Investigate Research on Student Learning
Now that you have identified key understandings students need to develop, consider the following questions:
- How do students develop these understandings?
- What challenges and misconceptions are typical?
- What distinguishes a learner who deeply understands this topic from one who doesn’t? What insights do students have when they have deep understanding?
- What is known about the experiences, models or insights that spark student understanding?
Your own teaching experience is one important source of information to answer these questions. So is research conducted outside your school. We recommend that you draw on both.
Begin by discussing the bulleted questions above. In your teaching, what you have noticed about student understanding and misunderstanding of the topic under study? Supplement your discussion by doing as many of the following as you can:
- As adults, try student tasks related to the topic you want to study; work independently and then share your strategies, so that you learn about different ways of thinking;
- If you wish, try a task designed to be challenging to adults, in order to experience some of the struggles students might experience;
- Examine student work–from prior years, or from a task you give students now, in order to illuminate what students understand and their misconceptions.
- Arrange for a team member to observe and interview a few students as they solve a task related to your topic of inquiry. (You can find examples at Loft.io’s Lesson Study project and Math Reasoning Inventory.)
Draw on outside knowledge as well:
- Consult trusted websites, books and professional organizations to find out what is known about your topic. Our library contains some of our favorite resources.
- Ask local coaches, district specialists, or university-based colleagues for recommendations of high-quality written materials and video.
Good resources will illuminate what it means for students to really understand the topic under study, how students develop key understandings, and what gaps or misconceptions are typical. (We recommend starting with trusted sources to save time and increase the quality of resources you locate.)
If team time is short, you can consider assigning some resources as “homework” or having different team members read and summarize different resources.
Be sure to use your team notes keep track of what you learn as you try tasks and study outside resources. You can also summarize your insights in Background and Research on the Content (Section #3) of the Teaching-Learning Plan.