This is a little aside from the theme of the lecture and is responding to the drafts I have looked at so far. In a sense I have used the drafts as formative assessment and I am seeking to address what I see as the issues in learning. This assignment is about the thinking process to developing a sequence of learning, or a ‘unit of work’ in Science and Technology. For most of you this is your first curriculum unit so this type of thinking may be new. And it may be counter-intuitive. 1. Good science teaching occurs in context – why? 2. But the context is not the only thing – you still have to teach the syllabus (curriculum). This is true in all your teaching. So you need to identify what parts of the curriculum you can teach in this context. 3. An issue I have highlighted in this unit and want you to address in the assignment in that of alternative or misconceptions. Addressing this as part of your planning is part of professional practice – why? [Research shows expository teaching does not change the alternative conceptions. So part of your PCK, what makes you a teacher and not a scientist, is knowing how to assist students to develop valid conceptions. 4. With context, outcomes and alternative conceptions sorted, you now need to think about what you want the students to do to show their learning. This is the thinking process that may be new. You need to know where you are going from the start, otherwise your lessons will just wonder. 5. By rich task, I am looking for authentic tasks, some open-endedness, and multiple opportunities for students to show learning. This later part may be achieved by a series of connected assessable activities. THE ASSESSMENT MUST BE CONNECTED TO THE OUTCOMES YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED. 6. Only after you have done all of this can you start thinking about the teaching and learning activities in your class. When you do, you need to show an understanding of the 5E’s approach. Now as you have already decided on you evaluate activities and you have already looked at an engage activity, the learning activities you present in your assignment should focus on the middle 3 E’s.
So let’s think about Alternative conceptions. Which ball will fall to the ground faster. Write down you answer. Most children, and many adults, will say the larger ball. It makes ‘sense’. So here si the first example of how to deal with alternative conceptions – ask the student to make a prediction and let them experience that prediction not working. This creates dissatisfaction – ‘my prediction did not work’. This is called…
Cognitive Disequilibrium To achieve this we must let students question their own beliefs, not just give them new information. This is why we have the explore stage – remember we do not give ‘correct answers’ at this stage, we just let students explore their own understandings, and ideally start to question them. Think back to rolling the cans around in the workshop. There are all sorts of alternative conceptions around force and movement. A common one is that you need to keep pushing something to make it keep moving – but pushing the cans did not support this prediction.
We are trying to avoid describing alternative conceptions as ‘wrong’. They are only wrong as far as science goes. We all have many non-scientific beliefs that are perfectly useful for all sorts of things. You may believe there are worlds sitting on the back of four elephants, in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle flying through space. At some level I think I do… What sets valid science conceptions apart is: They satisfactorily explain what is happening They predict what will happen They utilise the thinking of others. The last point indicates that in science education we are talking about social constructivism, even if we keep using the language of Piaget. And here we get the 3 rd and 4 th E. The rest of the lecture is also about how we approach planning science and technology teaching and learning.
Any learning activity we do can be placed on this continuum. (The left and right is not connected to the political left and right).
Teacher directed activities include. The advantages are huge and this is why it is favoured here at the university. So think about the disadvantages from your own current learning experience.
At the other end we have totally student directed activity. This is almost what I have asked you to do in CREST. Find something worth figuring something out about. So how has it made you feel? How would it make a student feel?
So I am encouraging you to use the middle ground as your standard approach to science and technology. The complete freedom of CREST has its place and should be used, but it should not be your stock approach. Completely teacher centred activity should also be used, but again should not be the staple activity. Your standard approach to science and technology should be guided inquiry, which can be best delivered using the 5E approach.
So here is the challenge. I was talking to my recently retired 6 th class teacher recently and asked if he had any advice for you, at the other end of your teaching careers. He said just this, be prepared to let go. He wasn’t just talking about science but the best advice he could give was for you to recognise that sometimes, often, students will ‘know’ more than you. That is not a problem if you see your job as guiding them to know more than they do, not more than you do. Go with student interest. We are often told how the curriculum is over crowded and that schools are too busy. Well schools are busy, and that is part of the fun, but as you are out on prac have a look at how much time is spent on ‘busy’ work. Work that is not that engaging and is not helping learning – work that is just keeping the kids out of mischief. There is a starting point for finding time to do interesting things. Preparing for interesting things can take a lot of time, and you will find this an issue when you are just beginning teaching. But it can save a lot of time on student management later on.
So how do we start thinking about planning learning and teaching activities. I’ve called it lesson plans above but it might be that you are looking at a sequence of lessons in a cycle. For me these are the things you need to address. Obviously items 1-4 are about being prepared for the class. 6 is the main game – with a focus on the student. 7 is also really important. Don’t expect to be able to lead good discussion (small group or whole class) without being prepared. The list does not need to be exhaustive but you need to be prepared. For the assignment you address these issues in your 5 teaching and learning activities.
Inquiry Teaching as a guide
Rich Assignment Find a context – and think about an engaging activity What outcomes can be taught in this context? What alternative conceptions might I encounter? How do I deal with them? How will I know about student learning? Work out the assessment first. The assessment must assess the outcomes. What activities can students do to help them do well In the assessment?