Enquring Minds and Year 12

No year 8 so far this week, as we were moderating coursework (which might be the subject of another post if I get the time).  As an aside though, I used one of the tools that the Enquiring Minds site recommends for ordering student’s thinking with my year 12’s.

They’ve had difficulty in detecting the difference between knowing about a topic and using knowledge to argue their opinion on a question.  I’ve marked many essays that contain paragraphs ‘about’ an aspect of a topic.  I’ve been exhorting them to write paragraphs that argue about the importance, or effect of a factor, and to build those points into an argument that conveys a judgement on the question.

They’ve not been getting it.

Whilst flicking through the digital tools published by Futurelab on their ‘enquiring minds’ site I came across this one http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/persuasion_map/, which asks students to devise a theory on a question, and to back this up with arguments that are, in their turn supported by evidence.  We spent half a lesson in the traditional way, exploring an question using the board, the textbook and discussion, and then for the second half we explored the tool using the projector.

The explanation was painful.  I’d written a paragraph which did what I wanted, and then deconstructed it using the tool.  I think I over engineered this part of the lesson, but I didn’t want them to think ‘oh this is just another PEE burger model’ (which it is, but they don’t understand how to do them either!).  Their homework was to plan an essay using the tool.

The tool is limited in that it only allows you three points in your argument, and that it doesn’t allow you to link points.  It does however force you to think in terms of argument, rather than in knowledge.  It seemed to work.  Their essays are, as a class much better.  One or two individuals, who had written long rambling descriptions or overviews of the period previously, wrote much more focussed pieces that earned them higher grades.

More importantly, I think this has helped one or two udnerstand the importance of planning answers, of having an opinion and a strategy before setting pen to paper.


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