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Inquiry and Project Based Learning: From Theory to Practice Dr. Oren Shriki The Israel Arts and Science Academy The Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA ): Basic Facts • A boarding school open to excellent students of Israeli citizenship. • ~210 students in grades 10-12 (45% girls, 55% boys) / (5-7% Arabs) • 4 major departments: Science / Music / Visual Arts / Humanities IBL and PBL at the Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA) IBL (Inquiry Based Learning) and PBL (Project Based Learning) play a major role in our school’s educational conception. • Many lessons are inquiry based and the students are very active in the learning process; • Project week: No formal classes for a 9- day period between semesters; • All 11th-grade students conduct a one- year project; • About a third of the students conduct a two-year project (with formal credit). Inquiry Based Learning: From Theory to Practice IBL Using Group Activities IBL can be used for teaching theoretical issues as well as for practicing the application of theoretical ideas. Described below is a method that I use from time to time to alter lessons to be more inquiry based. The main ingredients: • Students work on two activities in groups of ~4 students. • The first activity focuses on theoretical issues. • The second activity focuses on application of the developed theoretical ideas to a context-rich problem. Choosing the Students in each Group It is often good to start with random groups (I use Excel to do that). Then, the following issues should be taken into account: • Balancing weak and strong students in each group • Having a student with leadership and responsibility in each group • Boys vs. girls • Friends and “Enemies” Tip: Each group can be assigned a name (e.g., “Newton’s group”) in order to create solidarity. Assigning Roles to Students Some students in each group can be assigned particular roles: • “Manager” – responsible for planning and standing in time. • “Documenter” – responsible for documenting the solution. • “Skeptic” (“Devil’s advocate”) – responsible for criticizing the approaches used by the group and for suggesting alternative methods. Working in Groups Ballistic Motion To demonstrate the method let us focus on a concrete example from mechanics: ballistic motion. 0 Activity 1: Developing the theory A body is thrown at an angle of 0 and a speed of v 0 with respect to the ground. y v0 0 y0 x x0 0 Activity 1: Developing the theory • Find an expression for the horizontal position as a function of time, x(t). • Find an expression for the vertical position as a function of time, y(t). • Find an expression for the trajectory, y(x). • What is the maximal height the body will rich? • At what launching angle the range is maximal? • … 0 Activity 1: Developing the theory General guidelines: Take care to write detailed explanations of the solutions and of the relevant considerations. During your discussions please relate to the following questions: • What was difficult in the problem? • If we had a mistake what caused it? • What insights or guidelines helped us? • Why did we choose this specific approach? • Are there more elegant ways to reach the solution? • In what ways can we check the solution? Activity 2: A Context Rich Problem The task: A mountain climber is stuck on an iceberg since his axe has slipped from his hand. The iceberg looks like an inclined plane with an angle of 30o. The climber sees a group of people at the bottom of the slope. He estimates that the group is at a height of 800m below him and 250m to his right. He decides to pass them a message in a box that can slip on ice. How should the climber launch the box so that it will reach the group? Is there a unique solution to the problem? Offer a solution to the problem. Activity 2: A Context Rich Problem The solution should include: A description of the problem: An appropriate drawing with the relevant parameters and the unknown quantity A description of the solution: A representation of the problem as a series of sub- problems. In each sub-problem, the relevant physical principle and the solution of the resulting equations. A verification of the solution. Activity 2: A Context Rich Problem General guidelines: As before. Bonus Questions 1st bonus question: Assuming that the group of people if distributed on a circular area with a diameter of 25 meters, estimate the required accuracy in the initial velocity. 2nd bonus question: a. What will be the speed of the box when it hits the group of people? b. What launching angle will result in the minimal hit speed? 3rd bonus question: Assuming constant friction between the box and the ice, draw a force diagram and write down the equations of motion. What are the difficulties in solving these equations? Some Comments Regarding Activity 2 • There are no explicit steps that guide the solution – the students are required to decompose the problem themselves into several well-defined steps. • There is no drawing to explain the geometry of the problem – V0 generating an appropriate h=800m drawing is not an easy task for the students, and help from the teacher is often needed. d=250 m • Bonus questions and challenges can fill the time for groups who finished early. Presenting the Results Presenting their approach and results to their peers using a short (time-limited) presentation is an important exercise for the students. Aims of the Activity • Developing a systematic approach to problem solving. • Developing meta-cognitive skills in problem solving. • Developing creative abilities. • Developing skills for group work and discussion. • Developing presentation skills (written and oral). • Reinforcing the knowledge of the subject matter and its applications. Evaluation The recommended method of evaluation is using a rubric. Relevant dimensions for the rubric: • Knowledge of the subject matter • Systematic work • Meta-cognitive processes • Group work • Presentation (written and oral) Take Home Messages • Such group activities are appropriate only for certain topics in the syllabus. • It is useful to combine guided development of theoretical material with applications to context rich problems. (“From theory to practice”) • It is not hard to turn a standard frontal lesson into such an inquiry based activity. • The work in groups develops meta-cognitive skills, required for problem solving. Option for Concluding Activity: Knowledge Integration In science, after a theory is developed and practiced comes the integration part. It is recommended to add another group activity around knowledge integration. For instance: • Identify the main concepts, define them and create a ‘concept map’. • Analyze a major formula: What is the meaning of the various components (variables, mathematical operators)? What happens in limiting cases? In which contexts can it be used? Project Based Learning: From Theory to Practice Examples of Projects A Model of a Roller Coaster • Motivation: Amusement park physics. • Aims of the project: – Constructing a small scale model of a roller coaster – Measuring the motion of a car along the trajectory – Constructing a theoretical model and comparing theory to experiment. Examples of Projects A Model of a Roller Coaster • After checking various alternatives, the students built the following model: • Later they even added a loop. • The position of the car was measured using a system that allows for tracking motion in 3D (V-Scope). Examples of Projects A Model of a Roller Coaster • We developed a detailed N theoretical model and f simulated it on a computer. v mg • The theory fit very well the experimental results. Examples of Projects How Schizophrenic Patients Perceive Visual Illusions? • Motivation: The student was very interested in the wide subject of schizophrenia, and we decided to focus on a concrete issue. • Main research questions: – What types of perceptual abnormalities are most common among schizophrenic patients? – What neurobiological processes underlie these perceptual alterations and what can we infer from them about disease mechanisms? – How can these perceptual abnormalities be used in developing a set of psychophysical tools for aiding the diagnosis of schizophrenia? Examples of Projects How Schizophrenic Patients Perceive Visual Illusions? • The student learned about schizophrenia from several resources. • We constructed a set of visual illusions and tested how schizophrenic patients perceive them compared to control subjects. • The experiments were performed in a mental health hospital. • The results were very interesting and she won prizes in Israel and in Intel ISEF. Choosing Topics and Research Questions In most cases the supervisor should suggest several topics to the students. • Search for ideas in scientific journals • Consult with investigators • Continue past projects which were left unfinished • Look for ideas at the Intel ISEF • … Tip: Choose topics in which you feel confident, but not necessarily where you know the answer. Assigning Projects to Students • Students should be offered a range of topics and research questions at various levels of difficulty. • The level of difficulty of the project should match the abilities of the student. • A good research program should have an initial part which guarantees some success as well as more advanced parts, in which the way is not paved. • It is important to assign students with subjects that interest them. The internal motivation of the students is crucial for the success of the project . Building an Experimental Setup In experimental projects, the task of building a setup may pose many difficulties, but it is part of the project. • Be modest and verify in advance that the designed setup is feasible • Let the student be involved in the design and in the construction • Consult with people who built similar setups • Try to get second-hand equipment from research groups in universities Supervision The task of the supervisor is to create an environment which will foster the development of the student and let him realize his potential. • The project is not meant to be an easy trip, and the student should be aware of that. • The student can learn many new skills through his work. The supervisor should create the right opportunities. • The student should have a level of independence, even in the price of going in wrong directions and loosing time! What to do when the research gets stuck? • First – it is OK. That’s part of science (even a large part). Let the student know that the most important aspect is the process and not the end result. • Consult with experts (such as professors in Universities) • At some point, take a decision and turn to a more feasible research question. Time Resources This is the biggest problem! • Set with the student a regular meeting every once in a while (preferably every week) • Have some periods of continuous work (task shifting is a major obstacle). These periods significantly boost the research. Documentation Writing a manuscript that describes the research and the results forces the student to integrate everything he learned during the project. • Students should document their progress on a regular basis, and not just at the end • Give the students a set of guidelines for documenting and go with them over what they write. This forms a major part of their education. Evaluation The recommended method of evaluation is using a rubric (like in the IBL case). Examples of relevant dimensions for the rubric: • Knowledge of the subject matter in general • Knowledge of the particular details related to the project • Contribution to the construction of the setup and for carrying the experiment • Systematic work • Independence and original initiatives • Presentation (written and oral) • Persistence and enthusiasm Take Home Messages • Much thought should be dedicated to finding appropriate topics and research questions • The supervisor should be involved in the research but not perform it instead of the student • It should be taken into account that in real research there are unexpected obstacles. The key is to be flexible and open minded. Never despair! • The process is more important than the end result