Least Tern > Workshops > But not Least > Learning and Lobstering
But not Least...
I know what you mean but... (and other attentive comments)
Good Attention is Hard To Come By: The Third Skill
What is Good Attending?
Like the related skills of Questioning and Answering, Attending has three components - Hearing, Evaluating, and Communicating. It is, in essence, a rehearsal of the skills necessary to be a independent learner. A student who attends well to what she reads and hears will be a good researcher, will be able to engage in the filtering of search results and the assessment of her own learning, and will be able to communicate her understanding and learning effectively. Needless to say, she will also be a good collaborator. At its best, Attending is an indicator that higher order thinking is going on. As is true of Questioning and Answering skills, the goal of the Attending skill is for the student to become an independent user of the skill; to use it without prompt from a teacher or other adult. Developed by collaborative experiences, Attending needs to internalized if a student is to become an independent learner.
Hearing is "active listening", with active patience. Strategies for a teacher's active listening have been well documented (for example, see Active Listening in the Classroom). It is a necessary permission of collaboration that each group member must be heard; it is a responsibility of collaboration to Hear others. It is important that ALL of a question be "heard" and that it be remembered. Students who misrespond to or don't understand good Questions are often not Hearing them. A teacher or group member who argues with, mocks or ignores the Answer to a good Question is often not Hearing it. Only a part of the brain is engaged by conversation (Heingartner), the rest can be "off somewhere," a condition that all teachers observe daily. Hearing is improved if Questions and Answers are presented in multiple formats: in writing, orally, in image form, enacted, modeled. A successful collaboration archives the Questions and Answers to assess Hearing so that review and revision are possible. The key Hearing question is "Do I understand?"
Evaluating is the process of determining relevance in terms of one's own cognitive understanding, gained through observations or research. Asking of a heard Question or Answer "Does it fit?" or "Does it have to do with..." or "Is this really important?" is the first step in the development of constructive Feedback, which is in turn the first step in successful Filtering. Students are not evaluating if they:
- are consistently sidetracked by non-relevant questions and non-relevant answers;
- consistently accept the answers of others without forming their own feedback statements;
- repeat answers;
- do not perceive the parts of multi-part questions;
- consistently frame answers that cover a wider range than that indicated by the Question.
Evaluating requires Teacher Tasks. Clarification of the Question or Answer and reference to an evaluative rubric (including the final learning outcome) are often necessary to promote Evaluation. It requires the collaborative permission to have an opinion, and to revise this opinion.
Communicating is the Feedback that the individual gives to the group. It can take the form of an Answer, a new Question, an opinion statement, or a summarizing statement. In the development of a final learning outcome, individual Communication steps play a vital role. They focus, and thereby Filter, the learning content and direction. By Attending carefully to Communications, teachers assess the progress of the individual student and of the collaborative group. As is true of Answering, there are both Good and Poor Communications and the quality is readily discerned by students at all levels, but Poor Communications are often glossed over, ignored, or acted upon as a result of the culture of the classroom. It is in Communications that teachers see that Higher Order thinking is taking place. Aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy, Communications should clearly show the student's progress from representation, to analysis, synthesis. It is important that the teacher keep the developmental stage of the student in mind when anticipating, Attending to and Assessing Communications.
The Filtering Funnel
We can now add the sub-skills of Hearing, Evaluating and Communicating to our Filtering Skill model. Information, data in any form (experiential, conceptual, viewed, heard, tasted, smelled, read, etc.) is introduced through Attending to Questioning and Answering. Each of these is filtered though what is originally a Teacher Permission and Teacher Assessment, and eventually through an internalized filter.
What Can a Teacher Do?
Children do not come naturally to Attending. The teacher needs to create the funnel that will eventually filter Answers, Questions and the attending Feedback and Assessments. It must be modeled and reinforced by the Teacher throughout the elementary, middle and early high school grades. Here are some specific strategies teacher can use to develop the Attending Skill:
- Do insist upon the permissions of collaboration - review them often.
- Model patience - give students time to Attend.
- In a teacher-led group, ask one student to summarize the Answer or Communication given by another. Do this often. If the restating is incorrect, return to the original answer.
- Insist that "one answer at a time" be the rule.
- Discourage hand raising - work in a preset answer rotation if necessary, but try to encourage students to Communicate with regard for others and without verbal permission from the teacher.
- Refrain from simply restating the content of "good answers" - encourage and model the vocabulary for extending content: "I want to add to what Bobby said about the button belonging because it is round..."
- Require that contradiction and disagreement be framed in the context of a filtered answer: "I disagree with what Bobby said about the button belonging because it is round..."
- If the response to an answer is "I agree" - ask "Why do you agree?"
- In a collaborative group, model feedback questions that are directed at the Question, not at an individual: "Is there another way to sort these things?" "If round things don't belong, what does belong?"
- Include Attending to Others in your assessment rubric.
- Structure collaborative learning activities so that Answers and Communications can be easily provided in formats other than dialogue: Consider images, writing, voice recording, charts, debate.
E. Sky-McIlvain 5/22/04