Gord Wotherspoon is a Lower School teacher. He conducted his action research project in 2017/2018.
What question did your action research explore?
I find teaching Grade 6 boys fascinating because it is the year they begin to form opinions and beliefs about certain topics. I’ll find them ferociously arguing a point. Maybe it is why Auston Matthews will be a better hockey player than Sidney Crosby or vice versa? It could be whether or not taxes are good or bad? The boys can be passionately invested in one point of view or another. However often they form these opinions with a limited viewpoint or a one-sided perspective. This led me to consider, how might developing essential questions when exploring multiple perspectives enhance empathy in Grade 6 boys?
What were your key findings?
The boys in all three classes embraced a new way of tackling work. Rather than simply answering questions provided by me, the boys began to create their own questions. They were asked to ensure that they ask both key questions (which are fact-based and easily accessed) and essential questions (open-ended questions that must address at least two sides of a discussion or argument).
I found that the boys’ ability to generate and formulate a wide range of questions improved greatly. They began to see a situation from multiple perspectives. Lots of debates and conversations flowed in the classroom.
According to the boys, “The benefit of looking at both sides is that you know more and you feel emotions towards both sides.”
How have these findings influenced the teaching and learning in your classroom?
The ﬁnding have certainly helped me with my teaching. First I am more aware of the types of questions that I ask and I try to ensure that both key and essential questions are put forward.
Also, I found that when I got them to ask and answer their own questions they became far more versed and knowledgeable about the subject. I have begun to allow the boys to create their own question sheets - and I try to ensure that they ask both key and essential questions to ensure variety of thought.
What new ideas did the research uncover that you would be interested to explore in the future?
I would like to follow this research up with the practice of breaking down questioning techniques into three main categories rather than two – Basic, Key and Essential. A basic question is fact based that can be found but doesn’t really add to the overall understanding. This differs from the key questions, which ensure that the main idea or key facts are brought forward.
By adding another level of questions, I will get a better understanding of what the boys truly know. Specifically whether they really understand the main point of the subject matter, or are they simply providing random facts.