Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
In Bo Wu's class on James Baldwin, students know that the end result of their inquiry will be a group Web site on the author. Wu asks them to collectively answer the question: How can we present our understanding of Baldwin and his works? She encourages them to identify possible audiences for the Web site (teachers, students, general readers, etc.) and to think about the needs those audiences might have. They ask themselves how the site will capture the attention of one or more of these groups so that a viewer will want to stay and read more. The students brainstorm ideas that include pictures of Baldwin and of Harlem, quotes from Baldwin's works, summaries of the essays and stories they have studied, illustrations, a glossary, and their own analytical essays.
This is one of many possibilities for presentation. As educators Richard Beach and Jamie Myers assert, the type of media chosen for presentation can reflect something important about the topic. For example, in representing responses to literature, they recommend that students might use a dramatic presentation to bring to life the themes, problems, and concerns portrayed in texts. "By adopting the roles of persons or characters coping with an issue or dilemma," write Beach and Myers, "students consider the moral effects of their actions on others who may not share their own beliefs." With other inquiry methods, such as the I-Search, each student writes a paper that not only presents the information he or she uncovered, but tells the "story" of the search itself.
The presentation might be something of use to the larger community. For example, teachers might have students use their information to write children's books and read them to kids at a nearby elementary school. Beach and Myers present the example of a town in which some parents objected to the teaching of a controversial novel. Students there addressed the complaint by holding a mock school board meeting on censorship, with each student adopting the role of a figure in the controversy. The board then heard each character's attitudes about the book and censorship, and made a final decision based on the information.
Presentation brings together all the preceding work of inquiry and forces students to take a stance, and possibly shape the opinions of others, on the topic they are studying. Though teachers might be evaluating the work of the inquiry all along, it is at this point that they may make a more formal assessment. It is also at this point that students begin to concretely see the "fruit" of their labors.