Unit Assessment: Communicating Science Research Results!

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Objective

Students will communicate scientific observations and data in a universally accepted form.

Big Idea

Sound communication of scientific data is an important part the scientific investigation process.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

          One of the most exciting things about being a science teacher is the nature of science itself. A dynamic discipline, science and scientific endeavors evolve as researchers continue to make discoveries and ask new questions about the world around us. When we provide students opportunities to research in the classroom, we can encourage students to learn more about science and to learn to communicate their work products in universally accepted ways. Students who are granted time and opportunity to engage in scientific research practices (questions and methods), are students students can apply their critical reasoning skills and creative wit to share their ideas and contributions to the ever evolving world of science. In this lesson, I share with you the culminating fruits of students labors from this end of semester project and discuss why variation in presentation modality  enhances students confidence in producing successful research products.     

About the Project & It's Progression:

     In this short term project, students use the model organism C. elegans characteristics to assess the impact of environmental factors (BPA, Nicotine and Heavy Metals) on human nervous systems through the project based learning style. Up to this point students have spent classroom time learning about model organisms (lesson 1), obtaining contextual background on the three aforementioned factors (lessons 2, 3, & 4), research plan preparation and development (lesson 5) and research execution (lessons 6 & 7). This 8th lesson, provides a justification for and presents examples of students culminating research products.  

Prerequisite Knowledge: It is recommended that students be familiar with the structure and function of a neuron, the concept of neurotransmission, the action potential mechanism, nerve cell structure/function, and general knowledge of C. elegans (see lesson) form & behaviors. 

Lesson Preparations:

 No preparations are required for this lesson.

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

SP8Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

Standards Rationale:

      Keeping students abreast of current topics in science can be challenging if it doesn't fit into their repertoire of current affairs. When we however incorporate current science topics and research into our lessons, we can motivate students to learn and sometimes even change their attitudes about science. For instance, students who are exposed to current scientific research questions and methods discover that we live in a world with more questions than answers. Students can then apply their critical reasoning skills and creativity to discuss the scientists’ questions, design their own experiments, and test hypotheses which can be an empowering experience for student and teacher alike.

      Modeling is the process by which scientists represent ideas about the natural world to each other, and then collaboratively make changes to these representations over time in response to new evidence and understandings. It is intimately connected to other scientific processes (asking questions, communicating information, etc.) and improves students ability to recall scientific jargon through association. In the classroom, it is important that teachers engage students in modeling practices, to set the foundation of success in a lesson or instructional unit, or in this case a short term research project. In this lesson, modeling is used in concert with other science practices in the classroom to promote students’ reasoning and understanding of core science idea presented (animal models in research.) 

Project Overview

Project Description:

     At the conclusion of the school year, students of the neuroscience course embarked upon a short term research project that provided them an opportunity to apply content from their final course unit in neurotoxicology to the nervous system of model organism. Specifically, students selected a toxin (from a group of designated toxins) of choice and exposed the model organism C elegans to their toxin at specific entry point of a highly structured experimental design based on their research plans. After two days of observations and data collection, students were provided with a guideline (see attachment) to communicate their findings in a structured, scientific and universal format. These formats included the following:

a) Research Poster: Using a powerpoint template, student produce a research poster that is consistent to those created for and presented at science competition and poster sessions at scientific conferences. (See student work samples)

b) Infographic: Using the website templates, students generated a informative visual on their research topic. (See student work samples)

c) Research Paper: Using the parameters of the research poster, students produced a 2-3 page paper outlining their research experiences in a more traditional format. (See student work samples)

Grading Expectations:

Though different in format, students were equally responsible for conveying information that reflected the following areas of the research investigation process: Title, Problem, Hypothesis, Procedure, Raw Data, Organized Data, Data Analysis, Research Application, Conclusion and Bibliography. This permits for fair grading practices when assessing student work using the grading rubric (see attachment).

      Overall, the goal was to provide students with a comprehensive experience that exposes them to the science research world and an opportunity to bring resolve to a questions that themselves are curious about or is still vague to the scientific community. 

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

SP8- Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

Student Work Samples (Infographics)

Why Infographics?

      We live in a world that inundates us with visual displays that are designed to simplify, yet convey a large message. From marketing to science, infographics have gained popularity as a presentation mode for conveying information because they are effective in performing their jobs. Through the course of the semester, I have learned the power of visualizing concepts in the classroom It improves both eidetic and long term retention of information for students, especially with my ELL population. I also discovered how technologically savvy a lot of my students are and how they are capable of learning something tenfold with the assistance of technology. In their favor, and to compliment their artistic and technical intelligences, I elected the construction of an infographic as a means to convey their research projects. This form of assessment not only commands students to be artistically creative, but requires technology and scientific knowledge to develop it effectively. It accesses students from where they are  and delivers to me what I need to see to assess them fairly and equivocally to other student project products. 

Student Work Samples (Research Poster)

Why Research Posters?

        At the inception of my professional zenith, I began to train and prepare students for science competitions. One staple that seem to grow in popularity through time was the scientific poster (using powerpoint) for student presentations. They were highly visually, easy to navigate and distilled information from the student's project via graphs. This trend I learned, was an effective alternative to the research paper. It is purposed for those who know their "stuff" and those who favor a fairly flexible template for expression. Like my research students, I knew that a portion of my student population could appreciate a loosely guided form of assessment and thus I extended it as an option. This option granted feasibility to my students with both verbal and mathematical inclinations to express their work and proved popular because its template provides students with a focused frame work/parameters but allowed for them to channel their inner brain balance as well. 

Student Work Samples (Research Paper)

Why a Research Paper?

         While science is best understood as a string of confirming practices and data collection by our students, it is also important for us to show the literary side of this discipline. As such, I offered my more linguistic students an opportunity to convey their research experiences in the form of a paper. Like the research poster experience, students who embarked on this option are provided with parameters but unlike the research poster students are invited to convey their work through mostly words. This modality also provided student an opportunity to develop their thoughts in explicit detail. This option is typically the most difficult for our students who are a generation of distilled learners and even more verbal distillers, but was left open for those who can appreciation the value of the written word.