Study Group Pictures of Practice

In a recent study group at International School of Brussels, teachers began their bi-weekly meeting with the MYST protocol to broadly reflect on the process of making thinking visible. Then they moved on to an hour long discussion of one teacher's student work using the structured conversation of the LAST protocol.

The first fifteen minutes of the meeting were dedicated to the MYST. Individually, teachers wrote ideas about how they have been making thinking visible and generally reflected on instances of visible thinking present in their classrooms over the past couple of weeks. Teachers placed their post-it notes on a group chart under the categories of Me, You, Space and Time.




Click to enlarge and see more examples of teachers' thinking from the MYST protocol


Next, teachers spent about an hour looking at and discussing student work generated from a Circle of Viewpoints routine. Three teachers had specific roles during this meeting: the presenting teacher shared her work, a facilitator posed questions during each section of the protocol and kept the conversation on track and a documenter listed observations, ideas, comments and questions on the board. All teachers participated in the conversation.

In this particular study group the work that was shared came from a third grade classroom. Students were studying Inuit culture and had read the the tale The Polar Bear Sun. The Circle of Viewpoints routine asked students to take on the perspective of one of the characters in the story. Click on the images below to see examples of student work.

As teachers looked at the work, they made straight forward observations. Some students made drawings, many of the students chose the same viewpoint (the hunter), one child did not choose a single perspective but rather chose to describe two points of view. The facilitator was careful to remind the group that comments were to be observational and non-judgmental in nature during this part of the protocol. All observations were captured on the board by the documenter. (See images below.)

Next, they speculated about the thinking that they saw in the work. The children were able to express their opinions, Were children disturbed by the story? Do they understand important values in Inuit culture? Perhaps children want to have or are used to stories with happy endings? At this point specific questions about the work or general questions about the assignment were identified and, when possible, answered by the presenting teacher. For example teachers thought it might be important to revisit this story with the class and deepen understanding, perhaps by asking them to re-tell it in their own words or act out the various viewpoints presented in the story.

After about 30 minutes into the protocol, teachers were invited to look back over the documentation on the board and think about implications for future teaching. They were encouraged to think about ways forward for this particular class as well as insights for their own teaching. One teacher pointed out how important it seems to engage students' emotions in order to gain real understanding, an insight that the teachers from different grade levels and subject areas all agreed upon.

The group wrapped up by thanking the presenting teacher and reviewing the schedule and roles for the next study group. As part of their final process the meeting documentation on the white board was photographed by the documenter and sent via email to all members of the group. The group also made the documentation available to other teachers and administrators at the school who may be interested in Visible Thinking.

Examples of visible thinking shared at study group. Click to enlarge and see more examples of student work.  
Teachers document their own thinking when using the LAST protocol in study groups.