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Say What You Mean!
Strategies to Help Students Better
Communicate Science

MSTA 56th Annual Conference
Detroit, Michigan

...
Objectives
Objectives

• Recognize some of the common “communication”
 issues we present to students through written
 tasks and quest...
Objectives

• Recognize some of the common “communication”
 issues we present to students through written
 tasks and quest...
Objectives

• Recognize some of the common “communication”
 issues we present to students through written
 tasks and quest...
Objectives

• Recognize some of the common “communication”
 issues we present to students through written
 tasks and quest...
Say What You Mean...



            “Not the same thing a bit!
            Why, you might just as well
            say tha...
Say What You Mean...
“Then you should say what you
mean.” (March Hare)


               “Not the same thing a bit!
       ...
Say What You Mean...
“Then you should say what you
mean.” (March Hare)
“I do; at least - at least I mean what I say
      ...
Task
Task
Categorize all of the objects listed below
into 2 or more categories based on their
properties. You should explain ho...
Task
Categorize all of the objects listed below
into 2 or more categories based on their
properties. You should explain ho...
Task
Categorize all of the objects listed below
into 2 or more categories based on their
properties. You should explain ho...
A Task for You

• Your handout packet has a task under
 the cover page
• Take 2-3 minutes to review the
 question and to r...
A Little Experiment

• You all had different questions with similar
 content, but the “verb” changed.
• Do we know the dif...
Descriptions
• description |diˈskrip sh ən|
noun
1 a spoken or written representation or
account of a person, object, or e...
Common Problems With
 Descriptions
• Students use examples of a particular
 object or concept, but don’t actually
 describ...
Definitions
• definition |ˌdefəˈni sh ən|
noun
1 a statement of the exact meaning of a word,
esp. in a dictionary.
• an exac...
The Definition “Test”

        The “Inverse” test:
          If A then B is true
          If B then A is also true
       ...
Common Problems with
 Definitions
• Students use examples of a particular
 object or concept, but don’t actually define it
•...
Explanations

• explanation

noun
a statement or account that makes something clear :
the birth rate is central to any exp...
Common Problems with
 Explanations (in Science Class)
• Scientific explanations are different than typical
 explanations, e...
A Structure to Scientific
Explanation

• Claim
• Evidence
• Reasoning
The REAL Problem with Descriptions,
Definitions, and Explanations
• We often don’t teach these things, and
 assume students...
For More Information

• Handouts and slides available at:
 http://mmstlc.net

• Slide shows, commentary, podcast,
 and oth...
Upcoming SlideShare
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Improving Student Explanations in Science

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Say What You Mean! Strategies to Help Students Better Communicate Science. Presented at MSTA 2009 by Stephen Best

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  • Transcript of "Improving Student Explanations in Science"

    1. 1. Say What You Mean! Strategies to Help Students Better Communicate Science MSTA 56th Annual Conference Detroit, Michigan Nancy Williams and Stephen Best University of Michigan School of Education
    2. 2. Objectives
    3. 3. Objectives • Recognize some of the common “communication” issues we present to students through written tasks and questioning
    4. 4. Objectives • Recognize some of the common “communication” issues we present to students through written tasks and questioning • Discuss what constitutes an explanation, a “scientific explanation”, a description, and a definition of a scientific term
    5. 5. Objectives • Recognize some of the common “communication” issues we present to students through written tasks and questioning • Discuss what constitutes an explanation, a “scientific explanation”, a description, and a definition of a scientific term • Examine possible ways in which the tasks we present students do not align with the understanding we are looking to assess or build
    6. 6. Objectives • Recognize some of the common “communication” issues we present to students through written tasks and questioning • Discuss what constitutes an explanation, a “scientific explanation”, a description, and a definition of a scientific term • Examine possible ways in which the tasks we present students do not align with the understanding we are looking to assess or build • Provide strategies to support student written work in science
    7. 7. Say What You Mean... “Not the same thing a bit! Why, you might just as well say that, ‘I see what I eat’ is the same as ‘I eat what I see’!” (Mad Hatter) “You might just as well say, that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I
    8. 8. Say What You Mean... “Then you should say what you mean.” (March Hare) “Not the same thing a bit! Why, you might just as well say that, ‘I see what I eat’ is the same as ‘I eat what I see’!” (Mad Hatter) “You might just as well say, that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I
    9. 9. Say What You Mean... “Then you should say what you mean.” (March Hare) “I do; at least - at least I mean what I say “Not the same thing a bit! Why, you might just as well say that, ‘I see what I eat’ is the same as ‘I eat what I see’!” (Mad Hatter) “You might just as well say, that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I
    10. 10. Task
    11. 11. Task Categorize all of the objects listed below into 2 or more categories based on their properties. You should explain how you can up with the categories, and explain for EACH OBJECT why you placed it in that category:
    12. 12. Task Categorize all of the objects listed below into 2 or more categories based on their properties. You should explain how you can up with the categories, and explain for EACH OBJECT why you placed it in that category:
    13. 13. Task Categorize all of the objects listed below into 2 or more categories based on their properties. You should explain how you can up with the categories, and explain for EACH OBJECT why you placed it in that category: Earth, Venus, Saturn, Sun, Moon, Io (one of Jupiter’s satellites), Uranus, and Sirius (a
    14. 14. A Task for You • Your handout packet has a task under the cover page • Take 2-3 minutes to review the question and to reply in writing as you would want your students to do for this question • Don’t worry if you aren’t as familiar with the content - do what you can... • Let’s see what you all came up with...
    15. 15. A Little Experiment • You all had different questions with similar content, but the “verb” changed. • Do we know the difference between the following sets of verbs: • Explain • Classify • Describe • Organize • Define • Compare • List • Contrast • Do our students understand these differences?
    16. 16. Descriptions • description |diˈskrip sh ən| noun 1 a spoken or written representation or account of a person, object, or event : people who had seen him were able to give a description. • Generally use adjectives to present observable characteristics of the object or phenomena being described. • Provide imagery or other sense-specific concepts to convey a reasonable representation
    17. 17. Common Problems With Descriptions • Students use examples of a particular object or concept, but don’t actually describe its characteristics • Descriptions are too vague to discern understanding of the concept • Students may use analogies that are not appropriate to the topic or concept • Description is appropriate, but does not then apply this to a more challenging task or problem context to present understanding
    18. 18. Definitions • definition |ˌdefəˈni sh ən| noun 1 a statement of the exact meaning of a word, esp. in a dictionary. • an exact statement or description of the nature, scope, or meaning of something : our definition of what constitutes poetry. • A description that is so accurate as to uniquely describe that word or concept • A description where the converse statement is true
    19. 19. The Definition “Test” The “Inverse” test: If A then B is true If B then A is also true (not so for descriptions or examples) If it is an ATOM, then it is A SMALL PARTICLE If it is A SMALL Small Particles PARTICLE, then it is an Atoms ATOM
    20. 20. Common Problems with Definitions • Students use examples of a particular object or concept, but don’t actually define it • Definitions are too vague to pass the Inverse test (but may show the limits of the student’s actual understanding) • Students might be able to recite a definition for an object or concept, but do not understand what it means and cannot apply it or restate it in their own language
    21. 21. Explanations • explanation noun a statement or account that makes something clear : the birth rate is central to any explanation of population trends. a reason or justification given for an action or belief : Freud tried to make sex the explanation for everything | : my application was rejected without explanation.
    22. 22. Common Problems with Explanations (in Science Class) • Scientific explanations are different than typical explanations, especially when used to explain a conclusion from investigation • Students don’t recognize the difference between regular and scientific explanation • Students explain a theory or conclusion by restating the observation • Students don’t know how to reason through a conclusion (in written form) • Students don’t understand the concept, but know how to take a test
    23. 23. A Structure to Scientific Explanation • Claim • Evidence • Reasoning
    24. 24. The REAL Problem with Descriptions, Definitions, and Explanations • We often don’t teach these things, and assume students know them • We don’t understand them ourselves • We don’t provide structures for kids to better understand these ideas • We often accept oral versions during instruction, but then assess student written explanation • “I’m not a Language Arts teacher”
    25. 25. For More Information • Handouts and slides available at: http://mmstlc.net • Slide shows, commentary, podcast, and other resources at: http://catalyst.mmstlc.net • Contact information at the MMSTLC Site listed above
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