Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Class 13: 10/06/11-Petrosino/Lehrer/ and Schauble

Tomorrow, Friday, is the first day the PBI students will be in the field, teaching day one of their 3-day teach at Manor New Tech High School. Our TA Sara started class by reminding the class of expectations during our teaching experience, including: appropriate professional attire, early arrival to classes, and having confidence and enthusiasm while teaching! Prudie handed out rubric for the field trip teaching experience happening Saturday at McKinney Falls, and there was a reminder that the rubric for Friday and Tuesday’s teaching experiences were in the Course Documents on Blackboard.

Dr. Petrosino encouraged the students to not burden themselves with the burden of being perfect because the high school students are the true audience – not the observer. The average teacher makes an instructional modification every minute, so expect at least a couple during your 75 minutes with the students. There will be moments where accommodation and “just-in-time decisions” will be needed. Take time to listen. Quiet isn’t a bad thing. Flexibility is key. Give the students time to talk and think and yourself time to listen, react, and interact. Keep in mind what things are important – what the ultimate goal is. It’s not your rubric so much saying you did a great job. The goal is engagement and thoughtful learning. There is great value in the cycle of reflection, interaction, and ability to make modification.

About ten minutes was given to teaching teams to gather and address last-minute issues, such as “Who is bringing what materials,” and “Who is taking the reins during the lesson at different points?” before the class discussion turned to the paper that had been assigned as the reading homework for the class.
For class today, we read “Paper structuring error and experimental variation as distribution in fourth grade.” (Petrosino et al., 2003) PBI student groups spent five minutes discussing the reading amongst themselves in order to determine if the experiment discussed therein was “big P” or “little p” and then to find points to defend their position. Groups wrote their ideas of “big P” and “little P” reflected in the paper on large sheets of paper distributed to each table with markers.

On a previous day, after reading two complimentary papers on Project-based Instruction, the class had defined “little p” as a project as many have come to know it. In general, it refers to projects in class that are more about making sure the students are doing something with their hands than being as much purpose-driven or problem-solving. Often, in a “little p” scenario, students are not sure of their purpose or goal or the connections the activity has to anything else. In contrast, a “big P” project is informed by theory, involves scaffolding, is learner-centered, driven by a problem or question, is relevant to the students in the place they are in, and builds community and discourse.

Something to consider is that the existence of a “big P” or a “little p” does not imply that one is inherently bad while the other is perfectly good. In reference to the paper, we discussed that perhaps one “little p” aspect was that although the project was taught over an 8-week timespan, a few days each week direct instruction was the mode of instruction. It was acknowledged that this particular paper did not necessarily emphasize Project-based Instruction. There were certainly “big P” attributes, such as the cycle of the first couple of activities of measuring the flagpole and the pencil and seeing the differences in experimental error building up scaffolding for the students before they attempt the largest challenge of the rocket launch. Their culminating challenge was to determine if rockets with rounded or pointed noses will go higher. The projects helped the students reflect on comparison of attributes, manipulation of variables, models of a situation to real world implications and in current work: measure and distribution. The trajectory of the project offered scaffolding by emphasizing standard deviation and distribution in a generative way for the students, who were also allowed many opportunities to present their data in their own way.

Teachers are Vygotsky’s bridge – the learned other – the archway between the child’s world and the scientific world. This project sequence explored: “When is a difference really a difference, and when is it simply within normal variance?” How we start launching rockets and want to make educated guesses about which design makes the highest height? We are almost intellectually dishonest with kids when we give them simplified situations with big effects and the data is not problematic. This project in the paper tries to give the students tools to use to decide when can you say with confidence that differences in results are due to the design difference.

At the end of class, the question arose from math majors who study the Moore Method how does that method compares to what is being taught in PBI. Dr. Petrosino shared that while he has not observed the Moore Method in practice, based on what he knows, the Moore method does not have the pronounced scaffolding discussed in PBI. In PBI, the instructor is obliged to be thoughtful of the scaffolds and collaboration supporting the learning goals.

Each day in PBI a different student takes responsibility for blogging about what goes on in class. Today’s blog is brought to you by Laura.

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