The Science Learnification (Almost) Weekly – July 3, 2011

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past couple of weeks or so.

Standards-Based this and that

  • SBF Grading Policy (Draft) – Bret Benesh presents a draft of his grading policy for Standards-Based Feedback (SBF), his fantastic idea where students submit a portfolio of their work at the end of the term and the collected works are meant to show mastery of all the standards. I’m very interested to see how this turns out.
  • Looking Back Before SBG – Geoff Schmit reflects on his concerns two years ago when he started using SBG by answering those concerns from his present experience.

Angry Birds

  • Angry Birds, Happy Physicists – Kotaku writes a piece on using Angry Birds for physics instruction and mentions or talks to John Burk (@occam98), Frank Noschese (@fnoschese) and Rhett Allain (@rjallain).

Modeling

Modeling workshops are in full swing. Those that attend post as they go or reflect afterward. The more the merrier for these because giving up three weeks of the summer (and leaving the family for that long) is a hard sell so the more that people know to help them make a decision if they should attend, the better.
  • FIU Modeling Workshop – Day 1 – Scott Thomas is doing my favorite kind of blogging, writing for himself but making it public so that it is available for anybody who might find it useful. John Burk expands on this a bit and talks about blogging not just being about writing to get those ideas clear and out of your brain but also giving you somewhere to go back for later reflection.
  • Modeling Workshop Year 2 – Brian reflects on his year 2 modeling workshop. He has a post for each of seven or eight different days at the workshop so lots of stuff to read.
  • Inquiry Stylee: Let the Modeling Shenanigans Begin (Constant Velocity Model) – With modeling on the brain Shawn Cornally takes some high-frame-rate pictures out the window of his moving vehicle and sets up a very nice Dan Meyer style question about what speed is the van going.

Hold up on that homework

  • The No Homework Experiment – Kelly O’Shea tries no homework for the first part of a course and the kids love it. At a student’s request she started making up optional homework assignments that were just for feedback which led to this fantastic shift in student mindset toward actually wanting to use feedback productively: “after a bad test, a good number of students would ask, “Can I still turn in that optional homework for some feedback if I do it now?””

Confusion

  • Mylene’s confusions category – Mylene’s summer PD seems to be being thoughtful and reflective. She has recently been working on a series of posts about confusion, how necessary it may be for learning and getting into the nuts and bolts of categorizing confusions.

Science away from school

  • Sending bottle rockets to new heights (of learning) – Peter Newbury posts about squeezing some authentic scientific learning into launching bottle rockets. I’m mildly involved with my university’s summer science camps and recently did some science activities with my son’s kindergarten class and Peter’s post hits very close to home.
  • Recapturing a Sense of Science Away from School – Brian Frank discusses his own journey of moving away from the idea that science is something done by scientists to science being done by everybody who asks the question “Huh, I wonder how that happens?”

The Physics Education Research community and Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/#!/list/Bud_T/per – Some twitter handle exchanges went down on the PHYSLRNR listserv and then Bud Talbot was kind enough to make a list of the PER doers and users on twitter.
  • On service courses – Joe Redish tweeted about his new post on species and while browsing through his posts I found an especially great post on service courses which includes the following: “I therefore propose we who are delivering service courses for other scientists – and I mean mathematicians, chemists, and computer scientists as well as physicists – ought to measure our success not just by the scientific knowledge and skills that our students demonstrate, but by their perception of their value to themselves as future professionals.”

Dealing with Student Resistance to Learner-Centered Teaching

  • Hang In There! Dealing with Student Resistance to Learner-Centered Teaching – I sent this article to the Dean of Science at my university because I thought it would provide a nice starting point when she was having discussions with faculty trying to do more than just stand-and-deliver. For the most part the faculty at my “teaching-focused” (note that it isn’t learning focused) university are quite traditional. New faculty are on probation for two years after which they have something that resembles tenure. Of course with most of the faculty being quite traditional, the majority of the folks on your probation committee might be wary of anything that you do that doesn’t match their own practices. I passed this on to my Dean so that she can better facilitate the discussion between new faculty that are using student-centered classrooms and the more traditionally-minded members of their probationary committee. And so that she can help the new faculty set themselves up for better success in the future with their student-centered courses.

Spontaneous collaboration

  • Maybe the twitter/blogging department needs its own journal… – John Burk posts about some twitterers/bloggers tackling the following problem: “You have a square dartboard. What is the probability that a randomly-thrown dart will land closer to the center of the dartboard than to an edge?” The problem gets tackled from many different avenues and people with vastly different skill-sets bring them to bear on the problem. This is the exact kind of work that John (and probably anybody reading that post) would love our students to be doing instead of just solving end-of-chapter problems.

The Science Learnification (Almost) Weekly – June 19, 2011

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past couple of weeks or so.

Reflections on Standards-Based Grading

Lots of end-of-year reflections from SBG implementers

  • SBG with voice revisions – Andy Rundquist only accepts (re)assessments where he can hear the student’s voice. When they hand in a problem solution, it basically has to be a screencast or pencast (livescribe pen) submission. The post is his reflections on what worked, what didn’t and what to do next time.
  • Standards-Based Feedback and SBG Reflections – Bret Benesh has two SBG-posts one after the other. I was especially fond of the one on Standards-Based Feedback where he proposes that students would not receive standards-based grades throughout the term but would instead produce a portfolio of their work which best showed their mastery for each standard. This one got my mind racing and my fingers typing.
  • A Small Tweak and a Feedback Inequality – Dan Anderson posts about providing feedback-only on the first assessment in nerd form: Feedback > Feedback + Grade > Grade. This is his take on the same issue which lead Bret Benesh to thinking about Standards-Based Feedback, when there is a grade and feedback provided, the students focus all their attention on the grade. He also has a neat system of calculating the final score for an assessments.
  • Reflections on SBG – Roger Wistar (computer science teacher) discusses his SBG journey and the good and bad of his experience so far.

Modeling

Flipped classrooms and screencasting

Peer Instruction

  • Why should I use peer instruction in my class? – Peter uses  a study on student (non)learning from video by the Kansas State Physics Education Research Group to help answer this question. The short answer is “Because they give the students and you to ability to assess the current level of understanding of the concepts. Current, right now, before it’s too late and the house of cards you’re so carefully building come crashing down.”

The tale of sciencegeekgirl’s career

Getting them to do stuff they are interested in

John Burk gets busy


The Science Learnification (Almost) Weekly – May 30, 2011

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past couple of weeks or so

Facilitating student discussion

  • Facilitating Discussion with Peer Instruction: This was buried somewhere in my to post pile (the post is almost a month old). The always thoughtful Brian Frank discusses a couple of things that most of us end up doing that are counter-productive when trying to facilitate student discussion. Buried in the comments he adds a nice list of non-counter-productive things the facilitator can say in response to a student’s point to help continue the discussion.

Dear Mythbusters, please make your data and unused videos available for public analysis

  • An open letter to Mythbusters on how to transform science education: John Burk shares his thoughts with the Mythbusters on the good they are doing for science education and the public perception of science (and scientists) and then goes one step further and asks them to share their raw experimental data and video for all their experiments and trials, failed and successful. Worth noting is that Adam Savage is very active in the skeptical movement, a group of folks that consider science education to be a very high priority.

End of year reflections

Well it is that time of the year when classes are wrapping up and folks are reflecting on the year. Here are a couple of such posts.

  • Time for New Teaching Clothes: SBG Reflections: Terie Engelbrecht had a handful of reflection posts over the past couple of weeks. In this post she does a nice job of reminding us that for any sort of unfamiliar-to-students instructional strategy that we need to communicate to the students WHY we have chosen to use this strategy. And this communication needs to happen early (as in first day) and be re-communicated often (since the first day is a murky blur to most of them). On a personal side note I spend most of my first day of class communicating to my students that the instructional strategies I use were chosen to (the best of my abilities and knowledge) best help them learn because I care about their learning. Earlier this month I had a parent tell me that after the first day of class her daughter came home very excited about my class because of my message about my caring about her learning. I couldn’t have smiled bigger.
  • Thoughts on the culture of an inverted classroom: Robert Talbert discusses what is essentially a buy-in issue, with his end-of-term feedback showing 3/4 of his students seeing the value of his flipped/inverted classroom approach. This number is pretty consistent with my own experience, where I am judging the buy-in by the fraction of students that complete their pre-lecture assignments. He makes a nice point at the end that students used to an inverted classroom would probably be much more appalled with a regular lecture course than vice-versa.
  • “Even our brightest students…” Part II: Michael Rees writes about his own (student) perspective on Standards-Based Grading. We need more of these student perspective on education blogs, they are fantastic.

An experiment in not using points in the classroom

  • Pointslessness: An Experiment in Teenage Psychology: Shawn Cornally ran a bioethics class where their work for almost the entire year did not count toward their grade and they discussed readings and movies which were “interesting” (not sure what was used to qualify these things as interesting, but when looking through the list I’m pretty sure I would find most of those things interesting). Without the marks attached the students engaged in the discussions for the sake of engaging in the discussions and those students that usually try to glean what is going on from only the classroom discussions (instead of doing the readings themselves) would often go and do the readings after the discussions.

Effective communication of physics education research

  • Get the word out: Effective communication of physics education research: Stephanie Chasteen posts and discusses her fantastic talk from the Foundation and Frontiers of Physics Education Research – Puget Sound conference (FFPER and FFPER-PS are by far my favorite conferences btw). The talk discussed the generally poor job that physics education researchers do of communicating with the outside world and discussed some strategies to become more effective in this communication.

A few more posts of interest

  • It is just fine to give a quiz based on the homework that’s due today: Agreed! I do it too, but I use online homework that provides instant feedback so they show up in class having already received some feedback on their understanding.
  • Why Schools Should Embrace the Maker Movement: I’m hoping to develop an upper-year electronics course based on Arduino, and requiring only intro computer science and physics as prerequisites. Go Makers!
  • Probing potential PhDs: One of a grad student’s responsibilities is typically to be a teaching assistant and some folks at Stony Brook are taking this into account when interviewing potential new grad students by asking them to explain, at an undergraduate level, the answer to conceptual challenge problems. I think I want this collection of challenge problems for my own use.

The Science Learnification Weekly (May 15, 2011)

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past week or so

Gamification

Busy week in the gamification of education discussions.

Frank makes his final Khan Academy remarks

PER in the journal Science


The Science Learnification (almost) Weekly (May 8, 2011)

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the last two weeks or so. 

Flipped/Inverted Classroom

This seems to be a recurring topic here on the Learnification (almost) Weekly.

  • “Flipping” your classroom: Yay, Stephanie (sciencegeekgirl who posts to the Active Class blog and her own blog) posted a nice quick, but thorough summary of what the flipped classroom is all about. I love to have these quick summaries to be able to point to in blog posts instead of having to write my own summary paragraph every time I mention something. For example, I link to her post on why demos don’t always work every time I talk about demos.
  • Mobile Learning and the Inverted Classroom: Part four of Derek Bruff’s five part series on the five types of mobile learning talks about the flipped classroom with examples of Eric Mazur and Robert Talbert. Unlike most other discussions of flipped classrooms which usually focus on only video or screencast content delivery, Bruff also mentions pre-lecture reading assignments for content delivery (which is what I have been using).
  • Flip Teaching: What Happens When Homework is in Class?: Rhett Allain talks about his use of videos for pre-lab and pre-lecture among other things. A good week for the heavy-hitters all posting on the same thing.
  • The Flipped…High School: Yowsa! An entire high school, flipped. I can’t speak on this specific case but this does raise one of the most important things in any sort of reformed teaching effort: buy-in. Without student buy-in, the effort is doomed to fail, and without teacher buy-in, one can’t generate student buy-in. This is probably the biggest hurdle in top-down education reform.

Understanding Science

  • Understanding Science: This resource on how science works is fantastic. Lots of good stuff to have in your back pocket when talking to those who don’t know (or don’t want to know) much about science. Tons of discussions of major scientific discoveries are used as examples for the different points being made.

Gaming the Classroom

Confusion is ignorance leaving the brain

“I don’t understand why people are not enraged that they are paying hundreds of dollars a day to go to lecture when they learn the material themselves!”

  • How I Learned Linear Algebra Without Going to Class: John Schroeder gives the student view on a lot of things that get discussed by the science-education folks in the blogosphere. He’s studying to become a high-school physics teacher and recently skipped his linear algebra classes and opted instead to learn it from the Khan Academy. He uses this as a spring-board to discuss his frustration with lecture still being the standard given that, in his view, most people end up just going off and learning it themselves: “I don’t understand why people are not enraged that they are paying hundreds of dollars a day to go to lecture when they learn the material themselves!” Spend a bit of time on his blog, his posts are worth your time.

The Science Learnification Weekly (April 24, 2011)

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the last week or so. Another light week for posts to share; I was busy packing and moving to a new home.

Teach. Brian. Teach.

Brian Frank (Teach. Brian. Teach blog) has been on a tear with 10ish posts in the past couple of weeks. He posts about  learning and learning about the learning about physics. I find that he posts a lot about the (teaching and) learning of physics in a way that causes me to reflect on my own classroom practices and course planning.

Even more learning from mistakes

There were a couple of articles from the last issue of the Physics Teacher (same one as the newest Cramster article I discussed last week). These articles are only available to subscribers of the Physics Teacher.

  • “Find-the-Flaw” Problems:  Styer gives them problems that are too challenging for the point that they are currently at and asks them to provide simple reasons why all but one of the provided possible answers are incorrect. These answers are symbolic and the students is meant to look things such as units and behaviors in limiting cases to be able to show which of the provided answers are not possible. One of the main goals of this type of activity is to get them to be much more effective at the “evaluate your answer” portion of problem solving.
  • Teaching Physics (and Some Computation) Using Intentionally Incorrect Simulations: From the folks that brought you Physlets. They put some intentionally incorrect physics (such as wrong powers in formulas or electrostatic forces that depend on the charge of only one of the objects) and the students are asked to dig into the Easy Java Simulation code and properly debug it. This is meant to be a step easier than creating their own simulations, but in my experience debugging is unfun for most so I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing I would want to inflict on my students. I would lean more toward working them through the Matter and Interactions vPython tasks instead.

The Science Learnification Weekly (April 18, 2011) – Homework Special Edition

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the last week or so. My internet was down for most of the week so this week it will all be on one topic, homework.

Cramster articles in The Physics Teacher

Over the past two months Michael Grams has published two articles on Cramster in the American Association of Physics Teachers publication The Physics Teacher.  Cramster is a website where students can go to get poorly worked out solutions to textbook problems (more on this later) or get live help from “experts”. It has a tiered membership where people have some access for free but have to pay to have full access.

  • Cramster: Friend or Foe (free article)? Grams discusses the website, and what some of his previous students and fellow educators think about it. He also sets up his experiment which is discussed in the second article.
  • The Cramster Conclusion (not a free article): His research question is “Could giving students the answers to their assigned homework problems be an effective way of teaching them physics?” His students were provided with both a full membership to Cramster, and two days after homework assignments were given, the full textbook solutions to those problems. The homework was never collected nor graded, but an in-class quiz consisting of a numerical problem similar to one of the homework problems was given to follow-up on each assignment. He used common diagnostic conceptual surveys (Force Concept Inventory in his Mechanics sections and Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism in his Electricity and Magnetism sections), administered some exit surveys on their use of the solutions and had some follow-up student interviews. The most interesting findings (to my mind) were (1) that students greatly preferred the textbook solutions over the Cramster ones, and (2) the students with the best performance on the conceptual diagnostic surveys typically focused a lot of their attention on the “reasoning” part of the textbook solution when they used these solutions, where the students that did poorly on the conceptual diagnostic surveys completely ignored the “reasoning” parts of the solutions and just focused on the mechanical steps of the solution. The students found that the Cramster solutions often had errors, huge gaps in logic, and lacked any sort of reasoning steps, which is what made the textbook solutions their preference. This article really would have benefited from using graphs as its main method of communicating data instead of gigantic tables and endless numbers within the body of the article.

More challenges to standard assign and grade homework practices

  • The Grading Dilemma: What’s Effort Worth? Shawn Cornally (Think Thank Thunk blog): “You can stop grading things. You can alleviate your students’ performance anxiety and points addiction by allowing them to engage with things purely for the fun of it. I’m so angry right now for how hippy-dippy this must be coming across.” Go read it.
  • What does education research really tell us? Alfie Kohn (author of The Homework Myth and many other books) talks about three traditional teaching practices: behavior change through rewards, assigning homework, and teaching by telling, and discusses research which challenges common practices and/or findings from smaller previous studies. When looking at influence of homework on learning when factoring in other things such as instruction and motivation, researchers found “Homework no longer had any meaningful effect on achievement at all, even in high school.”

Randomized numbers in pencil and paper assignments (or quizzes/exams)

  • DIY personalized, randomized assignments: Ed Hitchcock (TeachSciene.net blog) discusses how he uses some standard M$ office programs to make student assignments that have randomized numbers so none of the students have the exact same question, meaning that their discussions of homework can focus more on the process than only the solutions. This randomization is common for online homework software such as Mastering, WebAssign, LON-CAPA, etc, but it’s nice to see a quick way to take this into the pencil-and-paper question realm.

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