Energy Transfer Presentations - Day 1

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Students will present their findings from a recent energy transfer investigation to their peers for critique.

Big Idea

Scientists present their findings, like ours about the transfer of energy, to one another to strengthen the discipline of science.


This the first of a series of lessons whose focus is almost purely assessment. Students have completed a multi-day investigation of the transfer of electric energy into a wide variety of other energies (light, sound, etc.). They have created presentations and, now, try to convince their peers that they truly understand that transfer of energy both qualitatively and quantitatively. It is my hope to do three presentations each day for two class periods. Immediately after those lessons, we have our midterm exam.

These presentations are an excellent way for my students to demonstrate some of our school-wide learning expectations (Effective Communication and Complex Thinking, for example) as well as engaging in many of the eight Science and Engineering Practices (Constructing Explanations, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, and Communicating Information, primarily). 

Opening Remarks

10 minutes

Before diving into student presentations, I share a few thoughts with students about our process - both what we've done and what we will do.

I thank them for their attention to the investigation. As a teacher, it is a bit of a gamble to devote several class periods to a single investigation but it can pay off if two things happen. First, if students engage fully, there can be a tremendous amount of learning that occurs. Second, if the learning targets are rich, the investment can be truly valuable. In this case, we've used the NGSS Physical Science Standard HS-PS3-3

HS-PS3-3. Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.*

as a way to engage in all eight of the Science and Engineering Practices. To me, that's a significant opportunity and worth the overall investment of time.

I also remind students that the assessment of their presentations aligns with several of our school-wide learning expectations. These, in turn, dovetail nicely with the Science & Engineering Practices and, as such, represent a way to reinforce some very broad learning goals like effective communication, complex thinking, collaboration, and skilled information processing.

In order to stimulate audience participation and simultaneously elevate the authenticity of these presentations, I tell my students that there's an additional "audience grade." I keep track of questions and comments made by each student over the course of these presentations and grant full credit (25 points) to those students who can ask four questions (or make four comments) throughout the presentations. At first, this actually makes for a bit of contrived questioning, but very quickly the questions become richer and more insightful. As a result, student-presenters must think on their feet, demonstrating how much of their topic they have truly internalized. As a simple way to keep track of this, I print a fresh roster from my electronic gradebook and keep it with me along with the rubric, previously shared with students, that I use for scoring the presentations. The top half of the rubric is more useful to students - it is a reminder of how the investigation should unfold. The bottom half is for my use - I record student names and comments about their performance during presentations.  

Finally, I remind students that this presentation is worth 50% of their midterm exam grade. The other 50% will be determined by their actual test score, to be given during the upcoming midterm exam week. 

Energy Transfer Presentations

70 minutes

All student teams need to be ready to present today. I provide students some choice as to whether they want to present today or the next day though, if there are too few volunteers for today's presentations, I roll a die to determine presenters. 

Students are expecting a presentation time of about 20 minutes, including time for questions and feedback. The teams come to the Smartboard, access their presentation from my shared folder, and are in charge of the timing and the flow of the presentation. They decide whether they want to take questions along the way or handle them all at the end. They are also responsible for answering any reasonable questions, without assistance from me. If necessary I interject answers to especially difficult questions that couldn't be reasonably handled by the presenters. In addition, if I feel a presenter has begun to spread misinformation, I step in to re-direct the flow.

At the end of each team's presentation, I ask my audience to provide a round of "warm" feedback and "cool" feedback. Students are enthusiastic with their positive comments but are more reluctant to be critical of their peers. To help get past this hesitancy, I frame the round of cool feedback with the following premise: Suppose today was a rehearsal and that, next week, they were presenting to 500 professional scientists . . .  What would you suggest they work on in this next week? The opportunity to be helpful, even in this contrived circumstance, works wonders for students and the critical comments flow more easily.

I share a couple of these "warm/cool" rounds below. 


With three presentations completed today, we end the day poised to have all teams present before the midterm exam. Teams have easily met the 20-minute mark and those not presenting have provided some great feedback to presenters.