Exploring Narrative Empathy

Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy

The students of  Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario are a terrific example of how Solution Fluency connects students to deeper learning and higher creativity.

Here’s the story of how they used the 6Ds to take their narrative empathy projects to new heights.

Father Michael McGivney Academy was founded by the York Catholic District School Board in 1989. It is an IB World School focused on comprehensive student success in academic achievement and the building of a community dedicated to learning and holiness.

I had attended Lee Crockett’s training conference/workshop in February of 2015 in downtown Toronto which focused on Solution Fluency. It was at this workshop that this Culminating Performance Task (CPT) design was born.

Alexandra Parlagreco

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By opening their investigation to include a look at any type of narrative, we captured the interest and imagination of students who traditionally balked at the type of discourse this required. Some of the final products were fascinating.

Cynthia Annibali

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An inquiry process such as Solution Fluency allows students to answer these critical thinking questions and demonstrate deeper reading comprehension skills on their own, with teacher facilitation rather than dictation.

Alexandra Parlagreco

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What does it take to inspire

meaningful change?

Solution Fluency was intended for the best inquiry- and project-based learning a teacher can provide. The stellar work of the students of Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario is a fine example of this. The students already knew Solution Fluency since it has been the guiding curriculum goal in their school for the last few years.

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McGivney English teacher Alexandra Parlagreco, along with Cynthia Anniballi, head of the English department, both had a vision of using Solution Fluency to teach students about a very important and challenging literary device called ‘narrative empathy.’

“When it comes to any inquiry, students should have freedom to explore a topic in whatever scope or facet the inquiry takes them,” Alexandra asserts. That level of freedom is what would make her students’ projects so successful and so meaningful.

Where do we

begin to transform?

Alexandra and Cynthia were familiar with the work of the Global Digital Citizen Foundation when they attended Lee Crockett’s workshop in Toronto in early 2015. “The workshop was very useful because we were able to go through the inquiry process ourselves and come up with a concept for a new CPT by the end,” Alexandra recalls.

Once students had a grasp on narrative empathy, they completed an activity featured on a Google website designed to lay out stages of the 6D inquiry process. It also asked the students to reflect on what results they might encounter in the upcoming research and design stages for their projects.

“We gave students a selection of scholarly articles for their research as well as a CBC radio broadcast,” Alexandra explains. “Due to the students’ freedom to apply their thesis to any narrative that interested them, they came up with some amazing theses that explored a variety of narrative forms.”

How do we plot a

path to success?

The next three stages of Solution Fluency (Dream, Design, and Deliver) were grouped together and done at separate intervals in the students’ project development stages. Alexandra and her colleagues wanted to make sure students had the freedom to demonstrate multiple intelligences by choosing mediums that showcased their discoveries and reflections in the best possible ways.

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Students were also treated to consistent feedback before the completion of the final stage.Teachers felt that this approach demonstrated to the students that the process of inquiry takes time and can evolve drastically from beginning to end.

The projects students chose included videos, posters, comics, and more. Below are links to some terrific examples of the narrative empathy projects that were “delivered” by the McGivney students.

How do we measure

growth and progress?

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  • Students are able to control their own learning and inquiry processes.
  • Their learning is more creative, independent, and collaborative.
  • Students are honing critical thinking and reading comprehension skills.
  • Students now see higher levels of relevance in their learning.
  • They feel a sense of control when deciding on their projects.
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  • The Fluencies give teachers an exciting pedagogical approach that puts students at the center of learning.
  • There is a greater focus on the understanding of key concepts/skills.
  • Rather than saying what to do, teachers ask students, “What could you do?”
  • Teachers appreciate the 6D inquiry process of Solution Fluency since it makes the projects more manageable for students.
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  • Project-based learning with 21st Century Fluencies provides greater student engagement and allows for more effective assessments.
  • Students are showing higher levels of engagement with having the freedom to choose projects that showcase their strengths.
  • The Fluencies encourage teacher “facilitation” rather than “dictation.”
  • Students and teachers are happy, engaged, and enjoy learning together.

How do we continue to

improve and excel?

The McGivney students’ exploration of narrative empathy was made much more exciting and insightful with the help of the Global Digital  Citizen Foundation. Alexandra herself is appreciative for the experience. “Lee was very motivational and gave us a new inquiry format that we could try in our classrooms,” she says. “We are no longer asking students ‘what happened’ in the novel or the play, but ‘why’ or ‘what if.’ Therefore, summarize has become synthesize and connect.”

What’s on the continuing pathway for the students and teachers at Father Michael McGivney? Change and progress using the Fluencies as indispensable tools for teaching and learning.

“We are continuing to focus on Solution Fluency and other Fluencies,” Alexandra says. “It’s a great time for our school to embrace inquiry and student-directed learning!”