Applying appropriately

What? One of the eight Knowledge Processes of Learning by Design. Applying appropriately involves students applying what they have learned in ways that are consistent with, and appropriate to the concepts, theories, skills and processes with which they have been working.

It is through Applying Appropriately that students can demonstrate what they have learned and the teacher will have evidence of the students’ depth of understanding. The teacher will also be able to see or hear whether her teaching has been effective and whether it is necessary to further scaffold particular students or return to concepts or ideas previously covered. This knowledge process can be employed at different points throughout the learning to check students’ understanding of crucial concepts or theories before moving on to related material or ideas that depend on this understanding. The Applying appropriately knowledge process can also be used to cement the students understanding experientially.

Why? It is through the Knowledge Process of Applying appropriately that students have an opportunity to deepen their understanding and demonstrate what they have learned. This process is important to the teacher as it allows her to know whether her teaching strategies have been effective. Well designed activities using this Knowledge Process make it possible for student meta-cognition – the students knowing that they know.

How? Tools selected to frame activities for this Knowledge Process need to reflect the overarching purpose goals or aims; subject-content; and/or skill-focus of the teacher’s design (Learning Element): they must relate very clearly and unambiguously to what the students have been learning via the other Knowledge Processes. In other words, it is no good designing an Applying appropriately activity that prompts students to demonstrate skills and knowledge that have not been explicitly and deliberately scaffolded and supported throughout the design. In some cases the Applying appropriately Knowledge Process can be used as an evaluative tool for the design itself, revealing that some students have not understood something they needed to understand or have been left behind. Sometimes the cause of these failures is attributed to students, they are perceived to have some kind of deficit, however, if this Knowledge Process is employed at key points throughout a unit of work it can alert the teacher to problems or let them know that particular students need more support. It may also reveal deficiencies in the design itself, activities that have not fulfilled their purpose, allowing teachers to revisit important concepts or foundational skills.

Using the Learning Element that is explored in Analysing critically in the previous entry, Problematising zoos through Zoo by Anthony Browne, van Haren introduces an Applying appropriately activity, shortly after the midpoint of her design, to provide students with an opportunity to apply what they had learned previously.

In the three activities that precede this Applying appropriately activity students had learned key concepts and skills. In the first, a Conceptualising by naming activity ‘What is a recount?’ van Haren explicitly taught students how to identify and name the features of a recount. In the second activity students used sticky notes or highlighter pens to identify all the parts of a recount and label them in Browne’s story Zoo. In the third, an Analysing functionally activity, van Haren explicitly taught some of the linguistic grammar of the text and had students use a Retrieval Chart to explore the question ‘What do words do?’

At this point van Haren wanted to reinforce the concepts, theories and skills the students were working with as well as checking how well they had understood what they had been learning. She asked students to write their own recount – an Applying appropriately activity – ‘and include an image which aligns with or challenges the linguistic text of your recount’ – linking this activity to earlier work with understanding the function of visual modes and techniques. In the teacher section of her design she advises: ‘Encourage students to consider a topic for a recount that is relevant to their own experiences or that interests them. Refer them to the (earlier activities) to ensure they have included the language features and structure of a recount.’ It is clear that van Haren has designed the Applying appropriately activity in ways which improve the chances her students will succeed: a topic relevant to their own experiences or interests; and referring them to, and reviewing earlier activities which explored and named the language features and structure of a recount.

Rather than simply grading the students’ work van Haren elects to deepen the learning experience by introducing an Analysing functionally activity – Reflecting on the recount: How good is your recount? ‘Assess your own recount on a rubric,’ she prompts. ‘Look at your teacher’s feedback. Do you agree/disagree? Why?’ This provides the students with an opportunity to analyse and reflect on their learning, using the teacher’s rubric as both a scaffold and a means of reviewing and revisiting the concepts, and to identify both for student and teacher where they have succeeded and where they might need help or more work.

The Applying appropriately Knowledge Process in this example – ‘Write your own recount’ – is used as part of a coherent, well-thought-through design, strategically placed for maximum benefit while performing multiple functions for van Haren and her students.

The key ideas reflected in this example are that: the Knowledge Processes work together; they should scaffold and support each other interdependently, those which come before benefiting and paving the way for those which come later; Applying appropriately activities perform multiple functions; they can be scheduled at multiple points throughout a unit of work not just at the end when it might be too late; and, designing-for-learning using the Knowledge Processes is a thoughtful reflective process.

See the Lanyon Tool-kit for additional tools, tactics and references for Applying appropriately.


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