M3 bPortfolio Reflection – STEM Research

My ideas of STEM have changed slightly, but significantly since beginning the course. I have learned about the different models of STEM (Henrikson, 2015):

  • SteM – Science and Math are the “bookends” and most important
  • STEM – Integrated focus for both math and science – T&E are integrated and focused on contend and application
  • S | T | E | M – each discipline stands on its own
  • s(TE)m – increased focus on CTE classes that help prepare for selected careers in science, math, technology an engineering.

The best model according to Lantz (2009) is that STEM should be well integrated into the curriculum and that teachers should be collaborating to create cohesive units of instruction that help students learn about all topics together. One tool for accomplishing a truly effective STEM model that was discussed in our class discussions was common planning time across disciplines to help teach similar concepts in different classes. Verlaine (discussion post in Module 2) shared her collaborative approach within her school district, a push for cross curricular teaching. Additionally, Verlaine supported her claims of this effectiveness of teaching similar subject by citing psychological research (Medina, 2008) for increasing long-term memory by repeating information multiple times, within a short period of time using different modalities.

Wiliams (2011) discusses how the use of questioning is important for teachers to formatively asses student understanding to inform next steps in teaching. I assume he would support the STEM model, where each element has an equal share of a given lesson. This assumption is based on his desire to ask inquiry questions such as, “What do you notice?” Earlier this year, I was introduced to an NCTM lesson called “The Hexagon Train Task.” I was part of a group of math and science teachers, we were given four yellow plastic hexagons and asked to line them up “end to end” where a long side would touch another. We were then asked to ]reflect on what we noticed about the aligned hexagons. Some mentioned the color, some discussed the perimeter, others discussed the shape, but overall our ideas were broadened to to accept the next question because of our ability to think abstractly was opened. Soon after, we were asked to think about perimeter and how this could be calculated for longer “trains.” We were just told the purpose of the activity (only slightly though, but the instructor had a clear academic purpose for the lesson, sequences). Having the opportunity to think generally before getting specific allowed both the math and the science people around the table consider a question without fear of being incorrect. Sometimes I struggle with IRE (Initiate, Response, Evaluate) which is off putting to many students, I think I can incorporate more of this open discussion and individual reflection into my lessons this coming year.

Some of our discussions in Module 2 & 3 were about purpose with instruction. STEM cannot be accomplished without clear purpose. Provided that many of us took a methods course about Understanding by Design by Wiggins & McTighe (2005) which stated the purpose of the lesson should drive the activities and goals should establish each lesson (rather than the other way around). This method (backwards design), is at the heart of educational research and is supported by Williams (2011, p. 61). In our class discussions for Module 3 about Project/Problem Based Learning, comments arose about the intent of the learning, rather than the activity itself. Lura’s post about the Rube Goldberg Machine commented on her investigation of PBL activities found on the internet. She mentioned, “Many so-called ‘STEM’ lessons that I did find weren’t anything new, just standard math or science lessons with some videos added about applications” I think this is part of the challenge with PBL is that the purpose should be the beginning of the project, not the act of completing a project, making a presentation or doing STEM. The purpose should be to meet educational standards where multiple modalities should be used to approach concepts. Projects could include multiple standards from a variety of subjects, but that’s not necessary.

Overall, I have learned that STEM should be well integrated. To accomplish this, teachers from different subjects need to work together and students need to work in collaborative groups facilitated by a teacher. The planning can be though common planning time (which is becoming more typical in schools) or it could be through another framework of providing collaborative work time for teachers. Lessons should be revised and adjusted based on formative feedback and through a teachers understanding of unique students needs. Finally, when planning projects, there is a general consensus (although not by all) that the purpose should come first and activities should support the learning of those targets.

Sources:

Henrikson, R. (Lecturer) (2015, June 22). Module 2 What is STEM. EDU6978 Module 2 Course Lecture. Lecture conducted from , Seattle, WA.

Lantz Jr, H.B. (2009). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. What form? What function. Baltimore, MD:  Report, CurrTech Integrations.

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiliam, D. (2011).  Embedded formative assessment.  Bloomington, IN:  Solution Tree.

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Questioning Observation

Course: World Literature
Period: 2

In this class, the lesson was to review previous learning in preparation for a test the next day. When talking with the teacher the day before, the lesson was intended to be a socratic seminar, however, immediately before the lesson, a pedagogical decision was made to have the discussions be made in small groups. The questioning from the instructor was more general than asking several smaller questions but instructed students to discuss broad, open ended questions as groups. Questions included What need does the hero fill to fit the needs to their time? What does Gilgamesh give to his society? Who are the three most likable heroes? Why/ Which are the most intelligent? Why? What role does technology play in how stories are told throughout the ages?

Observing teacher behavior during the group responses to the question was the most interesting. The teacher consistently talked with table groups of about six or fewer and did not choose to talk as frequently with larger table groups. When she talked with each group, she probed only a few new questions, but generally retold some of the stories that were discussed in class. Questions generally were open ended (about 80%). Some of the closed questions were implied to have support, for example, choosing three heroes implied some justification as to why  those heroes were chosen.

In general, since the questions mostly guided group discussion, there were no repeated answers, some groups received more attention than others, but overall the questions were dispersed around each student. The last section which asked students a more sophisticated answer was conducted as a group debrief where some students shared out. All of the students that shared to the class were from the large group, 1 one female and three males (this mimics the gender makeup of this school). In talking with the teacher about the purpose for her questions, she responded that they were strategic in eliciting specific knowledge from the students and were intended to recall important, more synthesis of information was required to  demonstrated understanding. To ensure complete understanding across all of the groups, if I were to implement this technique in my classroom, I would like to debrief all questions, not just some of them to create a collective understanding of the important concepts for a test.

While such broad questions may not be useful in a math classroom, I think the group questioning is a valuable tool that can be implemented. I could provide a group problem and then circulate the classroom to check for understanding. A creative tool for helping student understand gar fundamentals of a mathematical concept is to have them explain their ideas as they would to a younger student. This generally required significant understanding to accomplish. I enjoyed the use of this teachers questioning to prepare students for a test, I can use some of these group question strategies in my own classroom.