Celebrating Inquiry Fall 2021

Welcome to the Fifteenth issue of our online celebration of learning and achievement by University of Lethbridge intern teachers. Below you will find profiles of all projects presented at the Fall 2021 Professional Inquiry Project (PIP) Symposium. These projects were completed by by pre-service teachers in their final twelve-week practicum. Please be aware that external links are supplied by contributors and are not maintained or monitored by the University of Lethbridge.


Return to Past Issues of Celebrating Inquiry

Building Comprehension Skills in the Social Studies Classroom

How can student reading comprehension skills improve through effective instructional techniques and activities?

The Westwind School Division has a goal this year to get every student reading at their appropriate grade level. Initially, I thought that this was a goal that did not concern me as a social studies teacher. In the first few weeks of school, each student went through a series of 1-on-1 reading assessments with the ELA team. After the testing was complete, I contacted the grade 7 ELA teacher to take a look at our students’ scores. The reading comprehension scores stood out to me immediately as an issue that I knew I could help with. 

My project addresses the reading comprehension skills of the grade 7 students at my Jr. High School. If my students cannot comprehend the materials we explore in class, how can I expect them to provide me with thoughtful answers to the questions I provide? I knew right away that this need was important to address. 

In order to address the comprehension needs of my students, I implemented multiple different comprehension-based activities throughout the semester. These activities included picture book read-a-louds, current event inquiries, public speaking, and more. My goal was for a minimum of one activity designed specifically to increase reading comprehension skills, and our daily conversations and activities also had a comprehension focus. 

The results of the initial comprehension assessment was a whole grade average of 70.48%. A month later, the whole grade scored an average of 92.61% on a very similar comprehension assessment, and on our last assessment the grade scored an average of 88.41%.

Bailey is an Indigenous Education major from Cardston, Alberta. She spends her time coaching rodeo, riding horses, fishing, and hiking, but all of her most fulfilling experiences are the ones that involve working and making connections with kids. Bailey loves getting to learn as much as she can from the students who are there to learn something from her.

I Think We Need a Disc Golf Course

How can we develop facilities in order to accommodate student population growth?

In my first 2 days of PSIII, the admin team had to rework the class schedule because there were 67 students enrolled in PE at the same time. I had only been there for 2 days, but I made two observations: One, they had too many students for their small, outdated school; and two, there was a ton of unused field behind the building. In the world of lockdowns and ever-changing restrictions, I had become introduced to a sport called disc golf. It provided a fantastic way for me to get active and outside during COVID-19, so I thought it would be an excellent way to combat these growing class sizes and use up some empty fields.

Disc golf is very inexpensive when you consider the cost of other sporting facilities. However, it was quickly apparent that finding funds for a Disc golf program would be a barrier to exploring it for my practicum school. With the support and encouragement of my administrators, I began preparing cost projects and eventually put a proposal before the town council. Turning this into a community project suddenly made it both feasible and cost efficient. It also gave me incredible insight into the complexities and benefits of community-school partnerships. 

Liam is currently halfway through his 5th year of post secondary, finishing a combined degree program of Kinesiology and Education. He enjoys being outside as much as he can, anything from skiing to playing disc golf.


Indigenous Perspectives in the Music Classroom: An Authentic Approach

How can FNMI voices be more authentically brought into the music classroom?

I came up with my project idea and inquiry question based on two things: what I need to learn as a future music educator and also on a school initiative.  This project addresses the need to explore FNMI resources in the music classroom. During my practicum I learned that sharing circles are very versatile and tend to have a lasting impact on students. Throughout the project I found many resources that I will use in future lessons and classes. 

Where I have seen the most growth is in my own knowledge. As a teacher you must first learn about what you are going to teach before you teach it. At the beginning of my PIP I believed that I was going to implement these resources into lessons. However, as I started the project, I realized how little I knew. Building my own capacity in this area became the focus of my PIP.

Kaitlyn is a music education student completing her final practicum in Calgary. She is completing a combined degree in Music and education with a focus in Voice. In the future Kaitlyn hopes to teach elementary music.

French Bops and Freeze Dance: French is Cooler Than You Think

How can we help elementary students become passionate about French language and culture to increase their love of the French Immersion program?

As teachers, we are always searching for ways to get students excited about a lesson. As a French Immersion teacher, that job is often more difficult as students don’t always have a positive attitude towards French to begin with. Now, imagine a group of students getting up out of their desks to dance to a French pop song (without you asking them to!!)

My incredible teacher associate in PSII did a French song of the week with his class. Thanks to him, I was inspired to do something similar in my final teaching practicum.

With the help of six different elementary level classrooms, I did “Chanson de la semaine” to work on listening comprehension and in hopes of developing a more positive attitude towards French (French music specifically). Students particularly enjoyed the chance to talk about their preferences in the songs we listened to. 

This project allowed me to share my love of French music and culture with other teachers and students, showing them that French CAN be cool! I complimented this work through creating resources that French Immersion teachers can use to develop speaking skills in French.

Aurora completed her French degree prior to doing the Education After-Degree. She has always had a deep love for French language and culture and cannot wait to be able to share that love with other students. Her dream is to work at a French Immersion school. 


It's Not Hard to Teach the Bard

Can teaching ELA with a cross curricular focus in Drama help to support students understanding of both subject matters?

When I tell people that I teach Drama the response I get most often is “I love theatre but I hate Shakespeare”. Which begs the question: “why is one of the most prolific playwrights so seemingly hated outside of academic circles?”. As a Shakespeare enthusiast (but former hater!) I felt qualified to take on this question. I can actually pinpoint the exact moment I stopped hating Shakespeare: it was the moment it was taught to me in dramatic terms rather than literary. Learning about Shakespeare through the perspective of Drama made for a more understandable experience. I took this understanding and, with the support of my Teacher Mentor and the ELA learning leader, was able to develop a Shakespeare unit that connects Drama and ELA. My presentation will discuss my experience moving from Drama to ELA, the development of a cross curricular unit, and how I ensured student understanding of the given material.

Rachel has studied both Education and Theatre through the U of L, and through her study of Drama she was finally able to understand and appreciate Shakespeare. This is something she is passionate about sharing in both her personal and professional life. 


Student Personal Devices in the Classroom

How can I use technology to engage students in classroom learning, improve student engagement and support exceptional needs?

Technology is more readily available each year, and it is common for students to have personal devices such as cellphones or tablets. The potential for distraction often forces teachers to play the role of “cellphone police” just to ensure students are engaged in learning as opposed to texting or playing games. Students are increasingly frustrated with teachers as cellphones are confiscated. Student-teacher relationships are suffering, while student learning is affected.

This professional inquiry project took shape after I experienced each of these limitations and challenges during my own initial attempts to “police” cell phones in class. I quickly realized I wanted another approach to managing cell phones in class. As I explored the issue, the following questions and vision emerged:

What if teachers can utilize student personal devices for learning, instead of fighting the distraction? What if students can use their devices for learning supports that are universal? What if teachers can maximize student learning by implementing appropriate technologies that improve student engagement and reduce device distraction?

As a result, I designed my project around the follow intentions:

  • Reduce device distraction in class and increase student engagement
  • Engage students in learning materials through presentations, videos, music and various multi—media resources
  • Increase independent interventions for student exceptional needs such as: speech to text for ESL students, calming resources for students that struggle with emotional difficulties (anxiety, depression) and support students who struggle with attention and engagement. 

Heather is an English Language Arts Education major from Cardston, Alberta. She spends her time with her family and enjoys volunteering to support community youth through music, theatre and youth programs. She considers herself a life long learner, and is excited to begin a career where growth and learning will continue.


How "Gamification" and Game-Based Learning Can Improve Student Learning

How can teachers use gamification and game-based learning as a way to bring meaning to science class and increase interest and motivation for students?

At my practicum school, I saw an opportunity to explore different teaching modalities. I had been learning more about "gamification" of learning and wanted to bring it into this school. I saw it as a way to engage students with different learning needs and support them in better understanding how the content relates to them. Overall, I saw an overwhelmingly positive reception from students and a significant increase in their understanding of the content. 

Rei is a Science Education Major. He is currently completing his final practicum at John G. Diefenbaker High School. He has a passion for science, learning, and teaching and aims to inspire his students to become respectful citizens and life-long learners.


The Mindset of Being Yourself

Does promoting "being who you are" help students in high school with their mental and physical health?

I wanted to explore this inquiry question during my Professional Semester III because it seems like a universal preoccupation. Attempting to “be yourself”, not only in high school but in life and all social situations, can be feel challenging. In high school, students are still developing their identities. Current conversations on embracing diversity lend themselves well to supporting students in practicing self-acceptance and self-awareness. My intent in this project was to promote strong self-identity in my classroom through a focus on “being the best version of themselves”. I focused on ways to foster kind, caring, and open-minded students to create a supportive classroom where students can feel positive about who they are. I also connected my inquiry question with physical health by addressing healthy habits such as good nutrition, regular exercise, and mindfulness. Further, I incorporated healthy understandings of body image through acknowledging that all bodies are unique and intended for doing different things.

Kyra is an Art and Education Major currently going through her Professional Semester III at the University of Lethbridge. 


The Quantitative and Qualitative Benefits of Quiz Retakes

To what extent does allowing students to retake quizzes improve their academic performance, deepen their understanding and inform their learning needs? 

While I had decided early on in my practicum that I wanted to offer my students quiz retakes, it wasn't until I had my first student decide to do one, that I realized the benefits of this strategy. In my class, students were allowed to retake any quiz on the condition that they came in during "Flex" for a study session. During this study session, I was able to offer one-on-one help and intervention. It proved to be an invaluable opportunity for students to see how effort can yield results and for me to evaluate and address the learning needs of my students. Through this project, I discovered that not only do students improve on the second attempt, but they retain the content longer term. And, more importantly, I was able to build relationships, offer support and build the confidence of my students during their study sessions. 

Hillary is a Science Education Major. She is currently attending the U of L as an after-degree student with a previous degree in Exercise Science from BYU. A resident of Lethbridge, she has lived here for the majority of her life and hopes to become a high school teacher here. 

Relational Pedagogy

How can we as educators foster meaningful relationships with our students? 

Research suggests that meaningful and positive relationships between a teacher and student support student academic success and well-being. When students know that they are safe, they may be more likely to explore, take risks in their learning, and demonstrate creativity and ingenuity. However, fostering meaningful relationships takes work, and it may seem daunting considering the many responsibilities and students a teacher has.

For my professional inquiry project, I chose to focus on curating and compiling books, videos, and blogs that support relational pedagogy. The Website I developed also includes a "Real Teacher Advice Column" where I have asked teachers from all over North America to share their methods of how to foster and create meaningful relationships with students. Their responses were truly inspiring and by sharing these stories and successes, I hope to provide a helpful starting place for teachers interested in relational pedagogy. As educators, we are not alone but are part of a supportive community.

Emma is an English Language Arts Education specialist. She is currently completing her PSIII internship at a Private Christian School in Saskatchewan. She has a huge passion for fostering relationships through intentional investment with students and through discussion-based learning in order to create an engaging environment for student success.


Effective Stress Management Strategies in the Classroom

To what extent do breathing exercises and journaling impact student wellness? 

Stress is a natural part of life, but many students may not know how to manage stress effectively. The focus of my PIP was to determine how teachers could implement simple and applicable strategies into their classroom routine to positively impact student wellness. Creating just 1-3 minutes of quiet deep breathing time at the start of each class led to positive impacts not only in student wellbeing, but in establishing a more effective learning environment. 

Clara is a Social Studies Education Major with a Technology in Education Specialization. She is currently completing her final PSIII internship at Coalhurst High School.

The Benefits of Project Based Learning

How can project based learning help foster student’s inquiry and responsibility for their own learning? 

I personally really enjoy creating and writing through the inquiry process, so I wanted to use my passion in my teaching and spread it to students. My PIP is addressing the needs for differentiated, individualized instruction and novel assessment. PBL at its core is individualized, differentiation is built into it, and students explore novel concepts or topics that are relevant to them and the course. During my inquiry I built and implemented multiple units using a PBL approach. To document the project I collected student feedback through a survey. I also collected student exemplars to demonstrate the results and impact it had on students.

Nik is a social studies education major in the combined degree program with history. 


Teacher Wellness & Resources

What can teachers do, and what resources are available, to promote and maintain wellness while undergoing the increasing pressures the teaching profession provides? 

I chose to do this project after experiencing a personal wellness struggle at the start of my PS III internship which I overcame through the support of family and the simple resources they provided. I felt that other preservice and experienced teachers could benefit from these resources as well and decided to make a website to provide a central location for teachers to find new ideas to support their own wellness. I hope this resource can support teacher wellness, and in turn enhance student learning experiences.

Brett is a Science Education Major. He completed his BSc in Natural Science at the University of Calgary. He is currently completing his PS III and will have his after-degree program Bachelors of Education completed December 2021.


Fostering Empathetic and Connected Classrooms Through Mindfulness-Based Interventions

How can mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) be used in schools, and what are their benefits? 

COVID was hard for everybody. A Statistics Canada survey done in 2020 saw 57% of youth reporting that their mental health had been severely impacted by social distancing measures. Another study found that 1 in 4 teachers planned to leave the profession by the end of the 2020-21 school year. Now more than ever, there is a need to reconnect with each other and foster strong communities not just in our classrooms, but in our schools. Taking what I learned about culture, empathy, and communication while working for Lululemon, I incorporated mindfulness strategies into every lesson to refocus and reconnect students. Strategies included (but were not limited to) yoga, meditations, talking circles, and clearings—an opportunity to verbalize any thoughts or feelings that might be keeping us from being fully present in the moment. The mindfulness strategies were very effective: students were engaged and willing to participate, they were able to refocus even after a short yoga flow or deep breathing session, and daily clearings helped us to solve problems within the classroom quickly and intentionally. I also created a Mindfulness Toolkit for teachers and administrators which details many strategies to incorporate into classrooms or the greater school culture.

Kevin is a music education major. He completed his PSIII internship at William D. Pratt Middle School in Calgary and hopes to return to the CBE when he graduates in Spring 2022. He cannot wait to dive headfirst into the profession, whatever course or grade comes his way!


Connecting Students with an App to Encourage Self-Reflection and Self-Regulation to Support and Improve Their Learning in Math

In what ways can/do students self-reflect and self-regulate to support and improve their learning in the math classroom? 

Within my PSIII, I noticed many students struggled with self-regulation and it impacted their ability to connect with the content. In order to support students, I developed an accessible app that could be downloaded on their phone. This supports all students through a Universal Design approach and embraces a wellness model. Although not all students were struggling to self-regulate, this app encourages learning and reflection to proactively support any student. Through the process of developing a program that would support their learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom, my goal is that students connect better with the world around them through improved self-regulation.

Emily Noftle is a Math major currently completing her final semester at the University of Lethbridge. She has a strong passion to create an inclusive classroom that has content accessible for all learners and active engagement with math content. She loves to be outside and to connect that with the schooling process would be a dream come true!


Get Fit with Fitbit: Providing Reliable and Consistent Assessment with Fitness Monitors

What tactics and pedagogy can I implement to improve the reliability of student assessment in physical education? 

I was encouraged by my Teacher Mentor (TM) to cover the importance of assessment in physical education for our department meeting. My TM challenged me to come up with ways to improve the sometimes-inconsistent nature of assessment in physical education. This inquiry is meaningful because as educators, we owe it to our students to provide effective assessment that is both fair and consistent. As part of the inquiry, I was able to obtain Fitbits for use in the class and implemented instruction and assessment using the Fitbits. From my brief observation of the project, I have noticed an increase in accountability from my students to perform at their best. I have observed a boost in student competition, as well as knowledge surrounding cardiovascular endurance. Ultimately, I have developed greater insight into consistency around assessing student effort and participation.

Barilugbene (Bah-ree) Ipaa is a Kinesiology/Physical Education Major. Lethbridge has been his home since arriving from a refugee camp at the age of 7. Playing, watching and coaching sports is an essential component of his identity. He enjoys new experiences, adventures and exploring the beauty of other cultures.

It is his belief that teachers hold a special gift to connect to students and guide them beyond the curriculum. Bari's desire is to one day be able to share that gift with his own students.


Creating ESL Resources for High School Sciences

What resources can I create to help ELL/international students succeed at a high school level? 

Several observations contributed to the development of my inquiry question:

  • There are limited resources for international and ELL students for high school science courses.
  • It is difficult for international students to locate information that is not in their home language.
  • Using translation apps for scientific concepts and specific scientific terms is unreliable and creates confusion.

As a result I created an easy to understand Chemistry Science 10 resource for ESL students to reference as they go through the course. This resource describes concepts accurately, while incorporating as many visuals and as few words as possible. It is also easy to navigate when looking for specific information. The ELL students in the class appreciated it because it gave them the information that was important, as it is harder to tell what information is important in a different language. They could also reference concepts they were confused about when we touched on them in class. Finally, it gives the students time before or after class to look up important words they need for understanding the course.

Logan is a Science Education Major. He is currently completing PSIII and will be completing his entire degree at this time as well. He is teaching Science 10 and Physics 20 during his practicum. 

Using Video Game Software to Teach Social Studies Content and Increase Engagement

Will transforming Social Studies textbook content into a computer RPG increase student engagement and test scores? 

After seeing how my male students in particular would spend every second possible playing online games, I wondered if I could turn class content into a game the students would enjoy.

Using RPG Maker MV I turned textbook content into an RPG and posted it on a site where students could play it anywhere they had an internet connection. The goal was to increase engagement in class content by teaching history through an interesting storyline the students would experience firsthand.

I was also curious as to whether test scores would improve alongside engagement, so I recorded average test scores for exams where a game had been created for the chapter, and also where there was no game created.

Karl is a Social Studies Education Major who will be graduating this semester. He is finishing his practicum at St. Joseph School in Coaldale and wishes to return to Calgary to teach once his program is complete. 


Using Pokémon to Promote Wellness

How can we remotely use extracurricular clubs to promote individual physical and mental wellness through measurable goal setting? 

I started a Pokémon Go club at my Internship high school in order to develop a wellness mindset for students who might otherwise be disinterested. What we ended up with was an enthusiastic group of students from a variety of backgrounds, all competing against one another to walk the most Km. We also saw some fairly impressive achievements.

Jamel has attended the U of L since 2015, and completed his Mathematics degree in 2019. He is finishing his Education degree this semester, teaching Math 9 and 10 at Winston Churchill High School. 

Integrating Pop Culture: Using Student's Interests to Increase Personal Vocabulary

Can interest based instruction aid to students' confidence in their own vocabulary? 

The idea came to me after my initial discussion with my Teacher Mentor. The school has a big focus on enhancing student's vocabulary through instruction. I wanted to support this initiative, and that is when an idea came to my mind. Why not take movie/television script excerpts or song lyrics and let students learn new words through watching/reading things that they enjoy?! Through my exploratory research I discovered information about Vocabulary Self Collection Strategy (VSS) used that model to structure my lessons. To assess the impact of the project, I have done a series of surveys and interest questionaries.

Jenn is an English Language Arts Education Major. She has her B.A from the University of Lethbridge in English, History and Indigenous Studies. She is currently completing her final practicum in a junior high and is graduating this December. Jenn has a passion for anything Mike Schur has been a part of, reads when she finds the time and loves making connections with anyone she meets.


Benefits of Simulations in a High School Social Studies Classroom

What are the benefits of simulations in a high school social studies classroom? 

After running a simulation on the American Revolution in my Social Studies 20-2 classroom, I began to notice a shift in the class. Students who usually appear bored in class were engaged, there was less apathy, and my students who tend to struggle with reading and writing were engaging with the content in a new way. By integrating hands on learning through the form of simulations, I hoped to increase engagement and understanding in my students. The results after a semester were overwhelmingly positive and have forever changed my teaching practices.

Robin is a Social Studies Education major. She is currently working on completing a combined degree in history and education. 

Introducing Intramurals

How to implement intramurals and how will it affect the school culture 

Early on, I noticed my school’s culture was extremely dedicated to athletics. Both the students and the staff put in many extra hours before school, at lunch and after school into athletic training and development. During the school day, however, I noticed a limited amount of students in the gym. I wanted to develop a program to help more students have access to and enjoy the amazing fitness facility at Hat High. During my internship, I started intramurals and successfully completed two full month-long tournaments. As I hoped, it brought in many more students into the gym. During this time, there was incredible evidence of new relationships forming between students and also between teachers and students. It was a great project to highlight the importance of relationships and the positive cultural change it can create.

Shaelyn Haynes is a PhysEd Education major completing her third and final practicum. She has been teaching Phys Ed and CALM 10 at Medicine Hat High School. During her time there, she had the privilege to help coach the senior girls volleyball girls, along with starting an intramurals program. 

Building Confidence in Mathematics Through Effective Language

How does strengthening students’ mathematical language in the classroom affect student confidence and engagement? 

The basis for this project originated when I overhead a student talking to their partner about a simple addition question. They said “I plussed 50 and 29 to get 89 I think”. This statement got me thinking about the connection between student performance, their confidence, and their ability to use effective mathematical language. To help students build confidence, particularity with mental mathematics, I utilized two strategies that looked different each week: Math Journals and Number Talks. Math Journals consisted of writing prompts and weekly puzzles for students to develop analytical thinking skills. Number Talks varied widely, but they were essentially daily 5–10-minute curriculum- focused openers that got students talking about big mathematical ideas using effective language. By the end of the project, students were more open to share their ideas and solutions, especially when they weren’t 100% positive they had the correct solution.

Ethan is in his final days of his combined B.Sc. / B.Ed. Degree majoring in Mathematics Education. His PSIII practicum is in a grade 8/9 class at a middle school in Calgary. Ethan hopes to teach mathematics once he graduates. 

A/R/Tography: Art and Social Studies

How do cross-curricular Art projects create a more meaningful understanding of themes in high school Social Studies? 

We came across the idea of using art to deepen understandings of social studies through one particular task in Social 10. Students were beginning to explore ideas of colonization, particularly in Africa, and the idea of creating an impactful portrait of a woman who resisted colonization was mentioned during a collaborative time. We thought that if students were to create a portrait of a significant figure in history (in this case, a resistance leader in Africa during colonization), then they would have to know quite a bit about the historical context (social norms, geography, social issues at the time, etc.). These ideas marked the beginning of our inquiry.

This inquiry provides resources and project ideas that follow the Alberta Program of Studies and can be used as a foundation for incorporating Art projects into the Social Studies classroom. It can also be a means to engage students who lack motivation in literacy skills (specifically, reading and writing). Further, cross-curricular instruction encourages critical thinking and meaningful interactions among students. When students experience relevance between subjects they are able to creatively explore, analyze, and synthesize information.

Kamille is a Social Studies Education Major. She is currently completing her PSIII at Catholic Central High School in Lethbridge .

Rayelle is a Fine Arts Education Major. She is currently completing her PSIII at Catholic Central High School in Lethbridge.