Science, Education, and Science Education

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Archive for the ‘Assessing learning’ Category

February 5th, 2022 by Luann

Learning Anatomy Through Collaboration, Part 3

Learning about the nervous system in an anatomy class is daunting due to the number of terms that describe the nervous system.

nervous system collaboration

Student Concept Map Draft – Human Nervous System by Collaboration


Memorization without understanding, connecting, or applying learning is a popular way for students to score enough points to get that grade of A (my district does not embrace standards-based grading.) Students have spent the past 12 years learning to play the game.

We have also been physically distanced from our students, and they from one another, far too much over the past 2 years. My reaction to this situation has been to foster a safe and supportive classroom environment for students to re-learn and stretch their collaborative skills. In this environment, when we give students strategies to process content in ways that leads them to deeper understanding, they share and discuss and problem-solve and learn from one another. Most importantly, they connect and transfer their learning using strategies that build the habits supporting life-long learning.

Here’s how that’s working in our Anatomy and Physiology class Nervous System unit, so far.  (Bonus chicken, because they could.)

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January 15th, 2022 by Luann

Learning Anatomy through Collaboration, Part 2

Body With Muscles, anterior side

Students created life-size body drawings and added muscles.

Four of our 14 anatomy students plan a health-related career.

Another student plans to study forensics.

The remaining 9 have no concrete plans for what they will do in 5 months, after graduation.

We needed a helpful way to learn about muscles. Sure, we could use drawings and label them after a lecture, and memorize names, origins, insertions, actions, and innervation, quiz one another and then take quizzes and get grades.


Instead, we used our life-size human drawings to learn about muscles.

Our learning progressed like this:

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September 6th, 2021 by Luann

Learning Anatomy through Collaboration, Part 1

We’ve been away from one another for far too long.

Talking over Zoom, email, feedback and peer edits on documents and drawings can only go so far.

Mink Intestines in Anatomy

Mink dissection – look at those intestines!

Most of the students in this Anatomy and Physiology class in our small rural school have been together for years, some since kindergarten. Some are related; in fact, this class of 14 students has two sets of twins.

To begin the year, we use the classic “Draw Yourself” lab, in which students pair up and one student traces the body outline of the second student on a large piece of posted paper. Students then label regions of the body, quadrants of the abdomen, and directional terms used for describing the body – anterior, posterior, dorsal, ventral, sagittal, for example.

The benefits of this work, as opposed to me lecturing and students memorizing:

  1. Students get acquainted, or re-acquainted, with one another.
  2. Students are actively working, that is, moving around and acquiring a kinesthetic introduction of the human body and the terms they will be using all year.
  3. While working on their creation, students see the terms in print, read the terms aloud, hear others say the terms, and write the terms. Over, and over.
  4. Students visit other groups to ask questions, give suggestions, and get ideas for their own work.
  5. And, importantly, students learn how others learn.

We will use these large paper bodies over and over, throughout the year.  Stay tuned.

September 11th, 2015 by Luann

All Means ALL, Part 1

This is the first in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

This year, my district has adopted a motto.

All means ALL.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this……

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August 29th, 2015 by Luann

Seeking an Instructional Coach Who…

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:

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March 31st, 2015 by Luann

A Perspective on STEM in the US and Interesting Implications

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.”

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December 23rd, 2014 by Luann

NBPTS v3.0 Selected Response Item Review: A Trip to The Dark Side

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?

I went.

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June 18th, 2013 by Luann

Creativity and Science, Part 4

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.

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December 31st, 2012 by Luann

This is not your father’s homework assignment.

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.

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August 6th, 2012 by Luann

How Not To Do Professional “Development”

Several years ago, I was introduced to a process designed to help students learn. grimreaper 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.

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