I’ve been afraid. Not afraid of what I might say in this final reflection blog for 2012-2013, but afraid of getting started. I knew it would take work and energy to focus all the thoughts clattering around in my head. Fortunately I’ve got Mind Node Pro to help me sort out my ideas. When I got started, the ideas really started to flow, become specific, and connect. As usual, there was really nothing to be afraid of. It was just a matter of getting over the inertia, or the activation energy, (or plug in your science analogy here). Anyway, after a few hours of mapping, I’ve come back to where I started several years ago. Great science teaching, in theory and IN PRACTICE comes down to three things: What I Know. What I Think. What I’m Going To Do About It. The end result of these three things are students who understand science.
What I Know.
Class time constraints and the proliferation of content on the web have changed the way science is taught for the better. Given that virtually all the information contained in a typical science class is available on the Internet, it makes no sense to repeat what students can learn on their own. Therefore class time should be sacred space where students apply their knowledge. By creating opportunities for students to collaborate, and apply what they know, more students will engage in the lesson, and I can assess what my student know more frequently. One of the many upsides to this approach is the classroom/laboratory becomes a much more interesting and fun place to work. This approach works for me because I’m not interested in lecturing and teaching facts. I am, however, interested in teaching students how think.
What I Think (it far exceeds what I know).
Speaking of thinking…I think if I’m interested and passionate about what I teach and how I teach it, then my students will get into it (I could say “respond in a positive manner” but I’m F’ing tired of “eduspeak”). I also think that science education claims to value skills and reasoning, but bloated curricula suggest otherwise. I think there are two solutions to this problem. First, teachers (myself included) have to figure out ways to teach content through lab work and “inquiry”. Secondly, teachers need to be the content filters…and each teacher needs to determine what content (concept, fact, skill, whatever) is essential for developing student understanding of science (insert your discipline here). If it’s not essential, dump it. This is easy for me to say, because I’m much more interested in teaching science concepts as opposed to science facts.
What I’m going to do about it.
I’m going to continue down my path of loosely-guided inquiry within the confines of a typical school day in order develop student understanding of science. I’m going to keep using data to drive the discussions in my classroom. I’m going to put students on the spot more often to present and discuss their findings in hopes of generating higher quality work. I’m going back to my old practice of starting each lesson/lab/whatever with a question. Yes, this increases the time spent on an introduction because students struggle and often don’t know what they’re talking about, but it allows me to develop a shared understanding of the concept/lesson/whatever, and students are immediately invested what we’re doing for the day.
I’ve got lots more to say about What I Know, What I Think, and What I’m Going To Do, and all these ideas have been developed. Perhaps this is the genesis of a book. Regardless, for me it’s all about putting the ideas into practice. I am, after all, a man of action.