October 10,2013

Form 9

Language aim: speaking skills -  discussion – reasoning and argumentation

Thinking skill –Thinking tools -  introducion to the problem model- a problem description (lesson 2)

Background.  After the previous lesson ( Sep 26, see the previous lesson reflection) the students’ home task was   „ Choose your 3 learning problems and formulate them according to the structure we came up during the lesson” So, i decided to step aside from the text for the time being and to work with ideas which are closer to the students. This approach has pluses and minusies, I think.  The plus is that the context is more clear and familiar for the students but the minus is that the stereotypes  are stronger. 

After reading Alexander’s  advice to my previous reflection, I decided to concentrate on a more precise problem formulation, by specifying the problem solver,  the wish and the obstacle.

The expected outcome of the lesson was, consequently a new variant of the problem formulation.

After reading their problems, which they sent to me as their hometask,  I understood that they really still describe problems in a very general way. I decided that maybe I should work on evaluation of their problems first and for that we had to work out an evaluation tool. In fact, I decided to combine these things -  description of the wish  and obstacle and  evaluation of  the problem quality, or sooner, I thought that I would be able to come to a more specific  wish and obstacle description through  the evaluation tool.

Thus,  I started  the lesson with finding out how satisfied with their problem  descriptions  the students  were. 

Teacher: Do you like how your problems sound now?  (this was their home task –to formulate their learning  problems).

Students : -3 students (out of 13) were not very much satisfied  , because  their problems didn’t match our structure .

One  of the comments was  ‘I don’t know how to expalin the wish’    This was important for me as this could be a starting point of the discussion about how to describe the wish, but I left the idea for the time being. 

All the others  said that ‘yes they liked their work , the problems are well formulated’.

I asked:  How did you decide that they are good?

Here are the answers of 4 students who were eager to answer. Not many I must admit.

1.  (It is)  According to the structure ( the majority of learners kept to this criterion, but as I now understand the structure we have is not precise enough, that is why the problems the students formulated were not good enough )

2. (It is)  Precise  because it has a lot of information ( there was another difficulty they had- their ‘problems’ were too long, I think it was my foult as I couldn’t properly explained what precision here is and they gave too wide explanations)

3. Should include solution  ( I didn’t know and now don’t know how to treat this idea, I think there is some reason?????)

4. The obstacle should be the real obstacle to the wish ( I think it is also a good idea as the student tried to express the idea of a contradiction formulation, though it’s my guess. At this point I had to decide what to do next – to discuss the ideas above or procede with the idea of creating an evaluation tool, I opted for the latter)

I put down their  answers as a list  and asked them  what this list is like.

Students:  description of the  problem formulation . In fact I wanted them to notice that these are certain features of the ‘problem ’, but as they didn’t mentioned this (probably because it was obvious to them and features and description  might be synonyms for them , so here is the question of terminology, which I have to settle down),  I kept asking questions.

The teacher :  if we look at point 1 :  ‘According to the structure’ what are possible options? 

Students:  either  Yes  or    No

Students :  So,  they are parameters

The teacher: parameters of what ?

The student (Emils):  the parameters according to which we can  evaluate the problem.

The Teacher: Are they enough? Should we add more?

Answers differed – some said enough, some said not enough. But then the common agreement was, that we don’t know whether to add or not to add, but we agree that we should introduce some improvements to the list, thus, to continue working with this evaluation list.

So our further discussion was about an obstacle ( introduced by a student) and the argument point was:

Should we include in the problem description a  few obstacles  or one obstacle?


for one  obstacle –  because  we can find solution for one obstacle only ;  

for many obstacles   - because if we solve only one obstacle we don’t solve the whole problem as there is left another obstacle 

As we couldn’t come  to a common agreement   we  left it open for further research

To help them  find more features of a problem description I gave them a simple, in my vision, example.

Example 1. It is raining. John is sitting at home. He is bored.  Are there problems?   -the students answered  ‘No’

Example 2.  John wants to go for a walk but it’s raining so he is bored.  Is it a problem? – the studentsanswered  ‘Yes”.  

The teacher: Will you,please, evaluate the problem description.

The students:  Not good, because

1. Wish is not explained .

2. Not clear what a problem is.

So we decided to add 2 more points  to the evaluation list

- Is the obstacle clear?

- Is the wish clear?

H.T. choose one of the problems you wrote an evaluate it according to the parameters, if necessary – make improvements.  

Conclusions. I can’t say that I  fully achieved my initial aim to specify the wish and the obstacle, though I think that we moved in this direction; I think that I didn’t achieve the aim of introducing the evaluation tool as well, as it was done not consistenly and in a systematic way, sooner just  like some unconnected elements, fragments and I am afraid not very helpful. So it is still a problm for me to react to the students’ replies properly, giving them clear enough examples and put proper question to provoke their thinking, as I myself am not very strong and sure  in the area.




# Edgar Lasevich 2013-11-02 18:39
Dear Irina,
Thank you, this is a really good description. Fantastic that we, as observers, can see the thread of teacher's thinking being in the process with plans and evaluation of achievements.
This lesson is a very nice demonstration of how a teacher changes the flow of the activity based on students' reaction. In many cases, to reach the goal (which is the starting point for a teacher), you have to re-formulate the task and even change it. Here we see it in practice done in a really very professional way - aims all the time present and flow of the lesson is changed based on that.
There are two things which may be further considered:
1. It may be better to provide a richer resource for comparison of problems. This may be done by comparing the best (students vote) and the worst work, or comparing some other people's formulations to the ones the class acknowledged as the best. This might create a bit more flexible environment and more student-generated approach to parameter formulation. So there may be many procedures available on how to organize work reaching the same outcomes (need and model of problem, in this case).
2. Your internal thoughts (thanks for that) still show some internal "marking". Which means students are challenged until an "expected answer" is mentioned. This again, narrows the freedom of students and may lead to dependance on a teacher to "lead" them through rather directed questioning.
# Kirsi Urmson 2013-11-10 17:37
Thank you Irina! A good description of teacher's role in the class, how to listen to the pupils but still keep the aims in mind.
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