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On March 2 our CIG met at the Uniontown High School to help out with a program taking place.  The Invisible Children program came to present their video Kony 2012. IC has been presenting an assembly at the Uniontown District for the last 5 years. Their non-profit organization raises awareness for the plight of children in Uganda affected by the 20 year war. These children are constantly threatened with kidnap, torture, sexual slavery and being forced into fighting. Each year as the students see the new informational video and hear from the young Ugandans who share their stories in person, they respond with compassion and generosity. This compassion seems to manifest itself through art. This year the young people have planned a 5K run followed by an art and music festival.  Many times students respond n a very emotional way through their art making. These pieces are then part of the festival and may be experienced and purchased by the attendees. I have seen first hand how art making answers the deep seated question “Ok, I see this terrible need on the other side of the world, but what can I do about it.

Our January  13th CIG meeting at the IU was in my opinion, a little stressful. We had designed our survey in November and I distributed it to all my classes in early December. I shared the results with the group at the December meeting. At that January meeting, I felt that we were still unsure of what we were trying to do with our classes regarding motivation and effort in regarding student’s practicing outside of the classroom to improve their music and art. It is just frustrating sometimes to get the students to get the required work done for class, especially sketchbooks in Drawing class and definitiely grades are not a motivating factor! Students that have incredible drawing skills will fail drawing 1 because they refuse to do a sketchbook which is part of the course requirement. We spent the meeting talking about the survey, putting it into our wikipages and discussing our final project.


Inquiring Hearts left a work day early to view a presentation held by Invisible Children roadies at the Uniontown High School.  Becky has an after school program where a group of students work to help raise money for the cause and gain more knowledge about the war in Africa.  I’m getting deeply involved this year and helping to plan a Music and Arts Festival this June with Becky and our friend and Invisible Children advocate, Kate Webster.  I’m also getting my school involved.  Kate presented a documentary about Invisible Children and we are making artwork to sell at the event.

The high school presentation was so moving.  A team of five roadies, three Americans, a New Zealander, and a woman from Uganda who escaped the LRA, came to speak to the high school.  They introduced the school to the Invisible Children cause and the video that went viral the next week.  The students seemed very receptive and we received a lot more interest for the after school program.

When we first got our cig together, just like every other year, we kind of just looked at each other and we were not too sure what to do. Most are used to a concrete plan in a credited course, but inquiry based learning can be a little intimidating because where do you begin? We started with deciding on a line of inquiry, our question that we wanted to focus on. “How can inquiry strategies be incorporated into music and arts classes to improve motivation and effort toward students’ practice habits?” We then decided to put together a survey for our students just to get a starting point. We put together a plan as to how our outcome would be presented. We knew right away that we wanted a video to present our research. So we took all of this to our classrooms to see where it would take us.

For one of our Arts Ed meetings, our group went to Uniontown High School to view a presentation on Invisible Children. I had some previous knowledge of the group, but had never seen a show before. Since we are Inquiring Hearts, part of our inquiry is how to use arts to make our world a better place. This was a perfect example because these young people used a video that was very well made to engage the audience in supporting their cause. It was amazing to see how the young people responded by filing out cards with their information and making a pledge to help support the campaign. In case you have never heard of Invisible Children, it is a movement to promote the arrest of a warlord in Africa who kidnaps children and forces them to become soldiers, killing even their own families and people from their villages. Every year, the high school club for Invisible Children brings the group in to present for the student body. After this, students hold an art market and have a concert to raise funds for the cause. It is a really powerful that students can get involved in a great way to support people from across the world that, though they have never met, they value and treasure their lives as human beings. For our CIG, that is what art is all about…supporting and giving hope, as more than just an art form, but as an expression of life.

When deciding how to approach this year’s course, the main thing I was struggling with was how to manage the technical aspects of performing research with a variety of factors like: ability levels, background, class size, etc. I asked the members of my collaborative inquiry group (CIG) as well as an attending facilitator, James Ritchey, for advice during our Skype meeting on Thursday, December 1, 2011.

My question:
Do I conduct research using scientific methodology for comparing the results between direct instruction and inquiry based strategies – meaning the use of a control group versus an experimental group with same-age students?

James’ response:
We can consider this type of study “action research.” Since you’ve already taught a particular lesson one way, you don’t need a control group. You can just teach using inquiry-based strategies and compare it to previous experience. Also, there are many different approaches and direct-instruction is not necessarily the opposite of inquiry-based. You can have a materials-based, skills-based, or any other myriad approaches based on content, ideas, facts, emotional expression, history, etc. If you are thinking you are already comfortable with inquiry, then what is the next direction or challenge?

This conversation really made me look at what I was trying to accomplish. I want to figure out which teaching strategies work best for certain skills. Finding the balance between giving instruction and not giving instruction (or when to do so) is the biggest struggle for me.

I specifically remember one CIG meeting where Mary Elizabeth shared a chart that visually depicted the stages of inquiry. On one side, you could see that a clear direct approach was taken. And, on the other side, an full inquiry approach was used. There were in-between stages that described some of the strategies I tried. That give-and-take was what really the basis of what I wanted to research this year. Where is the balance between the two approaches and when is it appropriate to use one or the other or a combination of the two? MEM, if you are reading this and have it available, can you post that chart for our CIG (or anyone who is interested) to look at?

I think at this point, I can still say that teaching entirely to one modality is not necessarily the best practice and probably not what I envisioned aiming for. I think the best practice is to use a variety of teaching strategies, just like using a variety of assessment strategies reaches more learners. I need to find that balance.

Moving forward, how can I plan for the best uses of inquiry?

On our optional meeting day we brought in pieces for sharing about the work that we did in the classroom. During this day we discussed how to further support what each other are doing. Each member was able to share a project that they we taking on and other group members were able to offer support. As each member spoke about their project I began to think about how each of our individual projects fit together to find our common theme. We discussed that while we are all working toward a common theme/goal we are all in different parts of our “journey.” Each of us offered up suggestions as to how we can further support and continue with our process.

(original post 11/2011)

It was somewhat refreshing and yet at the same time slightly terrifying to change CIG groups this year. For the past two years of the AE 2.0 project I was a part of the same CIG with the same people and the same CIG facilitator. There was a sense of familiarity about that. We may have been somewhat dysfunctional but there was a comfort level there. We worked well together. We understood each other. This year while the overall participants have not changed, we restructured the groups. It felt somewhat akin to the first day at a new school. New first impressions, trying to find where within the system you fit in. It was also somewhat difficult since there was no clear leader, no one wanted to assume the role and exclude the ideas of the others. It’s refreshing to discover what other people are doing in their classrooms. It enables us to get new ideas from each other. I really am interested to see how grouping the CIGs by topic of inquiry will impact how the project unfolds. We still have some splits between age groups and discipline areas but all focusing on the same question should ultimately alleviate some of the difficulties we’ve faced in years past. Overall I think I am excited to see how these new relationships grow and what new information we will be able to find.

Our meeting got off to a rather slow start. New group, new ideas, no one really sure who’s going to take the initiative. Plus, without a facilitator we needed to rely solely on each other to figure out how our project was going to work, who was going to do what, when we needed to start and finish, what data would need to be collected, and how we would show our work in the end.

After throwing around some ideas during the morning session we decided to start with a pretest that would help us to gather some information about our students’ practice habits and their level of motivation toward individual practice. We talked about what questions we could include and how we could compile the data. This was interesting because we needed to figure how to word the questions so that it could be given to both art and music students.

We also set up a group wiki space so that we could collaborate virtually and view the work and progress of our CIG mates throughout the course of the project. Each participant was given a page in which to post material related too their particular class and line of inquiry. We included a page for the pre/post test and a page for reading material related to student practice habits and motivation in the classroom.

In the afternoon we spent the better part of the time discussing the method of presenting our work at the sandbox. Several ideas were posed and we tentatively decided on making a short movie to show our results.

At our meeting we first reviewed our inquiry question, and shared where we were with our students. We decided that pre surveys and post surveys were needed to help in our evaluation of students.

At the end of Art Ed 2.0 year 3; I said okay so where do I go from here?  I have brought technology into my classroom and have found that it equalized my non music reading students, my music reading students and my IEP students.  It is easy to follow the line and notes up and down where ever they lead has helped students master music faster which has allowed me to focus on blend and dynamics more since the average choir student requires many, many repetitions of their parts before they get it into their head and muscles. (This is tedious and sometimes boring when it is teacher run because students have down time while waiting for their turn) Technology has helped us to utilize time better.

My administration have asked us to bring more rigor and relevance into our teaching in the classroom. Now I’m not sure what can be more rigorous and relevant than being in a musical collaborative group learning the music, learning vocal technique and making it work together with other singers to have a blend and balance and to take it into a show and communicate it to an audience. Together with my friend who is the band director, we asked, What would happen if students took on a larger role in the putting together of a concert show.

So, I laid out a plan and we put together collaborative groups. Students in the band and choir signed up to be in these groups. They were given a time frame in which to complete their tasks and I asked if they wanted me to establish tech to help with collaboration and communication and they said, “No, let us come up with that.” So we did. This is my largest concern, how will students communicate with each other.

Since my students already working on the concert before the CIG meeting I felt that I could not give them a pretest or survey. Instead I designed  a reflective evaluation for my students to complete at the end of the Christmas concert project. My hope is that from their experience, we will learn some what they know and how they work, then draw from the experience and take what we learned and plan a spring show that would turn out better, smoother communication and program flow, more input from students. So now that the first show is done and my students have completed I have poured over their responses, now we meet and plan new goals, new music, I have better help for their documentation and communications. They had some great ideas which we are now implementing. Now we start the new project and I let you know how that goes.

September 2020

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