Problem: Students have written conclusions that don't have anything to do with what happened during their lab experience. It was as if they didn't learn a thing from participating in the lab...yet if you talked to them, they did understand what happened.
So my challenge was to help students learn how to use the lab data in such a way that it compelled them to write conclusions that were linked to each other. I've been working on this idea of scientific argumentation since 2008 when I participated in a yearlong action research project sponsored by a nearby university. Ever since then, I've been tearing apart each piece of the process and testing ideas/refining them so they have pragmatic value to me and to my students.
Solution: in process
I have to coach them through this process of being youthful investigators...balancing their inexperience with trying to show them how science answers questions. How they should connect their conclusions to what they see and experience...not just what they think is going to be the right answer.
You'll remember my first attempt at using an actual lab experience, Air Has Mass, to start the conversation. I knew I couldn't be done because over 50% of my students still didn't know how to track the differences between the data they collected and then building evidence to answer their question.
Students most recently have been working on different heat transfer labs and they are now putting together their digital poster presentations. I've given them some tips on how to do this. I also showed them some college level posters so they could visualize what these looked like.
What has been rewarding is how they "get" my question about what is evidence and what is data. Now that's sort of nitpicking...but the behind the scenes learning is this...
- Most students now realize they must have a reason and data to support their conclusion
- Most students realize they can't just throw numbers or observations into their poster and see that it has to make sense
- Most students are beginning to understand that it's the analysis you do with the data that creates the evidence you use to support your conclusion.
I'm so thrilled at their realization that is their analysis which transforms the numbers/observations into something useful.
What I've also discovered is that using Google Presentation Docs are a wonderful way for me to blend the formative and summative part of this into one document. All along the way I have access to their poster and I can make comments to the whole group on the document (the formative part of this learning cycle). When we get to the end, I think the posters will be much better than normal because of the continuous attention that I've given them AND the fact that what I suggested continues to be accessible 24/7 to them in those comments. It's easier for my 11 and 12 year olds to remember what needs to be fixed if my suggestions aren't just a conversation that they have to remember.
Here's one beginning draft....it's not finished but they have a good start, I think.
Next week the proof will be in how well these presentations and their arguments hold up. They'll be doing partner presentations....two groups partnered and presenting to each other. I've designed a rubric they'll use to evaluate each other's conclusion, data and evidence....which should help facilitate a more fact/logical reasoning conversation. Keeping my fingers crossed.
Balancing picture used under CC license attribution http://www.flickr.com/photos/frozenhaddock/3947478553/sizes/l/in/photostream/