March 14, 2013

Getting Right with Common Core: Marzano Design Question 4

John Edwards
Staff Developer , Learning Sciences International

Student huddle: applying knowledge to the real world.

Get students working together on higher-order thinking activities to develop cooperation and test hypotheses.

Today, we’ll look at Design Question 4, which goes right to the heart and soul of Common Core State Standards. This design question asks students to participate in real world tasks that speak to situations they might encounter in their daily lives.

Remember, DQ4 is a culminating activity designed to follow up after Design Question 2 (Helping Students Interact with New Knowledge) and Design Question 3 (Deepening New Knowledge). It involves taking new information that students have deep knowledge of, and applying it in a different context.

DQ4 includes three elements:

•  21: Organizing Students for Cognitively Complex Tasks
•  22: Engaging Students in Cognitively Complex Tasks
•  23: Providing Resources and Guidance

DQ4 is all about students taking what they have learned and hypothesizing what they think would happen when that knowledge is used in a different context. Students then test their hypotheses to see if they were correct. There are four designs for generating and testing hypotheses:

1. Experimental Inquiry (making and testing predictions)
2. Problem Solving (using knowledge to generate and test solutions)
3. Decision making (selecting between alternatives)
4. Investigation (testing hypotheses about past, present, and future events)

Element 21: Organizing Students for Cognitively Complex Tasks
With element 21, we’re moving toward project based learning: students often work in groups so they can bounce ideas around and come to consensus. Teachers make sure students understand the rules and roles of the group, so group processing is effective and efficient. Element 21 encourages cooperative learning, reflection, and autonomy – as students design their own tasks and choose their own topics, and work with others to deepen thinking and flesh out ideas.

Element 22: Engaging Students in Cognitively Complex Tasks Involving Hypothesis Generation and Testing
In order to move students beyond deepened new knowledge they must learn to apply it in other settings.

So for example, one High school Common Core ELA standard asks students to: cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary resources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

After studying fiscal and monetary policy, and its effect on the money supply and the economy, students could research, then compare and contrast, the economic policies of FDR and Barack Obama as they dealt with large economic downturns. Before they start their research, students will hypothesize – based on the information they have—what they think economic policies might have been for both administrations. Once they finish researching they ought to know if their hypotheses were correct.

Another middle school Common Core State Standard asks students to: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Students use their knowledge of FDR and the Great Depression to hypothesize whether or not Barack Obama used any of FDR’s economic policies to deal with the economic downturns he faced. Then they will research the topic and see if they were correct.

Element 23: Providing Resources and Guidance
Successful teachers will anticipate the needs of students and make sure they understand the group processes. Teachers should also check to see that students have the background knowledge and skills from design questions 2 and 3. They provide students with guidance and resources when asked. Teacher visits groups and are prepared to answer questions. In this way they not only help students learn the material, but they build stronger relationships, too.

Want to find out more about how Design Question 4 will help you succeed with the new Common Core State Standards? Want to meet John Edwards and Dr. Marzano in person, so you can pick their brains? We have two big events coming your way this summer: our regional Common Core conferences, Beyond the Basics, and our big international Marzano conference, Building Expertise. We hope to see you there!

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