Collaborative Student Groups

Critical Friends: Portfolio Preparation

Getting high school students to collaborate effectively can be tricky, though certain digital tools do a great job of making teamwork more seamless. Groups in my class keep document their lab activities using video recording, Youtube, and Google Apps for Ed, and compile Wikispaces digital portfolios with their work (see “Lab Documentation” strategy). Before submitting final drafts students engage in a Critical Friends review period where groups present their portfolios and offer critical feedback. First, each group gets Portfolio Preparation planning time where they can revisit the data they’ve collected, make sure all charts, tables, graphs, images, and videos are accurate, and pair them with solid written analyses. Labs are power learning activities, but oftentimes students are too busy trying to “complete work” instead of reflecting on the meaning of their results. Groups exhibit better teamwork when they have time allotted specifically to prepare portfolios, ultimately leading to more polished lab reports and focused class time.

Strategy Resources (4)
Student Work Sample
 
 
Use of content hosting platforms like wikispaces make it easy for other groups to see each section of a group's portfolio, and offer feedback in a streamlined process. Neopolitan Dynamite's "Can You Make 2.00 Grams of a Compound" lab is featured in this public wikispaces page with procedure videos removed for privacy concerns.
Rubric
 
 
This is the science fair rubric that students made last year based on the lab report issues that emerged across all submitted work. When students make the rubric themselves, they are much more inclined to follow along with it!
Student Work Sample
 
 
The end of the year science fair pulls everything together for one cohesive project that paints a clearer picture as to how far students have come in their ability to design and implement lab experiments. I provide them with guidelines for each piece of their lab development to highlight what protocol must be followed and remind them what parts are crucial in the process.
Rubric
 
 
This is the science fair rubric that students made last year based on the lab report issues that emerged across all submitted work. When students make the rubric themselves, they are much more inclined to follow along with it!
Student Work Sample
 
 
The end of the year science fair pulls everything together for one cohesive project that paints a clearer picture as to how far students have come in their ability to design and implement lab experiments. I provide them with guidelines for each piece of their lab development to highlight what protocol must be followed and remind them what parts are crucial in the process.
Student Work Sample
 
 
Use of content hosting platforms like wikispaces make it easy for other groups to see each section of a group's portfolio, and offer feedback in a streamlined process. Neopolitan Dynamite's "Can You Make 2.00 Grams of a Compound" lab is featured in this public wikispaces page with procedure videos removed for privacy concerns.
Jeff Astor
Cindy and Bill Simon Technology Academy High School
Los Angeles, CA


 

About this strategy

Prep Time:
Long
Subject:
Science
Grade:
Eleventh grade
Similar Strategies
Collaborative Student Groups
Critical Friends: Share Out

Peer-review is an integral part of each learning cycle, and I spend much of the first three units teaching my students to engage in a critical analysis of each other’s work. Having another set of eyes examine work samples and offer feedback on how to address weak points in their arguments adds a valuable teamwork element to class structure. At the end of each unit, students complete a culminating lab where I pose a guiding question, and groups develop an experiment that will hopefully answer the question. To encourage deeper analytical thinking and avoid students submitting rushed work, I use Critical Friends Share Out periods to facilitate group reviews before final drafts are assessed. Students present their digital portfolios to another group by laying out the argument, evidence, and reasoning that they’ve compiled using Google Apps for Ed, Youtube, and Wikispaces (see “Lab Documentation” strategy). Just walking their classmates through their portfolio causes students to evaluate their own work and fix holes in their arguments. During this time, the other group takes notes and prepares for a critical review period. I want all students to be able to contribute positively to these discussions and give each group member a chance to support their classmates.

 
Academic Culture
Connect STEM with Social Issues

Students want to feel that the work they are doing is meaningful, and in some way connected to their lives. I motivate my students to invest in my class by using Social Issue Openings to tie the day’s content to current events, social justice issues, or health related chemistry. For example, during our unit on Gas Laws, we talk about how the same principles that help bread rise and make popcorn pop contribute to air pollution and global warming. I’ve found that focusing on issues in science regarding race, class, and gender – subjects my students care deeply about – adds meaning to the work, and frames learning and achieving as part of a larger movement. This year, the conversation has largely revolved around increasing female representation in the STEM career fields, and I hope to continue using real-world examples to drive investment in my class.

 
Assessment & Data
Chemistry Hunger Games

Synthesizing a year's worth of content is difficult for any student, so I always look for innovative new ways to keep my students engaged attempt to conquer all of the learning objectives in chemistry. During the 3 weeks leading up to the final exam, my classroom temporarily turns into a Chemistry Hunger Games war zone where students battle to "kill" off districts - each representing a different unit from the year. Using the chemistryhungergames.com website I designed, my students pour over videos, screencasts, text, images, simulators, and practice problems that prepare them for district assessments. Each student is allowed to take the district assessment as many times as needed to master the district’s content, and I rotate enough questions to make about 5 assessment versions for each district. Point values are assigned according to the proficiency level they achieve on their assessments - all of which are tracked online using a conditionally formatted google sheet to help monitor progress. This gamified twist to the learning process keeps students focused on the ultimate task, mastery of content, while also helping to reinforce that with enough practice and guidance, they have the ability to master anything.

 
 
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