Self-Paced Lab Documentation
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.
By its very nature, learning in a self-paced classroom with digital resources can be an isolating experience for some students. While I want my students to take personal responsibility for and ownership of their learning, I also want them to learn essential collaboration skills and to leverage social learning to grow as people and as students of Mathematics. Buddy Time is a grouping strategy that requires my students to collaborate with peers working on the same lesson at a prescribed point in each lesson. During Buddy Time, students can collaborate or discuss their work with other students at their tables and they can use their collective knowledge and skills to help each other move towards mastery.
In a self-paced class, students need to have access to any lesson, at any time. Thus, I created an area at the back of my classroom where every lesson is printed out and organized sequentially for students to take whenever they are ready to move to the next lesson. This allows students to continually work at their own pace. It also changes the dynamic of the learning process - students are no longer passively given assignments by the teacher and are now actively choosing which assignments they want to do.
Chemistry is a combination of the comprehension of scientific content and the application of mathematics to those concepts. My students have to be prepared to think deeply about difficult concepts the minute they step into my room. Starting the class with a relevant "Catalyst" helps them initiate their own thinking processes in preparation for a productive day in the same way that biological enzymes catalyze chemical reactions. During The Catalyst, I model my thinking process for how to approach a mathematical problem by having my students identify the key steps in the calculation and establish a foundation that students who struggle with math can fall back on when they're confused.