Beyond Pens and Paper
An Introduction to My Inquiry
Students face a variety of constraints in accessing curriculum. Teachers are often faced with time constraints, and student difference can seemingly create barriers to teaching and learning in diverse classrooms. If we reposition difference as natural and useful, as opposed to problematic and in need of remediation, these same differences can instigate the kind of creativity and imaginative curricular design that leads to inclusivity in classrooms.
I work in a D75 school, where all students in the school have been labeled as having a Learning Disability, Emotional and Behavioral Disorder, or a combination of the two. Students at my school have faced massive barriers in access to the curriculum in part as a result of these labels, including lowered expectations and unimaginative curriculum design.
Student collaboration can foster independence, high-level thinking, and provide many different learners with access to curriculum; however, it can also present new challenges in structuring a classroom. Importantly, student collaboration can provide new means of access to curriculum, homework, and classwork.
In my inquiry this year, I attempted to use student collaboration as a tool to make homework, as a component of the larger curriculum, an accessible, focused, and engaging space. By creatively using technology and attempting to structure peer supports, I found that my students were more than willing toengage, collaborate and support one another. This support and collaboration took a variety of forms. Students would sometimes engage formally, offering clear suggestions, comments or critiques. They would also engage informally using technology in discussing book preference, topics, or related ideas, and referencing one another’s work.
Each of these peer supports offered students an important point of access to school work that is too often limited to singular access and allowed for my students to engage with the curriculum and each other in a non-exclusionary way.