On my very first day of class this year, I framed our work around a question of the day. My question of the day for our first class was Is Texting Killing Language? Since this is a class for classroom teachers getting a Masters in literacy, I thought it was a great way to launch us.
QOD is based on a very simple concept:
1. Identify the theme of what we will be discussing that day
2. Identify a question that connects to that theme
3. Create instructional experiences that align and support students’ understandings of the question
On the first day of class, I had selected the question. I asked students to have a short discussion on it, and then we watched a video from where the question directly came from.
After the video we had a follow-up discussion and moved on from there. Since it was the first day of class, I needed to go over the syllabus, assignments, and general what-not.
Getting the Students Involved with QOD
I really liked having a question to frame the class. However, I didn’t want to be the one writing and selecting all the questions. So I turned to the students and asked them to start generating questions. This process is very simple. It goes like this:
1. Do the readings.
2. Enter 1-3 questions onto the class spreadsheet that you have based on the readings by the beginning of class.
That’s basically it. Sort of.
As an instructor, you need to create a spreadsheet. I do it in excel. I make tabs for each class meeting and then link it to our class wiki. Since I make all the sheets at once, students have them available the entire semester. They are free (technically) to enter a question for any meeting at any time. It just means that if they want to get a little bit ahead, they can.
What Happens In Class
When I pick the QOD it is obviously easy to design class around it. I can pick related videos or activities that support it. But when I don’t know the QOD in advance – and I never do – then it may seem like things get tricky. Well, yes and no. You, as the instructor, have to be able to let yourself go here and fly just a little bit by the seat of your pants.
At the start of class I ask students to review the list and determine how we should select the QOD. Normally, so far, they like to vote. One time someone looked across all the questions and came up with a giant unifying question that we agreed was perfect. I think this part needs some refining. Any ideas? Imagine you have 20 students who each pose 1-3 questions. How would you parse it down? How would you suggest to them that they parse it down?
Once the question is selected I write it on the board so we have it to refer to for the remainder of class. We then launch into a discussion about the question – usually no more than 10 minutes – and then move on to other things. We stop an additional 1-2 times during the remainder of class (recall that class lasts two hours and fifty-minutes) for shorter (about five minutes) discussions. At the end of class I ask them to check-out by writing a short response to the question using Today’s Meet. I create a Today’s Meet page at the start of the semester, and we use the same page every time we check out.
Thoughts & Challenges
I like having the students develop and select their QOD. I am fine with the fact that I am not in control. I want the students to have as much control over their learning as they possibly can – and within reason. QOD makes a space for them to have small discussions throughout over a question that is relevant to them.
I’m not at all challenged or concerned about not developing the question myself. Since the experiences they have during the class are designed around the theme their question came from they should always be learning something they can relate back to it.
What I would like to do is find a better way to make the selection of the question more manageable and maybe even identify a few ways to do it differently throughout. I like using Today’s Meet for an exit slip and connecting it back to the QOD, and I like that we have an initial discussion to launch the QOD. I’d like to find some other ways to mix-up those smaller discussions in-between. That’s what I’m working on.
What are your thoughts?