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 allowing my students to assess other students' work and then providing them with a Student Lab Development Rubric to evaluate their own work, they learn to design and refine high-quality experimental procedures. The Student Lab Development Rubric is one of the tools I use to help students build the experiments they've created and then display results and lab analyses. When students are the ones dictating how they will conduct their experiments, they invest more fully in the activity and come to realize that science involves constant critical analysis and reiteration. I like to move conversations away from "right" and "wrong" and more towards how we can improve each component of our lab activities. Initially, some students feel uncomfortable identifying that their work isn't up to the high standards of the rubric, but over time most come to realize that this process helps them improve their final products and understand the underlying purpose behind labs.
The Candy Land Path is a Candy Land-style trail that runs across several walls in my classroom. Each tile on the trail represents a lesson my students have to master in order to advance in the course. This strategy allows my students' progress to be seen and followed on a day-to-day basis, ultimately giving transparency to the learning process. This is a powerful visual tool for every student - especially for over- and under-achievers - and allows me to reframe school as a learning journey and progression as opposed to just working for a grade. The Path also brings an element of fun to the classroom while preserving its motivational purpose.
Flipped Mastery is a new model for not only the students, but for me as well - so I went into the year knowing that there needed to be a process for feedback and refinement. I created a monthly survey for students to take, what was working for them and what needed to be improved. The surveys were created on Google Forms and were made accessible on the class website home page. Based on the survey results, I made adjustments to the class structure throughout the year. When students saw their suggestions impacted how the class was run, it made them feel their voices were valued, which helped with the individual buy-in of many students.