Reflections on IBL and Week 7

In this last unit, as we have looked at assessments, both formative and summative, and the use of rubrics to assess process and content in a more authentic type of assessment, some of my own beliefs have been affirmed.

I use both exams and authentic, project-based assessments in my German classes. I have come to really like using rubrics because of the specific feedback I can give students on their projects or papers. I do use both formative an summative assessments, but I really do increasingly enjoy creating projects where students can demonstrate their learning in a more authentic way than simply taking a test.

Technology makes group work and the writing process so much easier than it used to be. I use Google docs to have my students write and revise and I give them feedback directly on their document as it is a work in progress. I love the Revision History feature that lets me see when and for how long they worked on their writing, and I love that students can work collaboratively on a document to peer edit, for example.

Wikis are also fantastic for group projects because they facilitate collaboration among group members, both inside and outside of class, and they also allow me to see the work in progress and to see who contributed what and when, so that I can more accurately give feedback and a score on 21st Century Skill like collaboration.

In this course, I have learned how to incorporate the Inquiry Based Learning process/es in my authentic assessments, and I feel this will help me to help my students to become better at identifying what they want or need to know and then to develop investigable questions to frame their research. At the outset, I thought that IBL was really a ‘science thing’. But now I know how I, as a German teacher, can also help my students to learn these habits of mind.


Reflection on week #6 – the 5 E’s

Over the past week I have learned about the 5 E’s : Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration and Evaluation

that are helpful in planning for an IBL lesson or unit. I already do most of these steps, but now I am consciously aware of them and will tweak my lessons to make these elements more distinct. I outlined on my Google site a unit that I do for German 3 where I explain how I will use the 5 E’s.

In general, some ways that I implement the 5 E’s are:

Engage – I like to use a video or recorded interview segment to introduce a topic. YouTube has many resources. Sometimes I use a German news website to introduce a current events topic.

Explore – I usually use authentic websites for my students to explore a topic. is a good website for current events information and I use it frequently.

Explain – I encourage my students to choose Prezi or Power Point or Glogster or Voice Thread to present their findings to the class. I usually give them a choice so that I get varied presentations rather than cookie-cutter projects that all look the same.

 Elaborate – I also encourage students to explore new Web 2.0 tools they have not used before to extend their portfolio of digital tools. Sometimes I have them record their presentations rather than present live. For this we use Google Voice or Voice Thread or even Blabberize. Usually they do a project in the Explain phase that outlines what they learned from their research, and then another presentation where they extend what they learned and apply it to a new context for the elaborate phase.

Evaluate – I have students submit their work to me as a reflection on a blog or submit it to a Discussion Forum on Blackboard so that I have an easy place to review and score them. I either create a Symbaloo page to aggregate all of their blog sites or I subscribe to them and get RSS feeds that make it easy to see who has updated their blog and when so I can save a lot of time checking so many pages to grade work. I really like that with all the digital tools we use, they also are building an e-portfolio of their work over multiple levels in German classes.

This week’s learning has further clarified  the IBL process for me and helped me to make some more connections for how I can use IBL in my German classes. I feel like I have come a long way from the first couple of weeks of the course when I thought IBL was really a ‘science’ thing,  and I wasn’t sure how it would apply to my German classes.

Reflection on IBL

These last couple of weeks I have come to understand more clearly what investigable questions should look like and how to help students formulate them to begin an inquiry, but I am still struggling with how to use inquiry based learning effectively in my German classes. We do research projects and presentations in my classes, but i am still not quite sure how to write effective investigable questions and to facilitate my students working through them to find answers that are concrete, but not cookie-cutter.

I am working in my classes to give more open-ended questions and more choices so my students can have more say in what and how they research. I know this will improve student motivation and engagement, and what I really want is to have my students be creative both in how and what they research as well as how they choose to present their project to the class, either live or digitally.

The discussions in our class forums have been helpful as I read my classmates’ thoughts on how they implement IBL or the process as they, too, grapple with understanding it enough to apply it to what they teach. I welcome any input you may have about how to implement inquiry based learning in a subject like German (or other non-science courses you may teach).

Reflection on weeks 2 / 3

In the past two weeks I have seen examples of how inquiry based learning can be teacher directed, teacher guided, student directed, or anywhere along that spectrum. The readings and case studies this week have helped to clarify in my mind what IBL really looks like in a lesson.

The case studies were confusing, though, and as I read the discussion posts of my classmates, I realized many of us understand IBL differently. I am curious to know the ‘real’ answers to that assignment, especially for the third example in the case study.

I definitely have a better understanding of IBL than I did in the first week of this course. Initially, I thought that IBL was great for science classes but wasn’t sure how I could use it in German classes. Now I see that inquiry doesn’t necessarily have to be hands-on like in a science lab, but it’s more about the process of having students formulate questions and then explore finding answers to them, and I can certainly do that in my German classes!

I really like these reflection assignments, so that I am documenting my own learning process and I will be able to look back at my thoughts as I work to implement IBL in my classes this coming school year.

Reflections on first week readings

For the most part, I don’t feel like I learned a lot of new things about Inquiry Based Learning this first week of the course, but several aspects of what I already knew were affirmed as I read the articles and Topics C and D. The Project Based Learning course I took earlier in this Instructional Media program taught me a lot about what we are calling here Inquiry Based Learning. I am looking forward to building on what I know and learning from my classmates how they implement IBL.

In the readings this week, I was reminded that:

  • IBL complements traditional instruction, because it gives students an opportunity to extend and apply what they have learned in perhaps a direct instructional setting and allows them to connect the learning with their personal interests.
  • IBL is more student-centered and the teacher serves more as a ‘guide on the side’ or as a learning facilitator for the students instead of the source of all knowledge the students need to learn.
  • It is valuable to provide an authentic audience for students to present their learning. This forum for student presentations can include other teachers, parents, community members and the like. I know that in my German classes, my students do far better writing when they are blogging with a German teenager from our partner school than when they are just writing for me to grade it.

My questions are:

1)   How to provide the opportunity for students to do IBL but still keep it structured and focused enough on the topics in my curriculum that I must teach.

This is especially true in lower level German classes, where those students must acquire a specific set of vocabulary and grammar skills so that they are prepared to do the more challenging work in levels 3 and 4.

2)   How to create rubrics that work well for grading a wide variety of projects.

I find it is easier to implement IBL in higher level German classes, but my challenge there is to create rubrics for scoring projects fairly when the projects that are presented are often quite varied due to the open-endedness of the assignment.

I am looking forward to discussions with my peers in this course and hopefully finding answers to these questions that will help me to use more IBL in the courses I teach.