ASPECTS AND ROLE OF HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS AND INQUIRY BASED LEARNING

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CHAPTER 3 CONTEXTUAL AND CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS

INTRODUCTION

It is the aim of this study to realize an instructional collective genius hour framework for classroom implementation that benefits both educators and students. Essentially, this chapter focuses on the contextual framework for genius hour in the classroom. This section addresses policy measures, the typical school context, working applications of genius hour, the value of higher order thinking within 21st century learning, inquiry-based learning, and the Common Core. Later within this chapter, the conceptual framework for this study is presented. It sheds light on how higher order thinking and inquiry-based learning benefit from the genius hour concept. The conceptual framework is concerned with the genius hour experience and concept, from both the educator’s and student’s perspective, in relation to the foreseeable creation of an instructional collective genius hour framework for classroom implementation.

CONTEXTUAL FRAMEWORK

The contextual framework identifies the primary characteristics of education, and the provision of education in a particular era and locality. In particular, educational policy and practice in the context of genius hour is discussed within this section. For the purposes of this framework, the context refers to genius hour’s correlation to the Common Core.
Genius hour is a worldwide educational movement, which is why research is being conducted with educators outside of the USA (Zvi, 2014). Yet, since genius hour is primarily an educational movement originating in the USA, the current educational policies regarding Common Core and standardization as used in the USA are provided in this section. Moreover, the contextual framework for this study outlines the typical school context in the USA modern day schools, and applications of higher order thinking skills in the broad curriculum, specifically with regard to how this context relates to genius hour classroom implementation, the working applications of genius hour, and how genius hour is applied to education. The implementation and integration of genius hour as an educational imperative is reviewed.
Schools in the USA are turning to Common Core as a means of competing within the global educational society. “The Common Core State Standards arose from a simple idea: that creating one set of challenging academic expectations for all students would improve achievement and college readiness” (Gewertz, 2015:1).
The idea of Common Core State Standards relates to deeper learning and less content focus; essentially depth over breadth. “The standards spell out, grade by grade, the reading and math skills that students should have as they go from kindergarten through high school. For example, a first-grade reader should be able to use a story’s pictures and details to describe its characters and then in second grade, be able to compare and contrast two versions of a story like Cinderella. In Mathematics, a first-grade student should be able to add and subtract, and in third grade do multiplication and division. The Common Core is not a day-by-day curriculum that dictates teachers’ lessons” (Thompson, 2013:1). Education in the USA, is attempting to provide long term retention and college readiness through a series of challenging higher order learning expectations for all students. More specifically, what skills are these standards attempting to address within the Common Core?
“Pure and simple, they (The Common Core Standards) are descriptions of the skills students should have at each grade level in English and math by the time they finish high school. They’re not a detailed, day-to-day curriculum; they’re a broad outline of learning expectations from which teachers or district leaders craft a curriculum” (Gerwertz, 2015:2). Common Core standardization allows educators more freedom to outline their text in order to achieve the learning goals mentioned within the Common Core. A question that arises for the purposes of deriving a contextual framework is: how does genius hour align with the Common Core State Standards?
Specifically, the correlation between genius hour and Common Core is drawn to demonstrate how both concepts emphasise higher order thinking skills. Genius hour is currently an educational movement in the USA but it has already expanded internationally to Canada and Bahrain. It is important to justify how genius hour aligns with the Common Core (Juliani, 2015a). The Common Core movement is attempt by the USA to compete with international countries that, through research of educational successes, have progressed at a faster rate. Asian countries such as Japan and Singapore have taken a lead in international education because they realize the link between education and the growth of the economy, and the stability of society. “Fortunately, the tide appears to be shifting toward a renewed American interest in learning from – and in collaboration with – high-performing and rapidly improving countries” (Singmaster & Jackson, 2016:1).
My passion for genius hour and the creation of a collective genius hour framework for classroom implementation; stems from a student-centred approach towards education. This approach is at the heart of the genius hour movement; without the purpose of inspiring creativity, passion, independent learning and motivation a genius hour initiative will fail. The framework cannot be considered without understanding how the framework will impact students; likewise, students cannot be considered independent of the framework.
This study is investigated on a macro level. Since the study is focused on creating an instructional collective framework for implementing genius hour in the classroom, a framework that is intended for educators, adaptable across the globe is proposed.

Policy measures

In the USA, the most prevalent educational policy is the Common Core (Cody, 2014). According to the Common Core’s State Standards Initiative, it is defined as follows: “The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in Mathematics and English/language arts/literacy. These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live” (Core Standards, 2015:1).
Common Core is betting big on higher order thinking skills, even though leading educational countries around the globe clearly are not putting the same level of emphasis on them. “As a last step in their investigation, his team benchmarked the Common Core against international standards, and what they found will be surprising to many. The Common Core’s shift in emphasis to higher-level thinking skills is not consistent with curricular standards in countries that currently outshine the USA in international assessments – places like Finland, Japan, and Singapore don’t put nearly as much emphasis on higher-order skills as does the Common Core” (Porter, McMaken, Hwang, & Yang, 2015:2). By emphasising higher order thinking skills, the USA is attempting to be one step ahead of their global counterparts in terms of educational innovation.
Genius hour and the Common Core are alike in the fact that both educational movements are designed around the concept of developing higher order thinking skills and inquiry-based learning. This essential philosophical commonality explains why genius hour aligns within the concept of the Common Core.
The standards of the Common Core are based around developing a deeper understanding of core concepts. “Deeper learning – the process of fusing content knowledge with real-world situations. Students transfer knowledge rather than just memorize it” (Towler, 2014:1). The standards are research and evidence-based in order to teach students necessary research skills; with technological advances, modern education is more about how to find the answer than knowing the answer. “Students who attend deeper learning schools were more likely to graduate from high school on time and low-achieving students were more likely to seek postsecondary education” (Towler, 2014:2).
Krebs (Genius Hour Testimonials, 2016), in her genius hour experience, sees the students as designers of their own learning through the Common Core standards. Essentially, students study the standards and discern how to meet these standards through their own learning design. “As a result of genius hour in my classrooms, school is becoming engaging, fun, independent and meaningful. My students know they are geniuses, and geniuses are lifelong learners who are productive and creative. It’s not just that 1 hour every other week or once a month, but genius hour has enlightened all of us on a daily basis. W e are looking with fresh eyes at the Common Core standards. My students are learning for themselves what the standards say and making decisions on how to master them. School has become student-centered for us this year, and we are all much happier about it” (Genius Hour Testimonials, 2016).
Within the 21st century classroom where the answers are at the fingertips of students, educators need to create questions that are not Googleable. Kyritsis (2015) has her students use design thinking during genius hour time. W hile the students are designing their genius hour essential question, “we are looking to create questions that are ‘Non-Googleable’ so therefore require students to deepen their understanding of the topic through inquiry” (Kyritsis, 2015:1).
More importantly, educators need to empower students to be independent learners; learners who know how to find the answer. In order to accomplish this, educators need to re-examine their role within the classroom; philosophically shifting their role from sage on a stage to a guide on the side. Part of this transformative process, which is essential to building research skills and upholds the essence of genius hour and the Common Core, is the educator’s insistence in not answering Googleable questions, driving students to become independent learners.
Within this transformation, educators need to become skilled at the art of asking questions and providing feedback in order to facilitate higher order thinking skills within inquiry-based learning. “Planning the questions in advance of actual learning time helps assure questions go beyond simple recall of information. Recalling the steps in a major procedure or skill may be useful, but memorization of steps does not help the learner understand why or how the steps should be used, nor does it help the learner apply the steps in a problem situation” (King et al., 2000:8). Researched successful strategies that educators can undertake in order to elicit higher order thinking, which is the aim of both genius hour and the Common Core, include asking questions of all students equally and calling on non-volunteers as well as volunteers (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Another technique to stimulate curiosity or to demand problem solving is to ask questions about paradoxes, dilemmas, and novel problems and approaches (Crowl, et al. 1997; Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Moreover, having students generate their own questions about topics gives students time to personalize and internalize the information to be processed (Crowl, et al. 1997). Starting with lower-order questions, remediating as needed, is another strategy that can lead up to higher-order questions (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Finally, providing wait time after a question because students differ in the rate at which they respond engages higher order thinking (Crowl, et al. 1997; Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Learning is demonstrated in clear, understandable, and consistent ways is another standard of the Common Core. Moreover, the Common Core dictates that curriculum should be aligned with university and career expectations. Also, the Common Core is based on rigorous content and application of knowledge through higher order thinking skills. The Common Core builds upon the strengths and lessons of current standards in order to achieve mastery of desired learning skills and outcomes. Finally, the Common Core is informed by other top performing countries, in order to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society (Core Standards, 2015).
One of the five objectives included within the Common Core states that it is “inclusive of rigorous content and applications of knowledge through higher-order skills, so that all students are prepared for the 21st century” (Core Standards, 2015:1). The emphasis of the Common Core on higher-order skills relates to genius hour in a profound way. Educators are being challenged to emphasise skills rather than content knowledge. The genius hour movement can be adapted into the class as a means of applying knowledge into higher-order learning skills.
In Juliani’s blog, Connections to the Common Core Standards (Juliani, 2015a), he connects a variety of Common Core standards to inquiry-based learning. Juliani, an advocate and proponent of genius hour, specifically points to the wording of the Common Core standards and how they connect to inquiry-based learning. He connects five reading/researching standards with inquiry, four standards addressing analysing and applying to inquiry, eight standards dealing with writing and presenting with inquiry, and six standards that connect creating and evaluating with inquiry.
Within a genius hour programme, students consistently need to evaluate informational texts in order to analyse their own essential questions and projects. This Common Core standard occurs naturally within the genius hour progress, because the project itself creates a need to know which elucidates deeper synthesis.
This study was concerned with investigating and interpreting research findings that lead to features and parameters of a framework. W ithin the research findings of this study, the creation of a collective framework for implementing genius hour in the classroom is discernible through the research findings, yet in order for educators to implement this framework into action, they have to first be willing to insert genius hour into their curriculum. By demonstrating that genius hour aligns with Common Core, more potential genius hour educators may consider implementing this framework in their curriculum.

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The typical school context

When investigating and interpreting research findings of Zvi (2013) and McNair (2015) that lead to features and parameters that may lead to the creation of a collective genius hour framework, this study considers varying perspectives concerning genius hour implementation. Major variables to be considered within this study include the total allotment of time given to students within a genius hour project, the choice of project creation, the purpose of the genius hour project, the links specific to prior learning, the publishing of genius hour projects to a global audience, and intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation of genius hour projects tied to assessment. By fine-tuning these variables into a specific set of instructions demonstrated within a collective genius hour framework, students become more focused and organised on their genius hour project.
The typical context for genius hour implementation within schools in the USA tends to occur within private, charter, and independent schools. “Private schools provide an alternative for parents who are dissatisfied with public schools or have other reasons for wanting their children to attend a private school. W ithin the private sector, parents can choose among a range of religiously affiliated and nonsectarian schools (as long as they can afford the tuition charged or receive financial aid)” (Public and Private Schools: How do they differ? 1997:3). Private schools are typically considered superior to public schools in the USA due to safety, financial flexibility, and smaller class sizes. “Parents of students in grades 3-12 who attended private schools were more likely than their public school counterparts to be very satisfied with their children’s school overall and with its specific aspects, such as the teachers, academic standards, and discipline. Within the public sector, parents whose children attended a chosen public school were generally more satisfied than those whose children were in an assigned school” (Public and Private Schools: How do they differ? 1997:3). In the USA, most students are assigned schools based upon the proximity of the student’s living residence and the location of the school in accordance to stipulated school boundaries.
Due to the fact that education in the USA is strictly standardized within the public school system, the typical context for genius hour initiatives tends to exist outside of the public school environment. “Creativity will not help you do well on standardized testing and, lamentably, that’s where the focus is right now (in the US, at least)” (Burchett, 2012:1). Public school educators often lack the freedom to implement genius hour due to the strict standardization guidelines and emphasis on standardized testing. According to The Atlantic (Robelen, 2016:1), “Eighty-one percent believe their students spend too much time taking tests mandated by their state or district, according to the study by the Center on Education Policy, based at George W ashington University.” The drill-and-kill approach, which accompanies standardized testing leaves less educational opportunity for creative-based or passion-based pursuits like genius hour. “It is sincerely difficult to encourage creativity in 32 different students who all learn in different ways” (Burchett, 2012:1). Genius hour helps meet the creative and passion-based needs of students who learn in profoundly different ways.
Even though the genius hour movement aligns with the Common Core, educators are limited in terms of their innovation making it more difficult to launch genius hour initiatives within the public sector. Charter schools provide alternative educational options. Charter schools are schools that are ran independently by teachers, parents, and the local community. On the other hand, private, independent, and charter schools offer educators more freedom over their curricular choices; this academic autonomy has led to a typical context for genius hour initiatives existing within the non- public sector of education. Also, primary schools, ages 5-11, tend to implement genius hour due to the amount of time primary school educators have with their students. Primary school educators have about six hours a day with their students, whereas secondary school educators, ages 12-18, have only one hour a day. Eleni Kyritsis (2015), a primary school educator, understands the importance of genius hour. “As educators it so important that we are teaching students how to learn not what to learn. Our students need to become lifelong learners.
Genius Hour promotes this thought process in our students” (Kyritsis, 2015:1).
As mentioned before genius hour initiatives tend to exist within the non-public sector of education. In terms of specific school situations where one might expect to find genius hour initiatives, typically, genius hour is conducted within elementary classrooms. Since elementary educators within the education system of the USA have the advantage in terms of time with their respective students, the typical situation for a genius hour initiative is within an elementary classroom at a private, independent, or charter school (Krebs, 2016).
Some public school educators are embracing the genius hour concept due to how well the concept fits into the idea of inquiry-based learning. Public school educators can use the language of the Common Core standards in order to standardize the concept of genius hour. “Since I ran a 20%-time project in my class three years ago teachers in my school district have embraced the idea of inquiry-based learning. W e’ve had various teachers present to our staff on the benefits of this type of learning opportunity. And as a district we wrote “Genius Hour” into our 9th Grade Common Core Language Arts curriculum” (Juliani, 2015a).
If one commonality exists within the typical school context for possible genius hour initiatives to arise, that trait would be philosophic opposed to demographic or contextual. The type of like-minded educators interested in creating a radical student-centred approach towards education are the types of individuals that tend to pursue genius hour initiatives. Educators focused on innovation, educators who are not stuck in the mindset of that’s the way I’ve always done it, and educators willing to try something new, are the type of educators that tend to launch and pursue genius hour implementation.
Wideen (2014) chose to abandon the genius hour concept, but has since re-evaluated her decision. W ideen (2014) decided to reinstitute the concept of genius hour because of how well the concept develops inquiry-based learning. Thus, W ideen (2014) decided to give genius hour another attempt, but with modifications. W ideen’s situation is a typical classroom for genius hour implementation because it’s an elementary classroom where an individual educator has the same students for an extended period of time every day. In the case of her genius hour implementation, she concluded that budget,range of projects, and cost of materials, were her primary reasons for abandoning genius hour. “These were all minor issues, my major issue was that my students did not know how to properly research and I as their teacher did not effectively model this. I let my students basically do whatever they wanted and helped as much as I could to direct them to resources in the library and online. My students craved Genius Hour and I dreaded it. It was me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Think of 40 students, 2 teachers and as many people that I could rope into to help out during that hour and a half of time. There was glue, paint, flour, sugar, yarn, knitting needles, magic wands and pizza dough flying around the classroom” (W ideen, 2014:1).

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Declaration
Acknowledgements
Abstract
Key terms
CHAPTER 1 ORIENTATION
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE RESEARCH
1.3 THEORETICAL INSIGHTS
1.4 KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS
1.5 PROBLEM STATEMENT AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.6 AIM AND OBJECTIVES
1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.8 MEASURES FOR TRUSTWORTHINESS
1.9 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1.10 CHAPTERS DIVISION
1.11 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2 ASPECTS AND ROLE OF HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS AND INQUIRY BASED LEARNING – A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 HISTORICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, PEDAGOGICAL, AND SOCIETAL ORIGINS
2.3 HIGHER-ORDER THINKING
2.4 INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING
2.5 UNDERSTANDING TRAITS AND DISPOSITIONS OF THE HIGHER ORDER THINKER AND INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING
2.6 APPROACHES AND METHODS FOR EMBEDDING HIGHER ORDER THINKING AND INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING
2.7 TOOLS TO MEASURE AND ASSESS HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS AND DISPOSITIONS
2.8 THEORIZED RELATIONSHIPS AND THE COMMON CORE
2.9 CONCLUDING REMARKS
CHAPTER 3 CONTEXTUAL AND CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 CONTEXTUAL FRAMEWORK
3.3 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
3.4 CLOSING REMARKS
CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 RATIONALE FOR EMPIRICAL RESEARCH
4.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.4 RESEARCH METHODS
4.5 MEASURES FOR TRUSTWORTHINESS
4.6 ETHICAL MEASURES
4.7 CLOSING REMARKS
CHAPTER 5 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 RESEARCH PROCESS
5.3 DATA ANALYSIS
5.4 DATA INTERPRETATION
5.5 PROPOSED INSTRUCTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF GENIUS HOUR IN THE CLASSROOM
5.6 SUMMARY
5.7 CONCLUDING REMARKS
CHAPTER 6 SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 SUMMARY OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
6.3 RESEARCH CONCLUSIONS
6.4 RECOMMENDATIONS
6.5 AVENUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
6.6 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
6.7 CONCLUDING REMARKS
LIST OF REFERENCES
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