Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Next Generation of Exit Slip

I've been trying to think my way through "exit slips," and how I'd like to use them for the upcoming year.

I like the idea of entrance and exit slips (or tickets, as they're sometimes called) - they're quick (for both the student to complete and for the teacher to assess), and they provide a great at-a-glance check for whether or not the student understands the material, again for both the teacher and the student.

They're also part of a solid strategy to reinforce the learning goals of the course (I wrote more on how I design my learning goals and exit slips in a post on Using Learning Goals to Focus BYOD).

In a traditional class, students do the entrance slip on the way into class (or to start the class), while exit slips are done at the end of class. Last year, though, in my BYOD, independent learning classes, I couldn't stick to a before-class, end-of-class schedule, since everyone was always at a different place in the unit (which brought its own set of challenges). We did away with entrance slips, and approached exit slips in a different way.

Throughout the unit, students were expected to learn the material for a given learning goal (in whatever way they liked), and then would test themselves on the "exit slip" to show both me and themselves that they knew the material before moving on. If they got it, great! If not, feedback was prompt and they would go back and practice more before trying again.

Getting ready to hand back exit slips at the end of a unit.
Yes, that's a LOT of paper to keep track of -
something I'd like to change this year.

I'd like to do the same thing this year, but with possibly a couple of changes.

What to call it?
I've struggled with what to call these exit slips, since they're not really used to "exit" the class. Check-ins? (I envision having the check-ins with little cartoon chickens on them hehe) Checkpoints? Learning Goal Checks (or, LGCs for short)? Progress checks? Stoplights?

In the larger of my two BYOD classes last year, there were days when the sheer amount of paper slips was overwhelming. I would love to reduce the amount of paper clutter from these slips but am not sure of the best way. Socrative? Google form? Quiz tool within our vLE? 

I like the idea of the latter, especially if it can self-mark AND I can actually randomize the question the student gets. Last year I had an issue of students helping each other with the exit slips. While I have no problem with students helping each other learn, I would like the exit slips to be more indicative of what each student is capable of.

Learning goals, then project? Or project with learning goals embedded?
This year, I had the students go through the learning goals/exit slips in a linear fashion, and then attack a larger unit project at the end of the unit. Might it be better for me to assign the project first, and then they can complete the learning goals and exit slips as they complete the project?

The journey continues...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why do Students Stop Taking Science?

Last week, at the STAO Congress, we heard from Maureen Callan (of @OntarioEDU) on "Achieving Excellence" through Innovation. While the focus of the discussion was on the many ways we can bring innovation into the science classroom, one thing Maureen mentioned really stood out for me:

After completing their compulsory science courses in high school, the majority of students stop taking science. 

In Ontario, high school students are required to take grade 9 and 10 general science. They may then choose to take a senior (grade 11 or 12) science, or a French as a second language course, a technological education course, a computer studies course or co-operative education.

From the Ontario Ministry of Education's website

That the students don't take as many science courses as possible doesn't come as too much of a surprise - with the reduction of the high school program from five years to four, many students concentrate solely on the courses they need for their chosen college or university programs. They may not have a lot of room to take science courses for fun.

But the question that really stayed with me was, why wouldn't students want to take science?

I LOVE science. To me, all science is incredibly cool, and it is EVERYWHERE. How does a tree get water to the very top leaves? Why is it so windy outside? How does the International Space Station stay in orbit? Why do eggs go opaque when cooked? Why do I need electrolytes after I exercise? How is my computer allowing me to type at this very moment?

I have a hard time believing students aren't curious about things like this, or similar things that affect them every day. And isn't science class where they can learn more about the everyday mysteries of life?

So what are we, as science teachers, doing to drive students away (or equivalently, what are we not doing to keep students interested)? Why are students deciding that science isn't worth their time? While I often hear "when am I going to use this??" in math class, I never hear that in science. Students know science is useful, and yet they still choose other courses.

Are the topics we provide not interesting them? Are they finding it hard (and what is it they're finding hard? Testing? Math? Memorization?)? Are we too rigorous (too much demand placed on details like significant digits or the individual steps of the Krebs Cycle)? Not rigorous enough (not allowing students to go into more depth on a topic that speaks to them)?

I'm curious. Especially as I start a new year as a grade 9 teacher - how can I instill a love of science in my students that will last them through high school (perhaps even seeing them want to take an optional science course in their senior years), and beyond?