Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Exploring Environments: Student-Designed Units & Hapara

Here’s a detailed summary of a 7-week student-led inquiry project, facilitated through Hapara and GoogleDocs. I really enjoyed the level of inquiry and the quality of writing it led to.

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Click here for a summary of our recent student-designed Grade 10 (MYP5) Environmental Sciences unit that we planned for students to design and implement. I used this project as my trial for Hapara, a GoogleDocs dashboard system. 

In summary, using this as a management tool allowed for a smooth and highly differentiated, student-led inquiry unit in MYP 5 Environmental Science. Find out more.

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What are we really learning from practical work?

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As we study science, a lot of our time and resources are devoted to implementing an engaging practical scheme of work. Are we really making the most educational use of this time, these resources and the opportunities that we have? 

Teachers all over the world use experiments and demonstrations to engage students in the concept being taught. But does this actually improve student learning? Two recent videos have got me thinking about this issue, and before you read on you should watch them both.

The first is from UK science teacher & communicator Alom Shaha (@alomshaha), half the brains behind the sciencedemo.org website. The video was produced for the Nuffield Foundation’s new Practical Work for Learning resource. He refers to a number of research papers in the video, and is also one of the leaders of the #SciTeachJC (science teachers journal club) twitter discussion group.

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Experiments & Challenges in Peer Instruction

I heard this talk from Dr. Eric Mazur earlier in the academic year, when thinking about getting back into Physics teaching. I gave it a listen again this morning, while tidying up and reminded by a post by Ed Hitchcock*. I thought about it in light of my last post and the experience of the year so far, in my Grade 10 Physics and Environmental Science course (and to some extent my Intro Chemistry and IBDP Biology classes). It is well worth watching, and nicely sums up some of the issues I’ve been experiencing at this stage in my teaching career.

Some of the comments and insights he makes are uncanny to my own experience:

  • Students can do well in the class and give positive feedback, but not necessarily engage with the subject or achieve a level of understanding deeper than simple memorization
  • Once you master the content, your mind doesn’t work like the beginning learner anymore – it is harder to see the misconceptions that trip students up
  • When discussions move from [science] into education, we tend to abandon the scientific method and rely on anecdotes: “The plural of anecdotes is not data.
  • Why in the sciences does information transfer wait until class time, where in literature students are expected to read before class? We should flip the content.
  • I always thought it was my teachers who taught me everything, but really a lot of it happened outside the classroom when I tried to figure it out for myself.” So why doesn’t this hard part happen in the class.
  • The source of good questions is not necessarily the mind of the instructor, but the mind of the student.
  • A syllabus defines a course by content. It should really be defined by outcomes.
  • You cannot change the way you teach without thinking about the way you assess.