Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Task Rotation PLC

Contary to the first idea that springs to my mind when I hear the phrase task rotation, the text I will discuss today has nothing to do with centers. Task Rotation: Strategies for Differentiating Activities and Assessments by Learning Style by Harvey F. Silver, Joyce W. Jackson, and Daniel R. Moirao is another Strategic Teacher PLC Guide that details an instructional strategy utilizing different learning styles to differentiate instruction. (ASCD has sponsored a webinar on one of Mr. Silver's PLC Guides, Reading for Meaning, available at
http://www.ascd.org/professional-development/webinars/harvey-silver-webinar.aspx )

This strategy utilizes learning styles, not Gardner's 8 learning styles, but Meyers-Briggs learning/thinking styles: mastery, understanding, self-expressive and interpersonal. Mastery thinking involves remembering and describing. Understanding thinking involves reasoning and explanation. Self-expression involves imagination and creativity. Interpersonal thinking involves exploring feelings and relating personally to material.

As a graphic, the authors use a quartered rectangle, one section for each style. Then each style is addressed with a question or activity in each quadrant. Students can be asked to complete one activity of their choice, a combination of 2 or more, or all in a certain or random order. These questions must be addressed prior to implementing the strategy.

The opening activity asks participants which of a series of images they think most represents themselves. This activity is used to help people understand their own preferences and can be used with students as well. Just because someone has certain preferences, however, does not mean that all their work should represent that style or that he will not learn if material is not presented in that style. It is incumbent to learning to use a variety of styles to enhance engagement. Additionally, everyone must be able to think in each way.

As the guide instructs, I developed my own example:
  • Mastery: Identify the differences between parasitism, symbiosis, predation, and mutalism. 
  • Understanding: Explain how parasitism could lead to extinction, but symbiosis would not.
  • Interpersonal: How would you explain your relationship with your parents:  parasitism, symbiosis, predation, or mutalism? Explain your reasoning.
  • Self-expression: Create and explain a metaphor comparing predation to something else.
With the above tasks, I would ask the students to do two of the four items to demonstrate their understanding of the material. Alternatively, you could ask students to complete one as a ticket out the door activity. I found this skill challenging. It seemed for every area that I tried to think about, one of the styles was super easy, one or two were not too difficult, and the fourth was very challenging to create. Oddly, the difficult one varied from topic to topic rather than remaining solidly a particular manner of thinking that was consistently elusive. With practice, I know that I will improve. That will be the key- practice.

This particular strategy could be useful for differentiating across thinking skills, but differentiation also needs to address varying skill levels. While scaffolding could be done with this strategy, it would be challenging to use it to address the needs of high ability students without merely assigning them more work.

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