This is the 2nd in a series of posts about ALARM. The first was an overview of ALARM and some reasons why you should use it.
There are two types of matrix in ALARM. The Logical Interpretive and the Connotative Interpretive. The Connotative Interpretive matrix develops meaning through mood, tone, feeling and atmosphere and applies to English, Art, Photography, LOTE and music. The Logical Interpretive develops meaning through implication and applies to TAS, Science, PDHPE, HSIE and Maths. Both develop literacy through the development of learning skills.
You can watch Max Woods, the creator of ALARM talk about the Logical Interpretive matrix by visiting Freshwater High School’s YouTube Channel. The videos Logical Interpretive Part 1 and Logical Interpretive Part 2 covers the basics.
I like to start with the definitions of, what I call, the ALARM verbs. The first is Name and Define and as the name suggests, this is where you name and define the parts or areas of a concept. It is an important skill for students to be able to identify ALL the parts and components of a concept or question. This is followed by Describe which is where students begin to give some content detail about each of the parts, features, details or characteristics. It is the what.
Explain is the significance, purpose, function or role of each of the separate parts. It is the how. Analyse is next and it is the why. I often confuse these two. Sometimes in Science (which is what I teach) sometimes the why needs to come before the how but essentially analyse is about the relationships.
All of these verbs have been about content and everything up until this point can be easily learned by rote. It is here that content ends and we move to concept. This is the start of the higher order thinking and where we ask students (and teachers) to think for themselves. Jumping this line takes personal risk as it is no longer about what we know about the collected knowledge of others or what we have been told. Everything from this point on is about what a student thinks – their opinion or judgement.
I am currently reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential and can see how students and teachers with a fixed mindset struggle with this leap from content to concept. Taking risks, accepting feedback and applying new strategies are all difficult for those with a fixed mindset. Providing a structure, explicitly teaching students how to do this and providing feedback using what Claxton, Chambers and Powell (The Learning Powered School) describe as speaking Learnish where you focus on the processes and experiences of learning using the matrix can move students into a growth mindset about their learning and abilities. I have definitely seen it change student self talk.
Critically Analyse is about the positives and negatives, the advantages and disadvantages or the pros and cons. It is important to provide student with the language of comparison here as this is where our opinion begins to form and our criteria of evaluation develops from. We do this for each of the parts that we named and described. Students then Evaluate the success of each of the parts. They give their opinion based on their criteria of success.
We now move from each of the components or parts and onto the concept. Critically Evaluate is the success of all the parts together. Students evaluate the concept as a whole. Conceptualise is where students consider the big idea (for the auditory enhanced) or the big picture (for the visual). It is all about what you leaned about the entire subject. Max Woods calls it the coat hanger on which the content hangs.
Finally we get to Appreciate which is where students link their learning to life. What is the intrinsic value of this learning and what are the extrinsic links to everything else. It is the synthesis of all of the their learning and helps to develop the ideas of a life long learner.
The matrix can be presented in a linear form. However, I prefer the matrix. What can I say, I’m a science teacher to the core and we love a good table. Here is a blank one I prepared earlier. ALARM Blank Logical Matrix.
One of the questions I get asked all the time is how these fit in the the NSW Syllabus verbs and one of the activities that is suggested when you train a school in ALARM is to get all the staff to write the syllabus verbs along with all those other verbs that get used in exam questions and assessment tasks into the matrix. You can also ask your students to do this. What you will find is the students are really good at it and tend to agree with one another and teachers want to argue the toss. Each subject can have slight variations but in essence they all fit under one of the ‘verbs’ used in ALARM. If you do this it would be great to see your list. In exchange, I will send you mine.