The analysis of the unit, and the recommendations that have stemmed from that analysis, has meant that quite a few changes have been implemented. Below is the outline of what changes have been made as well as the new unit, new assessment item, some of the custom made resources for the new unit the support the inquiry process, and an outline of both the recommendations and where and why they have been implemented.
The outline of the original unit can be found on the Background to the ethics unit page, however, for ease of comparison I’ve included the specifications for the old and new unit below as well as the reasoning for why things were changed.
The recommendations from The Analysing Ethics in Society page have been included below. The recommendations have been reorganised into different categories according to how they related to the structure of the unit. Many of the recommendations have already been outlined in the new unit which you can find here. Newly written aspects of the unit are written in blue text, while the original aspects of the unit are in black.
Some recommendations have been implemented in the unit without comment as they were obvious inclusions that easily helped the unit achieve its purpose. However, some recommendations have been justified or further clarified where appropriate. This clarification can be found on the indented bullet points, often with specific reference to where they appear in the new unit. Finally, the bolded recommendations are ones that, while they didn’t appear in the original list of recommendations, were also implemented to either clarify or reinforce the proposed changes.
Please click on the hyperlinks to either download the created resources or to access the resources online.
Unit Plan Overview
- Change the wording of the WALT and WILFs to clearly use the correct level of bloom’s taxonomy in the student objectives. Bolded the level of Bloom’s Taxonomy expected in each WILF.
- Reframed the objectives and overarching question for the unit so that they are clear and concise.
- Included an outline at the start of the unit so that teachers could clearly see information relevant to the unit’s structure relating to skills, assessment and concepts.
- Extended the unit length from 6 weeks to 9 weeks so that students had enough time to research, plan and execute their response.
- Included column with both TELSTAR phases and GeSTE windows (where appropriate) to demonstrate the phases of inquiry as the Unit progresses.
- Restructured the first two mini inquiries to show students the skills that they will need to undertake a longer inquiry process.
- Inquiry 1 – Ethical Theories (Week 2)
- Highlighted the relevant TELSTAR aspect (Finding Out) as well as the GeSTE Window for this inquiry. This mini-inquiry fits within the Generic GeSTE window as students are only recalling and using the information that already exists.
- Imbedded ICT opportunities with Searching like a pro.ppt (Week 2 – Lesson 1) on Boolean Search terms as students will need to know how to effectively research for the major inquiry.
- Asked students to present not only their information but also how they found their information in their re-search.
- Changed Lesson Plan (Week 2 – Lesson 2) to include information on how to formulate key questions as this is something that, while integral to inquiry learning and to the TELSTAR model as ACARA General Capabilities, as it is missing from the unit.
- Inquiry 2 – Applying Ethical Theories (Week 3).
- Highlighted the relevant TELSTAR aspect (Finding Out) as well as the GeSTE Window for this inquiry. This mini-inquiry fits within the Situated GeSTE window as students are examining information through the lens of a philosophical inquiry.
- Included CRAAP resource (online) for students and a range of reliable and unreliable sources for students to practice on.
- Extended this inquiry so that students should be able to feel confident with learning source evaluation skills.
- Reframed second inquiry as a Problematic Scenario in accordance with John Barell‘s (2008) theory.
- This was done by restating the original statement to a simple instruction for teachers: “Ask students the question – Should people be able to sell their organs” (Week 3 – Lesson 1). By the teacher posing this simple question, students should be able to instantly engage with the concept.
- Created more opportunities for students to use group discussions to analyse their ideas.
- Week 5 – Lesson 3 as a Stop and Reflect moment for students to gain help from their peers (crowd sourcing ideas).
- Week 6 – Lesson 2 as the exit strategy of 3 stars and a wish (three things they are doing well, one thing they would like help on or could do better). The things that students believe they need help with are introduced anonymously the next lesson (Week 6 – Lesson 3) and the class works as a group to solve the problems. Making it an anonymous activity means those students who feel embarrassed that they are struggling have a way of asking for help.
- Week 7 – Lesson 3 – Students talk through their ideas with classmates who then act as critical reflection buddies.
- Embedded lesson for students to crowd-source solutions for any issues they have encountered in their research. (Week 5 – Lesson 1).
- Included a new lesson in the Unit (Week 8 – Lesson 3) in which students are encouraged to actively reflect on their experiences both academically (TELSTAR – Making Connections and Taking Action) but also emotionally and cognitively (GeSTE – Evaluative Window).
- Added a reflection exercise using a worksheet from readwritethink.org that encourages students to reflect at the end of every major inquiry lesson (Week 6 – Lesson 1 – Week 9 Lesson 1). The information from this is then used as supporting material for Week 8 – Lesson 3’s reflection lesson .
- Include Question Quadrant activity for students to gain an understanding of good question types (Week 5 – Lesson 1).
- Include Generative Question Framework – SQUID (Week 5 – Lesson1)
- Linked the Generative Question Framework to the Question Quadrant in student home work to reinforce this understanding.
- Include Process Questions from Knowledge Compass (Week 4 – Lesson 2)
- Introduced in class but reinforced and extended as part of student homework to allow them to take independent ownership of the process.
- Invited students to go back to their Process Questions and the Knowledge Compass in Week 7 – Lesson 1 so that they could re-orientate themselves within the inquiry process.
- Created PowerPoint and lesson activities that support student’s knowledge and ability to confidently use ICT independently during their research process.
- Search like a pro.ppt and activities embedded.
- Created explicit skill sheets to help students with the inquiry process in terms of creating questions, and finding and critiquing resources.
- Created a source analysis tool that fits within the Philosophy frame work that still allows students to evaluate sources of information such as the CRAAP detection test.
- Embedded in Week 3, Lesson 2. Used The CRAAP Test Worksheet.
- Embedded a resource from Read Write Think (I-Search Process Reflection Chart) to help students reflect on the academic aspects of their inquiry process (Week 4 – Lesson 1).
All of the assessment changes have been highlighted via Word’s Comment function on the new assessment item. Please click on the link below to download the new assessment item.
- Changed the wording of the student objective in the assessment task to clearly signal the level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (create) expected.
- Allowed students to choose the way in which their assessment is delivered.
- Included reflection journal as part of formative assessment.
- Allowed students to work in small groups for the research part of the task – however the final assessment would still need to be an individual submission in order to fulfil school assessment requirements.
- Encouraged students to be an active member of change in their community on their chosen issue.
- Changed assessment task to ask students to create some sort of active campaign on their chosen ethical issue.
Analysis of the new Unit
Although most of the changes can be seen in the newly detailed unit and assessment item, the new unit still needs to be analysed to some of the same criteria the original unit was analysed against to show how it has changed. However, unlike the last analysis this one shall, hopefully, be brief as it only has to analyse those elements not immediately apparent in the new unit outline or demonstrated by the recommendations above.
As mentioned previously the new unit uses the TELSTAR model of inquiry as its basis and this can be seen in the left hand column of the new unit. The use of the TELSTAR model has given the unit a better, more cohesive structure which means that it is more engaging for students as each process builds upon the last. When each section of the unit is mapped against the model, as outlined below, it comes obvious that the new unit utilises this inquiry model to its full advantage.
The major inquiry, as outlined above, has also substantially improved when mapped against Mandy Lupton’s (2016) inquiry continuum. While the first two mini inquiries are barely changed, only becoming more open in some elements (see below) the greatest change in terms of how the units fit within the inquiry continuum comes in the final inquiry which has moved from a partially open inquiry with some guided elements to an entirely open inquiry as shown below. This was completed through the assessment task and by utilising the first two inquiries to explicitly teach the skills that students would need in the third and final inquiry. This explicit skill instruction means that students feel more comfortable and confident in working independently to discover and create their own arguments.
This highest level of inquiry as outlined in both Lupton and Bruce’s (2010) work as well as that by Bell, Smentana and Binns (2005), is supported by the way the final inquiry sits within the GeSTE window framework. The original recommendations suggested that the unit would fulfil both the Transformative and Evaluative Window as the students had a final lesson to reflect. Upon further reflection on my part, as the teacher, I believe that the reflection lesson outlined in Week 9 fits more within the Transformative window as students are asked to reflect on their academic and social progress rather than their emotional response to the inquiry (although this is briefly touched upon.
Also although this framework is outlined in the new unit plan, it is important to reiterate just how transformative this new unit could be. For some students the freedom allowed to not only choose an issue close to their heart, but to be encouraged to be active voice to change that issue will inspire students to dig deeper into the intricacies of the issue. It will also transform their lives both socially, emotionally and academically as they are given a very real sense of power in a situation (school) where they often feel powerless. This means that students are likely to be highly engaged throughout the inquiry unit, an engagement that will hopefully spread to the rest of the subjects and beyond.
The last area that was not addressed by the recommendations above is how the new unit deals with Wilhelm’s (2007) Essential Questions. The last iteration of this unit only fulfilled four of the six questions, while the new unit fulfils all six as demonstrated below.
- Addresses students need for inquiry to be relevant and interesting on their own terms as students can choose their own area of interest for their assessment and are encouraged to be active members of social change.
- Addresses the heart of the discipline being studied. Students learn not only about their issue but also about the various ethical theories (Weeks 1 – 4.2) and practice and implement the fundamental reasoning skills learnt in the previous term as well as new skills that will help them evaluate and use sources.
- Is linked to data. Students can find research to fit their theory from a multitude of different sources.
- Is open ended, possible to contend and arguable. Students have to defend their solution which means that it has to be arguable and, given the topic matter, it is going to be something that is contestable in terms of wider society. They also have to create a campaign to change the situation which means that it, be default, has to be contestable as one doesn’t normally start a campaign to continue an excepted social norm.
- Invite students into ongoing conversations and debate about real-world disciplinary issues. Students now have to pick a modern ethical issue and not only research it and propose a solution but also create a campaign to change it. This solution and the campaign that goes with it will make the subject more ‘real’ than ‘hypothetical’ in its response to current issues the students normal engage in during high school.
- Concise and clearly stated. The inquiry question and concept posed in this unit are now concise and clear. They are stated in the unit overview and the teacher is prompted to pose clearly stated and often ‘problematic’ questions throughout.
- May lead to new questions. The reflection question at the end of the Unit (Week 9 – Lesson 3) means that students can pose new questions or reflect on where they want to go from there.
At the end of this process I can say that I am very excited to be teaching this unit next year. I think it will extend student’s understanding of Philosophy and how it links to the real word as a practical subject rather than the theoretical subject that it is always presented as. I also think that giving students a voice and encouraging them to be active members of social change will empower and engage them – something that will be inspiring a love of a subject, engagement in the school and the desire to see the world change for the better.
Barell, John. (2008). Chapter 4 : How Do We Plan for Students’ Questions? in Barell, John, Why are school buses always yellow? Teaching for inquiry PreK-5, Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press
Bell, R., Smentana, L., & Binns, I. (2005). Simplifying Inquiry Instruction. The Science Teacher, 72(7), 30-3.
Gordon, K. (2000). Queensland School Curriculum Authority.
Lupton, M. (2016) Inquiry learning. A pedagogical and curriculum framework for information literacy. (preprint) in Sales, Dora & Pinto, Maria (Eds.) Pathways into InformationLiteracy and Communities of Practice: Teaching Approaches and Case Studies. Chandos Publishing. (In Press)]
Lupton, M. & Bruce, C. (2010). Chapter 1 : Windows on Information Literacy Worlds : Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives in Lloyd, Annemaree and Talja, Sanna, Practising information literacy : bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together, Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, pp.3-27.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey, (2007). Chapter 3 : Asking the Guiding Question : Reframing the Existing Curriculum into Inquiry Units. In Wilhelm, Jeffrey, Engaging readers and writers with inquiry, (pp.41 – 74). New York: Scholastic.