How do we know what students are learning?
Are you an instructional coach? If so, have you encountered teachers who don’t think they need your services? You know, that old, cranky teacher whom you assume pulls out the same copy of a lesson plan each year because they’ve “always done it this way;” the teacher who doesn’t jump at every new app or piece of hardware, the teacher who eyerolls when new methods are introduced with more excitement than practice? Before you make assumptions about why that teacher is resistant, here are some questions, in no particular order, you might want to be ready to answer before you walk into this teacher’s classroom:
Today, I read this article from the Washington Post. The author’s opinions of STEM are interesting. The connection to STEM as I know it is pretty broad. Some claims are backed up with evidence, some simply reinforce his stance on a liberal education for all.
The author made some great points. I read with interest. The twelfth paragraph really jumped out at me.
“No matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon (and the owner of this newspaper), insists that his senior executives write memos, often as long as six printed pages, and begins senior-management meetings with a period of quiet time, sometimes as long as 30 minutes, while everyone reads the “narratives” to themselves and makes notes on them. In an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, Bezos said: “Full sentences are harder to write. They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”
I field-tested the National Board v3.0 AYA Science Constructed Response and Selected Response Assessment Center components. I was then invited to the Item Review, to happen here:
Know thine enemy, I’d been told. Besides, if I didn’t go check this out, how would I ever be able to comment with credibility on the process?
It’s been almost 2 years since we attended Learning and the Brain.
The first 3 posts are linked below. I’ve had a while to implement some new ideas and process this topic. Anecdotal evidence from my own classroom began to show me that creativity in the secondary science classroom is different; in science, one must know something in order to create something new. I began to pay more attention to the push for creativity on social media. Here’s what I’m learning.
Homework is evil. All homework. It’s a pile of worksheets; pointless, drill-and-kill busywork that overloads students brains, frustrates (or bores) them to tears, reinforces the practice of incorrect algorithms, destroys every creative cell in students’ bodies, and takes away from valuable playtime or family time. And it should never, ever be graded.
That’s the message sent by many who are trying to fix whatever’s wrong with education. I don’t buy it.
Our school is on an AB block schedule. I see students at most 3 days a week (when we have a full week of school), so more often twice a week; sometimes 4 times in 2 weeks, and sometimes 6-7 days pass without meeting as a class when we have long weekends. (Yes, I use electronic communication as much as possible, considering 20-25% or my students have neither an Internet connection in their homes nor a smartphone). To that end, my teacher-gut tells me that students who have deeper conceptual understandings and own their skills are the students who have stayed connected to their learning. I’ve become a fan of a few types of assignments to help students stay connected. Some are most specifically, homework. Other assignments are directly connected to an upcoming inquiry or project lab. Other work is investigative, calculation practice, synthesis, or preparation for discussion. Outlined below are some general types of “homework” students may expect to best support them as they learn science.
Several years ago, I was introduced to a process designed to help students learn. The plan involved my colleagues and I doing some simple things in our classrooms, with our students, and then discussing the results of our work together and planning how to make learning even better. It’s no longer being used, and I’m sad. I have a few ideas about why it fell by the wayside.
I had the opportunity to view an important movie this week. I’ve seen it once before. Both times, I watched with a group of the finest educators I’ve ever met. The movie was especially hard-hitting for us because we’ve shared their journey, their tears, and their triumphs.
Oregon requires students to complete an inquiry work sample (here’s the one we will use this year) at some time during high school. Our classes function on an inquiry basis at some level almost daily. I’ve played with many strategies to help students write about their work in a manner that facilitates their learning while documenting their work in a manner that survives the scrutiny of a scientific peer review.
Most recently, I’ve incorporated the work began with Linda Christensen (from Lewis and Clark) and the Oregon Writing Project. Freshmen begin keeping all lab and inquiry work in a bound theme book, AKA fondly as “my lab book.” My vision for the appearance of student lab books has morphed over the years. Some things change very little, though, because good science is good science and good science writing is good science writing. At my current school, I’m blessed with like-minded colleagues who have helped me refine my vision as it is shared in this post. Here’s our current plan…..
My introduction to assigning student roles in group work came in 1994 at a Project Discovery summer workshop. I didn’t question the value of this practice. More experienced teachers and university professors shared their expert guidelines. As teacher participants in the workshop, we used these canned roles as we worked our way through canned labs intended to inspire student discovery. They appeared, we decided, to be a pretty effective method for managing students in lab settings and for facilitating student communication about their work. The checkpoints added strategically to canned procedures helped me check for understanding while students were working.