SpEd Inquiry with Derek van Deursen

I began with the Question:

“By changing the methods of my instruction to inquiry based and differentiated learning will I be able to maintain the content of my HT class to that of the science 9 classes?”

My focus was created out of teaching 3 Science classes of the same grade, one of them being a “hand picked Time-table” (HT) class.  The students are picked out of regular classes at the beginning of the year by counsellors and placed in these HT classes.  They run the same curriculum, yet are assumed not to cover as much material.

Thus my context initiated my topic.

I was idealistic to begin with; the dangerous end of optimism.  I thought, rather than reduce the load on this class while steamrolling on with my others why can’t I give choice and oppourtunity for depth. Yet as I began planning I found myself struggling with the methodology and creativity to make lessons that were all of: meaningful, student centered, fairly assessed and timely.

My lack of strength in this area led to an almost immediate overwhelming of the HT class. I saw why these students were picked: while they lacked self-regulation they were smart and questioned everything. Their curiosity led me off the path I wanted to be on, and confused my learning intentions, yet I still tried to keep them on pace with my plan.

My inquiry was driving my teaching style, which wasn’t working, so I changed my question:

“What are the real big ideas that I want my students to learn and how can I maximize the oppourtunities for their learning?”

While this question is one that should be asked of all teachers for all classes, I was interested in the similarities and differences that may come up between the regular and HT science classes.

Because my regular classes had more resilient students, skilled at navigating the crucible of common instruction, they received less of the adaptations.

Some of the successful methods I used initially with the HT’s were:

Multiple modes of instruction – When I taught a topic, I would plan for 3 or 4 different ways for the students to grapple with the idea. An example while learning about the relationship of the sun and moon and how that manifests visually for us on Earth was to demonstrate with a model and light, then brainstorm as a class, explore with their own models, build a manipulative, and watch a video on the relationship.

Time with a singular question or idea – Paired with multiple modes was the central question. After every attempt in learning I would go back to how our findings related to the essential idea, thus making as many of their ideas relate to assessable content.   The question for the former topic was, “How do the sun and the moon interact and how does that affect what we see”.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 8.53.12 PM.png

Visualizing the phases of the moon – Balloons and a bedside lamp

Through this inquiry process, my main learning has been around the importance of Depth rather than Breadth. While this is by no means only a SpEd consideration, it is more important for students who lack the ability to grasp concepts quickly and through multiple means.

The importance of reaching understanding is worth the time it often takes to do so. I was able to learn this in the environment of the HT class where it is assumed that all the content will not be covered. However I believe this notion should be applied in all classes. Yet to do so requires the parallel ability to keep those engaged who are quick to grasp ideas.

The next step for this inquiry seems to lead further away from the explicit topic of SpEd and more into the ability use ongoing differentiated learning.


Planetary Cubes: Open them up and learn about your planet

Planetary Cube Template: S9 W Planetary Cubes Template

If I were to use this activity again I would make the information on the inside more interesting, or a question about a planet.  Each Cube could even make 6 planets ( 1 on each face).


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