2009 PDS Inquiry Conference Abstracts


Amanda Bricker


High School South, grade 9 English

Truth, Troth, and Authentic Learning

Learning is more than a search for truth; it is a passionate commitment to knowing, a betrothal to knowledge.  We all have students that seem somewhat less than passionate in the classroom.  How can we spark their passions to create real, relevant, and authentic learning? 


Rebecca Struble


High School North, Grades 11 & 12 English

Student Agency:  The power to Explore, Question, Create, and Declare, “NO!”

What does agency mean to my colleagues, my classes, my individual students, and me?  How do these competing definitions play out in the classroom experience, and what might these tensions mean for teachers and students?


Stevie Jean Nast


Park Forest Middle School, 7th/8th grade English

“Do I Have To?”- Understanding the Motivation of Middle Level Learners

What is it about school that engages some learners, while completely disengaging others?  Why do some students have a thirst for knowledge, while others drift apathetically through their days in school?  Using examples from my own experience and students’ first hand accounts, we will look at effective ways to encourage all students to learn!


Anthony Macario


State College Area High School South, 9th and 10th Grade English

Breaking Out of the Basics: Using Multiple Intelligences to Make Learning Fun

Facebook, Comic Life, Garageband, iMovie, and acting exercises are all Language Arts activities that draw upon multiple intelligences, thus making the English classroom an enjoyable experience for all students.


Rachel Miller


High School North, CP 11 English

“Why does this even matter anyway?”!: using literature to create a purposeful  classroom

The problem arose during my first unit on The Great Gatsby where I found myself teaching from the academically outdated New Critical approach in an effort to make sure my students understood the “right stuff”—the standard, agreed upon analyses of Fitzgerald’s classic. I was met with boredom, disengagement and an obsession with grades from my students. Through my reflections I imagined and began to build a new classroom where literature discussion and analysis have a meaningful and authentic purpose, and where students are able to participate in a community of knowledge construction.


Meghan Noecker


High School South, Grades 9 and 10 English

21st Century Literacy—“How should I respond to this text (message)?”

Have you heard of Twitter? How about Google Reader? Maybe not yet, but I am sure you will soon. That’s the thing with 21st century literacy; there are multiple platforms and applications that you may not know, but will eventually come across. As these technologies expand and evolve, so do the expectations for 21st century readers and writers. Join me as I give possible options for how teachers can utilize these changing technologies as more than a means of initial engagement but in ways that create higher-level thinking.


Michelle Morganoff


Mt. Nittany Middle School, Grade 7 English

How To Promote The Achievement Of The Disruptive Male Adolescent Student

During the adolescent period, individuals undergo several changes both physically and cognitively. Through anecdotes, personal classroom management approaches, and research, I have uncovered many questions about why male students interact in such ways when in the classroom environment.


Ali Veneziano


High School South, Grade 10 English

Resurrecting Curiosity: The Development of a Creativity-Based Pedagogy

How did we kill the curiosity to learn?  A sea of jaded faces urged me to use experiential and theatrical pedagogy to develop my own creativity-based learning community by implementing three types of activities: communal/dramatic, relevant/interpersonal, and aesthetic/intrapersonal. Classroom phenomena and feedback demonstrate how “creation“ activities have high potential to revitalize student engagement, autonomy, and identity.


Jordan Alderson


High School North, Grade 12 English

Technology:  Gaining 21st Century Skills, or Just a Distraction? 

Throughout the year, I have been structuring and implementing project-based instruction in my classroom.  Through this instruction, I have used multiple forms of technology in order for students to become 21st century thinkers.  Through this experience, I have encountered my biggest foe:  video games, Youtube, Facebook, texting, and other “non-academic” sources.  I will explore the students’ fascination with these items, and how using these items may actually help our students gain 21st century skills. 


Danielle Kubrak


State College High South, 10th Grade English

“I didn’t read, but I think…”

Although students do not complete reading assignments, they still enjoy expressing their opinions during discussion. How do the benefits from a discussion create value that is comparable to a close analysis of the text?


Casey Staib


 State College High School North Building, AP 12th Grade English

The Fear of Interpreting a Text From Outside Their Own Cultural Perspective

Can students get to a point where they are not afraid to interpret a different culture from outside of their own cultural perspective? Join me on an inquiry into the issues surrounding students’ ability to step outside of themselves and their own personal experiences in order to evaluate, analyze, and write about a text.


Jessica Wysocki


State College High South, 10th Grade English

c u l8er: Finding Value in Incorporating Text Speak in the Classroom

It is no secret that younger generations have found a new voice in today’s technologically driven society. Since this discourse has trickled down into their everyday speaking, should students be allowed to talk this way in the classroom, and can value be generated in using this discourse?


Kristina McKenna


State College High North, 11th Grade English

Why Reflect? And Where the Heck is My Grade!

“Prospective education implies that students should be capable of approaching problems that do not yet exist” (Kozulin 1998). In the realm of composition, there are three basic problems through which our writing progresses: Planning, Execution, and Evaluation. Using the Vygotskian construct of the Zone of Proximal Development as a framework, teachers can establish instructional and evaluative procedures that help students to internalize the evaluation of their compositions so that they can begin to self-regulate—to make full reflective use of the powerful psychological tool of language.


Michelle Thiry


High School North 11th Grade English

Can You Teach Without Answers?

“And don’t just tell me that you hate Tom and that Daisy is dumb.” 

Students are often positioned to seek and give the right answers.

How can you use raw emotional reactions, open-ended questions, and personal experiences to teach students how to think rather than what to think thus cultivating an ownership of learning?



Professional Development Associates and Inquiry Consultants

Christine Merrit, Jeff King, Jamie Myers, Hyunmyoung Lee, Jason Whitney, Curt Porter



Kyle Anderson, Alison Becker, Skyra Blanchard, Marianne Bowers, Andy Cunningham, Beth Hartman, Kate Hoffman, Raeanne Horgas, Kevin Hulbert, Gina Motter, Sarah Rito, Becca Thorsen, Melissa Wager, Kathleen Yingling



Marcia Kramer, Craig Butler, Deborah Latta