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 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?””


  • 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

  •!/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.