Reflection: Complex Tasks Science vs. Engineering Project - Day 1 - Section 2: Unpacking the Project


“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."  Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I used to skip over the unpacking of projects. I felt that I had written everything out for the students, and that as long as they read the requirements and the rubric they would be fine. However this left the students without a clear understanding of the learning that was about to take place. For them, the objective of a project like this one was "I need to make a poster", whereas for me it was "Find similarities and differences between the scientific method and the engineering design process and manipulate that knowledge to merge the two". Obviously two very different objectives.

Worst part is that it took me a long time to understand that by not taking the time to have a conversation about the project before the students got started, I was actually trying to do all the thinking for them. I tried to envision every possible question and add it to the project so that they would get to what I wanted. I was doing the heavy lifting, not them; and I would still not get the end products I knew they were capable of.

Once I started devoting a whole class period (or even two) to helping the students read a project and unpacking it with them, it became easier for the students to digest the expectations. The learning objectives became clearer. They also stated taking more responsibility for the end product. It is no longer what I want them to do, but rather what they need in order to be successful. It also has helped me realize what portions might need further scaffolding, and which ones they are ready to tackle on their own. In the end, it has led to more learning and less e-mails asking "Why did I get this grade?"

  Complex Tasks: Unpacking
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Science vs. Engineering Project - Day 1

Unit 1: Introduction to 7th Grade Science
Lesson 12 of 14

Objective: Students will be able to devise their own science and engineering design processes to be used during the school year.

Big Idea: We can plan our own investigations using our own scientific method and engineering design process.

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