Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Hey! That Essential Question Didn't Work. Or Did It?
Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to work with Lower School Teachers at Greens Farms Academy in Connecticut. They are a dedicated group of individuals who care about students and well designed learning experiences.
This was my third opportunity to learn alongside the staff, and many teachers were sharing their experiences and reflections relative to their instructional design implementations.
One teacher's reflection really resonated with me.
When she entered the room, she smiled at me coyly. Without warning she exclaimed, "Hey! Remember that essential question you helped me write last Spring about the Civil War? It didn't work!"
The question we had crafted last spring as as follows: How can we mediate conflict and solve problems? It served as one of the touchstone pieces in a simulation-based 4th grade unit on the Civil War.
Intrigued, I asked for more information. As it turns out, at the end of the unit, one of her students aptly raised his hand. Somewhat spontaneously, the student offered, "Well, I don't like this question because I don't think the Civil War actually worked." When asked to clarify his point, the boy simply stated that Reconstruction didn't actually fix the divide between the states. Lincoln was shot, and the economy took time to recover. So, war didn't really mediate conflict. In essence the Civil War was the perfect example of what not to do.
Hmm. I think the question worked just fine. Consider the takeaway for that student (and the entire class): War doesn't mediate conflict.
Sometimes big questions don't warrant the answers we expect. This is all part of the design process. And remember, it's not the answer that's valuable. It's the process.
Follow Up: The teacher and I did work to reframe the question, and here's what we brainstormed: "Can every conflict be solved? What would you have done?" Do you like our revision? Feedback welcome!
CC Photo Credit: Untitled by katybate
Posted by Kristen Swanson