|Planning and Instruction Portion of Teaching-Learning Cycle|
I first read about this model for planning and instruction in Cambourne's book, The Whole Story. He saw it as a framework for providing the Conditions of Learning that he had identified in his research. Next, I became aware of a slightly different version of the workshop model used by various teachers from the Public Education and Business Coalition. Authors like Keene, Miller, and Conrad explained how this structure supports learners in developing the comprehension strategies they can use to make sense of the world. Nowadays, Lucy Calkins is a big name in Readers' and Writers' Workshop.
With my colleagues, Esther Billings and John Golden, we have modified these models to represent our theoretical framework of how to support learning. The specific structure is a combination of four key components that I have come to label connection, concentration, construction, and consolidation. We have also used schema activation, focus, activity, and reflection, but I like the alliteration.
Connection: The teachers or learners make connections between previous experiences and the present workshop. This provides a cognitive foundation on which to build new ideas. Schema activation was our original label because we liked the comprehension aspect - moving from the known to the new.
Concentration: The teacher sets the expectations for the workshop during this phase. By letting the learners know exactly what the focus is for the lesson, they are more likely to be engaged in the workshop because they know its purpose. Often, this looks like a mini-lesson based on the gradual release of responsibility that highlights the work the learners will be doing.
Construction: Learners are provided an opportunity to employ the idea presented during the concentration. This is the bulk of the workshop. An attempt is made to immerse the learners in authentic tasks so that they are learning in context and see the complexity surrounding the idea they are concentrating on. This usually includes some compulsory work, and perhaps a limited number of predetermined choice activities. While the learners work, the teacher is free to observe their progress, confer with individual learners, or provide a small group lesson.
Consolidation: This is the phase that attempts to ensure that learning lasts. It is imperative to provide learners with time to reflect on their experiences otherwise the response to "What did you learn today?" is a predictable "Nothing." We ask learners to look back at what they did and what it meant to them and to look forward to how their experience might transfer to other situations. This might entail writing (exit ticket), small-group sharing (round table), or whole class presentation (mathematician's chair). Typically, we use the formative assessment data collected during this phase to inform planning and build connections to future lessons.
In order to ensure that all phases are attended to, I often use an online stopwatch to manage our classroom time. This sometimes means interrupting learners during the construction phase before they are done, but usually they have engaged in enough of the activity to be able to reflect on it. When someone complains that they haven't finished, I respond, "Feel free to work more on it when you get some free time." Some take me up on this and some don't - it's their choice. I like to think that this builds what Ellin Keene calls, "learning lust."
I use the workshop format for in-class activities and for assignments. It even provides the framework for some of my assessments. Ultimately, the learners come to a point where they want less structure and more freedom. Then I turn the responsibility of designing workshops over to them. I provide the objective and the resources and they plan their time - keeping in mind that learning is supported by connections, concentration, construction, and consolidation.
The workshop approach may not be for everyone, but it works for me.