205: Using Investigative Approaches Year Round





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  1.  Follow the KISS Principle:
    • Introduce fundamental concepts for investigations in first investigative units and spiral those concepts through successive investigative units
      • Examples: text, context, and subtext – see this article for related prompts: Facilitating a Historical Investigation
      • Science connection:  Concepts that need to be spiraled through scientific investigation units are variables (independent and dependent), constants and the manipulation / measurement of these in the design of research studies
  2. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
    • Lesh recommends for 1 investigative lesson per unit
    • Focuses on the following core concepts during investigative lessons:
      • Causality
      • Chronology
      • Multiple perspectives
      • Contingency
      • Empathy
      • Change and continuity over time
      • Influence / significance / impact
      • Contrasting interpretations
      • Intent / motivations
    • Science connection – Can aim for the design or analysis of the design of at least one experiment or research study per project (in a PBL school that runs project-to-project).
      • I need to conduct more research to develop a list of core concepts for science investigation – here’s my tentative list for now
        • Testable question and hypothesis design
        • Use of variables and constants in designing experiments
        • Reproducibility
        • Model Building, Analysis, and Interpretation
        • Organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data
        • Formulating data-based conclusions
        • Connecting research to background research
        • Implications of specific research studies
  3. It All Starts with Questions
    • Make good driving questions the center of investigative units
    • Science connections
      • Ditto
      • Let driving questions and processes used to investigate these highlight the problem solving nature of science as a discipline
  4. You Will Still Be in Charge
    • Factors that promote on-task behavior:
      • reducing number, length and types of historical sources
      • varying grouping styles (full group, small group, pairs, individual)
      • periodic quick writes (short formative assessments)
      • engaging driving questions
    • Connections to coverage:
      • students tend to better remember content when they are engaged
    • Science connections
      • Factors that can promote on-task behavior:
        • introducing fundamental concepts in a gradual, structured way
        • variety of formative assessments
        • investigations that are well tied to engaging driving questions
        • investigations that address student need-to-knows
        • using resources that are student friendly
        • providing scaffolds that make resources more accessible to students
  5. Before and After Are As Important as During:
    • Make sure investigative lessons are sandwiched between lessons that support investigative objectives and that continue to be engaging to students
    • Science connections
      • Use well-designed student-centered approaches to lab-based and non lab-based lessons
    • Develop a yearlong plan that provides opportunities to teach / learn all fundamental concepts, especially those that are high stakes
    • Science connections
      • Ditto above
The tips listed above for implementing investigative approaches year round emphasize the need for good design at the macro (year long sequence) and micro (lesson plan) levels.  They emphasize that using this student-cemtered approach does not mean abandoning teacher control, but shifting the aims of teacher controls towards goals that balance content and process.  Spiraling key processes throughout the year will gradually build student skill and also help them learn the centrality / importance of these skills to the discipline.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze the course curriculum and identify fundamental concepts and processes.
  • Develop a year-long sequence of projects / units that includes time for all fundamental concepts and processes.
  • Develop a gradual sequence that spirals fundamental processes throughout the year.
  • Research and design resources that will teach students how to apply key processes towards solving problems and learning key concepts.
  • Design driving questions for each project that engage students to learn and apply content and to develop and use key processes.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement projects in year long plan that provide opportunities to learn key content and processes.
  • In all projects, use the following key elements:
    • engaging and provocative driving questions
    • variety of grouping styles
    • variety of assessments
    • scaffolding the supporting learning of key content and skills and answers key students’ need-to-knows
    • well design project sequences that mimic the problem solving sequences of discipline-specific experts
    • for more criteria for good project design and implement, see this article: 6 A’s criteria for designing projects
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use project reflections to gather student data that will improve project design over time
  • Research fundamental concepts and processes that are promoted by professional organizations and use these to supplement (provided broader context) to concepts / skills present in standards
  • Develop driving questions that are more and more authentic – involve questions and deliverables that are used by people outside the classroom.  For more ideas on this, see this article: Amping up the authenticity

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