Today, I did a simple inductive lesson in my English Language Learner World History class that I thought readers might find useful – not necessarily for the particular lesson itself, but because it provides a pretty good example of how inductive learning can work.
We’re studying prehistoric times, and the chapter in our textbook briefly mentioned the woolly mammoths and showed an artist’s drawing of one.
We took a break from the book and I showed this video:
Then, I said that scientists are trying to bring a mammoth back to life. I asked if anyone had seen a Jurassic Park movie (many had). We talked about “genes” (as well as “jeans”), and how scientists could take some from a frozen mammoth like the one in the video and use them to create a new one.
I first read it aloud, saying “ummmm” where the blanks were located, and then students completed it. We went over it, and then I asked students to work on their own to use the cloze to figure out the rule about when to use “they” and when to use “them.”
All of them came up with something like “they comes before the verb and them comes after the verb” or “they comes at the beginning of a sentence and them later.”
It went well, and is a textbook example of how to merge content knowledge with language instruction, and to have students “create” their own knowledge.
In the inductive process, students seek patterns and use them to identify their broader meanings and significance. In the deductive process, meanings or rules are given, and students have to then apply them.
I’m a huge fan of using inductive learning, and plenty of research (which you’ll find in the resources on this list) document its effectiveness.
I’ve written many posts about it, and thought it would be useful to bring together a few of my best ones, along with resources developed by others, that explain the inductive process and how to apply it in mainstream and English Language Learner classrooms (feel free to make suggestions of ones I’ve missed):
The British Council has shared a short post that Paul Kaye wrote six years ago that does a great job explaining the difference between inductive and deductive, and he provides a number of practical examples from the language-learning classroom. Check out his article, Presenting New Language.
Here are two British Council posts where I wrote about it:
So what do you think the purpose of consciousness is?
I think the purpose of it is to draw all the relevant information together in a larger space. It’s almost as if we can’t spot it because we are doing it all the time. Why do we love crossword puzzles and why are people addicted to sudoku? That’s what a huge bit of the cortex is primed to do — to spot [patterns] — and once we spot them we can assimilate them into our pyramid of knowledge and build more layers of strategy, and knowing how to do that makes us incredibly successful at controlling the world.
And that’s why solving puzzles or finding a useful bit of information feels so good?
We get streams of pleasure when we find something that can really help us understand some deep pattern. Sudoku isn’t the most [fun activity], but it sure feels good when you put in that last number. It’s why scientists love doing research. The way I approach my job, it’s like trying to solve a really big fuzzy crossword puzzle and when you do put in that new clue and see the deeper pattern, that’s incredibly pleasurable.
If our brains are hungry for information, then why do we tend to see learning as a chore and fail to recognize it as a huge source of pleasure?
I don’t know. Obviously, more intelligent people get more pleasure from spotting these patterns, but I think almost every normal person does this. I think it’s a pretty pervasive thing but it’s almost as if we can’t notice it because it’s so pervasive.
The blog also has a useful chart. It’s worth checking-out but, in summary, it discusses findings that students will remember things far better if they bring their own meaning to in a way they choose:
What this research suggests is that, merely in terms of remembering, it would be more effective for students to come up with their own organisation for course material…..You’ll remember better (and understand much better) if you try and re-organise the material you’ve been given in your own way.
If you are a teacher, like me, then this research raises some distrurbing questions. At a University the main form of teaching we do is the lecture, which puts the student in a passive role and, essentially, asks them to “remember this” – an instruction we know to be ineffective. Instead, we should be thinking hard, always, about how to create teaching experiences in which students are more active, and about creating courses in which students are permitted and encouraged to come up with their own organisation of material, rather than just forced to regurgitate ours.
It’s nothing particularly new, but any research that backs up that kind of perspective certainly can’t hurt….
ProPublica has used a recent study on immigration and created a a very useful interactive called The Immigration Effect. With it, you can modify immigration policy and see it’s impact on the U.S. economy. Here’s an excerpt from their article about the study:
I have several interactive maps at The Best Sites For Learning About World Refugee Day that show the flow of refugees around the world. They tend to be confusing – at least, to me. The University of Zurich, though, has developed a new one called Refugee Movements which is clean, clear and easy to use. The screenshot at the top of this post shows its interface, and the site has a slider at the bottom that lets you change the years.
Thanks to Renee Moore, I learned about the video of a 1967 address Martin Luther King, Jr. gave to junior high school students in Philadelphia. It’s titled “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” and I haven’t been able to find a full transcript on line. Here’s a very partial one, but much is missing. A full transcript apparently is available in a book. It’s impressive, to say the least, and would be very useful in class:
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Google have created an interactive Searching For Syria site providing an excellent overview of the Syrian War and its refugee crisis. You can read more about it at TechCrunch. I’m adding it to:
I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).
I’m going to start off with a slideshow that Katie Hull Sypnieski and I use with our classes use the Concept Attainment instructional strategy (see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching). We explain the lesson in detail in our upcoming book on teaching English Language Learners, which will be out next March: