I know I’ve posted this idea before, but it bubbling up to the surface, and I want to get it back down on electrons: I’m trying to do big things in science education by focusing on small interactions. I have a vision of building a nation-wide presence in science education, but I’m going to do it by focusing on the students in my room. Everything I profess must stem from the small, meaningful, content-driven interactions I have with my students each day.
I’ve really been pushing my kids as of late. We’ve executed two molecular genetics labs (PCR and DNA-mediated transformation) already this semester, and we’re about to embark on my original mitochondrial genetics module. It’s an interesting time. I’m working them on these projects, I’m not lecturing, and I’m giving them a reason to dig into their reading at night…but it’s up to them to do it. I’m not going home and reading for them, and I’m not spoon feeding them any content. I am giving them targeted, short writing assignments that get to the heart of each lab, force students to do some research (even if it is only in their text books), and I’m getting them to learn the necessary content for the IB and AP exams. The test however, is just an end, not a means to an end. As I’ve always maintained, I’m aiming for student understanding. The end of course tests will take care of themselves.
I think this approach is working. My students are very engaged, and they’re asking great questions. The conversations and discussions in lab have a very organic feel, and the concepts are increasing in complexity. I think this is what school is supposed to look like. I did a little formative assessment today by presenting 5 questions on genetic transformation from the redesigned AP biology practice test. My students got all 5 correct. This is good information, but I think the anecdotal evidence is equally important.
In closing, if these small interactions, and organic/fluid classes are scalable, then so be it. That’s great. I hope to scale this “temporally.” Meaning, I hope I can continue to find avenues to create a true culture of inquiry in my classroom through out the year. If I can be a model for other teachers, then perhaps this idea/this approach can scale up. In the mean time, I’m focusing on what’s in front of me. This is the only way I know to add value to my students’ lives, while advancing my career.