This term's Inquiry unit has focussed on the concept of leadership. This was designed by the three teachers involved (myself included) to cover the SACSA Health standards of 3.5 and 4.5
3.5 Assumes different roles when working as part of a cooperative group or team to achieve a shared goal and understands the effects on relationships.
4.5 Develops skills for working effectively in groups and in teams, explores different constructions of group dynamics such as leadership and identifies qualities for good leaders.
We used our school UbD planner, where we identified our key questions and overall inquiry statement, essential skills and knowledge, and formative assessment goals for the unit.
The Inquiry Overview
Every individual has the potential to be a leader. Leaders have a set of social and friendship skills to enable them to help and empower others.
Through this inquiry students will extend their social knowledge and skills to enable them to make and maintain positive relationships and close friendships and work collaboratively in teams.
As seems to be the case more often than not, these units of work are very fluid and in a constant state of revision to better suit the needs of our particular cohort of students. One of the key features of the UbD model is the identification of a final assessment task during the initial planning of the unit of inquiry. Well, that's the goal and while being mindful of that requirement, we haven't really nailed down what that would look like until later in the unit. The weeks seem to be so jampacked with other things, and our own agenda of "things to do" constantly on the overflow that it took until a week or so ago before we met as a co-planning team to design this final task. We had our understandings and our final task had to reflect some format that would enable our students to demonstrate the depth of their understanding of the leadership concept. We had chosen a selection of famous quotes on leadership appropriate to the 11-13 year old age level and thought that these would be a good vehicle to use to evaluate their understanding. But just reading and interpreting their responses was a pretty plain vanilla task that was begging (in my mind) for some ICT enhancement. Ever the web-savvy consumer, I suggested that the final task could be a replication of the Will Lion Digital Bites collection of quotes embedded in metaphoric images on Flickr.
We tried to work out how this could unfold, how many images a student could be expected to create and with each re-definition of the assessment task, we kept getting further and further away from our outcomes and essential skills and knowledge that we wanted to assess. So, Maria pointed out that we needed to take on board our own planning question for designing any learning task with "What's your purpose?"
Getting back to the planner, pulling out the skills and knowledge dot points enabled us to redefine and refocus the task expectations. We could easily revisit guidelines and other scaffolds to ensure that this challenging task was realigned and achievable by the students.
So, that was the task. The student picked a quote that they felt they understood well and could explain in a short paragraph. That quote would be matched with an image - either a digital photograph of their own, a graphic designed in Photoshop or a choice from the masses of freely licensed images available in Flickr or Wikimedia Commons. Of course, we all have had to scaffold this task effectively so that students understood the concept of an image metaphor and some basic Photoshop Elements skills to put it all together. We spent time discussing and choosing the quotes in groups and as a whole class so that they could relate them back to content and concepts covered throughout the unit like Michael Grose's Four Keywords for student leadership.
Of course, as I drafted and composed this post, Dan Meyer has posted a few times about the effective use of images in presentations, and it has made me even more conscious about working with the students to ensure that they don't just grab the first thing that looks good and bung it all together. I'm definitely no expert in graphic design but know just enough to know that it deserves some attention when the students are going to post their ideas to the wider audience on their blogs. Without getting into the finer detail of where Dan believes the standards should be at (that's a whole new blog post with a different emphasis), I still feel that this assessment task has been challenging enough to get the kids justifying their choices of quotes and graphic. The early finishers are only just posting their results now but there are some pleasant indicators that some kids have an innate sense of what goes together to "sell" a message and make a point.
I'll finish with two sample graphics and invite anyone with a passing interest to check out the students' leadership slides. This task is not a pen and paper exercise in my mind.