Inquiry Created by: Assignment: For: William Veal on 01/24/2002 at 04:37:14 PM EST Science Talk Spring in Lesson 4 Inquiry Created by: Assignment: For: William Veal on 01/24/2002 at 04:37:14 PM EST Science Talk Spring in Lesson 4 EVERYONE In biology, the science teacher developed an inquiry lesson on plant growth and pollution. The students were to develop a lab investigation that allowed them to test their hypothesis. The hypothesis was based on what conditions the students think would influence the plant to grow or not grow. The students implemented this plan on a Monday. It wasn't until Wendesday that the students understood the meaning of hypothesis, experiment, and "on your own." The teacher also allowed the students to research the information online for two class periods. Most students didn't know what to look for online and spent much of the time searching for sites rather than researching sites. By the time that the plants starte to grow and the variables were put inot place, it was well into the third week. Sometimes a project or inquiry assignment ends up taking longer than planned. Should a teacher spend the time to make sure it gets done right, thus taking time away from other topics later in the year, or should they move on? Jen Rice on 03/03/2002 at 09:39:59 PM EST Comment: Hey, I like this vignette - I'm just about to start a similar activity myself, stolen from the teacher next door. His one page write-up he gave to them listed the materials at hand, and suggested some possible variables. They still have to identify independent and dependent variables, decide how many to have, make some predictions, set up the experiment. I think he assigned groups and made sure each group did something a little different. I know that he took about 10 minutes a class for watering, collecting data, etc... and was teaching other topics at the same time. Why do the two days of web research? Given the limited materials, and the variables available light, water, fertilizer, radiated/irradiated (maybe), salinity, pH, temperature - wouldn't it be more 'inquiry' based if they didn't look up these conditions on the web? Ian Binns on 02/27/2002 at 09:57:51 AM EST Comment:
You know, I feel like a broken record because the only thing I can say to this is that you have to do the inquiry lesson right. There is nothing wrong with guiding the students at the beginning of the assignment.
Brian Sickelbaugh on 02/12/2002 at 01:49:01 PM EST Comment: If the experiment takes too long, discuss what went wrong and what went right. We have this nasty thing called an EOC in this state that dictates the material to be covered. Getting bogged down into an over extensive inquiry lesson could postpone or even delete material from being studied in class David Harnish on 02/06/2002 at 07:19:09 PM EST Comment: Like others have mentioned, the lesson seems poorly outlined; in time and direction for the students. As for the question of weather time should be taken in order to see that it is done right...I believe that may depend on the time of the year. If this were happening in the middle of the year, then it is a total waste of time. If it occurred in the first few weeks, then I suppose you as the teacher, and the students, could use it as a learning lesson (basically, what not to do in the future). There seemed to be a lot of fundamental knowledge that was missing from the students; and therefore, to jump into such an inquiry with so little direction, you are leaving the students out to dry. Also, I always give students at least three websites to use when we use the internet to research. Brenda Druck on 02/05/2002 at 05:28:04 PM EST Comment: This vignette confused me a little. This inquiry didn't sound like it was properly introduced by the teacher. Before the introduction of the lesson, it sounds like the teacher should have discussed the basics or built the discovery of hypothesis and experiment into the design of the inquiry. Even the best designed inquiries can take up more time. I found that when I give my students a timeline and a deadline they are far more productive then when I give them total freedom. So I would call it quits somewhere along the line, move on and learn from my mistakes. Ian Binns on 02/04/2002 at 09:58:16 PM EST Comment: I think that a teacher should take the necessary time to make sure students understand the assignment they were given. It may take a long time, but it is important because it can help the students in the future. A different way to help the students is by guiding them just enough to make sure they at least understand what it is they have to do. This does not mean telling each student what to do or each group what to do, it means for the teacher to make sure each student
understands what is expected of them so they are able to be productive. This method will take some time at the beginning of the assignment, but it will be beneficial for everyone.
Heather Soja on 02/12/2002 at 08:26:22 PM EST Comment: I will piggyback the other comments by saying that the teacher had not specified the guidelines clearly and failed to build adequate fundamental knowledge before attempting the inquiry activity. In this month's issue of the "Science Teacher" there is an article that discusses inquiry lessons and the best way to integrate them into your teaching. This teacher could have trained the students to do "inquiry" lessons by using smaller scale "guided inquiry" activities to introduce that way of thinking. Just as we NCTeach students are learning how to use inquiry we must teach our current students to feel comfortable with having control of their learning through inquiry. Natalie Johnson on 02/03/2002 at 10:51:35 PM EST Comment: Live and learn. The students are students, they do not realize how much we agonize over such issues. So the one thing I have learned this year is to chalk it all up to experience and try again. The students will not think any more or less of you because they do not know that it was the teachers fault for not preparing the students. Inquiry learning is just hard and I do not know if I am doing it at all. I make attempts but I do not think I am actually doing it. In a way I feel that i am still teaching 6th graders how to think. Sure an inquiry activity would push that lesson a little further, but some of my students are not at that cognitive level yet. So I am scared to do too much inquiry because I do not want to scare or frusturate them. Brenda Druck on 02/24/2002 at 11:32:26 AM EST Comment: I have more success with directed inquiry than true inquiry. Part of that is that I left it too open in the past. By this I mean I didn't talk about information gathering enough or stress the scientific method enough (thought I did). Combined with this is the natural eighth grade resistance to"thinking" because they are the top dogs in the school and want to have an "easy" year before high school. I have done alot of reflection and have rearranged alot for the second year. True inquiry comes with experience, I think. Eric McDuffie on 02/14/2002 at 04:22:07 PM EST Comment: I understand your frustrations Natalie. I teach science to eighth graders, and many times this year at the beginning of the year I have seen that they come in to the classroom with what seems like sixth grade mentalities. The hardest thing I see is trying to teach the same subject matter to different thinking/learning levels within the same class. But perhaps this is where doing inquiry
based teaching will be the best type of teaching method, because there could be more than one answer to any solution when presented in an inquiry format. At this point the teacher could then recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each student, and then learn to teach to those needs where they are weak. I need to work more on having more inquiry based instruction in my own classroom. My goal is to be at about 70% inquiry-based learning by my 3rd year. I realize I have a long way to go. I also realize I need more instruction on how to teach this way. As a result, I have signed up for a 10-day workshop this summer centered on nothing but inquiry-based teaching and learning. This workshop is being sponsored by a teaching professor at Duke, whose name is Norman Budnitz. He is the Director of the program called the Center for Inquiry-Based Learning. The phone number is 919-684-3592. Give him a call and see if there are any spaces still open. I have heard this is a really great program. On some of the days you can even invite some of your own guinea pigs (your former students) to practice on during the workshop. You are not alone Natalie. I often feel the same way you do. Vicky Raymond on 02/10/2002 at 04:59:59 PM EST Comment: Natalie - Stay the course and teach 'em to think! Even if inquiry is the "best" way to make it happen, it still takes preparation and practice, and these litle minds aren't coming to us prepared for an outright inquiry challenge yet. I think for most of us our attempts at presenting inquiry based activities must be tempered with the necessity to bring the kids along in their thinking skills. Maybe once or twice a semester, usually after a quiz, I throw the kids a little problem-solving activity (eg., Using 10 straws and 1 meter of tape, build the tallest structure you can that will support the most weight in a paper cup. Points awarded for a)height from table and b) g of weight supported for 15 sec.) THis kind of off-the-wall challenge sets up a scenario that allows for thinking but in an unstructured way that really lets the kids experiment freely. Unfortunately, that's not really applicable to biology, but in MS there's be more latitude, I think? Perhaps success with this type of activity allows the teacher to point out parallels with the thinking necessary to tackle other problems in science. David Harnish on 02/06/2002 at 07:23:03 PM EST Comment: Natalie, I appreciate your comments, and want you to feel that you are not alone. I think part of the problem is knowing how to do inquiry in a productive, and slightly fool-proof manner. Since we all want to see our students succeed, and hate to watch them struggle, that makes inquiry that much more difficult. So, don't feel alone. I also often wish that we had more time to do the type of things that we were doing this summer...since we have not had enough practice in how to set up inquiry lessons. THat is no ones fault, but a time issue.
Natalie Johnson on 02/10/2002 at 06:08:01 PM EST Comment: David, I think you are right to say we have not had the time to learn exactly hopw to prepare and implement an all out inquiry activity. The good news is this, we keep hearing the terma nd we keep wanting to throw in our two-cents. If we keep being as motivated as we are now, eventually we will figure it all out. Moral of the story is this: Perfection comes with time. Ian Binns on 02/04/2002 at 10:00:14 PM EST Comment: I see your point Natalie. I try to always look at each project as a learning experience. I learn as I go and I know to write it down to let myself know what did or did not work. However, I do try to make sure the students understand what exactly happened and why they did this lab or project. Gail Powell on 02/02/2002 at 12:28:54 AM EST Comment: Mistakes are often our best teachers. This scenario is full of mistakes that can be used effectively to teach. The teacher made mistakes by asking the students to do something she had not prepared them to do successfully. The teacher should have ensured the students knew the scientific method and what websites to go to for information on the topic. The students struggled with what to do and how to do it and did not ever really succeed. They learned something from their mistakes. They know what did not work well. If I was the teacher in this class, I would wrap up this project with a lesson where the class together under the guidance of the teacher designs the experiment based on what they learned from their failures. I would walk them through each step of the scientific process and have them propose an appropriate statement or design. I would ask them to infer based on the unsuccessful observations they have already made and the knowledge they have gained from the internet what the outcome of the experiment might be and what those results might mean. I would tell them that part of doing scientific research is repeating experiments and improving/refining methods and procedures until you have a design that is optimized. Scientists often spend many months developing designs and methods before they can actually conduct an optimized experiment. Their experience in the lab with this experiment was not unusual. As long as they learned from their mistakes and incorporated that knowledge into their next attempt, it was a successful experience. Gail Powell on 02/10/2002 at 03:02:45 PM EST Comment: I am responding to the many comments that have been made on this subject in this dialogue. I am grateful that I dont have an EOG or EOC to prepare my students for as a first year teacher. It takes off alot of pressure. I am scrambling to try to cover the entire 8th grade content by the end of the year regardless. So back to the original question posed by Dr. Veal, what should the teacher do when her class just is not getting the inquiry lab, I still think it is time for her/him to
wrap up the project after 3 weeks. However, it is very important for the teacher to learn what skills are lacking in her classes and incorporate learning experiences in her lessons for the remainder of the year that address these deficiencies. Inquiry labs may not be the best teaching tool for meeting the immediate needs of these students. I am beginning to understandthat it is more important for students to leave 8th grade competent in the science strands and skills than competent in in depthh understanding of each of the curriculum topics I am supposed to cover. I have definitely decided to skim some of the content areas to allow more room on topics that I think are more essential for success in high school science. The teacher in this scenario will probably need to do the same thing to ensure that some basic science skills are developed by her students. They need to know the scientific method thoroughly even if she has to back off on a little biology content. However, having said that she should be able to teach the scientific method by reinforcing it with all her content areas. Vicky Raymond on 02/10/2002 at 04:48:36 PM EST Comment: Gail - I truly appreciate your thinking about what skills will serve your students best in high school. This is a process that should ideally begin in 6th grade, and be built upon each year, but that's a truly idealistic proposition, I'm afraid. I have even streamlined my teaching of "the SCIENTIFIC METHOD" to having the kids be able to articulate to me simply the QUESTION that a particular activity was attempting to address. The rest we can fill in as we go, but I'm having a dickens of a time getting them to see WHY an experiment or activity is done. This is a discriminating sort of thinking that wouldn't be hard to emphasize with the kids as they come up through middle school. It simply takes practice. What do you and the other MS teachers think isn't being able to discern the Question (aka point) of an inquiry a worthwhile goal? Back to the vignette, if the Question isn't being answered, then you can start the de-brief or direct lesson on what went wrong, and the experience hasn't been a total bust. I'd almost rather see them learn thinking and slide on the content, from what I'm seeing in my class this year. Gimme some feedback, folks! Natalie Johnson on 02/10/2002 at 06:12:12 PM EST So here i am the sixth grade teacher trying to get the scientific method into their little pea brains. I honestly think I have made some head-way this year as opposed to my first year. I understand what you are saying about asking the question why. Until recently I did not think about how important it was to actually make them verbalize the WHY of certain activities. In general to help them start thinking about why they just had a class at all, I am wrapping up with why did we... or explain one thing you learned today! I am trying to get their pea brains to grow just a wee bit.
Eric McDuffie on 02/06/2002 at 10:34:47 PM EST
Comment: I agree with Gail. The Nature of Science itself leads all scientists to new and wonderful discoveries. But in order to get to those beautiful discoveries, sometimes many failures will occur before they are found. The students should see this failure as a learning experience just like in the real world, use it to their advantage, and try again. The next time, perhaps a successful result will be had. I came from 10 years of research in many diverse science fields before I taught science to eighth graders, and in every job I encountered, many mistakes were made when trying to discover new scientific evidence. Even trying out new protocols in developing new procedures for scientific discoveries was a constant trial and error process of refinement. Science is not and never will be a perfect process no matter how hard we humans try to make it. After all, we are only human. Lets let our students be human as well. That is how we all learn; through our mistakes. Paul Cancellieri on 01/31/2002 at 03:34:11 PM EST Comment: I agree with Eric, and others, that this should be turned into a learning experience. When I was learning to drive, my first lesson was a trip to an empty parking lot where I was told to "just drive". Then, my mother spent 40 minutes explaining everything that I did wrong. It was very helpful. This situation, however, used up far too much time. I think that it would have been much more effective (as someone else suggested) to have started with some lessons on the scientific method before plunging into this exercise. I mean, my mother didn't take me onto the highway for that first driving lesson. I try to design inquiry lessons where the students can't "fall" very far if they fail. Let them learn inductively, but don't let them waste too much time or get too far from the goal. I guess what I've described is really "guided inquiry". To answer the actual vignette question, I say do a quick wrap-up/repair mission, and then move on. Be sure to reinforce the lesson of this experience throughout the year. Heather Soja on 03/21/2002 at 07:39:24 PM EST Comment: I agree with Paul. Every time I have attempted an inquiry lab it has turned into a guided inquiry lab due to time constraints and teaching all of the content in time for the EOC. I have learned from every inquiry attempt and will continue to do so because I am still learning about inquiry myself. Eric McDuffie on 01/30/2002 at 06:46:29 PM EST Comment: Obviously, the teacher did not take out enough time at the beginning of the session or year to give the students some kind of background information on what a "hypothesis" was or to assess where the students were in knowing the "Scientific Method" and "Scientific Investigations through Experimentation". But the teacher certainly should not dump this experiment, but instead use this experiment as a teaching tool and an example of how bad experiments can go if prior knowledge on the subject as well as proper scientific protocol is not known.
I feel the teacher should allow the students to finish the experiment in the way they started it, with very little to no guidance to the students. By allowing the students to finish the experiment the way they started, they would be able to see the differences in the outcomes when all is said and done. Therefore, after this experiment ended, the teacher should then go back and teach the students proper pedagogy in all aspects of the Scientific Method including what a hypothesis is. The teacher should then make sure all of the students understand how to conduct proper scientific research searches on the internet. Then the teacher should repeat the same lab again, letting the students use inquiry to set up their own experiments with little to no guidance again. After this experiment is over, the class should compare and contrast the 2 separate labs to find out how the results came out and why the results worked the way they did. Hopefully, the students will have gained a sense of understanding the differences between a good experiment and a bad experiment through their results and initial knowledge base. The teacher should also use this experience as a guage to see how future labs will be taught. Even though more time might have been spent on this lab than originally thought, any future labs for the remainder of the year will most likely become more rewading to the students and teacher beacuse they will have seen both sides of the coin so to speak. Therefore, no time will have been wasted and everyone will have gained valuable knowledge from this teaching and learning experience to carry them through the rest of the year together. Brooke Davis on 01/29/2002 at 09:52:31 PM EST Comment: The first thing the teacher should do is explain what the scientific method is and how it is used in science. The students need to understand what it is to actually use it. In my situation, teaching biology with an EOC, I do not think it is smart to spend three weeks on an inquiry lab that takes up the whole class period. If you wanted to do this lab and use only 20-30 min. of the end of class to work on it then I think it would be okay. I think it would give the students something to look forward to at the end of the long, boring 90 min. class. I think on going learning is a good thing. but spending 90 min. everyday for 3 weeks would be BORING, for the students and for myself.
Mary Tessneer on 02/04/2002 at 11:52:02 AM EST Comment: Wow, I think as a teacher I would be totally bored with an inquiry lab that extended that long. So I know if I am bored, then my students would certainly be uninterested. I feel that this inquiry was not planned very well for the intended outcome. For my students at least, they would need a little background information to get them started. As Natalie said, my students do not seem to be on that cognitive level. When I have tried inquiry, and still I am sure that it is not pure inquiry,
higher level students sometimes grasp the topic, but the other students don't. I think that it will take me a lot of practice in planning inquiry labs. This particular biology teacher seems to be struggling as I would, with planning such an activity. He or she should wrap up the activity by discussing what was learned, what mistakes were made, and where to go from there next time. Labs aren't alway going to give you the "right" results, but it is the error that teaches you the most. Ian Binns on 02/04/2002 at 10:06:55 PM EST Comment: I have read most of everything that has been written and I do agree with most of what was said. As teachers, we should learn from each mistake made. I also believe in letting the students know that we were the ones to make the mistake. Why should we let them believe that they are always wrong when we are wrong probably just as much as they are. I like to let my students know that I am human and that I make mistakes, many mistakes. However, what is the importance behind an inquiry lesson? I understand that it is important for the children to think by themselves and I support that completely, but I think that this way is difficult for some students. I know that I would have had trouble, especially since I have trouble teaching an inquiry lesson. I do like inquiry lessons, but I support assisting the students on the right path after they have tried several paths on their own. Any thoughts? Paul Cancellieri on 02/07/2002 at 04:44:11 PM EST Comment: I think that we are all familiar with your problems doing inquiry, Ian. You make a good point, though (mark this date down, huh?), in that after repeatedly taking a dead end in an inquiry activity there is merit in providing advice and switching over (a bit) from inquiry to direct instruction.
Chip Thurston on 01/28/2002 at 02:47:53 PM EST Comment: My opinion has changed a great deal since the begining of this year. I mentioned in the fall to just explain why it went wrong and call it a day...using the error as a good learning tool. Now my opinion has shifted in that you should take the time to do it right. This is easy for me to say because I don't have an EOC, and I know Biology has one. But in the event you are EOC-less, my approach lately has been to slow down to the pace that the students need and to take the time to explain and teach th etopic fully. Again because I don't have an EOC I can say, "so what if we don't get through it all by the end of the year."
Tom Higginbotham on 02/10/2002 at 11:17:53 AM EST Comment: Seems like there's a big difference in opinion split among the line of those resonsible for an eoc and those that are not. Especially for those eoc-less people, I wonder if the criterion should simply be student interest and participation in meaningful learning. Eric McDuffie on 02/19/2002 at 09:55:56 PM EST Comment: Tom, I wander if there is anybody out there right now finding out which students are learning the science material in a better way; those students who are being forced to learn every single NCSCOS Goal and Objective superficially due to time constraints, or those students who are learning a fewer amount of science topics in a much deeper and meaningful way independent from every single NCSCOS Goal and Objective due to no time restraints because the teacher decided it was a better way to learn science in the long run? I sure wish I knew the answer to that question, because I think it is one our students and teachers deserve to know the answer to. Maybe we will all find out one day and the science teaching world will become a better place for all!!! I only hope this can happen!!! Jen Rice on 03/03/2002 at 09:54:41 PM EST Comment: You know, in public health they always talked about evaluating the effectiveness of all educational activities - surely the NSTA has considered funding research along the lines you propose? You would have to sample kids from EOC courses and non-EOC courses in different states, I guess - and try to control for any variable not related to curricular content. Wouldn't it be FUN to prove that the EOC's harm science learning?
Mary Tessneer on 02/20/2002 at 11:20:40 AM EST Comment: I often struggle with the thoughts of should I stay strictly with the NCSCS because of my limited time, or should I allow extra time for my students to explore the science world out there. Most of the time, I am flexible and I go with my student’s interest within limits. I find that even though I am teaching my curriculum goals, it excites my students to let them go beyond the original topics. It is amazing what they know and how enthusiastic they become when they are given room to explore. Ian Binns on 02/04/2002 at 10:08:35 PM EST
Comment: Right on Chip, right on! Since we both teach the same thing, I too try to take it slow. I would love to get through everything that is required, but I also want to make sure the students understand what it is that I am teaching them. Vicky Raymond on 01/31/2002 at 08:50:11 PM EST Comment: Chip - I too have developed a new attitude about some of the things we do, but I bet mine is in a different direction. Since I have all EOC classes and a principal who watches our performance like a hawk, I really feel compelled to cover the material. However I hate leaving experiments undone, there comes a time when you must move on. My approach last semester (with a truly challenged/ing class) was to distill the essence of the activity/experiment to the point that we were attempting to make, and make sure the basics are solid. I probably haven't done a single true inquiry activity with my biology classes this year. It's easier to do with physics/physical science for some reason. I ran out of time with my Bio students last semester (lingered too long on difficult lessons and didn't completely cover the SCOS) and it really came back to bite us on EOC's. Consider my hand smacked. It's a real shame to be put in this position. Having a second chance at it within the same year, I can sort of triage the situation and know when to go faster at the beginning to give us more wiggle/inquiry room later. This is part of the learning process for US that will just take time in the classroom to master. Natalie Johnson on 01/26/2002 at 08:27:56 PM EST Comment: You know it is hard to say. When you are talking about getting the scientific method down, why not spend some extra time, the sooner students can get that stuck in their little pea brains, the more other teachers will be able to get across in later years. In terms of inquiry based learning, personally I do not feel it should take three weeks. I have a feeling a little more guided questioning would be necessary. I am sure there is a difference between long term memories of middle school and high school students but I am fairly certain they all kind of get lost and bored if they work on the same topic for more than a couple of weeks. I am sure the teacher would get pretty bored too! Assessment Equity Created by: Assignment: For: William Veal on 01/24/2002 at 04:26:16 PM EST Science Talk Spring in Lesson 4 EVERYONE
This vignette focuses on assessment and how teachers can level the playing field for all involved.
As a student, I remember when doing projects were fun, hands-on, and were applicable. Yet when I saw the beautiful work of the other students, I realized that my artistic qualities were not that good. I felt that I was graded on style and presentation rather than the content. I became motivate to design neater and more aesthetically pleasing work. This took away from me wanting to learn the content. For example, we were required to produce a poster on an EPA website. the poster included a description of the site and location. We were also suppose to outline why it was on the Superfund List and how the chemicals and waste would or did harm the people and environment surrounding the site. My poster contained all of the information, but it wasn't laid out with a real map, or pictures, or organized with different colors. Most students and the teacher applauded the nicer posters. How can we as teachers make sure that children have equal access to resources to produce comparable work? How can we as teachers evaluate the posters for content and presentation? Brian Sickelbaugh on 03/13/2002 at 01:54:27 PM EST Comment: When I assign projects, I use the media center computers. Each student has equal access to the Internet and is assigned their own computer. I also provide reference materials and offer to photocopy any info that the students may need. Grading is focused on the content and must correlate to the established grading rubric. I also make construction paper, colored pencils and other art supplies available. I also do not allow students to work on the project outside of class. This prevents color copies from being used. The artistic aspect of the project is de-emphasized that is it may only be 10% of the overall grade. I what the content and the demonstration of understanding the material. I teach science not art. So far this philosophy has worked out for all of my students.
Eric McDuffie on 03/04/2002 at 07:10:18 PM EST Comment: I think every student should have equal access to the same resources, but as we all know, this is not the case in many circumstances. However, in my own classroom, I try my best to make sure I do have all of the necessities that may be needed to complete a project. For instance, right now my classes are getting ready to present their final product in a research project called "Ocean Critters" I made sure every student had sufficient time to use the computers in the Computer Lab to get research off the internet, make several trips to the library to conduct book research, as well as provide all the instruction for my expectations, and tools and art supplies to be able to create a beautiful presentation in their own individual artistic creativity which is part of the grade. Each student will have the same amount of time to make their presentations as well this Friday. On Thursday, I am even having an "Ocean Critter" Poster Project Workday to tie up any loose ends.
On the day of the presentations, each student will be assessing each other using a scoring rubric I have developed and will go over the day before the presentations so each student will know how to be prepared and how to assess each other. I plan on videotaping part of this session this Thursday for my second Videotape analysis in order to get feedback from you all. I hope everything works out. This will be a day for the students to listen to how they need to assess each other and be assessed by their peers and myself, as well as a day for them to have equal time to finish up any loose ends. I plan on making part of that session an individual work session for them so I can make sure everyone has had sufficient time to be prepared. There should be no excuses come Friday when the presentations are due. I hope this way of providing instruction, time, and resources equally to each student will allow them all to create beautiful presentations and leave them all with a sense of accomplishment in an equal fashion among their peers. David Harnish on 02/23/2002 at 09:04:38 PM EST Comment: One of the major forms of "diversity" that is within all classrooms, is that of socio-economic status. Some students have the ability to get there hands on computers, poster-board, and other materials outside of class, while many others do not even have the transportation to get to Staples, let alone the money to spend there. So, in a classroom with a level playing field, it is our responsibility to provide that in which we want the students to use. If students go above and beyond, great, but that should not mean anything as far as the learning and assessment are concerned. I do feel that there is a place for presentation as well. In the "real world" you have to look professional and know how to come across as organized and knowledgeable...therefore, the presentation and organization of a project is important, but it cannot be a major part of the assessment.
Ian Binns on 02/27/2002 at 10:03:00 AM EST Comment: Well said David! I totally agree with you. I have several students who do have a problem getting the resources that are necessary for them to complete their project. I try my hardest to get each of them whatever it is that they need, but at times, it is difficult to do this. I try my best to make sure that each student is on a the same level when it comes to grading their projects. I may give them extra credit if they work harder than they were required by me to do! Ian Binns on 02/17/2002 at 08:04:34 PM EST Comment: When I have my students do assignments that involve some sort of preparation, I set a certain criteria that I expect all groups to follow. If each group meets those criteria, then I am pleased with the project. If certain groups or students try to exceed my expectations, I may give them
extra credit, but not much. I do like to look at nice posters and presentations, but I have had some that do not have anything to do with the topic we are discussing, so I have to take off many points for that! Mary Tessneer on 03/07/2002 at 07:05:46 PM EST Comment: I have run into this situation as of lately. It is time for Science Fair at my school, and I personally have not ever taken on such a demanding task with my students. I think that they will enjoy themselves and be able to explore topics that intrigue them. But I also sense a stress in there eyes about finding and affording materials for their projects. I guess in the past they have been graded on the basis of all the bells and whistles on their projects. I stressed to them that if they needed materials that they could let me know in private and that I would find a way to provide it for them. Our PTA is very helpful when it comes to things like this. They want to know about how they can help the student that just doesn't have the financial backup at home. I also made sure they knew that this is not a contest of who has the most money to spend on their projects, it is the effort, enthusiasm, and the scientific information that they put toward their projects. I will certainly focus on this as I am grading them. I have a very specific rubric to uphold my promises. Eric McDuffie on 04/02/2002 at 12:45:28 PM EST Comment: Mary, I completely agree with your thoughts that everything good in the work from our students projects does not revolve around money. It is unfortunate that some of our students are in a lower socioeconomic bracket as compared to other students in their classes. This is where I believe the school PTSA can have a major influence on leveling the playing field, especially during those times when our schools' budgets are running thin and needed supplies are low. I believe it is the responsibility of not only the teachers, but of the students themselves, the parents, as well as the community to afford the opportunities of each student in an equal way to the access of needed school supplies for project materials. I feel that if a (science) teacher can be well prepared ahead of time before a major science project is due to compile a list of needs and submit it to the PTSA for monetary support, the teachers and students will have a greater chance in receiving those funds to purchase the needed supplies for all student ts to complete those projects with fairness and equality. I feel this is probably one of the biggest reasons we have PTSA's in our schools today. We all need to support our students equally and fairly for them to feel equal in school! This is certainly one avenue (PTSA) for this to become a reality. Eric Mark Mondl on 02/15/2002 at 10:21:56 PM EST Comment:
This is the real world. You may have a great story to tell, but if you tell your great story in B&W, but I tell mine in technicolor, mine is going to get noticed. That is advertising. And that is also "Science projects". The WOW factor is noticed. So, creativity should be rewarded. It adds to the story, but that is the real world or science fairs. This is the classroom. In the classroom, we need to ensure the rich do not get richer. Therefore, we have to set limits on the presentation factor and ensure the content is rewarded too. And to help the students gain access to the content. The school media center and the public library are equal opportunity employers. I think also being available after hours at school and before school allows the students to gain access to the school computers and Internet. I always include in my instructions, "Fancy folders and binders are not required nor desired. Stable the papers together and hand it in." This is a cost savings for the students. Brenda Druck on 02/11/2002 at 05:45:57 PM EST Comment: I find that a rubric is the best way to be fair when grading projects. I have given full points for content and not be worried about how "pretty" it is as long as it is done neatly and with care. I have taken points away from a well drawn project because it lacked content and given extra credit to those that had both. In a school where there are less than affluent students, providing the poster board, markers, colored pencils, computer access will more than even the playing field. During group projects, I try to group those I know have artistic talent with those who don't. Also, other creative talents can be addressed by having projects by videotape, powerpoint, skits, radio shows, etc...
David Harnish on 02/23/2002 at 09:07:02 PM EST Comment: Brenda, I am glad that you mentioned the rubric, since I just wrote another comment, meaning to mention, but forgot. I agree with you, that a rubric, presented to all groups prior to the project, sets the tone for the project. Also, that we as teachers not expect, or assess, based on needs that will have to met outside the classroom. Chip Thurston on 02/13/2002 at 09:22:17 AM EST Comment: I also find that a rubric is a big help. It keeps me focused on the areas I am looking at. One of the areas is ability to present the information. I don't care how its done, only if the information is conveyed clear and correct. Keping my focus with a rubric gets me out of the OOOH....AHHHHH mode when I see something.
Finally, I give time in class for students to use the computer if they need. Plus I will write them a pass to use the media center during lunch, if they desire. Again, they can use soil and sticks from their back yard if that hels them to get the information across to everyone. Mark Mondl on 02/15/2002 at 10:13:44 PM EST Comment: To keep the presentation "beauty" factor down, then this must be stressed in the requirements and the rubric. Stress the areas to be graded, link to the rubric, and follow with the grading. This shows the students what is important and what will be graded. The content can clearly be the most important factor. Paul Cancellieri on 01/31/2002 at 03:39:37 PM EST Comment: Although I don't often have to deal with this issue personally (since my school serves a rather affluent community), I have made a conscious decision to avoid it from the start. For every "creative" project, I pass out a materials list along with the rubric. Every student may make use of the same amount of the same materials (all of which are low-cost). While this ensures that resource limitation will not play a major role, it restricts the ingenuity and creative style of some. To balance this, I mix in some assignments in which there is no limit on supplies. Mary Tessneer on 02/04/2002 at 12:01:14 PM EST Comment: I teach in a low to middle income area in Wake County, and I deal with this situation quite often. When designing and explaining projects to students, I stress that if students need supplies for their project that they may come and see me in private. This way no ones knows that they are in need. Our PTA and parents on our team are quick to donate items such as poster, markers etc. I offer time after school where students can use the computers in my room to access clip art, and research from the internet. I would say 50% of my students do not have computers at home, so we spend time in the computer lab so they can design their project. Eric McDuffie on 04/12/2002 at 10:09:03 PM EDT Comment: Mary, I am in a similar situation as you are in concerning my students' socioeconomic status. I have several students whose parents are either in jail, or have no transportation to get around at all. So I know when I ask students to get supplies outside of the classroom for certain projects, some of them cringe in their seats, because they know they can not afford them or don't even have the transportation to get to them. This is where I try to get help through the PTSA, and sometimes I
will ask for student contributions for a fund, keep the money with the school bookkeeper, and receipt all students. Such is the case with fieldtrip expenses as well. I try to have each student pay maybe a dollar more than the actual cost may be to be sure all students can go on the trip, or to cover any unexpected costs from the trip, because I will always have a handfull of students who can not afford even 5 dollars for the cost of a trip. If we have money left over from the trip, I might use the money for school project supplies for allstudents, or even have an end of the year party with food and refreshments if any extra money allows. In the end, I try to balance any monies out by the end of the year for the benefit of my students. Eric Brooke Davis on 01/29/2002 at 09:45:09 PM EST Comment: It is so hard to try to make sure that you are fair and equal to all students when working on projects. What I usually do is only let the students work on their projects in my room with my supplies or with supplies that the students bring for the "whole class". Most students are more than willing to go out and buy supplies for the class to use. Even the students who don't have much always bring something in. I also try to get the students to use their imagination when doing projects. For example we are doing Cell Projects now. We spend 2 days of class time creating the projects in class. Each group has to come up with different, creative ways to present their cell with the materials that are in the classroom. You would be amazed how creative some of these kids can get. I also let them make up their own rubric and have them grade their own project using their rubric. I take the grade they gave themselves and average it with the grade I give them. They seem to really like having control of their grades. Vicky Raymond on 02/13/2002 at 10:05:49 PM EST Comment: To Brooke and Natalie I am intrigued by the student-made rubrics. Could you share what kind of things the students come up with? I still don't feel like I make the best rubrics a lot of the time, so any input, even from kids, is welcome. I'm also doing a Cell Project with the kids this week, using a rubric I got off the LearnNC site. I will give the kids an opportunity to evaluate their own group work as part of their grade. To the topic - I don't assign terribly involved projects - nothing that posterboard ( I can supply if necessary), newspapers, magazines, markers (in my class) etc. There are kids who will take a project and go with it, and they're wonderful to see emerge from the sea of mediocrity that sometimess results from said projects. Rubric's the way to go, the majority opinion seemsNatalie Johnson on 02/03/2002 at 10:56:14 PM EST Comment: In my school we have such a wide range of financial backgrounds. I mean we have some whose parents are doctors and professors and we have some tat can not hold a job. We even have one or
two a year that lives in a shelter. Thank god so many of the more fortunate parents are so giving. They often send in extra supplies when I ask their kids to bring stuff in. We even have a parent that sends in exrta money to put in our sixth grade fund for supplies or scholorships for students to go on field trips. Natalie Johnson on 01/26/2002 at 08:36:27 PM EST Comment: equal resources is another thing i frequently run across. I have fixed it in the classroom and that has been a huge savior. The team allowed me to create "work boxes" for 30 students which includes markers, scissors, glue, crayons, and colored pencils. This way we can rotate the boxes depending on what the classes are doing and everyone has the same materials to work with. We also have an art cart full of stuff. In terms of at home, I have to be careful about what i assign as homework. Now that we are in the middle of the science fair projects, I encourage students to stay after school more than ever to use the computers. I also make sure we go to the library and do some peer editing in class. I try to allow for question and answer sessions at the beginning or end of class each day so as things come up I can offer suggestions. Also, for those not able to stay afterschool, i allow them to call me. Our team has extra money from fundraisers to buy supplies for students with financial difficulties. It is just a tough situation! Natalie Johnson on 01/26/2002 at 08:31:15 PM EST Comment: This I struggle with all the time. A big help has been creating a clear and concise rubric. In fact, another teacher has taught me how to have the students create the rubric. They actually create a more difficult rubric than the teachers most times. Jen Rice on 03/03/2002 at 09:49:26 PM EST Comment: My rubric has a 'neatness' category always - so a really colorful or a really drab project could potentially get the same grade, if I could read them both and they had similar content. I imagine that the really colorful ones get slightly higher grades from teachers just because they put us in a magnanimous mood :) That's probably where the 'real-world' importance of appearance kicks in, for many of us. Involving all levels of learners Created by: Assignment: For: William Veal on 01/24/2002 at 04:18:12 PM EST Science Talk Spring in Lesson 4 EVERYONE
In a chemistry or physical science classroom, two students who sit apart from each other are involved in reading their textbook, playing game son their calculators or PDAs, or working on assignments from other classes. The teacher allows this to occur since the students are "A" caliber and answer all the questions in the class, complete all homework, and get A's on all tests and quizzes. this turns out to be a distraction for the other students in class who think that these students are being treated especially well and are priviledged. For example, the chapter on solutions involves a lot of math and piecing together of information of types of solutions. These two students complete all of the worksheets early, come to class having read the entire chapter, understand the math, and are bored with the instruction and activiteis of colligative properties. How does a science teacher involve the very bright kids in class who need the extra challenge without just handing over more worksheets, etc. In other words, how does one imbed quality enrichment into the regular class lessonplan? Eric McDuffie on 02/26/2002 at 10:30:39 PM EST Comment: I would get those A students to help me teach the class. I would try to take time during some of the class periods to personally focus my time on those students who are having the graetest amount of difficulty while my A students are helping other groups of students with the material. This will create a team atmosphere environment where everyone gets involved no matter what level of understanding they have. Hopefully, this will get the entire class up to speed on each topic being addressed using all time well spent. That way, more topics will be able to be addressed because all of the students will be where they need to be in a quicker fashion, including those A students who no longer are bored, but are being challenged to help out in the teaching efforts while keeping focussed on the new topics constantly being addressed. This would be a perfect teaching world. But with time and teaching experience, I see no reason why this appraoch should not be able to work in all of our classrooms. Brenda Druck on 02/24/2002 at 11:35:51 AM EST Comment: I must be missing something out there because I do not have anyone just sitting around in my classroom. Maybe it's because I have a 50 minute class, but there is little to no lag time. I partly feel it is because I run the class by making the kids work, something that they never had. Prior to this class they primarily read their books and did worksheets. The way Dr. Veal has taught us to teach really takes out lag time. Plus, I have gone to layered curriculum and those A students have alot of critical thinking questions to answer and extra activities to occupy them. Ian Binns on 02/27/2002 at 10:20:19 AM EST Comment:
Very interesting indeed! However, how do you get rid of lag time? I do have a hard time with that. I do have the students who are so advanced that I have them help me in certain areas of the class, but I would like to get more student involvement. David Harnish on 02/20/2002 at 08:22:31 PM EST Comment: Being exclusive is terrible for the overall atmosphere of the classroom. You must find ways in which these students are still a part of the class; I don't care how smart they might be, or how much work they do outside of class. If they are in my class everyday, then they are going to be a part of that class. The feeling that the other students get (feeling dumb compared to them, the fact that the others play around and distract while they struggle) is not one that any teacher should allow in a classroom. So the tough part is to get the fast moving students to work with the others, and for the others to accept their help. Obviously, you do not want to sacrifice the education of any of the students. However, we all learn by teaching. Hell, I am the best student in all the classes I teach- I don't know about you all. Using the "faster" students to help enrich and motivate the others would be a positive experience for all. Also, having the students take research/projects/labs "a step furture" could benef it all students as well. This is obviously a difficult issue, and one that we all probably deal with. I don't know all the best ways to be all-inclusive, but I have a very difficult time with teachers and students who are exclusive. Ian Binns on 02/17/2002 at 08:01:16 PM EST Comment: In a situation like this, I would have the "A" students help the class. I would first want them to work with the class at the beginning of the lesson, but I would then have them help other classmates so I can have some one on one time with students who need more help with the material! Chip Thurston on 02/13/2002 at 09:51:57 AM EST Comment: So I read through all of the comments and of all the questions that have been posed to us all for discussion I think this one is the toughest! I have absolutely NO IDEA on what to do on this topic. In my classes I have kids who are having difficulty writing their name while others in the same class are finished with the work in two minutes. I have students who cant finish a test in one period, while others are done in 15-minutes. Part of the issues with my ENV classes is that we don't have an advanced class alternative. While my Earth class there is an advance alternative, but clearly the students I have in my class have chosen to stay in academic ....because its easier for them..meaning less work. Giving extra or more challenging work to these kids would be worthless. They know the deal and they don't want more work..they want to breeze through. THe ENV. students..while it may be possible to give them extra or more challenging work, it would mean more on my plate.....and I don't have any more room on that plate.
MY attempts have been to stimulate all levels through questioning in class, but that doesn't always work. I feel I am doing a juggling act everyday at work with these extreme levels in ability. Wild stuff...just don't have it figured out yet Brooke Davis on 02/13/2002 at 09:10:09 PM EST Comment: Don't feel bad. I have had problems with my environmental class too. I have 3 upper level students in there and 14 lower level. Of the 14, I have 7 that are LABELED some sort of LD or just EC. I have had a real hard time trying to figure out ways to keep the other 3 busy because they always get through fast. What I ususally do is go on discovery schools puzzle maker and make out some fun but educational work puzzles. The students really seem to like them and they are challenging but entertaining. Brian Sickelbaugh on 02/12/2002 at 01:37:22 PM EST Comment: INQUIRY TIME. These students should be allowed to further their study of the material by developing their own experiments and allowing them to either present them to the class or to lead the class in performing their inquiry Eric McDuffie on 03/04/2002 at 06:48:49 PM EST Comment: I like the idea about Inquiry time. Here is another idea that could relate to inquiry in some way. I have a few students in my advanced class who always want to teach the class. I think maybe by allowing the students who are ahead of the pack to develop their own lesson plan to teach the class would be great. They could develop their own ideas through an inquiry approach where they have to come up with an original lesson plan based on the current topics of science based learning in the classroom. They could be given some space to decide what they want to teach, prepare the lesson, set the objectives, teach, assess, and reap the rewards of communicating their own ideas to the rest of the class in a constructive way. I have been thinking about doing something like this lately for a few students who are way ahead of the rest of the pack. What do you all think about this idea? Of course I would give those new student teachers extra points in their grade. I just hope the class doesn't decide their own peers are better teachers than I. Maybe this would be a good longrange recruiting tool to get more teachers into the system down the road. Eric Gail Powell on 02/09/2002 at 03:52:39 PM EST Comment: As a first year teacher, I have not had time to really develop additional lessons for my brighter students. However, what I have done is expect high standards from all my students. I ask as much from my slower students as my brighter students. My classes are not really grouped by
ability for science, but because our team is grouped by ability for math and language arts, I really do have most of my brightest kids in 2 of my 4 classes. What I have found happens naturally in these classes is that the nature of the students creates a more intellectually challenging environment for the whole class. These kids ask incredible questions which lead to wonderful class dialogues on different subjects. While I may be giving the same assignments to all my classes, the learning experience is probably different for these two classes because they are capable of thinking and responding on assignments at a higher level. The flaw with this approach is that I do have a few bright kids in my other classes as well. These ki ds do not get the same intellectual stimulation. This is something I will work on next year and look forward to hearing what ideas other teachers have on this subject. Mary Tessneer on 03/07/2002 at 07:17:25 PM EST Comment: I too struggle with coming up with extra plans for those advanced students. I have such a mixture! It is so tough, but like you said, challenges seem to naturally come in my classes. My higher level students will raise challenging questions with my guidance, and it seems to raise the level of thinking of my lower students. It is awesome to see their little light bulbs turn on. My advanced students for the most part are awesome teachers of the other students. They step up to leadership position and gain respect from the rest of the class. I am amazed at the encouragement that they lend to one another. I know this does not occur in all classes, I guess I just have a good group this year. My students last year were not strong in this area. Natalie Johnson on 02/03/2002 at 11:01:17 PM EST Comment: I am in constant fear of asking some child to help antoher and they will run home and tell their parents they teah the class. I agree with Paul and Vicky, I rarely have students that can help other in an effective way and why should they, they are their to learn, not teach the class. It seems that the few that are speedy gonzalous in class have learned to carry their reading books with them or bring drawings to work on. I think it is great that they are that interested in reading or drawing so I let them do it. Is that bad?" David Harnish on 02/20/2002 at 08:33:58 PM EST Comment: Natalie, I just went off on my comments to the whole class, but thought that I would write as "aside". I do have a tough time with seperating the class too much between those that get it, and those that struggle. I think that students helping eachother is fine. Hey, the Supreme Court says that students can grade eachothers work, why can't they help eachother?)But the concern is if they are telling the correct work. I would think that you would have a good perspective on your students and their abilities to help one another out. Also, I think some of my comments come from a high
school perspective. Middle school students that want to read...I would never put a stop to that. Most of my kids can't read, and that makes learning science very difficult. So, you are teaching them science, if you look at it that way. Keep em' reading. Paul Cancellieri on 01/31/2002 at 03:51:18 PM EST Comment: While I applaud Natalie's rule against Game Boys, I question the equity behind giving more work to advanced students who are bored. While we might like to think that some sort of intrinsic motivation will make them want to do more and learn more, I think that we have to be realistic and recognize that they see a carrot on a stick. If they have to do more to get the carrot than their peers, they are not being treated fairly. If they can reach the carrot quicker and with less effort, do we have the right to pull the carrot further away? Does an "A" represent a certain level of performance, or is it a measure of individual progress? I was that bored student when I was in school, so I know how it feels. I sit down with my advanced students and I explain that the brain acts much like a muscle. If a weight lifter worked out a little bit, until he was stronger than his friend, and then stopped working out, he would reach a plateau. But if your "muscle" is capable of much more "lifting", why not push it and see how far you can go. I set the sky as the limit, and get them excited about finding out how far and how fast they can go. I don't tie to their grade, but I showcase their work in my classroom. Lastly, I have found in my experience that only a precious few of my students have the skills to do peer instruction well. I fear that encouraging that with all of my AG kids will actually have a negative impact on the "helpees". Vicky Raymond on 01/31/2002 at 08:57:30 PM EST Comment: I agree with Paul that peer instruction is never a sure thing. It looks like this semester I have at least one class where peer instruction may go well-that was definitely not the case last semester. I have already grouped the kids in the classroom with one or two strong kids in each group, so we'll see how it goes. Long live brine shrimp! Natalie Johnson on 01/26/2002 at 08:41:11 PM EST Comment: What a better way to learn than to teach. I let the quick "smart" ones help others. I am alwasy in need of some extra help and i f they are willing then I let them walk around and help. This can be tricky. They often want to GIVE the answers but I try to get them to lead the students to place where they found the answers or explain how they found the answer. NO GAMEBOYS. This is ridiculous in my opinion. If the students are this intelligent and bored and are not helpful to others then I would be looking for alternative classes. Maybe there is a college nearby that they can take classes from and work on credits.
Maybe I could assign a research project. A more indepth look at a topic inwhich they work independently. Jen Rice on 03/03/2002 at 10:01:48 PM EST Comment: Remember that link to resources from the NIH Office of Science Education? They came with CD's, and now that two of my friends (non-teachers) donated computers for my classroom, I've loaded all the activities on there. I think I'll start letting the kids who get done get on the computers. Also, my students often have on-going study guides that they can work on, as time permits. I had to write the study guides anyway for the E.C. department, so now I use them with all my classes. Brooke Davis on 01/29/2002 at 09:36:52 PM EST Comment: I agree with Natalie on this issue. When this happens to me (which is not very often) I usually let those "fast" students help others who are having some trouble. I also sometimes make an alternate assignment for those students who I think will finish a little early. This assignment may be a little more detailed or a little more difficult. I always speak to those students first and explain why they are getting an altered assignment. Most students understand why I do this and actually like feeling special. Heather Soja on 02/12/2002 at 08:56:25 PM EST Comment: This is a tough call. I am kind of on the fence with this one mostly because I haven't really had this situation in any of my classes. I think peer tutoring should be used with caution because it can sometimes cause the "helpee" (thanks Paul) to feel embarrassed about receiving help from a student. An alternative assignment is more favorable as long as it is fun and not a brutal essay. I have found that crosswords and word searches are useful in these situations and are less likely to feel like punishment that say three critical thinking questions from one of your old college exams. Natalie Johnson on 02/10/2002 at 06:18:59 PM EST Comment: Brooke, What kind of altered assignments. Give me some examples!