Dear 801 Students - In response to some questions about the PLCs, the collaborative group and Module, 4, here is some additional information that might help you.I hope to clarify the relationship between the following two assignments and professional learning communities (PLCs).

You started working towards these specific activities when you identified one or more PLCs that you thought might be useful to your work or offer you the support that you are looking for with your teaching. In Module two, you discussed design solutions and burning questions in the knowledge forum. This work was based on your feedback and questions from your concept map.

In Module three, you will be directed to comment on each others’ PLCs and on how they might speak towards your burning questions. These discussions will take place in the Module 2 discussion board where you posted your professional communities.

So, now, you should start communicating with other students, continue to review each other’s questions, PLC notes, and technology montages in the discussion boards. You then need to decide on which ‘brief’ (PLC and question(s)) interests you. Still in the Module 2 discussion board, you can then contact each other and form a collaborative group (2-4 participants) to start the process of analyzing your burning question and taking the appropriate steps to find / propose a solution to the burning questions.

As a group, you can then review your combined questions and PLC choices. Ideally, you will select the brief that has the most clarity in terms of process and the most opportunity for engagement with the PLC. “The focus of your collaboration will be to design a proposed solution to a substantive problem or dilemma in a Professional Community of your group’s choosing.”

In your groups, you will:

  • Engage in critical review of a problem and the context in which the problem exists in a community
  • Propose solutions to a problem that are sensitive to the concerns of the stakeholders
  • Prototype versions of the solution for review by other students in the course
  • Write a Design/Problem Brief that includes 
    • Introduction: description of the problem/issue that is being addressed
    • Literature review - scholarly connections between your burning questions and the literature
    • The proposed solution - a discussion and ‘tangible version’ of the solution (prototype, process description, tools, etc.)
    • "Process account" - a summary of the process of engagement between members of your group
    •  Reference List and citations within the body of the Design/Problem Brief

 You can use any collaborative technologies (e.g. Google Docs) that you see fit, and that you have investigated in the montage. Remember that you need to include a process account of your engagement with each other so you should use a technology that leaves a ‘paper trail’.

After this has been submitted, and concurrently, each of you will be expected to digitally communicate with a chosen PLC about the value of collaborative inquiry as it relates to an authentic problem of practice. This is why I have advised many of you to think about PLCs from whom you can realistically expect to receive a reply.

Please note that there is no reason why your entire group cannot work with the same PLC after the group work assignment is completed to do the Module 5 individual work.

For Module 5, you will

  • Identify a Professional Community with whom to connect
  • Starting with one of your burning questions, and quite possibly the burning question you worked on with your group, take the introduction and literature review from your group work and define a set of core ideas, related to Collaborative Inquiry and based on course content, to be shared as appropriate, with your chosen PLC.
  • Connect virtually and/or physically with the PLC and document your interactions
  • Provide evidence of a connection to the identified Professional Community
  • Where virtual and/or physical connection is not possible, you will need to create a “digital foothold” where you can communicate the set of core ideas that were identified related to Collaborative Inquiry and the particular Professional Community
    • This is the point where you will find the work better and more rewarding if you can actually connect with your PLC.
  • Create a link between your digital foothold and the course.
Published in PME-801 - Winter 2018
Thursday, 08 September 2016 01:16

Collaboration in the new Learning Space

Lately, I have been engaged in a variety of projects to help faculty prepare for our new learning space. One recurring item in my conversations and work is the notion "Making Thinking Visible". This is not a new topic for me (just search for the term)! The following discussion is part of a larger piece of work that I am sharing with colleagues in order to spark discussion about how to manage our new collaborative spaces that we will be moving into in the fall (January for our northern hemisphere audience).

Tell Show me what you think of / know about …

One of the most important elements of engaging students is ensuring that they know what to do.

  • Do they know what to do right now in the class?
  • Do they know what to do for next class?
  • Do they know how all activities relate from…
    • Preparation for class to …
      • Classroom activity to …
        • Assessment to …
          • Unit outcomes to …
            • Success by passing the unit to…
              • Graduating

The more clearly we can articulate opportunities and expectations, the more engaged our students will be. Concurrently, in order to help students see the relevance of their work, we also need to give them the tools, and the strategies to use those tools, to allow them to make their thinking visible.

They need to make their thinking visible to themselves first and then to their colleagues and peers, and finally to their stakeholders and assessors. 

We need to make our expectations visible through as many means as reasonably possible.

Modelling Thinking

In order to help students interact with ideas and content in meaningful ways, we need to provide strategies, or thinking routines, that can be employed in the classroom to help facilitate the learning process.

These routines can be a leverage point for us to help students extend their critical thinking beyond their normal limits. We need to get the thinking out of their heads and on to paper so that others can see it.

idea manage classroom

If we are Distinctly Student Centred, then it is our responsibility to ensure that all students participate – not for their own good, but for the good of those around them. If a student does not want to participate, that is their decision, and they should be encouraged to leave without penalty. However, it is your decision to let them stay and then adversely affect the rest of the class through their (in)actions.

The learning studio is designed to facilitate collaborative inquiry and support group work. Much of the activity in the class will be noisy and challenging. As the tutor, your role is to both offer content expertise and manage the process. 

idea manage

Managing the process:

group work

At all times, ensure that the students are engaged in the class. The main reason students disengage is that they do not know what to do. A secondary reason is that they think you do not care. To help ensure engagement:

  • Are students listening? Wait for attention. Wait… wait … keep waiting
  • Are they participating? If not, why not? They may not have a pen!
  • If you ask a question. Don’t immediately answer it for them.
  • Do not be afraid to have quiet. Students need time to think.

If they have not prepared,

  • Ask why not. Have they done anything at all? Can they still answer the question or participate in group work?
  • Indicate the consequences, for their classmates. Highlight who has come from where, or given up what to be in the class. Stress the importance of being able to contribute to their classmates.
  • Is there time for them to look at content?
Tuesday, 18 September 2012 21:02

Knowledge Building

knowledge build

In an article I recently read, the authors discuss a study on knowledge building, which they define as,

"... collaborative practice in a community ..., in which participants work to advance ... knowledge. It involves question-driven inquiry and explanation-driven understanding in a progressive discourse." (Hui & van Aalst, 2009)

They go on to define five characteristics of knowledge building activities, which could occur in a discussion board, or in another, guided or formal study situation:

Working at the cutting edge. For example, scientists do not only work on problems of personal interest, but on problems that can contribute something new to a field. By “working at the cutting edge” we mean that there is a community value to advance the state of knowledge. Indications of this include evidence that students propose problems that can advance the state of knowledge in the community.

Progressive problem solving. In a scholarly community, we often find one study raises new questions that are explored in follow-up studies. Often students document the history of the problem and mark the progress of the idea.

Collaborative effort. The effort students make to help others understand ideas. Besides writing and responding to notes, students may also add keywords to notes and link notes to make it easier to locate ideas. 

Identifying high points. Students need to have insight into their own and the community’s knowledge advancement processes. This principle focuses on students’ personal insight. For example, students may identify events that help them understand something differently.

Constructive uses of authoritative sources This principle highlights the importance of keeping in touch with the present state and growing edge of knowledge in the field. Indicators include students identifying inconsistencies and gaps in knowledge sources and using resources effectively for extending communal understanding.

I would like you to consider how your participation in the discussion boards may contribute to knowledge building, based on these five characteristics.

Hui, N., & van Aalst, J. (2009). Participation in Knowledge-Building Discourse: An Analysis of Online Discussions in Mainstream and Honours Social Studies Courses. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 35(1). Retrieved September 16, 2012, from

Published in Articles 2012 - 2013