Sunday, 28 April 2013

Plan to action - a work in progress: Part 2

My current contexts and ways over the barriers:

Current contexts
Ways over the barriers 
(some of these I am already doing)
Time given to each unit/standard is restricted. My personal preference would be to do fewer units/standards over the year, giving more time for each unit/standard, but this is not something that is negotiable. The department (or NCEA) – wide learning objectives still need to be covered within each unit, for an end-point of tests and exams which must be sat by all students.
  • Increase the use of project-based learning within units/standards.
  • Give a choice within units for the junior science classes, to increase student voice. i.e. for mini-projects, let them decide own topic within a range.
  • Increase opportunities for self-directed learning where appropriate. i.e. students can spend more time on the areas they need to rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. This also ties into increasing vertical differentiation within class.
  • Decrease number of worksheets I give to students, and instead give them a context and some scaffolding to apply their knowledge to. However, there is still a place for starting with shorter answer-type questions before building up to the large open-ended essays expected in biology NCEA.
  • Give students more chances to be creative (after all, science and creativity go hand-in-hand!).
The number of standards and units within each year is fixed – this links into the time constraints also.
Emphasis in the school is on high achievement, and traditionally quite prescriptive learning has taken place, with a tendency to ‘spoon-feed’ students the ‘correct’ answers, rather   than giving them a chance to figure it out for themselves.
  • Aiming high is great, I don’t want to change that. It is so important for students to set goals, and for them to believe that they are achievable. It is also vital that they know their teachers believe in them too.
  • I want to breed resilience and resourcefulness in my students, and giving them all the answers all the time isn’t going to aid that. I need to increase opportunities for students to discover the information for themselves (and I will act as back-up, making sure they have the information they need, and they can apply it to the right contexts.
  • Give the students some opportunities to fail. i.e. set up experiments that can’t work. Then talk about how that is ‘real’ science, not pretend ‘science-land’ that I often refer to in class – i.e. everything is concrete and we know all the answers-type idea some students believe that science is.
  • Continue to incorporate real science – allow students (especially in NCEA classes, particular L2 and going forward L3 biology) to understand that some of what they learn is on the cutting edge of science and research; many of the questions that arise from some of these topics such as epigenetics are unanswered.
  • Continue to exude enthusiasm and passion for science and biology. Why should they care if I don’t? Give them some insights and hook them into having their own driving force behind really caring about their education and futures (and science of course!)
  • Incorporate use of SOLO taxonomy so that students can reflect on their own learning, and determine where and when they need to put more effort into their learning.
  • Continue to be transparent in my teaching, modeling thinking strategies and also making any mistakes I make obvious and an important part of learning.
All classes teaching the same course tend to follow the same pathway, and have the same learning objectives, same tests and exams. This is something expected by both teachers and students alike, so discussions about deviating from the ‘norm’ could come from both directions (and from parents!)
  • Being a co-operative and productive member of the team is important to me, and I don’t want to rock the boat so much that it creates problems for other teachers.
  • I want my students to have the same opportunities and experiences as other classes, and to reassure their parents that I am doing a good job of teaching their children.
  • Q: How far can I deviate from the other classes without being seen as disruptive and not providing equity for my students compared with other classes (even if the outcome might justify the means?)
  • There may not be as much room for incorporating student voice as to what they learn, but there is some for how they learn.
  • I could tweak notes/handouts that I give to students so they are not as prescriptive. (This may be harder to implement as notes are given on a departmental basis).
  • There is more flexibility in certain classes – i.e. years 11 and 12, and also 8 (although year 8 students may not have the right background just yet to be able to effectively drive their own learning? For science in particular they may need close guidance as to the vocabulary and content, as at this age it is very easy to develop misconceptions in science if these are not made explicitly clear).
  • Explore the flexibility in the classes that I can – I can see space to do this already within year 12 biology, and year 11 science. Give these students more options as to how they learn, and expand the aspect of vertical (and also horizontal) differentiation within this.

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