What is cooperative learning? Cooperative learning is an instructional model designed to improve student learning outcomes by promoting teamwork. Do you allow students to work together on small group learning projects? If so, you're already modeling cooperative learning strategies in your classroom. When our students work together on interactive classroom activities, they strengthen communication, social, and critical thinking skills. When collaborating in small groups of two to four peers, students have the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. Collaborative learning strategies require teachers to give up some responsibility for classroom instruction to their students, letting them take the lead.Continue reading
Topics: science and engineering practices, Next Generation Science Standards, higher order thinking, STEAM, interactive science, Professional Development, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum
To help students achieve accelerated learning in the classroom, teachers need to improve how we set and communicate our expectations. In student-centered learning, students choose what they will learn, and they set the pace. Teachers become classroom facilitators when their students take the lead in an accelerated learning program. Implementing formative assessments in a student centered classroom will improve outcomes because students better understand the expectations because they are getting continuous feedback in the moment.
What's the difference between formative and summative assessments? Formative assessments occur in the moment as students are engaged in making sense of phenomena. This real-time approach allows students to incorporate the feedback into their thinking and their work, becoming more aware of their own learning process and refining their skills in the moment. In a formative assessment, the teacher's role is an interested skeptic, engaged in the student's argument but pressing for evidence and reasoning. A formative assessment requires a shift in responsibility. Instead of a student trying to guess what the teacher wants, the student is productively struggling to develop skills and content knowledge, with support/coaching from the teacher. Summative assessments are more high stakes and occur less frequently, typically at the end of a lesson or unit.
One of the most important things we can teach our students, no matter what grade level or topic you teach, is how to ask good questions. When I think about this important topic, I can't help but consider how my teaching style has changed over the past 20 years. Today, when I think about how to support student centered learning in my classroom, I want to make sure that I am modeling good questions. That's because modeling is an important way to teach students how to ask good questions themselves. I am going to share with you what a good question looks like and how to teach your students ways to identify and use them effectively.
A student-centered classroom starts with the teacher. We've learned that we can improve student engagement and achieve better outcomes by giving up some of the control we have as teachers. Students who are given an active role in the classroom have more opportunities to think critically about the concepts and how they relate to the world around them. Rather than asking students to read and memorize, we need to be asking them to collaborate with their peers, discover new ideas, and make strong connections. With student centered learning, giving students a voice in the classroom helps improve student engagement, but students need to develop the skills to take the lead. Learning how to ask authentic questions of their peers, their teachers, and their sources – is a great way to start.
Student centered instruction and asking good questions
Good questions are good questions regardless of who you're interacting with or what subject you're teaching. If you're not a KnowAtom teacher, if you're a teacher who teaches another subject, a parent, or a principal, all of these things will apply to your students as well! Let's look first at where we can expect students to ask good questions when implementing a student-centered approach during a lesson.
KnowAtom's science curriculum starts off with a nonfiction reading component every time. That's where a lot of the questioning will happen in a student centered teaching model. From there, we move on to Socratic dialogue, where students discuss the questions, wonders, or connections they made from the reading. Questioning plays a big part in this section of the lesson and if we can improve our students' questioning skills, we can improve our classroom dialogue.
Students then move into planning, and we ask them to think like scientists or engineers. That entails a lot of questions about what's going to happen in the hands-on investigation portion of the unit. Then, the students carry out their investigation, experiment, or engineering activity. Lots and lots of questions are happening as part of this section as well. Finally, students share their conclusions in a debrief. One of the things that I enjoy most with student centered learning is listening to students question each other about their data and their outcomes.
The purpose of questioning in student centered learning
What's the purpose of questions? The main purpose of encouraging students to ask good questions is to engage them in taking a position on a concept or big idea from the reading. When you think about it, that's a really risky proposition. Perhaps that's why when I first started teaching, I asked questions like "What is a hurricane?" rather than "How are hurricanes related to the water cycle?"
An in depth look at the use of KnowAtom’s science curriculum by fourth and fifth grade teachers by Northeastern University researcher Dr. Tracy L. Waters revealed major changes in both teaching practices and the teacher’s expectations of what students can achieve. The educators who participated in Waters’ study expressed having higher expectations of their students after implementing the hands-on curriculum that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).Continue reading
Students who are given full responsibility to oversee their own experiment or prototype design, execution, data gathering and conclusion forming are actually in the roles of scientists and engineers. Conversely, students who follow prescribed courses are not fully enmeshed in these roles.
It's important to understand what proficiency really means under the new standards. Previously, proficiency meant being able to answer a question in a textbook. Now, it means planning an investigation that yields data in order to answer a question set by the student. Same thing with engineering: Proficiency is identifying problems, developing prototypes, testing those prototypes, and gathering data to see if the concept devised by the student solves the problem.Continue reading
As districts begin to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, there is growing awareness that classrooms need to create inquiry environments where students engage as scientists and engineers.Continue reading
The understanding of what science, technology, engineering and math are has shifted quite a bit in the last few years, and too often a definition for them is lacking. If a debate is sparked, it is likely to come from this changing definition; from what the roles of the teacher, student and curriculum actually are; and from the difference between curriculum and standards … a difference that is poorly understood even by many educators.
There are still a few gray areas when it comes to where the Next Generation Science Standards came from and what they’re trying to accomplish, but one thing that isn’t gray is the backing they have from our nation’s preeminent scientists and engineers.Continue reading
The Common Core Standards (CCSS) aren't just about ELA and math time on learning, they come alive in the context of a science, technology, and engineering classroom. Developing proficiency with CCSS in the context of STEM is a win-win that enriches all disciplines and gives students an applied appreciation for technical writing and applied math.Continue reading
Science and engineering practices are not merely a set of skills, they are an intentional effort to combine both skills and knowledge in a contextualized classroom that allows students to engage with this material on a level that encourages their higher-order thinking skills. In fact, the goal of the Next Generation Science Standards is to reorder the priorities of thinking in the classroom, in some sense.