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?"
As a science teacher for over 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of teaching strategies come and go. Today, the focus is on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to help prepare students to join the workforce of the future. The teaching methods required by NGSS are based on constructivism – the idea that learners actively create new knowledge and understanding based on what they already know. Concept mapping is one way to help students link new ideas to knowledge they already have.Continue reading
Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS Assessments, STEAM, interactive science, Professional Development, Inquiry Based Learning, STEAM Curriculum, Phenomena-led teaching, Next Generation Science, Implementing New Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, science education, Remote Learning
Implementing a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based curriculum transforms educators from transmitters of information to facilitators of learning. KnowAtom’s innovative approach to teaching science helps transform classrooms into collaborative teaching laboratories – where students take the lead in their own learning process. That’s just what Northeastern University researcher Dr. Tracy L. Waters found when evaluating fourth and fifth grade science teachers implementing KnowAtom – measurable improvements in student learning, as well as changes in teaching methods, as educators began to give students more responsibility in the learning process.Continue reading
Did you know that the Next Generation Science Standards have applications in art?
While including the arts with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM) may seem counterintuitive, the fact is that at their core, STEM and art have higher order thinking in common. STEAM learning is about creativity – discovery and invention – as well as analysis, communication, and critical thinking, all of which are essential to the creation and appreciation of art.Continue reading
Understanding STEAM and the connection between art and science, technology, engineering and math is important, because the connection comes about through the exact skills that we've been talking about. Science, technology, engineering and math is problem solving and answering questions. Math is just a tool for communication. The engineering and the science, what we're talking about is the problem solving skills. We're talking about higher order skills—creating, evaluating, analyzing.Continue reading
Nationally recognized education journalist Jennifer Berkshire discusses big questions that will continue to shape the future of K-12 with KnowAtom CEO Francis Vigeant.
"We're seeing the whole conversation around testing start to shift. The conversation around the relationship between charter and district schools is going to, if not shift, get sort of more concrete and out in the open. I think that as we have this sort of bigger debate about the future, about what kind of jobs people are going to have, it's going to be impossible to talk about schools without having a more vigorous argument about what schools are supposed to be doing." -Berkshire
In this transcript of their conversation, Jennifer and Francis discuss these Five Debates:
- What is school for?
- Should school be about adults pulling or kids pushing?
- What should the relationship between charter schools and traditional school districts be?
- How should we measure school quality?
- What is the relationship between schools and neighborhoods?
"When we codify, we run the risk of losing innovation. That's why you see so many technical companies now hiring artists, because the opportunity to include problem solvers that potentially think differently. Innovation and creativity go hand in hand. There's no question about it. As members of society, we have a responsibility to leave the next generation better off than we found it, and I think we run the risk of losing that capacity by homogenizing and standardizing." -Dr. Stephen Immerman
KnowAtom CEO Francis Vigeant discusses the connection of art to science, technology, engineering and math in K-12 classrooms with special guest Dr. Stephen Immerman, president of Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts.
In this transcript of their conversation, you'll read about:
• Beyond aesthetics: What is art?
• Why STEM educators are welcoming art and calling it "STEAM"
• How art education can leverage science and engineering practices
• Where you can get involved in the national movement from STEM to STEAM