Streamline Inquiry-Based Instruction and Essay Writing Instruction

The graphic/verbal Picture Me Thinking Model (PMT Model) provides teachers and students with a dependable "Map" of the Inquiry Process. While teachers who are trained in Inquiry-Based Instruction (IBI) may understand the structure of their Inquiry lesson, it is generally not transparent to the students. Therefore, students are not able to learn that structure and transfer it to new projects.

The PMT Model serves as a "self-regulation tool" for structuring group Inquiry projects, guiding analytical research, and building arguments for presentations and essays. The PMT Intervention Tools include Inquiry Short-Scripts and Connecting Vocabulary for writing. This combination of scaffolding quickly brings students to higher levels of performance in their argumentation and essay writing, as measured by standardized test scores.

Bridge High-Risk Transitions in Education - Middle School to High School

PMT is a powerful intervention that prepares both low-achieving and high-achieving students for high school, by explicitly teaching reasoning and writing during IBI across subjects. In middle school, students learn to write in language arts classes. Conversely, in high school, they are required to write to learn across core subjects. Low-achieving students are weak in reasoning skills for a variety of reasons, including learning disabilities, trauma, health issues, reading delays, language acquisition delays or being an English learner. Many low-achieving students in grades 9 and 10 fail and eventually drop out of school simply because they don't have the reasoning skills and language to structure and write an essay.  (Ferretti et. al. Reading and Writing Quarterly 2007).

Accelerate Cognitive Development and Promote Social-Emotional Skills

The "Cognitive Spiral Model" describes how, as our minds develop, we learn to use a set of core reasoning skills in increasingly broad and sophisticated ways. The PMT Model includes a set of graphic organizers to cue and facilitate specific kinds of reasoning. Each organizer also has its own set of vocabulary. When teachers use the PMT Model to facilitate IBI, they accelerate students' cognitive and language development. A large body of research on the power of metacognition - thinking about your thinking - shows that students who are conscious of their reasoning processes in one task are more capable of transferring that thinking to new and more complex applications. (e.g. White, B., & Frederickson, J. (1998) Inquiry, modeling, and metacognition: Making science accessible to all students).

The clarity and simplicity of the PMT Model makes it easy for students to be aware of their Inquiry process, and even learn to lead Inquiry independently. With PMT, the Inquiry process is learned in a clearly-structured social context, where questions, opinions, and evidence are weighed, as arguments are outlined and refined.  This social context also helps both high-achieving and low-achieving students develop the social-emotional skills of working collaboratively and respectfully with others.


Provide Access to State-of-the-Art Education

Inquiry Instruction is a primary educational approach in countries with the highest academic achievement, such as Finland, France, Korea and Japan.  In the United States, delivering Inquiry instruction is also a stated goal of the Common Core Standards.  In practice, however, teachers in the US are still struggling with how to enact Inquiry-Based Instruction (IBI).  The Inquiry approach to instruction has taken hold in some elite private schools and privileged public schools, but it is lagging in the low-performing schools that need it most to teach students how to write. Our Primary Mission is to fill this gap affordably.

Support Teachers in their Role as Expert Investigators

On-site Workshops are custom designed to fit each school's time and budget goals.  Generally, the cost will be under $2,000 per school, inclusive of on-site training and materials. PMT Workshops provide teachers with a simple and dependable system for using Inquiry to teach standards-based content. Teachers learn to play the role of expert-investigator as much as subject-expert.  The consistency of the PMT Model also makes it easier for teachers to collaborate, share lesson plans, and support each other on lesson design and IBI enactment.  PMT Trained Teachers can find standards-based lessons and classroom videos that are framed by the PMT Model at the TEACHERS' EXCHANGE.  We welcome PMT structured lessons and videos from teachers and share them on the site.


Student Outcomes - An Evidence-Based Intervention

The PMT graphic organizers and associated short-scripts cue students on how to proceed through the inquiry process.  The use of graphic organizers to support reasoning is well-documented in scholarly research. The PMT model integrates, simplifies and improves a) Toulmin’s (1958) seminal model for argumentation discourse, b) Driver, Newton & Osborne’s (2000) model for argumentation in scientific communities, and c) Graham and Harris' (1989) Verbal Self-Regulation Model for teaching students with learning disabilities to self-regulate through the essay writing process. In empirical research (Amende, 2008, UC Berkeley GSE), with diverse groups of low-achieving Middle School students, the average scores on standardized essays writing tests increased by 38% following six weeks of PMT designed instruction. Further, statistical analyses of transcribed instruction (Fisher Exact Test P=.02) showed that using the PMT Short-Scripts and Model directly caused students to increase theory building and evidence testing activities. Further, following the model kept students on-task and on-topic in 96% of speaking turns during dialogue-based instruction.

Meeting The Common Core Anchor Standards

These common standards provide a historic opportunity to improve access to rigorous academic standards for students with disabilities. How these high standards are taught and assessed is of the utmost importance in reaching this diverse group of students. For students with disabilities to meet high academic standards, their instruction must incorporate supports and accommodations designed to meet the unique needs of these students and to enable their access to the general education curriculum (IDEA 34 CFR §300.34, 2004).

C3 Standards: To build a foundation for college and career readiness, students need to learn to use writing as a way of offering and supporting opinions, demonstrating an understanding of the subjects they are studying, and conveying real and imagined experiences and events. They learn to appreciate that a key purpose of writing is to communicate clearly to an external, sometimes unfamiliar audience, and they begin to refine the form and content of their writing to accomplish a particular task and purpose. They develop the capacity to build knowledge on a subject through research projects and to respond analytically to literary and informational sources. To meet these goals, students must devote significant time and effort to writing, producing numerous pieces over short and extended time frames throughout the year.