Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Micro Lab Protocol

For students to learn life's big ideas (key and related concepts), they must be engaged in thinking that allows them to construct meaning. In order for kids to be engaged and thinking, they must be participating in the learning engagements we have set up for them.

Students must be actively writing, conversing, manipulating, explaining, using, doing, reading, asking, sharing, listening, discussing, investigating, demonstrating, problem-solving, searching, finding, taking charge, THINKING, discovering, challenging, connecting, and synthesizing.

All too often though, many of our students do not engage in the kinds of behaviors that they need to for deep thinking and thus true learning to occur. Instead, those with high status tend to dominate groupwork activities and leave those with lower status to take on a more passive role. (To learn more about status in the classroom, see Elizabeth Cohen's book Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom).

The Micro Lab Protocol (p. 147-151 of Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison) is "a simple structure for ensuring that all voices are heard and ideas attended to before the topic of focus is discussed." The authors point out that this strategy isn't a thinking routine per se, but it is a powerful tool for making students' thinking visible and assuring that everyone is engaged, thinking, and learning.

This summer, I had the fortune of working with a small group of 6th graders. We were working hard on adopting a growth mindset (for more on mindset, check out Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck or this blog post from July 18, 2014) as well as providing feedback to others in a constructive manner.

After watching a video that one of their classmates had created to explain a math concept, students worked in triads to share their thoughts on the video. They took one minute each to share what they thought the video's creator did well and what he could improve on in the future. While each student shared, the other members listened attentively without comment or interruption. After 30 seconds of silence, the routine was repeated for the second and third members of the group. After everyone had a chance to individually share uninterrupted, the group of three was invited to discuss freely and collectively come up with the feedback they would eventually share with the math video's creator. 




To reflect on the Micro Lab Protocol, I asked the students what went well during their sharing and subsequent discussions and what they could get better at. The t-chart below shows their reflections.


After reading about how 6th graders used The Micro Lab Protocol to ensure that everyone was engaged and thinking, how could you or have you used a similar equity strategy to guarantee that all students, regardless of status, are able to participate fully? 

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