Sunday, September 14, 2014


My section is of the opinion that we need a new acronym.  MERPS for now.

After Monday's enthusiasm, Wednesday's results were not what I expected.  We had 4 groups, 2 at small whiteboards and 2 with paper and stickies.  I had and offered plenty of supplies.  On Wednesday, I kept the introductory comments super-brief and let the groups re-form, with no instructions except to continue until 3:35 when the groups will informally present their findings.
Things started off well enough with all 4 groups reviewing where tiny left off, adding either more variables or connections. So far, so good,  I heard on group talking about and triangulating their or their friends' experience with Catholic School with the Wes' experiences in inner-city public schools,  Riverdale academy and Valley Forge.

 At anywhere from 3 to 10 variables, the groups seemed to run out of steam,  Molly and I both visited all teams and made suggestions.  I called a couple of time-outs, once to suggest going through their annotations in the book and another to suggest looking for contributing factors to branch off the variables they had.  With the exception of the team that asked how to handle the different reasons for "no father figure," the suggestions seemed to fall on deaf ears.  The groups stayed together, but the conversation appeared to turn off-topic. The big all-guy group and one at the smaller all-girl groups had a couple of people who appeared to be on the periphery, not part of the main conversation.

At 3:35, we started the reports, with two groups vying to go first,  I heard some good explanations of the groups' reasoning for their classifications and connections.  The reports took the full fifteen minutes.  Another adjustment for the students to make is that their written artifacts are for THEM, not ME,  I had to loudly insist, for the second time that week, that the paper-and-stickie groups take their maps with them.  I expect to need to reinforce this again when we do Phase II prep on Friday.  

This exercise seemed like fertile ground for an AAR.  I struck with my plan on Friday for 20-25 minutes each of PSP discussion and pre-writing, then the AAR.  I connected the two topics with the question, "how many factors influenced who YOU are up to this point?"  The group readily agreed there were thousands to an infinite number. "So,"  I asked, "why only 5-10 for both Wes's lives?"  Answers ranged from only knew what was in the book, to need to prioritize among so many.  I asked, based on the huddle discussion, it any thing seemed uncomfortable or awkward.  Got some silence, Molly re-asked. One student said no and the others very quickly agreed.  We will need to return to this question, I'm sure.  While two groups included economic class in their variables, none included race, so that conversation will come.

In my pre-AAR preparation, I had quite a variety of variables as to why there were so few Wes variables.  These ranged from mid-week slump to avoidance of uncomfortable subjects to inexperience with complex problems leading to a desire to oversimplify.  I also noticed that the groups tended to generate variables one at a time, then go over the category and connections for each variable.  Mixing analysis and idea generation usually isn't a good idea.  I asked whether re-framing the task as "generate as many variables as you can" would lead to more variety of variables, then the process of classifying and connecting can happen.  I expect to have the chance to try this on Friday during Phase II prep. 

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