"Look At Your Notes"
The most common answer I give students when they ask me a question is "look at your notes." The course is designed so any question in the practice problems or mastery quiz have been directly addressed on the current video lesson or a past one. Because the design of the lessons has been created with this intentionality, it's easy to refer students to the exact place in the notes they can find their answer. It's been a challenge to not jump in and immediately offer students help, and many get frustrated in the moment, but over the course of the year students develop strong independence in their learning, able to use their notes, peers, and online resources to find the answer they were looking for.
Truly understanding science requires my students to think in ways they might not have experienced before. Conceptualizing something that our eyes can't always see is difficult, and so it's valuable to provide graphic organizers, visual models, and other support tools as resources that my students can access while diving into content. One of the richest ways to get students to build their own methods and approaches to solving problems is to allow them to think on paper. Lessons involving direct instruction are always broken into small segments with short, casual writing periods built into the end of each one. These Quick Write Summaries are meant to focus on content construction and are free of structural analysis. I don't grade them, but I'll always help students put together their thoughts and present them with questions that guide them to the answer. Writing-to-learn strategies like the Quick Write Summary help visual learners with long-term comprehension of scientific terminology and sets the stage for students demonstrating their knowledge through writing in future assessments.
At the end of any collaborative activity, each student makes a copy of this Teamwork Evaluation Rubric and fills out the boxes with his/her thoughts on the overall quality of their group's teamwork. The rubric includes multiple indicators of high-quality teamwork and encoruages discussion about how to improve future iterations. Indicators include noise level (framed as concern for other group's ability to work effectively), quality of work produced, overall teamwork, and level of grit. Students assess their own contributions to their collaborative assignment as well as their teammates' contributions. Students can insert glows and grows where they explicitly discuss their feelings regarding their own work and the work of their peers. I frame this activity as a team-building exercise. Evaluating collaborative assignments can be complicated. The Teamwork Evaluation Rubric allows me to collect a good deal of data about individual student's contributions from multiple perspectives, which is both a fair and thorough way to assess individuals and the team as a whole.
Organizing labs that span over a number of classes requires a substantial amount of pre-planning. The benefits of proper Lab Documentation are potentially enormous for students. Lab Documentation ensures that I can follow students through every step of the lab process even when groups are completing different segments within varying timeframes. Students develop lab procedures on Google Docs, create charts/tables/graphs on Google Sheets, and compile lab portfolios on wikispaces. By hosting their work on Google Apps for Education, my students can easily collaborate with group mates and me on a lab activity over the course of a week or more. During this time, I can ask probing questions, offer insight on effective lab methods and tactics, work directly on their documents, and help students record their labs with media-capture tools. Being able to analyze video of the lab procedure next to the results it produced provides my students a great means to produce high-quality lab reports, which they can publish to the web and their group wikispace pages.