2003 Observer: John Baek
2004 Observer: Lin Shi
Raw = Still in paper format
October 17, 2003 (2) Jottings
October 17, 2003 (2) Fieldnotes
March 1, 2004 () Raw
March 2, 2004 ()Raw
March 22, 2004 ()Raw
March 29, 2004 ()Raw
March 30, 2004 ()Raw
April 12, 2004 ()Raw
April 13, 2004 ()Raw
April 19, 2004 ()Raw
April 20, 2004 ()Raw
MH Observation Field Notes
Inquiry Grant/ Qualitative
(Things I wanted to focus on Inquiry style/ dialogue/ Independence, Quotes, behavior)
Map of classroom
Line up outside the door, Ms. Pergo’s class.
“I like the way Brenda came in.”
Alex asks directly why I’m here.
MH: Goes over the materials for today’s lab. “You are going to have… nickels, guage, I show
MH: Let me show you what we are going to do
(Directions first, then questions)
One person blows up balloons (They know about germs) they understand why.
Why it is important the balloon is the same size?
What do I always say… Think.
Meterstick…meters or centimeters.
Take Data Sheet (What about alternatives?)
S: You need 4 nickels.
4 times/ repetition
S: It’s going to take a little longer.”
‘Does everybody understand what we are doing?”
If you work as a team…
MH: Record the data…”
Kids are quiet but “goof around and play”
Kids questions/Groupmates at your table. Birthday who’s next gets to blow up the balloon.
MH: How about you …? Winner”
“We are wasting our science time.”
Teacher’s Assistant, Ms. Hilz
“What is the rule…?”
“You will need your pencil.”
Class moves out to hallway/ Splits into 2 groups to conduct experiment.
Students don’t read directions (Are there directions? No.)
1 Kids try to conduct experiment as they remember
2 “She can’t do it.”
1 “How about the nickel and the tape?”
Finally, the kids move car to be a straight line to match teacher’s demo. Don’t accept 2 previous
“Isn’t it 3?”
MH: “Need to measure a straight line.”
1 “Oh, that’s 350” (Without even measuring, opportunity lost for understanding of estimation)
2 No, you need to put the coin. Oh, I forgot.
Boy blocks the path of the car.
MH: moves back and forth between the groups.
“Straight line to the car.
Are you being a good teammate?
Don’t forget you got to…
Most of class is Hispanic, Lower SES
Have trouble working together in one direction.
(Possible Category: Questions)
MH: It hit the wall, do it again
2 Girl and striped shirt boy do the work, white shirt watches
10:52 Starts to get kids finishing up.
(There’s good science and bad science)
MH: Carry it straight up and down. So you don’t hurt…
MH: Work on you averages while you’re waiting.
? Process help in…
MH: What was your average? Bicycles? Were you careful?
Lining up at second window outside classroom.
MH: What groups got all 4 trials? …extreme end of the hallway. Does that make sense?
Eddie is held back in classroom and reads, looks at pages, flips to end of book.
Groups move out into the hallway. Bronko gives up after criticism from groupmates.
3 No goal setting, Compare to other groups. They depend on the teacher to resolve conflict.
4 Group at end of the hall very off task, Although they could be working, it’s hard to see them. I
thought this because they were working on the table not the floor. The TA was with them the
whole time, they probably were on task.
2 Seem more productive with change of group member
3 Misconception about measuring the distance of the car travel. They measure only in a straight
perpendicular line, rather than the line of travel or even of displacement.
1 Misconception about measuring distance
1 Let’s try it without wheels.
3 Gets sent into classroom for being too loud.
1 Kids seem to work better in three than four Bronko alloed back into group, copies data
3 What! On the first one.
Alex, Hurry up!
Alex goes to the bathroom, other two don’t acknowledge, although one girl did notice the boy
1 MH: Get the data done.
Misconception: Measurement is only linear. Reading a meter stick. Goal is finding trend or
pattern in data. Workign well in a group.
1 Most not feeling engaged.
I decide at this point to interact with group 1
They ask me how old I am
They arrange marriages for me.
Where I’m from.
I ask what they’ve learned so far.
They don’t understand or avoid the question.
How do you know?
I don’t know.
Man, we’re playing too much
3 Alex we’re almost finished (it looks to me they are half finished.)
3 Interested in getting results they want rathe than accepting what they get.
MH: finish calculating your averages. Datasheet.
MH Observation Field Notes
Inquiry Grant/ Qualitative
Classroom (See map in original Field Notes)
The desks are arranged in four groups of four or five, facing in each in the configuration of
squares or square plus one. There is a kitchen area by the door, an activity table, a teacher’s
desk, a bench for the three computers, a reading semi-circular table. The classroom is located
towards the back of the school. The schedule is written on the whiteboard.
Alex asks directly why I’m here. MH explains that I’m a student at George Mason University
looking at how MH does inquiry teaching. (I’m not sure about exactly what he said.)
Most of the students are Latino. Of the about 16 students, I’d say there are about 12 to 13. My
guess is they are of lower socio-economic status. I based this on clothing, haircuts, body
language and how the teacher treats these students. MH’s focus on behavioral reinforcement is
common teacher practice with “lower” students, based on my own teaching experience. The
students I’m observing in science are Ms. Pergo’s class. So this is not MH’s class. At 10:15
they enter upon invitation by the teacher. They must line up outside the class. MH says, “I like
the way Brenda came in.” There is a lunch period that splits the science class. “Line up at
second window outside classroom.”
MH reviews the materials for today’s lab. “You are going to have… nickels, gauge, I’ll show
you how” MH demonstrates the lab by blowing up the balloon. He says that only one person
may blow up the balloon. A few hands go up immediately, he says all questions must be asked
at the end. He asks why only one person may inflate the balloon? I heard one answer that was
not correct, followed by germs. I think that why I wrote the note: (They know about germs.
They understand why.) The groups are determined by the desk grouping. The person who gets
to blow up the balloon is determined by who’s birthday is next. As the students determine who
that person is, MH moves about the room. He says, “How about you …? Winner”
Showing the students the cardboard cutout that determines the width of the inflated balloon. I
believe he emphasized to the class that the balloon must always be the same size. He doesn’t ask
the students why. I noticed that the students were diligent about this, they measured the balloon
every time that I can remember. This emphasis is agenda driven. MH is trying to get students to
have an experience that he hopes they understand. (They can’t understand otherwise?)
MH asks the class, “Why it is important the balloon is the same size?” He is trying to get the
kids to think about control variables in this case. I don’t think the kids really understand. My
guess is they want the balloon car to go the same distance. Or because it would be the wrong
way to do it.
MH says, “Let me show you what we are going to do.” MH shows them how to let go of the car
and it goes. The first time he does this, it hits a student’s shoe at the end of the run. He does it
again, demonstrating that if it hits something then it is not measurable. He does make joking
comment, that he hopes it doesn’t happen to hit the student again. The second time is fine, and
he measures the run. It goes straight. He asks a student or the class, “Meterstick…meters or
centimeters?” He is verifying the units that they will use. He measures in a straight line. This
recollection is fuzzy in detail, but the general actions I believe are accurate.
MH has asked that all questions be held until the end of the demonstration. Does he recognize
that students this young are unlikely to keep a question in working memory for that long. He
makes an assumption that the questions are not substantive, only dealing with who can blow up
the balloon. Which a student does ask. This is the central focus of his discussion. He puts down
questions, that involve the balloon blowing up. (My question, does he have enough balloons for
all students to use?) I notice that the kids are quiet but goof around and play. By this I mean they
are on their knees in their seats, they squirm about in their seats quite a bit. One student even
gets up, dashes to the car, and dashes back. He is reprimanded by MH.
MH also shows them how to attach the nickel to the car. They must first take off the wheels,
then tape the nickel to the car in a particular way. The tape must be long enough to keep the
nickel on and wrap in front of the car under the front axle. Then the wheels are attached. He tells
them they should use a new piece of tape for each nickel.
MH checks with the class at the end of the directions, “Does everybody understand what we are
doing?” No one says a word. My guess is that if MH were to test the students on their
procedural knowledge they obtained through observation and listening, it would not be 100% for
all students. MH has setup the materials for them in trays. He brings the tray to each group. He
says, “Take a Data Sheet.” MH says, “Record the data…” MH reinforces teamwork, “If you
work as a team…”
At 10:37 the groups move out into the hallway. There is a reading class being conducted right
outside MH’s door. Two of the groups go to the end of one hallway, while the other two groups
go to the end of the other hallway. MH’s classroom is at the crossroads of the two hallways. I
decided to stay with just two of the groups. The experiment is being conducted out in the
hallways because they are tiled. Most of MH’s floor is carpeted.
I noticed that the students didn’t read directions (Are there directions? No.) I find out later they
were not given written directions. The sheet of paper that they have has a data table and what
looks to be two questions, maybe discussion or review type. The groups that I’m with I label
groups 1 and 2. Group 2 is closer to the classroom.
Group 1 is located at the end of the hallway next to the stairwell entrance in the first half of class.
In the second half of class they are in the same hallway but near the classroom entrance. In
group 1 is a boy named Bronko and a girl in a red striped shirt and another boy or girl. There is a
fourth student that joins them in the second half of class.
Kids try to conduct experiment as they remember. They remember pretty well what to do. They
know they need to blow up the balloon, only one person is allowed to do so. They let it go and
measure the distance. I notice that they measure it from the starting point to an imaginary line
extending from the stopping point of the car. Finally, the kids move car to be a straight line to
match teacher’s demo. By this I mean they move the car along this perpendicular line to line up
with the starting point. Don’t accept 2 previous attempts, which either did not go far at all or
veer quickly to the right.
They ask a procedural question, “How about the nickel and the tape?” They have forgotten for a
moment how these materials are used in the procedure. They also ask, “Isn’t it 3?” Meaning
isn’t it three tries, they’ve been instructed to complete four trials. I see this method of instruction
as a huge strain on cognitive working memory. These kids cope by social cognition. They ask
each other to spark their memories. Each of their incomplete mental models overlap to create
one almost complete mental model for the experience procedure.
The wheels need to be taken off in order to tape the nickel on properly as demonstrated by the
teacher about an hour ago. One of the boys says, “Let’s try it without wheels.” I believe MH at
this point notices he says something like I’ll bet you it won’t that far. I notice the kids really
don’t respond to this verbal challenge. My guess is they are just curious to see what happens.
They do in fact try it. They do not measure the distance. (Why would they, they were not told to
do so? Where would they, that is not on the data table? You see there is this culture of one right
way to do it. Variations and experiments are not real science.)
Bronko gets sent into classroom for being too loud. This was after repeated warnings by MH.
MH really doesn’t want to disturb other classes with noise in the hallway. I seem to recall that
he repeats this warning to the class and groups throughout the science class. Kids seem to work
better in three than four Bronko allowed back into group, copies data taken while he was gone.
MH reminds this group to “Get the data done.” I looking at them most not feeling engaged.
They sit on the floor, waiting for one person to blow up the balloon.
This group has been taking glances at me most of the day. I think MH is inside the classroom
dealing with kids he feels cannot behave. I decide at this point to interact with group 1. They ask
me how old I am and where I’m from. They say that I could marry one of the other teacher who
may be Korean, too. I feel that I’ve been very open with them, and I feel like I’ve built some
rapport with these kids. I ask, “What have you learned so far?” I receive no answer, most heads
look down or away. My guess is that they haven’t learned anything and not about admit that.
There is an argument amongst the group members. “How do you know?” “I don’t know.” The
girl in the striped shirt says despairingly, “Man, we’re playing too much.” She sort of says it to
me, she has turned her head away from the group and in my direction. Bronko gives up after
criticism from groupmates regarding doing something in the lab.
In group 2 a girl who is very thin is bob haircut and a boy. The girl is in charge of blowing up
the balloon. Eddie? says “She can’t do it.” She is the girl who has to blow up the balloon every
time. She has initial trouble, but quickly gets the balloon inflated. One of the boys(?) says, “No,
you need to put the coin.” Another student corrects them. They say, “Oh, I forgot.”
Eddie blocks the path of the car once. He has not been very engaged, he’s not in charge of
measuring. So all he can do is sit along the wall and stick his leg out to block the car or at least
fake it. Girl and striped shirt boy do the work, Eddie watches.
This group seems more productive with change of group member. Eddie is held back in
classroom and reads, looks at pages, flips to end of book. Another student who was at some
music practice, is now back on the team. He is white with red hair. I saw him ask MH a number
of questions before heading out into the hallway. Eddie does not rejoin the group at all.
This is a new group to me after the break. They are working right in front of me. There is one
Asian looking boy (Alex), one Indian or Pakistani looking boy and girl. There is a tremendous
amount of conflict in this group. At first Alex wants to participate by measuring. The other boy
was doing so. Alex tries to take it away. They depend on the teacher to resolve conflict. The
girl sides with the boy, who is a more accurate measurer.
In this group I really notice the misconception about measuring the distance of the car travel.
They measure only in a straight perpendicular line, rather than the line of travel or even of
The girl says this, “Alex, Hurry up!” because he is very slow at making the measurement. As the
girls is inflating the balloon, Alex goes to the bathroom. The other two don’t acknowledge,
although one girl did notice the boy didn’t. The two complain to MH. He says to Alex that he
shouldn’t bring the ruler into the bathroom, for health reasons. One of them says, “Alex we’re
almost finished” (it looks to me they are half finished.) Maybe they said by having Alex think
that they were close to the end, he would remain on task. His behavior really doesn’t change. I
wrote interested in getting results they want rather than accepting what they get because they
often would blow up a balloon and let it go. It wouldn’t go anywhere, so they would try it again.
MH moves back and forth between the groups. He is able to check in on each group for short
period of time, I’d say anywhere from 10 seconds to a few minutes. (Question I would have like
to have asked: What are you looking for as you move from one group to another? Why do you
spend more time with some groups than others? Would you do this lab if there were no teacher’s
aide available?) Since the groups are so spread apart, but because the aide, Ms. Hilz, is with the
other groups, MH spends a lot of time at this end of the hall. I think at times maybe to
demonstrate his teaching in front of me, but I didn’t get that sense.
As some point MH has lost control of either one person or the class, they are talking when he
wants to talk in the classroom. He says, “We are wasting our science time.”
MH notices that the kids are measuring diagonally to the car stopping point. He says, “Need to
measure a straight line.” He says it again, “Straight line to the car.” In a different instance MH
says, “It hit the wall, do it again.” This is when the car hits the wall instead of going in a straight
As a check on one of the students in the group MH asks, “Are you being a good teammate?”
MH reinforces procedure when he says, “Don’t forget you got to…”
As the students are walking back into class, MH says to a student who holds the ruler
horizontally, “Carry it straight up and down. So you don’t hurt…”
MH says, “Work on your averages while you’re waiting.” This is at the lunch break. At the end
of class MH says, “Finish calculating your averages.”
MH says, “What was your average? Bicycles? Were you careful?” MH emphasizes using
correct units and attaching unit labels to the calculated averages.
MH says, “What groups got all 4 trials?” Again there is a focus on procedure, getting enough
data to come to some magic conclusion. These type of comments carry an assumption that
nothing is learned along the way.
In speaking with MH afterwards, he tells me this is his second year teaching fourth grade. He
used to teach second grade. He says it’s different, he likes that the students gets some of his
jokes. He says he’s not the type that can teach the same grade for 20 years. He’ll teach
kindergarten for a few years then maybe fifth grade.
There’s good science and bad science.
Misconception: Measurement is only linear. Reading a meter stick. Goal is finding trend or
pattern in data. Working well in a group.