When it comes to Next Gen Curriculum and Standards, it's important to unpack curriculum mapping. NGSS Standards are performance expectations (PEs), and there are infinite routes to student mastery but for students to get there requires the skill and knowledge of teachers to create deeper learning opportunities.Continue reading
Whether you are currently using KnowAtom or not, all teachers know the importance of a great discussion. I'd like to share with you some of the teaching strategies I've learned over the past 20 years to help prepare your students for meaningful scientific discussion. If you're not a science teacher, many of the cooperative learning and growth mindset strategies I am going to discuss will work with your students as well.
What is a growth mindset? The education concept was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck and shared in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She writes, "In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits…. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort." In contrast, "In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning…." says Dweck.
Teachers who use the KnowAtom curriculum understand first-hand how implementing cooperative learning strategies, including Socratic dialogue, in the classroom improves student engagement and strengthens learning outcomes. I've also seen how as I give the reins more to my students, letting them take the lead in classroom discussions and small group projects, they can accomplish amazing things together. Seeing this first-hand has definitely strengthened my belief in a growth mindset!
Preparing for student-led discussions
Giving students the tools they need to prepare for a great discussion is something that we really need to remember to do because students don't always know how to do it on their own. With this support, we can create students who are confident in their ability to discuss their ideas. With Dweck's growth mindset in mind, we can prepare students to engage in cooperative learning strategies that strengthen their critical thinking skills and set them up to become lifelong learners.
When using the KnowAtom curriculum, there are simple steps to every lesson that we do together as a class. We always start with nonfiction reading. Then we move into a Socratic dialogue where the students discuss their thoughts and get ready for what they will be planning next. The goal of a great classroom discussion is to create a bridge between what the students have read and the lab they will soon be preparing for. They are better prepared when we get to the cooperative learning groups' hands-on science investigation because of this step-by-step process.
The most important part of a good Socratic discussion is that the teacher is not the only one asking the questions. The students ask each other questions. They challenge each other to defend their thinking, and in the process, learn to use evidence to support their arguments. It's important to remember that cooperative learning doesn't happen overnight. When I started teaching with KnowAtom, my students were really excited about what they read. When it came time for the formal discussion, I assumed they would be very eager to discuss the information. I was wrong – we just sat there. The students either looked at me with panic or looked at their lab books. I was the only one asking questions. So, I had to go back and think about, how am I going to help my students feel prepared and comfortable to discuss these lessons?
Developing cooperative learning routines
The first thing we do together is develop routines. First, students gather the resources they need. Next, we review pre-lesson questions to get the students thinking about what they are going to read about. For the reading portion, we develop different cooperative learning strategies, including reading individually, as a class, or with a partner. We also use read-aloud videos and reading strategies to help all students access the nonfiction text. Finally, we use picture thinking graphic organizers to help students focus on the pictures from the text.
Developed in Carol Dweck's book, a growth mindset is the idea that we can work towards our goals. It's not so much whether or not we're good at something, because we can be not good at something yet and still be working toward it. When a student says “I can’t do this,” you need to train your students to add “yet.” The understanding needs to be that they might not yet be good at something, but that hard work can get them there and in the classroom that’s what we do: get closer to that goal, even if we still don’t achieve it. As a teacher, a key piece of this is coaching. Acting as the coach rather than the sage on the stage, listening to students and believing in them, is key to developing a culture of grit in the Next Generation model.Continue reading
When a student is simply sitting there and listening, that is below their level of skill and is therefore not challenging. Once students are out of kindergarten and first grade and have developed a certain level of personal control, they can sit in their seats. They already know how to listen; they are no longer learning skills. They need to be challenged and given an opportunity for growth in order to extend that skill set. They need to be moved back into an area of challenge for a growth mindset as rapidly as possible.Continue reading
Topics: Growth Mindset
A fixed mindset is debilitating because it prevents teachers from removing the low-level goals that take time and energy away from the things that we really need to be focusing on. Perhaps doing a life science unit in the spring can be challenging, but the challenge is the goal we set, not the life science unit itself. The life science unit is just a means to an end, and it may or may not be appropriate.Continue reading
Topics: Growth Mindset
The fixed mindset has dominated classrooms for years, but it doesn’t leave room for students to really operate as scientists and engineers as the Next Generation Science Standards require.Continue reading
Topics: Growth Mindset