Thursday, October 28, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 17- Tuesday October 26: Guest Speaker; Meter-Stick Unit; Mid Term Exam Return
Today, Dr. Petrosino gave back the mid-term exams and collected the "Meter-Stick" unit planning activity. But the main part of class was a presentation by Ms. Emily Schroeder. Ms. Schroeder is a former NASA engineer, UT graduate, and currently a teacher at LBJ High School in Austin, TX. She spoke to each section of PBI today. A quick summary of the high points of her talk:
1. Grouping/Managing: Emily talked about how group dynamics can make or break a project, and how a big part of your role as a PBI teacher is managing groups. This is SO true!
Given that you do not know these students well, here are a few questions you could ask your mentor teachers:
-Are the students already in groups, or should we put them in groups?
-Are there students who we definitely should NOT put together in a group?
-Can you assist us in forming groups for the students? What methods could we use?
-How do you decide how to divide your time between groups?
-How do you keep your students on task in their groups?
You should take advantage of the expertise your mentor teachers can provide in getting insight into this process.
2. Transparency. We have talked in class about how many teachers (especially new teachers) seem to feel the need to keep the plan a secret. This is not necessary! Let your students know what you are planning to do and why you are doing it. This could (and should!) take the form of objectives for the day and an agenda that you display and share with the students.
Similarly, do not feel like everything has to go perfectly in order for learning to occur. You will make thousands of mistakes as a teacher, especially as a new teacher. Let’s say for example that a lab you have planned does not work or turn out as expected. This is NOT a reason to get frustrated, nor is it something you have to hide from your students. Use this as a learning opportunity. Talk about what was supposed to happen, and hypothesize with the class about why it didn’t. Students appreciate honesty.
3. Relationships and Joy. How many times yesterday did Emily say she loves her job? This shows and I promise you that her students know it. You are presumably going into teaching because you enjoy it- make sure this comes across in the classroom!!! Be a math nerd, be a science nerd, show the students how much you like the material and how happy you are to be there and they will respond to you.
Be aware that students will have many different responses to your presence in the classroom. Some will be very curious; some may shut down. Take time to introduce yourselves and have some individual conversations with students (as time allows- not at the expense of instructional time). You will be surprised how far it goes with students if you greet them with a smile, indicate an interest in something about them, or even just let them know you like something they’ve done.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Today class centered on the principles of Backward Design. Students are going to apply these principles to planning their unit at Manor New Tech in order to achieve more sophistication in their unit planning.
Dr. Petrosino urged students to worry less about how their lesson looks or the format and think more about putting it into practice. Teaching is not just a cerebral activity; if it was, the smartest people would be the best teachers. While there may be a correlation, this is not the case. Of course there is a need to plan, to know activities, big ideas, etc, but there are also ephemeral things. Leadership, how you command attention, tone, confidence, those things are all in display when teaching and UTeach students need to be planning for that aspect of the classroom experience. The best lesson plans can go awry when teachers do not take all of these factors into account. Lesson plans go awry anyway sometimes for countless other reasons. Some you can control. Some you cannot. Students were encouraged to draw upon the things they have seen and done in class, either literally or as an analogy.
The Backward Design framework from Wiggins and McTighe is a framework for designing curricular units for performance assessments and instruction that leads students to a deeper understanding of the content. As we have said all semester, three things must be changed in order to do PBI: Pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment.
The framework uses 6 facets of understanding: explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, empathize, have self- knowledge about a given topic. Though these are not exactly the same as the 5E model that students have used in the past, many of the principles align.
When using backward design, teachers should start by identifying classroom learning goals and working backwards toward the activities and materials that foster learning and determine student ability. Teachers should be teaching for understanding; there should be coherent curriculum design and clear distinction between big ideas and essential/driving questions. Teachers should be transparent with students about big ideas, essential questions, and performance requirements at the beginning of a unit. In college we have a notion of a syllabus as a contract between professor and students- why not in high school? Being transparent with students is an issue of respect and accountability. Students should be able to describe the performance goals and point of the course. Backward Design/Understanding by Design is NOT: prescriptive program, not a philosophy of education, not focused on individual lesson plans, not always feasible, something that works if you don’t wish to build deeper understanding.
During class today, some students brought up concerns about their inexperience with “long term” planning that goes beyond isolated lessons, and how this would impact them during student teaching. Dr. Petrosino told them that feelings of doubt and inadequacy are part of the transition between novice and expertise; though this provides very little comfort when entering student teaching, it is part of the transformation. All of the field experiences add up to very little in comparison to the classroom time in student teaching, and UTeach students should be aware that they are still growing and changing during this semester and are not expected to begin as fully-realized professional teachers. At this point, students lack the experience to full contextualize instruction on how to “be a teacher” and they should expect significant growth and change during their student teaching semester.
Meter Stick curriculum is due next class.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 14- Tuesday October 19: Mid Term, Visitors, Curriculum Units, and Meter Sticks
We began class today with some announcements for students:
-Friday from 3-7pm Dr. Petrosino, Sara, some Education GRAs and possibly some MNTH teachers will be available to work on field experience curriculum.
-The midterm is take home and available on survey monkey. Students should receive a link in their email around 4pm; they have approximately 30 hours to complete it and the survey will close Wednesday at midnight. The types of questions on the midterm are as follows:
Factual- low cognitive demand, fact questions (10 @ 2pts each)
Concepts- integrate various ideas to get more sophisticated (4 @ 10pts each)
Transfer- apply knowledge in new setting (2 @ 20pts each)
Today we had visitors from a variety of universities and organizations who were interested in replicating the UTeach program. Representatives from UNC-Chapel Hill, Texas Tech, UT Brownsville, U of Arkansas and the State Department of Massachusetts were present.
Dr Petrosino returned to some the recurring questions and themes of the class:
-What makes a PBI unit different from a bunch of 5E lesson plans?
-How does our view of a lesson plan integrate with our view of PBI?
-How do we incorporate the “big ideas” into day-to-day experiences?
Many members of the class have asked for a specific model of unit planning to use when thinking about the Manor New Tech field experience, and so Dr. Petrosino spoke briefly about Backward Design being a more sophisticated way to think about a unit that meshes well with PBL. He encouraged students to worry more about quality content and execution rather than perseverating on the format of the unit plan. That said, we will return to more on Backward Design in the next class.
Dr Petrosino called students’ attention to a recent New York Times article on texting that stated that the average teenager sends more than 6 text messages every waking hour. The average teenage girl sends 4050 texts per month, more than twice the figure for 18-24 year olds. Teenagers spend very few minutes talking on the phone, with frequency comparable to 45-60 year olds. Teens view the phone primarily as a texting device, not a voice device.
He encouraged students to think about the implication this has on educators. Many districts and boards of education have begun limiting communication via text and social networking between teachers and students, while other schools have tentatively experimented with embracing it. The computing power in a smartphone is enormous and this has great implications for the classroom.
The rest of the class time was dedicated to finishing up the meter stick activity project. This was the last in-class time students had to work on this; the final version is due Tuesday (Oct. 26).
Monday, October 18, 2010
Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 13- Thursday October 14:Kirschner/Hmelo Comparison; Curriculum Scaffolds for Meter Stick Activity;International Comparisons
We began class today with a group discussion of the Kirshner, Sweller and Clark (2006) criticism of discovery, inquiry and project-based learning as well as the Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn. (2007). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99–107 response to this criticism. Students identified the main critiques made by Kirshner et al, such as:
- Inquiry learning takes up too much of the working memory in the brain, and therefore learning cannot take place.
- Only individuals with sufficient prior experience can learn from self-guidance; students are novices and cannot do this.
- Students of “lower aptitude” perform worse on post-tests than pre-tests.
- Discovery learning can reinforce misconceptions.
- Medical students taught in project-based curricula are less efficient in diagnostic settings and order more tests.
Students noted that the characterization of “minimally-guided instruction” as presented by Kirshner et al was not consistent with the PBI models that have been discussed in class. Barron, Krajcek and Buck paradigms of PBI are all grounded in state standards, have clear learning goals, and (most importantly) significant scaffolding and direct instruction by the teacher. As a result, the critiques of PBI as a form of minimally-guided instruction do not seem valid, as argued by Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn. (2007).
Students also objected to the characterization of students as “low-aptitude” and “high-aptitude” and felt that a more holistic view of students is necessary in order to be an effective educator.
During the discussion, a related question about what education is like in other countries arose. Specifically, students were interested in other models of education and how they relate to the common perception that the U.S. is “falling behind” in math and science. Dr. Petrosino thought this was a good question and offered to put together some data and materials for a future lecture.
Dr. Petrosino reminded students that UTeach students often end up in leadership roles in their departments and on their campuses, and that their opinions would likely become influential in the policy and practice in their workplace. Being well-informed on both the supporting evidence for inquiry and PBI and the arguments against it makes their opinions more informed and valuable.
For the rest of class, students rejoined their groups to continue planning their 5-7 day project based around the meter-stick activity. Dr. Petrosino provided some charts with the Barron, Krajcek and Buck requirements for projects in order to scaffold/help students identify what if any elements they were missing from their plans. Students seemed to find these charts to be helpful templates for checking that they had covered the requirements for a good “big P” Project.
Picture: Professor Cindy Hmelo-Silver giving a talk on Project Based Learning in 2009.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Factual Information: often is either known or not known. Does not generally require higher order thinking skills. Nonetheless, an important component to expertise.
Conceptual information: Knowledge rich in relationships and understanding. By definition, conceptual knowledge cannot be learned by rote. It must be learned by thoughtful, reflective learning.
Transfer: the primary purpose of developing critical thinking and information literacy skills is to enable students to apply carefully and creatively the higher-order thinking skills to new situations, one of the key concerns is cognitive transfer. Transfer is the ability to extract a particular skill from its original context and apply it to a novel situation.
Submission deadline is Friday, October 15 at 11:59pm.
Questions posted after that time will not be considered for the mid term. Students are free to use this discussion board as a place to discuss and post responses to posed questions. However, the professor will take no responsibility in validating or correcting any of the responses.
On Friday, October 8, the PBI course went on the Preparation Activites trip to the Blanton Museum of Art. Matt Chalker, the teaching assistant for Professor Delgado’s PBI section, led the students on a tour of the Blanton Museum to highlight aspects they might incorporate into their student teaching. While this trip was not explicitly only for math groups, many of the connections that PBI students made to their student teaching were specifically for math projects.
Students met Mr. Chalker in the entrance hallway of the museum at 3PM and walked around the museum, examining exhibits with Mr. Chalker’s guidance until 4PM. Students were then given time to brainstorm ways to incorporate what they saw at the museum into their student teaching. At 4:45PM, students left the museum.
On Saturday, October 9, the PBI course went on the Preparation Activities trip to McKinney Falls. Fourteen PBI students, Professor Petrosino, TA’s Sara Hawkins and Teddy Chao, and two support staff from the UTeach Institute went on this field trip organized by Master Teacher Lynn Kerby.
Students left UT’s campus at 9AM and arrived at McKinney Falls State Park around 9:30AM. Ms. Kerby started the trip by taking students on a ½ mile hike from the park’s Upper Falls area to the Lower Falls, pointing out various parts of the trail that they could incorporate into their student teaching next month. Ms. Kerby also mentioned that when PBI students worked with their high school students on the actual trip, they should probably start with this same ½ mile hike because it gives students a guided experience to explore the park and to prime them for their own observations.
At the Lower Falls, students broke into their project groups to explore the area and come up with further ideas for their student teaching. Students took advantage of the various equipment brought by UTeach: nets, water collection bottles, GPS devices, microscopes, and thermometers to brainstorm ways in which they could incorporate the field trip to the park into their student teaching.
At around 11:00 AM, student groups talked with Professor Petrosino or the TA’s to ask questions and describe the ideas they were thinking about within their student teaching. At 11:15 AM, the group headed back to the vans in an effort to get back to UT campus by 12PM.
We began class today with an informal discussion about observations that had taken place so far at Manor New Tech High School. Approximately half of the class had already been out to do observations, and the other half was planning to observe classes on Friday. Some key take-away points from the discussion were:
-MNTH Students seemed relatively focused, more so than some UTeachers expected.
-UTeachers who judged projects saw a range of competency from students. UTeachers who saw some poorly executed projects noticed that the teacher gave students feedback and an opportunity to revise before giving them a final grade (consistent with academic literature on good assessment).
-UTeachers find it easier to envision how PBI looks on a day-to-day basis now that they have seen a class.
-UTeachers were surprised by how eager students are to talk to visitors and how forthcoming they are about their classwork.
-The MNTH students “seemed smarter” than expected.
Lynn Kirby attended class today to take a final headcount for the first field trips on the weekend of Oct. 9th. Students were advised as to which equipment would be available and reminded to bring water and good walking shoes.
Dr. Petrosino reminded students of the recurring idea in the class that in order to do PBI successfully, you need three critical elements to be working in harmony supporting the development and implementation of projects:
2. Instruction (pedagogy)
He encouraged students to think about these three elements as they continued the activity from class on Tuesday [building a Project around the meter stick activity]. He also posed the following questions to the students to discuss in their groups as they completed the activity:
-Do a sequence of lesson plans about the same concepts make a project?
-Is there something that goes on in a “Big P” Project that is more than the sum of its parts?
-If so, what is that something else? How do you plan for it? How do you Articulate it? How do you adjust it?
Students were given time in their groups to continue working on the project ideas they had begun to create on Tuesday.
Class was concluded today with an unannounced quiz over the Marshall, Petrosino and Martin (2010) paper.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
We began class today by addressing logistical questions about observations at Manor New Tech and Observations. Sara advised students to dress professionally and present themselves as pre-service educators rather than college students. Dr. Petrosino encouraged students to make a good faith effort to attend either or both of Blanton and McKinney Falls field trips this weekend in order to prepare for lessons. Both are informal learning environments with a number of different opportunities for lessons, and students should not get locked into thinking they are bound by their subject area and cannot learn from both locations
The class then formed pairs and collected data on reaction times by dropping a meter stick and recording the measurement at which it was caught. Each partner collected this data both with eyes open and eyes closed. At the conclusion of this activity, Dr. Petrosino asked if the activity was engaging, and everyone agreed that the data collection was relatively engaging- students were laughing, having fun, and talking while they were performing the task. He mentioned ways in which this activity could be extended, e.g., by converting from distance to time, calculating reaction times, and/or looking at statistical significance. In the assigned Petrosino, Lehrer, and Schauble (2003) reading, similar “simple” data collection was used to springboard lessons on significance and asking when a difference is really a difference.
The students were then challenged by Dr. Petrosino to expand this meter stick activity from an engaging isolated activity into a “big P” Project. He reinforced that there is no particular correct answer, and encouraged students to consider the design principles that have been covered in the readings, and to define their “stake in the ground.” In other words, how students approach designing a project depends on which school of PBI thought they are following- Barron, Krajcik, or Buck Institute- and students should design elements according to which of these they are using as a guiding principle.
Students worked on this exercise in groups for the rest of the class. Some ideas that were being developed by groups included:
-Using this activity to introduce the concept of variability, and use it to introduce ideas in evolution and adaptation in a Biology class.
-Using this activity as an example of organ systems acting in concert building from there to cover organ systems in general.
-working with reaction time in general as a way to teach experimental process, and having students design further experiments to address questions such as how texting affects reactions when driving.
This activity took the remainder of class; Dr. Petrosino ended class by reminding students that they may want to revisit the readings and continue using them as resources rather than to read and forget.
Article: Petrosino, A., Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2003). "Structuring error and experimental variation as distribution in the fourth grade." Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 5 (2&3), 131-156.
Picture: Two of my mentors, colleagues, and friends: Leona Schauble and Rich Lehrer