Celebrating Inquiry Fall 2020

Welcome to the thirteenth issue of our online celebration of learning and achievement by University of Lethbridge intern teachers. Below you will find profiles of all projects presented at the Fall 2020 Professional Inquiry Project (PIP) Symposium. These projects were completed by by pre-service teachers in their final twelve-week practicum. Please be aware that external links are supplied by contributors and are not maintained or monitored by the University of Lethbridge.

How to Incorporate Blackfoot Values into the Early Elementary Classroom

How can Blackfoot Values be used to incorporate FNMI content into the Early Elementary classroom in order to consistently teach Indigenous content to students while also teaching them valuable social and emotional concepts? 

While learning about how to incorporate FNMI content into the classroom I found the majority of the information I was receiving was about residential schools and their legacy. While teaching the history of residential schools and the intergenerational trauma that is still present today is important, I believe it is also crucial to teach and celebrate Indigenous culture in the classroom throughout the school year. With support and knowledge from professor Don Shade, I was able to learn about the 11 Blackfoot values. I chose to find ways to incorporate these into the 4 Grade ½ classes at my school, in order to teach children about the Blackfoot people and culture, while also teaching them valuable social and emotional skills. Every 3-4 weeks I introduced a new value and gave the students a challenge. First, we learned about being kind and had a challenge about how many ways we can fill each other’s buckets at school and at home. Respect, independence, being grateful and being helpful followed, with different challenges for students to work on, such as try it twice independently before asking for help. I have seen the students become excited to learn more about the Blackfoot culture, and keen to take on the new challenges of being independent, kind, compassionate, helpful, grateful and respectful! The impact on student learning was incredible, and I am so excited for this resource to continue being used and for this learning to be shared with other educators! 

Kate is graduating in December with a BA/BEd after completing her PSIII Internship in December. She is currently teaching Grade 1/2 at Queen Elizabeth Elementary School in Calgary, Alberta. Kate has a specialization in Early Childhood Education and is excited to one day (hopefully soon) have her own Grade 1 classroom. She grew up in Banff, Alberta and is excited to continue her education journey in Calgary.

http://blackfootvalues.weebly.com

Going Gradeless: The Impact of Formative-Only Assessment in the Classroom​

How might students be encouraged to develop their literacy skills without the extrinsic motivation of grades? 

When I received my placement, my TM proposed the idea of going "gradeless” in his classroom. I was up for the challenge! I thought it would provide insight into assessment, and I wanted to see how student motivation might be impacted without the external motivation of grades.  

My project addresses the process we used. It explores what I learned as an educator as well as student perspectives. Further, it showcases how going gradeless impacted student progress in writing practices and their motivation to improve and grow as learners. 

Annika Vacey is a 5th year English-Education student. She is currently completing her PSIII at Magrath High School in Magrath, and is teaching grade 8 humanities. Annika is eager and excited to graduate in Spring 2021 and is hoping to teach junior high in a rural Albertan community. 

Fed Up With EDs

Can teaching students about body image and disordered eating change any maladaptive and/or misinformed beliefs students may have, and can it result in the prevention or treatment of eating disorders in students? 

People of all demographics are at risk of developing an eating disorder, but many students lack the information needed for effective prevention. I have always been passionate about mental health awareness, and stigma-reduction, but I am particularly interested in disordered eating-related beliefs and behaviours. Many students will struggle with disordered eating at some point in their life, but perhaps education and discussion on the topic can help prevent it and/or help students recognize these maladaptive beliefs or disordered behaviours in themselves or others. By teaching just a few lessons on it, can educators save a life or reduce the struggle one might experience? If disordered eating is taught about in school, even for just a brief unit, can students learn to help themselves and others? Can we help prevent eating disorders from developing in students, and/or can we help them seek help and reduce their risk of serious complications in the future? 

Kit will be receiving her Bachelor of Education in the spring of 2021, after having previously received a Bachelor of Management in 2018. For her PSIII, she was placed in a rural school teaching Grade 7 Google Suite Health and Wellness, as well as Grade 6-8 Foods. 

http://fedupwitheds.weebly.com

Community Building During COVID-19

How can we build a whole school community during a global pandemic? 

Wellness very important to me, especially mental well-being. As soon as I got my placement I knew that I wanted my PIP to be about how I can support the mental well-being of my students.  

During a writing activity in September, one of my students wondered how her old friend from last year was doing and whether she would see her again. My TM and I were saddened by this example of how students are affected by current restrictions, so we came up with the idea of pen pals to build a community of grade 3's during COVID-19. Feedback from my students about their pen pals has been so positive. Students love opening their letters and staying connected to students they do not see because of the cohort model. 

In addition to facilitating the grade 3 pen pal initiative, I have helped with the school wellness plan and collaborated with other staff to support student resiliency. Projects include Kindness Month and establishing “buddy classes” throughout the school. 

Kealin is teaching grade 3 and K to 4 physical education at New Brighton School in Calgary. For her PIP she has been working on creating community during COVID-19. 

Sport and Connection: The Importance and Implementation of Group Exercise and Team Sport in Middle Schools

In what ways can resources, activities, and assessments of group fitness and team sports direct and contribute to positive feelings, experiences, and self-esteem of 11-13 year old students? 

My professional inquiry project was centered around how students benefit from team sport and competition. I formatted this question while reflecting on the many changes that COVID required schools to make. I wanted to make a plan that would benefit students mentally and physically while in PE. In order to answer my inquiry question, I turned to primary research, secondary research, the creation of a full Physical Education unit plan, and a fundraising initiative to purchase twenty new rugby balls for the school.  

Carolyn grew up just outside of Lethbridge and came to the University of Lethbridge because where else would you go for an education program? She played rugby for the Pronghorns and takes a lot of pride in being a part of the university's community. 

EA’s in the Classroom

What practices are effective in working with Educational Assistants (EA’s) in the classroom? 

This topic interested me as it is not something that is discussed in detail throughout classes and I am fortunate enough to have EA’s in all of my classes during this internship. I began to notice that all of my EA’s participated differently in the classroom and expected different levels of direction. After discussing my observations with my TM, I decided that this would be a great topic to explore further. I could see that all EA’s offer unique abilities to the classroom. As a pre-service teacher, giving direction to support staff was also somewhat of a new and daunting concept. 

I have explored how to best work with EA’s in terms of collaboration and communication. I began with getting testimonies and advice from both teachers and EA’s in my division and then created a shared living document with these concepts and strategies. 

The ChrisTmaS Workshop

How can CTS course give back to the community? 

As an idealist, I've never had issue conjuring up ideas. However, the concept for the following PIP was in large part inspired by taking Leonard Sproule's Curriculum and Instruction (CTS) course. We were encouraged to not only dream big, but to actualize ideas through careful planning, collaboration, and hard work. We also observed examples of how our stream could enrich students' lives through memorable hands-on projects. Taking inspiration, I used this PIP as an opportunity to explore how a CTS department could make a generous and lasting impression within the school’s parent/guardian community. The solution – a ChrisTmaS Workshop! 

My PIP mainly consisted of collaborating with CTS teachers from my PSIII school to long range plan for this interdepartmental workshop idea. Teachers would delegate a fall module (20 hours) to have students make products that not only targeted learning outcomes, but, when assembled, formed gift bags. To further crystallize the idea, I made a sample gift bag using resources created within our school's CTS classrooms. This bag will be gifted to a family from my PS1 school community. I'm hopeful that in ensuing years this workshop can be fully implemented within one or more of our local schools. 

Joel entered the University of Lethbridge's after degree Ed program through the CTS (New Media) stream. Prior to teaching, he worked in advertising after graduating from the Alberta University of the Arts with a Bachelor of Design (BDes). 

http://joelheyland.com/fostering-effective-relationships

Indigenous Talking Circles and Student Wellness

How does incorporating traditional indigenous practices increase student wellness during a global pandemic? 

When schools shut down and COVID-19 became the new reality, there was an instant disconnection in society. Not being able to see friends, family, and other support systems significantly impacts the wellness of individuals. The focus of my project was to bring back that missing connection and work on improving the wellness of students. To do so, talking circles were implemented in my all-girls Physical Education classroom once a week. Talking circles are deeply rooted in indigenous traditional practices and create a safe environment in which students can share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with one another. The meaning behind a circle holds a place of deep importance to indigenous beliefs as it is considered a dominant symbol in nature. It represents wholeness, completion, cycles of life, and human communication. Research has shown that one of the most effective wellness programs for girls has centered on relationship building, which is the core of talking circles. To further support this theory, we can look at Jean Baker Miller’s work. It suggests that when women have the opportunity to connect with each other they flourish cognitively, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The research I conducted prior to this study confirmed that implementing Talking Circles had the potential to improve my students Wellness.  

Results showed that over 90% of my students agreed that the talking circles increased their overall wellness. Students expressed that they felt less alone after hearing others experience anxiety and similar struggles. They stated they felt more connected to their classmates and agreed that talking circles would be a great addition to all PE classes moving forward. I was very pleased with the results of this Professional Inquiry Project. 

Brae is a Kinesiology major who will graduate with a combined BA/BEd degree this Fall. She is completing her Professional Semester III teaching Physical Education at a High School in Calgary. 

Student Engagement in an Online Learning Environment

In this new world of pandemic learning, maintaining student engagement is vital. How can an educator retain student engagement, even over the online platform?

This study looks into ways in which educators engage students in an ELA class and encourage participation and growth in the students. 

I was assigned an At-Home Learning class for the beginning of PSIII. I did not know any other interns who had been given such an assignment, so I was strongly encouraged to write about my experience. I chose to focus primarily on how I maintained student engagement given the limitations and barriers inherent in online learning.  

I believe that this project addresses the needs of the educator and the student to envision an environment where both sets of individuals can flourish. The strategies I used are relevant in a variety of classroom settings, not just English Language Arts. The use of games before class and utilizing the online platform to its fullest extent demonstrate that one can still treat the online context as if it were a classroom, albeit through a computer. One of the greatest impacts this experience had on me as a teacher is that I was able to adapt. I’ve developed a range of new strategies I can use in an online or an in-person platform. 

Delaney is an English Major who loves to study literature (especially Shakespeare, to the chagrin of her students). She is passionate about teaching and is very excited to start her teaching career. Outside of school, she loves to crochet and read, and does a lot of yoga. 

Newt’s PE Games: A Phys Ed Resource For All to Ensure Skill Development is Both Fun and Effective!

To what extent can a Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) method be used to develop sport-specific skills? 

My PIP is a website that focuses on skill development through the use of a Teaching Games for Understanding approach. Within my PS III school, I found that each PE unit was organized to develop skills throughout the week and then end with a game day. Because of this, I wanted to ensure students were not only developing skills, but they were having fun in the process! Alongside this, I found myself constantly stressing about whether or not students would enjoy what I have planned for them. With this being the case, I assumed I was not the only one and maybe other PE, drop-in, and student teachers are feeling the same way. In order to address these needs, I have compiled numerous games that focus on developing sport-specific skills. With a page for each sport and a section for each key skill, this website has already been put to use by myself and my peers. Overall, this website is really intended to help teachers of all levels of experience and is something I will continue to add to throughout my growth as a professional. 

Brady is currently finishing a combined degree of Education & Kinesiology. It has been a dream of his to become a teacher ever since middle school and he is beyond excited as this dream gets closer to becoming a reality. 

http://newtspegames.weebly.com

Intrinsic Literacy: Building Intrinsic Motivation in Student Learning

To what extent can building intrinsic motivation increase engagement with literacy?

This project idea developed when I recognized a gap in students’ literacy. Some students loved to engage with literacy while others disengaged. Some students who struggled were unmotivated. I wanted to explore why students didn’t want to engage in reading building a program student could be excited about, to encourage literacy. This part of the sentence reads awkwardly. 

This project addresses a huge need in student literacy learning. Teachers need to find more ways to engage students in the literacy process. This can be done through steps I used in building intrinsic motivation for student learning. Literacy can be a determinate factor in an individual’s success in their future. When students struggle to read and don’t want to develop their skills and abilities, how can teachers be confident students are prepared for the future? Literacy is a key pillar in building a foundation for success.  
This project was a huge success for the students learning and my own. Students can engage in this literacy program meaningfully, which was easy to implement. I identified a way to create an inclusive and differentiated program for all student’s literacy. The program was a success from the preliminary data showing positive results.  

Angela Court was placed in a 3/4 split classroom for PS III. She is currently in her final semester as an intern teacher. She is passionate about literacy and building intrinsic motivation for student learning.

http://intrinsicliteracy.weebly.com

FNMI Integration Resource for Physical Education Teachers

How can Indigenous ways of life be effectively integrated into Physical Education? 

As Jesse and I have made our way throughout our PS3, we have been doing our best to hit all thats required for our TQS. In todays world, integrating FNMI content and culture is incredibly important, but we realized that this can be tricky at times when instructing Physical Education. We know we wanted to do more, but there was not an easy to access guide on how to successfully do this. The need for such a resource in our own teaching is what sparked the idea to develop a online platform where physical educators can access this website and learn how to properly integrate FNMI culture into their classrooms. This project is addressing the needs of our TQS and providing a thoughtful way to blend in traditional Indigenous games. Hopefully, our resource will open up that conversation in PE classrooms on the importance of learning this content and how much fun it can be to participate in their culture.  

Jesse and Parker are both in our Professional Semester Three, where Parker is teaching high school Physical Education and Jesse is teaching Grade 2. They both know how important FNMI integration is into teaching now a days and wanted to develop a resource that would make it easier for teachers to do so.

http://fnmi4pe.weebly.com

Online Teaching and Learning Strategies in the Photomath Era

What can we do to ensure effective instruction and accurate assessments? How can we support student and teacher wellness? How can we navigate communication challenges? 

This project came up through my TPGP. I had been assigned an online class from the beginning of the semester in addition to my in-person classes, so I made one of my goals to develop a personal philosophy of online teaching and learning. I thought that my experience and additional research will offer valuable knowledge to any teachers who may be teaching online in the future, especially in today's circumstances. This project is addressing the current stress of all grades 7-12 teachers in Alberta who now need to teach online, anyone who will be teaching online in the future, and current online teachers. Emergency teaching is not the same as online teaching, so the circumstances are vastly different from the first instance of cancelled in-person learning. Student and teacher wellness, accurate online assessment, and optimizing online instruction have been my topics of focus. I have been trying different strategies with my online class, participating in online PD sessions, and I have surveyed my students in order to have not only my own observations but the students' genuine feelings as well. 

Kirsi is a Math Education major who is currently in PSIII and is teaching grades 10-12. Her other passions include playing in orchestras, singing in choirs, and spending time with her pets. Kirsi's ultimate goal is to never again hear the phrase, "Oh, I was never good at math in school"! 

http://docs.google.com/document/d/1xd9HJOno4JMFs32Imk25RajrlwFYW6i7SFqcAT2nfeU/edit?usp=sharing

ESports: Using a Virtual Environment to Build School Spirit

How can ESports be utilized to build a stronger school community? 

During the COVID lockdown in the spring, I reconnected with some old friends by meeting online to play video games. This made me realize that video games are a powerful tools for building social connections. When I started my PS3 the school was struggling to find way to help schools connect by abiding by COVID restrictions. I realized that creating an esports club would allow students to socialize and build a team while being safely in their homes.  

Since the creation of the club about 30 students in grades 9-12 have regularly interacted with each other and have built several teams that are preparing to compete in upcoming tournaments across North America. Even with schools moving to an online environment these teams are able practice, grow and develop. Students in the club are learning good sportsmanship, team building skills, and web etiquette. These skills will help students individually as well as benefit the school as whole.  

Esports has created a space for any age or gender to work together on the same team. Students who typically would not have interacted, are able to develop connections as a diverse group. 

Bennet is a CTS New Media Major who is passionate about how technology can build relationships and communities. He is fascinated with the power technology has in allowing students to connect with learning in new ways.  

Engagement in the Quarter System

How can student engagement and success be created in a quarter system model? 

The school that I am doing my final practicum at decided to switch to a quarter system model. This means that instead of having four courses that run over the course of a semester, students have two courses that run for around two months instead. This in turn has doubled the length of each class. Since this is the first time that our school has ever had a quarter system, it has been quite the learning experience for both the students and teachers. So, I decided to focus my research on this system. My research was based on scientific articles, interviews with teachers and admin, some student feedback, and some of my own personal experience. It will include a bit of background on the quartered model and look at some of the pros and cons (both immediately and long term). However, the portion that will be most useful (to both myself and other teachers) will focus on ways to ensure that students are more engaged and successful in these longer, faster paced classes. 

Madison's first degree was in Environmental Science, and she previously worked in a lab for a few years. She is excited to be finishing up her final practicum in anticipation of starting her new career path. Madison hopes to teach junior high science and math.

http://sites.google.com/view/quartersystem

Reflective Practices in Mathematics

How can we get young math learners to reflect on their mathematical thinking to help them better understand fundamental math concepts, deepen their comprehension, and keep them engaged? 

I noticed many of my students were able to do the math tasks assigned but I felt they didn't understand the WHY behind it. Reflective practices in mathematics help students deepen their understanding by giving them the opportunity to think about what they know and how they can be constantly improving. Starting this process from a young age teaches students to always be thinking about their work in a reflective way. Not all students are interested in doing mathematics, and this strategy offers another path to engagement.  Thinking reflectively also allows struggling students to take a step back and re-evaluate what they know. It helps break a problem down and encourages them to start from where they are. I implemented some of the strategies included in my presentation and will speak on their successes and/or failures. 

Raeesa is in her last year of a combined degree (B.Sc/B.Ed) majoring in mathematics. She is very passionate about getting kids interested in math and showing them the beauty of mathematics. Raeesa loves to read, play soccer, and spend time with her family and friends. 

How Can Educators Design a Learning Environment and Implement Guidelines That Most Benefit Student Learning and Success

How do different administrative decisions regarding school operations and routine affect and influence students and schools? To what extent does a school’s environment and structure impact student learning? How should we as educators best design a school system to successfully implement an optimal learning environment? 

The purpose of our project is to provide a multifaceted analysis and comparison of the similarities and differences between two distinct educational learning environments. Our anticipated result is to create a project that can encourage and inform discussion on optimal learning environments that suit student needs. We focus mainly on structure/length of the semester. Our goal is not to support one model over the other, but to compile student and educator feedback along with common pros and cons outlined in professional literature. We hope to identify some of the considerations involved in working with different timetables and semester structures.  

Gemma is in her sixth year of my education degree at the University of Lethbridge, specializing in mathematics. She has completed her PSI in a grade one classroom, and PSII in a grade five classroom. Gemma is currently adventuring through her PSIII and is teaching math to grades six, seven and nine.  
 
Jennifer is a fifth-year education student at the University of Lethbridge, specializing in mathematics. She has completed practicums in an elementary, junior high, and high school setting. She has been immersed in both a rural environment and city school, allowing her to see various distinct learning environments. Jennifer is currently teaching math 20-1 for PSIII.

http://jennifercox4.wixsite.com/pipp

To Be a Lear'nin

To what extent are my differentiation strategies, technology integration, content delivery, and classroom culture affected by a Low German Mennonite classroom context?​

For my Professional Inquiry Project I am focusing on teaching in a Low German Mennonite context (LGM). Due to the recent disruption in school and student learning as well as the gaps in learning and general lack of independent study at home, there is a wide range of student ability and understanding in my classroom. Many LGM students have large gaps in their learning and have very limited formal schooling with high absenteeism. These variables present challenges when delivering content, ensuring outcomes are met by each student, and assessing student understanding.

The LGM classroom context demands a differentiated content delivery, as a lot of topics are considered sensitive. Content related to biology, evolution, LGBTQ+, divorce, other religions, snakes and magic (witches, ghosts, monsters, etc.) may make students feel uncomfortable, confused, or upset. Additionally, many of the students travel back and forth between Mexico, which is one of the contributing factors to their absenteeism and resulting knowledge gaps. Technology is rarely used at home for some of the families, so the current need for technology integration and using online platforms places many LGM students at a stark disadvantage. Many students have extensive responsibilities at home (chores, working on the farm or the family business) and are not inclined to not read or do extra school work at home. Because of the language barrier, many parents are not able to help their children with homework.

One way teachers in the school address these challenges is through implementing cross-curricular learning. This approach creates a more well-rounded and inclusive environment in the classroom, while covering a broader range of outcomes and competencies in each class.

The LGM context is clearly very interesting to teach and learn in, and it is a population that is not widely recognized. Through my PIP, I am aiming to create awareness of this population and to document effective strategies for teachers who teach in this context or have students from this cultural context. 

Madison grew up in Calgary and attended TLC, private, and public schools, and moved to Lethbridge to attend the U of L. She is a B.A English/B.Ed major who has a passion for literacy, project-based learning, and inclusive learning. Madison is completing her PSIII in Vauxhall, where she also started my PSII.

http://sites.google.com/horizon.ab.ca/tobealeararin/teaching-context/cross-curricular-learning 

Inclusivity and the Seven Sacred Teachings

How can the Seven Sacred Teachings be used to create an Inclusive Learning Environment?

One of my professional growth goals this semester was to create an inclusive learning environment. I was also interested in exploring First Nation, Métis and Inuit Perspectives, so I decided to investigate how Indigenous Ways of Knowing might enhance inclusivity. In my research, I found the Anishinaabe's Seven Sacred Teachings: virtues that show how to be a good person, and which also promote the acceptance of self and others. COVID-related restrictions meant that students were not able to see friends in other classes, so I wanted to help strengthen the relationships in our own classroom by supporting new friendships and ensuring everyone felt accepted. I taught the seven teachings through 10-minute activities over the course of five weeks, and in doing so I ended up creating a routine that my students were looking forward to each day. Based on my own observations and comments from my TM, I conclude that students have become a stronger community: students who were not previously friends are now working together, greater respect is evident, and there is an overall feeling of camaraderie.

http://sstinclusiveclassroom.weebly.com

Tackling Racial Underrepresentation in Majority White Schools

How can educators tackle the issue of racial underrepresentation in majority white schools?

I am a racialized individual who knows how it feels to be underrepresented in an education setting. When you cannot see yourself represented in the system you are a part of, you struggle to fit in. When I felt like I didn't fit in, I felt like I couldn't learn. For my PSIII, I was placed at a majority white school in Southern Alberta, and I encountered similar feelings among the racially underrepresented youth there. This is a significant issue in Southern Alberta, especially, and I want to do what I can to fix it. This resource is for all of those girls in hijab who did not run because they did not know that they could, for all of the refugees who escaped war and who want people to understand their trauma, and for all those students who want role models who look, sound, and act like them. Let us work together to not only better represent our students, but educate ourselves on where they come from, and what they came from. 

Deema is a female, Muslim, hijab-wearing Palestinian with a passion for justice, representation, and equity.

http://deemaabushaban.wixsite.com/underrepresentation

My Journey to Conceptual Understanding: An Unconventional PIP for an Unprecedented Time

How does the conceptual understandings approach impact the planning and teaching process, and subsequently student learning?

My PIP evolved almost by accident. In June of 2020, I received my placement in Kindergarten. I did what most interns do and looked my teacher mentor up to see if she has a teacher Twitter account. Luckily, she does, and she had recently posted about supporting conceptual understanding in her classroom. Wanting to be prepared with questions, I looked up “Conceptual Understanding” to develop my own preliminary knowledge. We chatted about it briefly during our initial visit and I bought a book for further reading over the summer. I didn’t think much of it until my TM invited me to join her in a professional development session offered by Julie Stern and her team of Learning Transfer Educators. I decided I’d like to participate, and by the end of September I had completed the course and was a Learning Transfer Endorsed Educator. I had already decided during the course that I was going to practice my new skills when planning my units for this practicum. I knew I also had a great resource for support in my TM. By the time my Internship started, I had put many hours into learning, understanding, planning, and talking about concept-based education. I had also tried my first mini-unit using concept-based instruction. I decided this would be a great topic for my PIP. I wrote my question (“How does the conceptual understandings approach impact the planning and teaching process, and subsequently student learning?”), and began keeping detailed records of my learning. As many teachers at my school are already familiar with concept-based education, I decided what I would leave with the school would be a digital resource of story boards/units and lists of accompanying resources. 

Andie is in the final semester of her Science Education degree with a specialization in Early Childhood. She has a Bachelor of Science in CMMB, and a Minor in Anthropology from the University of Calgary. In her spare time she coaches figure skating and has been a coach for eight years. As an educator, Andie is passionate about STEAM in ECE and concept-based education.

http://drive.google.com/file/d/1kHhOmWsm4bWqfvCIwZ1ASmQSpnF5gFCG/view?usp=sharing

Using Digital Escape Rooms for Grade Nine Provincial Achievement Test Preparation

How can I implement effective, engaging, and COVID-19 conscious Provincial Achievement Test preparation for grade nine reading comprehension?​

Pre-service teachers are always told "don't teach to the test!" yet Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) account for 25% of students' grades and contain specific skills that students must master in order to be successful. I implemented the use of Digital Escape Rooms (DERs) as PAT preparation, specifically for reading comprehension, in my grade nine classroom to address the three prongs of my inquiry: the PAT preparation must be effective, engaging, and COVID-19 conscious. To address effectiveness, I examined the cognitive load of PATs and the extraneous knowledge students must navigate; DERs require students to complete a series of extraneous tasks unrelated to ELA curriculum in order to be successful. Student engagement was tackled by turning reading comprehension questions into a challenge in a game-type setting. Health measures were addressed by creating an individualized task for students while in their cohort. To fully understand the extent to which my inquiry was successful, I surveyed students on their experience with the DERs. Aside from my main inquiry, I also considered the extent to which DERs have a practical application in the routines of teachers, regarding both time and validity. 

Danika is a fifth-year B.A./B.Ed. English Language Arts student with a minor in Social Studies Education. Danika is originally from Didsbury, Alberta, and is currently completing her PSIII internship teaching grade nine ELA in Lethbridge.

http://sites.google.com/uleth.ca/teachtothetest 

Pandemic Destressor

What are some ways to reduce school staff stress during the pandemic?

After reading a paper on teacher stress, I learned that in Alberta there is an attrition rate of 40% within the first five years of teaching. It shocked me that there was such a high rate in Alberta so this ultimately led me to pursue looking at ways to reduce teacher stress. I've expanded to include support staff and admin because they also may face stress during their job. 

To address thus inquiry question, I created a website aimed at suggesting ways to reduce school staff stress. It is separated into subpages of various lengths (5 minute ideas, 10 minutes ideas, 30 minutes ideas).

Peter is a Science major and math minor. For PS III he taught double periods of Chemistry 20 and Science 10 (in the quarter system).

https://pandemicdestressor.weebly.com

Integrating Literacy Strategies into High School STEM Subjects

What are some ways that literacy can be integrated into high school STEM subjects with a focus on reading, comprehending, and communicating STEM concepts, and how can these methods be used to aid in the transition from high school level academics into post-secondary STEM academia?

What are some ways that literacy can be integrated into high school STEM subjects with a focus on reading, comprehending, and communicating STEM concepts, and how can these methods be used to aid in the transition from high school level academics into post-secondary STEM academia? 

Literacy throughout STEM subjects is something that has interested me since my undergraduate experience in a STEM field (Math & Physics). I wished to examine post-secondary STEM literacy requirements compared to literacy requirements in high school, and to investigate ways of emphasizing literacy standards before post-secondary. This topic also aligns with my school's current SADP goals. As a result of my research, I have compiled various strategies that target individual aspects of literacy and can be used in high school STEM courses. 

Crystal grew up in the small town of Viking, Alberta. After graduation, she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics/Physics at the U of A. In PS III Crystal taught Science 10 and Mathematics 20-1.

http://stemliteracypip.weebly.com

The Emotionally Regulated Classroom

How can mindfulness strategies and activities be used to promote a more trauma sensitive, emotionally regulated classroom environment?

Given the unique circumstances, the school day looks quite different to what it did the previous year. As a result, students’ capacity to regulate (social, emotional and behavioural) may be more difficult than ever.

Building on my placement school’s 2020-2021 professional learning goals, I decided to focus my PIP on how mindfulness strategies and activities can be used to promote a more trauma informed, emotionally regulated classroom environment. Now, more than ever, it is critical for students to see their classroom as a safe space in order to engage in meaningful learning.

To begin my inquiry process, I incorporated different activities and tools that would provide students greater autonomy in identifying their feelings and needs. I started an “emotion” check-in with students to gain a deeper understanding of how they were feeling and what they needed from me to engage in meaningful learning. I provided time throughout the day to engage in mindfulness activities, such as breathing exercises, mindful colouring and journaling.

The impact of this inquiry project has been significant for my students but also for me as an educator. Providing students with check-ins allowed me to build a strong relationship with each individual student and create an environment where they felt I cared for their wellbeing, not just their learning. Students began to ask to check in more regularly and to reach for the mindfulness activities when they felt any form of dysregulation. I also incorporated deep breathing exercises and journaling as additional ways to help foster an emotionally safe and supportive classroom environment.

Laura completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Lethbridge majoring in Sociology in 2016. After graduating, she worked as an Educational Assistant working with students grade 9-12, before returning back to the University to complete her Bachelor of Education majoring in Social Studies. 

 http://classroomregulation.weebly.com 

Minecraft in the Classroom

What role and impact can Minecraft Education Edition have in the Social Studies classroom?

My initial inquiry centered on the role and impact of digital learning in the classroom. Given the real possibility that learning might again shift to online, I wanted to teach in a way that would transition easily if necessary. I envisioned my classrooms would go completely digital and students would create a digital Social Studies notebook through Google Sites where they could add daily notes and definitions. Over time, my classrooms experienced tumultuous turmoil as I was blinded by the fact that my expectations of technological competencies for students aged 12-14 were unrealistically high. I moved away from Sites because it actually took longer to get work done and I listened to student feedback.

Several students voiced that they were unappreciative of the shift online despite being physically present in the classroom and said they might as well be learning from home if everything is digital. Acknowledging that as an incredibly valid point, I returned to pen and paper to foster the physical aspects of learning. Then about a month ago, I learned about Minecraft Education Edition.

This project showcases the potential game-based learning has in the classroom. In the two weeks students worked on their projects, I observed higher levels of student engagement, enthusiasm, collaboration, and motivation in my classrooms.

My presentation and project include:  

  • primary data from student, staff, and parent surveys 
  • examples of what my students built and how they demonstrated their learning 
  • references to academic literature.  

Shar was born and raised in Squamish, British Columbia. This is her sixth year of university and she plans to graduate in Spring 2021 with two degrees - one in Social Studies Education and the other in Anthropology, alongside a minor in Indigenous Studies. She is currently teaching Social 7/8.

http://sites.google.com/view/minecrafteducation/home

Addressing Racism Toward the FIrst Nation, Métis and Inuit Community

How can teachers contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society when they encounter racist behaviour?

At the beginning of my PSIII I got asked a question by a staff member in my school. She took into consideration that I am an Indigenous Studies major, and thought I would have some extra insight towards First Nations, Metis, & Inuit (FNMI) topics. Essentially, she wondered how I would handle a student who made an inherently racist comment towards a First Nations individual or during a discussion on FNMI perspectives. This question is what spiked my project idea and inquiry question.

My goal was to provide my school with ideas on possible responses to comments or behaviours that are racist in nature. I did some research, and found that many teachers believe the way to deal with racism is to provide the student with a consequence to their actions and tell the student to not talk like that. A consequence and strong reaction may be important, however a student is not learning why the comment is inappropriate.

Racism toward FNMI peoples is troubling because it is a clear barrier towards Reconciliation. Education about the legacies of historical globalization and how those legacies influence FNMI peoples to this day is a crucial component of Reconciliation. In order to teach the students, teachers themselves need this knowledge, and this need is of course reinforced by the expectations of TQS #5. Teachers are required to apply foundational knowledge about Canada’s First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people.

I created a website that outlines what I learned through exploring this question. It directly addresses ways teachers might respond to comments or behaviours that are racist in nature. It includes resources teachers can use to further their knowledge about First Nation, Métis and Inuit ways of knowing. It also includes resources the teacher may use in the classroom.

Cailey is currently completing her PSIII at a rural school in Southern Alberta. I am in my 5th year of school, hoping to graduate this spring with a B.A./B.Ed (majoring in Indigenous Studies/Indigenous Education and minoring in Social Studies Education).

http://redirectfnmiracismweebly.com

Children's Books in the High School Science Classroom

How can the use of Children’s books in the High School science class increase student engagement and understanding of difficult scientific topics?

Science at the best of times can overwhelm students with new scientific concepts, and a lot of these topics can be very difficult to master. Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” By being introduced to difficult topics through plain language meant for children, students’ initial engagement in the material may increase and lead to deeper understanding as they dive further into the topic. Additionally, children’s books tend to use humanist narratives to further engage the reader. This connects the real-world to science, making concepts more tangible. Throughout my PSIII I integrated scientific children’s books into the classroom to further students’ understanding and engagement with great response from students! 

Samantha is currently completing her final weeks of her Internship at a High School in Lethbridge. She has a passion for science, literature, and a love of learning that she has been able to share with her students these past couple of months. She is excited to share how, during this time, she has utilized children's books in the high school science classroom to increase engagement of tough scientific topics.

"We're Here to Learn": Engaging Our Teenagers

How can engagement be enhanced to improve learning?

Do you ever dream of having a class where every teenager is engaged? If you do, we have something in common! High school students report having high levels of boredom at school, many viewing their time spent in class as learning useless information. This made me reconsider our role as teachers in delivering instruction that engages our students. From perusing research articles to performing demonstrations, I noticed something that seemed to capture their attention and elevate their effort. In my project you will hear more about my efforts to try and engage a class known throughout the school for their lack of participation. 

Evelyn is completing a Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Education combined degree. She taught a variety of subjects with grades 10-12 during her PS III Internship.

http://evekampert.wixsite.com/studentengagement

Land-Based Learning and Critical Literacy Theory

To what extent does critical, place-based literacy support literacy and Indigenous connections in the early childhood elementary classroom?

This project explores local community based studies, nature studies, and purposeful and critical literacy projects in a grade one and two classroom. The implementation of this pedagogy seeks to support foundational literacy skills, reach each and every student, and acknowledge the Blackfoot lands that our school is on.  

I began researching land-based learning and critical literacy in education courses this summer. My placement offered an opportunity to apply this knowledge in a diverse, high-needs class where school closures had impacted learning in the previous year. I found that critical, place-based pedagogy acknowledges alternate ways of learning, promotes social literacy and Indigenous connections, as well as supporting problem solving, reading, and writing at a grade one and two level.

http://critical-place-based-literacy.weebly.com

Hands-On Science: Building Curiosity in the Classroom

In what ways does frequent use of interactive and hands-on learning experiences engage learners and foster curiosity about the Nature of Science?

I was introduced to the concept of the Nature of Science by prof. Doug Checkley during a curriculum and instruction for Science majors course at the University of Lethbridge. I have always been curious about the natural world, so I was very inspired by the possibility of passing that curiosity on to my students. I wanted to create a system of teaching science that let the students hold the learning in their hands as often as possible, and I wanted to teach them to question and think critically about things.

The project specifically addresses engagement, and how specific practices have helped students to engage and become curious. Differing learning needs in my classroom were also met with lessons that target different modalities.

I had students do interviews about what lessons/activities engaged them most, and I asked them about times when they felt curious. The response was nearly unanimous - that students felt more involved with their learning when they were working with something interactive or hands-on, when they were creating, and when they were formulating a question. Many students cited times that they felt curious about what was going to happen (such as in a lab that we did) and described how that made them feel excited to learn, therefore being far more engaged with their learning.

Hannah is a General Science major in the Combined BSc/B.Ed program. She grew up in Medicine Hat and moved to Lethbridge to be part of the University of Lethbridge education program. Hannah loves dance, painting, plants, dinosaurs, and science. She taught Grade 7 Science for her PSIII.

http://hannahstonjeck.wixsite.com/eportfolio/professional-inquiry-project

From Stone Tablets to Digital Tablets: Technology in the ELA Classroom

What is the role and impact of digital learning in the English Language Arts classroom?

This inquiry is inspired by the physical distancing protocols that have been put in place due to COVID-19. The purpose of this inquiry is to explore how teachers can use technology or online tools to enhance interaction and efficient learning experiences for a variety of learners, both inside and outside of the classroom.

There is no standard opinion on the role of technology in humanities classrooms. More traditional opinions may assert that nothing can replace or exceed the benefits of learning with a paper and a pen. So, as COVID-19 protocols immerse us in technology despite personal preference, it seems an optimal time to explore the effects of digital tools on learning and the degree to which technology should be employed in a humanities classroom.

Initially, I thought that students would be thrilled about the move to digital learning, as they can’t seem to put their phones down. However, I found that most students are missing the traditional approach of paper and pencil learning. As for the teacher side, technology has made marking assignments and staying organized much more efficient and attainable.

Kiana Pennington grew up in Northern Alberta and moved down south to attend the University of Lethbridge. She has wanted to be a teacher since attending the first day of Kindergarten, though High School was a slight deterrence. She has settled in the middle, desiring to teach Junior High.

Math Differentiation: Low-Floor, High-Ceiling Tasks

Do low-floor, high-ceiling tasks effectively differentiate grade seven mathematics?

My involvement in Math Education (through school, tutoring and teaching) has taught me something - people really like to think they are 'just not good at math,' or that they 'hate math.' There is this idea that is perpetuated throughout people's lives that they are not smart enough to be good at or enjoy math. I wanted to find a way that all students would be engaged and take risks in math, no matter at what level they entered. I researched differentiation strategies, and that research led me to tasks known as "low-floor, high-ceiling" (LFHC) tasks, which are called such because they are easily accessible to all students, but can be richly extended as well.

I compiled a list of LFHC tasks and used a few of them in my instruction. I used one as a warm up many times throughout the semester and found that all of my students could find a way to enter in. I saw them become more comfortable taking risks and more willing to contribute to mathematical discussion. LFHC tasks are an effective way to engage all students in mathematics and provide a meaningful and inclusive differentiation strategy. 

Rebecca is a PSIII Intern graduating in December 2020 with both a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degree. She has a major in Mathematics Education and a passion for making math education meaningful to students. Rebecca resides in rural Southern Alberta and taught grade 7 math and science and the local high school for her Internship. 

Alternative Ways of Reporting Standards-Based Grading

What pragmatic concerns are possible barriers to outcome-based reporting and to what extent can those barriers be overcome?

There is a body of research that suggests when students (and by extension, their parents) receive more detailed and specific feedback, it enhances their learning, as well as their desire to learn. We were both interested in developing our assessment practices, specifically using outcomes-based assessment. Before we got started, we wanted to ensure our project would also benefit our host schools. Because outcomes-based assessment is less common in secondary settings, we created a survey to provide data regarding areas of concern around the implementation of outcome-based reporting. From these concerns, we planned to develop and disseminate resources to address reservations. In addition to providing information about outcomes-based reporting, we also aimed to provide teachers with materials they could add to their assessment practices. 

Chelsea and Merrick are both math majors, graduating this December. Merrick is completing his PSIII at Immanuel Christian Secondary School in Lethbridge. Chelsea is completing her PSIII at Bert Church High School in Airdrie. They are both teaching Math 10C.

The Importance of Teaching Academic Vocabulary in Division III and IV Setting

In a profession where vocabulary is primarily taught to Grades K through 6, how can I as an educator make vocabulary acquisition interesting and effective for my students in division three and four?

During my secondary English Language Arts Classes, I noticed how my students' vocabulary affected their work. While my students had well-built foundational vocabulary, their working vocabulary for their appropriate grade levels was lacking. My students' writing was weakened by generalized word choices and incorrect use of words. Furthermore, their reading comprehension and ability to answer text-dependent questions was affected by their lack of academic vocabulary. Vocabulary instruction is less common past Grade 6, with an emphasis on “reading to learn” instead of “learning to read”. Seeing a need for vocabulary instruction, my PIP goal was to figure out how to make it relevant and engaging for Grades 7 through 12. I planned to teach my students strategies to help them acquire new academic vocabulary on an ongoing basis, thus giving them the information and tools that they need to be independent agents of their own learning.  

Sophie is a 5th year B.A./B.Ed. student with a focus in English Language Arts. She has taught Language Arts, Art, and Drama and is passionate about literacy and creating lifelong learners. Sophie strives to equip her students with the tools necessary to take on their world.

Beyond Remembering and Understanding

How can we challenge students to engage in critical thinking and why is this important?

A study on Bloom’s Taxonomy by Watanabe-Crockett in 2018 asserted that critical thinking skills are a challenge to teach and deliver effectively to learners. Early in the year, I found myself using the first two levels of Bloom’s very often. The ability to recall and explain concepts is an important part of scaffolding critical thinking, but it is only a piece of a greater puzzle. Students must be capable of accessing and using their abilities to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create in a wide variety of subjects. Consistently staying within the boundaries of knowledge and comprehension stifles student opportunities to practice and experience real-world thinking. The purpose of this inquiry is to become aware of how and why each cognitive domain helps students. 

Dalyn is an English Language Arts Major and did their PSIII at G.S Lakie Middle School. Dalyn taught grade 6 language arts and social studies.

Offline Games in Social Studies 8

How can I effectively use games in Social Studies 8 to gain full-class engagement while still assessing the outcome?

A well-designed computer game clearly has potential value in a classroom. Games give instant assessments, report student progress to the teacher, and offer an engaging challenge. During my placements in PSII and PSIII, I was in classrooms with limited Internet access and little to no computer access. What would it take to use games in a course like Social Studies 8, not only to reinforce concepts but even introduce brand new units?

During my final placement, my goal was to play four games with the class of 21 students I had in Grade 8. The games had to be tied to curricular outcomes, involve every student, be playable in a 41-minute period, have high levels of engagement, and leave me with an assessment about the students’ understanding while providing direction for future learning. Assessments might be personal reflections at various stages of the game, a game strategy chart, or perhaps an entrance/exit slip to uncover what students learned during the game.

Gamification has its place in the repertoire of tools available to teachers, but in my experience, exclusive use of, or overly strong emphasis of gamification without solid instructional follow-up, leads to weaker results. The timing of the game is not an unimportant detail: should it be surprise activity or a form of instruction within the unit? How much context or advance preparation do students need? During this project I also discovered that repetition of the activity was less effective.

Overall, the games were a runaway success. We had full-class, thorough engagement during all games. Using gamification to elucidate major, large, or difficult concepts allowed students to get stronger results, a better attitude about social studies in general, and improved class spirit and relationships between us all. Students were activated as sources of knowledge for each other, almost without prompting; and both the experience during the game as well as the assessment that followed pushed the learning envelope further for every one of us