Culture of Thinking Part II

Tracy Clark | Hays Digital Learning Team

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Powerful Learning Opportunities

This protocol is designed for small groups of three or four in which everyone takes a turn as a presenter while the rest of the group acts as questioners. There is no need for a facilitator, as groups can self-facilitate using the protocol prompts and times. Each round ends with the group documenting their learning, so someone should be assigned this role, or it may be rotated.

1. Identify a success (1 minute)

Do a mental review of the lessons you have taught over the last year. Identify an example of a powerful learning opportunity from your own teaching. This should be an instance where you felt that students were highly engaged, actively involved in thinking, and building a robust understanding of the topic at hand. Most likely, this was a teaching occasion when you walked away wishing every class could be just like that.

2. Reflect in writing (5 minutes)

Describe in writing the powerful learning opportunity you identified. Be as specific as you can about what was planned, what happened, how you and students responded, and so on. How was the experience different from other episodes of teaching you have had? Name those qualities, actions, or elements.

3. Share the success (4 minutes)

Each person shares the story of the powerful learning opportunity he or she identified.

4. Ask clarifying questions (1-2 minutes)

The listeners ask clarifying questions about the event. Clarifying questions are short, focused questions designed to elicit missing details and background information about the event. Generally, they can be answered in a sentence or a few words.

5. Ask probing questions (3-5 minutes)

The listeners ask probing questions about the event. Probing questions are designed to get the presenter to reflect on, elaborate on, and build a greater understanding of the event. Good probing questions require introspection and lead to insights.

6. Record criteria (2-3 minutes)

Extrapolating from the story and questioning, the group identifies and records the criteria or qualities of the event that seemed most important to its success. As each group member shares, new criteria are added to the list.


The group holds a final reflection after all group members have shared.

7. Reflect on application (5 minutes)

The group reflects on all the criteria of powerful learning opportunities that the group identified and discusses how each might be applied to their teaching. Groups might want to identify their top best-bets-for-success criteria and/or share their findings with other groups who have also been engaged with the protocol.