John Dewey (1933) stated “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” Reflecting on the day or week takes thought. It requires you to bring forth information from events that have happened. It forces the person reflecting on making new connections to ideas and other thoughts. George Couros (2015), thinks reflection is so critical in the innovative classroom that he suggests we do it every day. As I have gone through the reflection process in this class, I see the importance. It has forced me to call up past information and make it new. Reflecting keeps ideas alive.
I started having my students do a Friday Reflection. Every Friday, I have the students pull up a Google Form that has one question posted on it. That question is: Reflect on this week in science. I give them about five to eight minutes to answer this question, sometimes more if I see the group is still typing! I also have this graphic attached to the form to help them get started. I tell them if, they are stuck, to start at the bottom and work up answering as many questions as possible. My goal with this is to give their reflections back at the end of the year so they can see their thoughts throughout the year.
I have been using Google Forms to collect feedback from our problems-based projects. I asked for the students to feed on the process of collecting their thoughts. The students stated the form was easy to complete; however, they wanted more clarification on the word engagement. So, we work on a definition together. First, I shared with them this article from The Glossary of Education Reform (2016) which states:
In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that you show when you are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation you have to learn and progress in your education.
Next, we broke this down, and I ask them to get into groups of 2 to 3. In these groups, I asked them to paraphrase or come up with their definition of engagement. Finally, I asked each group to share what is their definition of student engagement with the class. As a result of this activity, the students have a better understanding of what student engagement is and how to fill out the online survey. We have done these types of exercise many times in our learning community class whether it be by advisory group or generation. These types of activities in which each member is valued and allowed to express their ideas to each other in a positive atmosphere continue to build a culture of learning together, a community.
During the problems-based lab, I use a checklist of characteristics of student engagement that I am looking for during the exercise. I have several copies on clipboards positioned in different locations threw out the room. Jennifer was right; this method works much better than having to find my original copy each time. The students have come accustomed to me stopping at a clipboard and taking down notes. The best part about this process is that I get to explain to them how I am doing a part of the scientific method. I am using both quantitative and qualitative observations to assess their engagement. I have explained to them that they are a part of a scientific experiment. To which they say, “Wow.”
Progress on Professional Goals
First, we will evaluate the effectiveness of individual lessons and units by discussing the results of quizzes and tests. Second, we will develop students’ engagement for each lesson by using educational games to increase student engagement and cooperation. We will use the following websites to promote this goal. Quizlet Live, Kahoot and Quizizz. Third, we will use physical movement and art to engage students. Finally, we will provide clear learning goals and scales for students using standards. Currently, as a science department we are working on developing new goals; however, I am going to keep these and add whatever our new goals are for this school year.
Bears Den Update
We continue to build community within our Bears Den at Otte. We have trimmed down our secret handshake to three moves. We couldn’t remember all nine! Good for me, because I had a hard time with all the moves my students wanted me to do! Slowly, we are starting to share out more and feel comfortable with each other. It takes time. We have also come up with some guidelines for our Den of Flynn. One, respect ourselves. We all have value in this den. Two, respect each other, listen to each other and help each other when needed. Respect the environment, keep the Den clean and help decorate our corner.
I am increasing my use of Instagram for our science team. Why? I want to build a community outside of the classroom and students are there! If I can figure out how to use Snapchat to do this, that would be even better. Here is how I am using it in my curriculum. I have given the students a list of words that deal with our ecology unit. I ask them to take photos or short videos that show each term. Next, I asked them to tag me in it using @ascottflynn. In the description, I asked the students to add a hashtag to each photo or video. The hashtag is the term from the ecology note. Example, take a photo of your dog and add hashtag #biotic for a living thing. So far, the engagement for this activity has been very positive. I have tried to nudge our learning community to try this, but I don’t know how to get it going. If you look up #wscwp on Google, you will see what I mean. Can we get this going?
New Seating arrangement
It’s fun to discuss what I am learning from class with my colleague, Becky Back. Becky is a Wayne State college graduate, who is always looking for new things to try in her science class. I have been sharing with her how we have been developing community, share ideas and collaborate. She noticed that I was having my students do a short discussion on topics and thought she would give it a try. In order to help foster this dialogue between students in her classes, Becky changed her room set up from tables in rows to table in groups with could seat four. She was a little skeptical, as was I that the students would be able to handle this new arrangement. However, as students do, they did adjust and embraced the arrangement. Students enjoyed the chance to share ideas and discuss topics. So, I change mine, to match.
I look forward to how the students respond to the new arrangement and ability to share. In this way, we as teachers can foster the culture of community and collaboration in the science room.
Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.
Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think. Boston: Heath and Co.
Pappas, P. (2010, January 4). A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Students, Teachers, and Principals (Part 1). Retrieved from Copy/Paste Dedicated to relinquishing responsibility for learning to the students: https://peterpappas.com/2010/01/taxonomy-reflection-critical-thinking-students-teachers-principals.html
Student Engagement. (2016, February 18). Retrieved from The Glossary of Education Reform: https://www.edglossary.org/student-engagement/