new projects in the two courses I was teaching — Humanities II (Grade 10) and Political Science & Constitutional Law (Grades 10-12).  What I am about to write about is not my original idea.  I tweaked others’ ideas, and much of the credit cannot and does not go to me.

First in our Humanities II PLC (professional learning committee of four members, 2 two-person teams composed of an English and social studies teacher) two of my colleagues suggested trying to implement the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance unit on Civil Discourse in the Classroom.  We were looking for a way to wrap up our study of the United States (course scope: 1920-present) as well as to have the kids work in inquiry based units.  We knew we wanted the students to examine current issues, to inform the class about differing viewpoints on these issues and to conduct a civil discussion while advocating these differing view points.  The Civil Discourse in the Classroom framework provided the method to achieve these goals.

At the same time I knew that this would work in my Political Science class with a few tweaks.  Instead of current issues the students had to select from issues most important to President Barack Obama at that time, and one person in the group had to advocate Obama’s view/policies while the others had to advocate differing views on the same issue.  On the day of the scripted discussions (see documents) the groups participated in a fish bowl discussion while the class had to write down 5 things from the conversation they observed that intrigued them in some way.  At the conclusion of the fish bowl discussion we held a larger discussion on the issue or policy, using the students self-generated prompts to carry the conversation.

In both instances Diigo was used for the individual groups to collect and share information.

One thing that we had to constantly reinforce was that this is not a debate, there are no crowned winners and that the purpose was to hear about different viewpoints on these issues and to discuss them — this was different for them.  We also furnished our sophomores in Humanities II with study guides for their issues because we felt that they had needed them at that time, even though it can appear to work counter to inquiry based learning.

I was happy with the way that the projects worked out overall for a first run, but it was late May and into June when they occurred.  I’m going to try something like this again during the first quarter, and I would like to revise it in such a way that students will really take ownership of their issue and position and become active and eager participants.

After you read through the project sheets, sample study guide (Humanities II only0 and rubrics, please offer any suggestions  you may have.   The rubric is a modified form of a rubric that Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA shared with HC back in the summer of 2009.  They are doing amazing things at SLA and deserve your attention!

I have also attached a brief document on how you can teach Diigo to your students and get them started.  Following that I have attached a larger document which you may freely adapt to your school — and it easily adapts for distribution from teacher to students or from teacher to teacher (as in a professional development setting).  The red type are areas you will need to customize,  but feel free to customize it how you wish.  And if you could please credit me on “How to Use Diigo” I’d be appreciative, too.

Project Sheets and Rubrics

Presidential Policy Theme Scripted Discussion
Presidential Policy Theme Scripted Discussion Rubric
Contemporary Issues Scripted Discussion
Foreign Policy Study Guide
Contemporary Issues Scripted Discussion Rubric

Resources for Teaching Diigo

Teacher Outline for Teaching Diigo
How to Use Diigo Adaptable Instructions

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