Reflection: Advanced Students Collaboration and Competition: STEM Extensions - Section 1: Engage


There are only a handful of students who are interested in doing "more" work. The vast majority of advanced students prefer "different" work, rather than be assigned something extra. If extra projects are required, student motivation starts to wane. There are a couple of ways to insert differentiated extensions into the science classroom without the extension project becoming a burden:

1) As mentioned, upping the "fun" factor of an extension can negate this problem completely. Students want to build, design and explore. By designing extensions that concentrate on the experiential part of learning paired with a creative way for students to provide evidence of what they have learned is a recipe for engagement

2) Extensions can be assigned or required, but the trick is to either have the extension replace the original instructional activity or feel like a reward for mastering the original activity. This idea dovetails with the previous suggestion, since the more fun it is, the more likely students will want to try it!

3) Embed extensions into instructional activities, so that students try them without recognizing that they are "extra". This way, all students benefit from the experience of grappling with complexity.

4) Create cohort groups that work on extensions together. Grouping advanced students or highly-motivated students can create extension synergy that propels the group into more complex and meaningful discussion and collaboration.

5) Be careful when using grades to quantify extensions. Many students are motivated by grades, so for these students, extensions can show advanced understanding and be reflected in the grade book. I spend a lot of time working on student mindset to think about extensions as opportunities for growth and challenge rather than "extra credit". Often, when extensions start being about the grade, students tend to do just enough to get the grade when the teacher's hope is that they are building authentic interest and motivation to explore science.

So, should extensions be required? Sometimes! Many students need a nudge. Should extensions be available? Absolutely! Working with students who are motivated to advance their scientific understanding and practice is the easier end of the differentiation spectrum.

  To Require or Not Require: Extensions for Differentiation
  Advanced Students: To Require or Not Require: Extensions for Differentiation
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Collaboration and Competition: STEM Extensions

Unit 2: Engaging 21st Century Scientists
Lesson 11 of 12

Objective: SWABT explore science, technology, engineering and math projects for fun and extended learning.

Big Idea: Competition? Yes! Maker Space? Yes! Project that sort of meets standards? Yes!

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Science, Physical Science, Technology and Engineering, extension, STEM, project, maker
  10 minutes
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