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


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.