This year I ditched the old cookbook chemistry labs and simple inquiry labs for a more authentic inquiry lab approach. I give students a research question and each lab group makes predictions/models/explanatory hypotheses based upon that question. Then they determine the variables and decide how they are going to collect evidence to test their predictions/models/explanatory hypotheses. Students then examine their evidence and make a claim to answer their research question. Finally the provide justification as to why their evidence supports their claim using scientific principles. Students then critique each groups' scientific argument to provide feedback. When they return to their original lab group they can assess the critiques and make any changes before submitting their final argument to me on google classroom. So far this has been a great experience for me and my students. They have expressed greater interest in the lab activities and have surprised me with their abilities in designing their investigations. When a student said to me last week, "I was struggling to make a prediction so I decided to make a model first to help me understand the problem" I knew I made the right choice in changing my labs. If you would like to see what I am doing click on the in class labs tab at the top of my webpage where you can access my google drive folder.
After a few months on using model based instruction in my class, I am pleased with the progress of my students. They have communicated to me that they have a deeper understanding of the content after they construct their models. They have also noted that they can visualize the models in their head during assessments. What I have seen for some is that building models helps them make sense of what they are learning and lead to a greater occurance of conceptual change. I have also shifted towards a phenomenological based approach to learning to align with NYSLYSS and NGSS. While I have yet to see any significant statistical difference on student outcomes (exam scores) I have seen an improvement on higher order constructed response questions. My thoughts are that until the Regents assessment changes to align with the NYSLYSS framework, the benefit of this type of instruction will not become clear as the current exam assess the outcomes of science not the process of doing science.
Midterms were administered this week and have already been graded. Many students stepped up to the challenge and prepared for the exam over the last few weeks utilizing the various resources I provided on my website, castle learning, in-class review and extra help review sessions. Most of these students scored higher than they normally do on their unit exams. The midterm exam is given for a few reasons: to encourage students to review past material and fix misconceptions; identify what topics students are still having difficulty with; and provide insight for students, parents and the teacher as to how they may perform on the Regents exam in June if they continue on the same path. If your child did not achieve the grade that they wanted then they should go over the exam with me and fix their understanding as well as making a decision to dedicate more time to the course in order to be successful. Looking back at the year thus far I need to continue to motivate students to want to dedicate more time and effort towards this course and see the value in working through challenges. Many students come into this class expecting to give the same effort they have given in past science courses which ultimately ends in them being unsuccessful on the Regents. In order to help motivate all students I am going to set up study groups for extra help so that successful students can help mentor those that are struggling and in turn better their understanding as well.
Research has shown that frequent low stakes quizzes drastically improve student learning and understanding (make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, & Mark A. McDaniel). This means creating quizzes that give students immediate feedback as to why an answer is correct or incorrect. This allows students to identify misconceptions, reinforce concepts and ultimately gain a deeper understanding of the content.
Excerpted from Dunlosky, John, et al. "Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology."Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14.1 (2013): 4-58. http://psi.sagepub.com/content/14/1/4.ful
I have set up frequent low stakes castle learning quizzes throughout each unit in order to promote active learning and spacing them out throughout the unit allows for greater retention. The best part of castle learning is that it provides immediate feedback for students with explanations of right and wrong answer choices.
After a successful year using google classroom to deliver paperless labs I am looking forward to taking this concept a step further. I will be continuing to use google forms/docs as a data sheet for students to input their data in class. This counts for 50% of their lab grade and is due at the end of class. The remaining 50% of their lab grade will come from either a lab quiz (posted on google classroom in a google form quiz) or a conclusion utilizing the CER (claim, evidence, reasoning) format. These are due on Monday of the following week. The idea is to quiz students on the more procedural labs and have them analyze and justify their results in the more inquiry based labs using CER format.
This year I have decided to try going paperless with my labs and lab reports through the use of Google classroom. I created a lab data form using google forms (basically an online lab notebook) for students to submit their pre lab and data. Once submitted, I post a link to the results from the entire class so that students have acces to their data. My school doesn't allow email access otherwise you can enable the feature "email responses" so students would receive a copy of those responses as soon as they submitted the form. The lab analysis/conclusion is done via a Google doc. Using Google classroom, I send a copy to each student. This part of the lab is due 1 week from the lab date. The third and final item I post on Google classroom is a view only copy of the lab procedures so that the entire process is paperless. After 6 months of using this format I have found that the number of successfully completed labs has increased by 15% from the prior year. The other aspect that I like is the ability to make comments on their conclusions which are visible to the student so that they can learn from those mistakes before they get to the final assessment. I also save a lot of time because I no longer need to file lab reports for the state requirement as they are stored in digital folders in my google drive.
For the last 3 weeks I have been using a website called Nearpod in my classroom to deliver questions to students in real time. In the past I used student response systems (clickers) but this year I am piloting a 1:1 classroom using chrome books, so I started looking into web based programs that performed the same tasks. I found there are many options available (kahoot, Socrative, Exit Ticket etc.) but the program I decided to use full time in my classroom is Nearpod. There is a free version or upgrade to a paid version (you can get a 6 month free trial paid version) so I opted to try out the paid version because of the increase in storage space. Since I already use EDpuzzle to deliver my instructional content at home, I strictly use this website for in class instruction. What I like about the product is that you can post various types of questions to students and push them out via google classroom to each computer. One of the best features is the ability to draw on the screen in order to answer the question. Of course this would be easier on an iPad but I found simple tasks like circling or highlighting portions of a graph can easily be done on a chromebook and student loved this feature. There is a mobile app for those that employ BYOD in the classroom which will also allow you to easily draw on the screen. Another feature that I liked was the ability to share out a particular student's correct answer to the class. All of the assessment results are stored on the website and easily downloaded in multiple formats. My dislikes about the website is that they do not have a folder option for your activities so it can get a bit messy on the teacher end. They have a search feature so you can easily search for a title or subject and you can organize by date but having the ability to put the content into folders for each unit would be a great addition to the site.
I have been using EDpuzzle for the past 2 years to deliver the instructional content to my students and I can honestly say it has elevated my flipped classroom to the next level. Prior to EDpuzzle, I posted my video content on my website and or youtube but I had no way to check if students actually watched the video for hw. I then added a google form for students to summarize the video but I still lacked the assessment piece for students to gauge their understanding of the content as well keep them engaged in the lesson. EDpuzzle has done both and more. Student engagement in the lessons have gone up (I have collected data via surveys before and after using EDpuzzle), they are coming to class with a better understanding of the lesson, and most importantly it provides me the ability to assess what part of the lesson students are struggling with so that I can focus on that concept the next day in class. The website and their IOS app are extremely reliable and their support staff is top notch if you have any difficulties. This has become the most important assessment tool I use in the battle to educate and engage even the most reluctant adolescent student. If you flip your classroom or use video in any way in your instruction then you must check out this amazing site.