My journey as a secondary science teacher candidate at UVIC

Tag: assessment

Inquiry with Trevor Mackenzie

 

“Agency is for ALL STUDENTS, not just the kids who are dying for it”- Trevor Mackenzie

This past week Trevor Mackenzie joined us for class to talk about inquiry! After hearing from Jeff Hopkins and discussing inquiry in a variety of settings outside of this class it was valuable to hear from a teacher who is implementing inquiry within the public school system I am planning to teach in! The fact that inquiry can exist within the public school system and not just in satellite schools was reassuring to hear as I have been struggling to imagine this occurring outside of those specialized schools. I am reminded both by Trevor and by my mentor Teachers during my observation days that this all starts with the teacher and how you show up to class. Sure, the tech and all the bells and whistles that might be available to work with at a specialized private school are cool and can certainly open up opportunities, but it is by no means essential to leading successful inquiry projects. Inquiry is much more about classroom community!

As touched on in this video, Trevor really emphasized the idea of getting to that un-google-able questions as a way to provoke thinking and inquiry! Both as a teacher and students asking these big questions are at the heart of inquiry.

As I think about implementing inquiry in my own classroom, I find myself struggling to imagine balancing it all within the curriculum as well. Trevor really emphasized knowing your curriculum, which I recognize will come with time, and then finding that spot in the curriculum where students can have more choice. This is the spot where inquiry can thrive! Ultimately students are not going to remember all of the content that you teach, but if you give them diverse empowering ways to learn they will remember those learning experiences.

When considering using inquiry in your classroom, it is important to look at it as a partnership. As much as this is student-centred constructivist learning it is not a free for all. There needs to be adequate scaffolding and accountability involved as well. It is also important that you consider the skills of your students when introducing an inquiry project. If they are lacking some skills don’t throw them into the deep end of inquiry! That being said, inquiry should be challenging and provoke growth, so it is all about finding that fine line!

When I think about inquiry, one of the features of it I am drawn to the most is the in which you can use inquiry to diversify assessment. Within the science discipline, my own educational experience has been largely restricted to some formative assessment, with a heavy weight on summative assessments . These were frequently in the form of quizzes and tests. However looking back on the opportunities I did have to do more project based learning through science fairs, I remember feeling much prouder about my work and learning there than I ever did about getting a good test grade. Given that the university system is still largely based on tests, I think it is important to still have student write tests, particularly in senior science classes, however I would love to be able to diversify the forms of assessment that I can offer in my class. Inquiry projects are certainly one way to get there! Not all kids will perform to their true ability on tests, however if you provide them an opportunity to show their knowledge in their own way you might be surprised to learn just how much they know in comparison to their test grade.

After Trevor’s guest lecture I certainly have a lot of take-aways! I appreciate hearing inquiry from the public school perspective and will certainly look to learn more about this world moving into my own teaching practice.

Want to learn more aboutTrevor? 

Check out: 

Our EDCI 336 class resource blog here

Trevor’s own website here!

Trevor’s book

EdCamp Reflections

This past week, I had my first opportunity to participate in an EdCamp! It was a pretty cool experience and one that I would love to partake in again! What started as just our EdTech class evolved to another education cohort from UNBC and several seasoned educators! It was an incredible opportunity to share in conversation and learn from other teacher candidates and educators.

I partook in a two different rooms, one focused on implementing group work and the other on cross-curricular teaching! I would have loved to partake in more, but I got pretty wrapped up in the discussions and before I knew it the time was up. As I have learned from discussions during my weekly observation seminars there is so much to be learned from fellow educators and peers, and this EdCamp only reaffirmed that for me!

Room 1: Implementing group work

 

  • Group work can be effective and certainly helps to work on those soft skills. However, there are certainly challenges to group work and balancing equal participation.
    • We discussed outlining specific roles within the group at the start of the project to help scaffold some of the group work and leading to more equal participation.
  • Assessment can also be difficult for group, as you must decide to assess the group as a whole or to assign different marks within the group.
    • We discussed incorporating some form of self assessment that allowed for insight on the group’s perceptions of themselves individually and the group as a whole. We were for the most part in favour of these self assessments providing more insight than actual grading influence. The hope would be that involving students in their own assessment they might be more inclined to participate.
  • The UNBC cohort mentioned that they are entirely pass/fail graded. This was interesting to me and had certainly been something I have been thinking about with the few pass/fail classes currently a part of my semester. In some ways I really like them, as it removes a degree of anxiety, but I also find it a bit foreign and I am also someone who does appreciate having my hard work shown in a grade. Perhaps that is what has been conditioned in me though! Haha!
    • The insight on the pass/fail model from the UNBC cohort was that it provided and opportunity for community building by removing competition between students. It also allows for more intended learning rather than singular outcome based learning. I am grateful that I feel within my cohort we have established a supportive community and my experience has not been one in which peer-competition has existed. I can understand how removing some of those grading stresses might help to foster this community more though in certain cases!
    • Similarly the competency based focus of the BC Curriculum shifts away the emphasis from ‘grading identity’
Room 2: Cross-Curricular Teaching
  • Cross-curricular teaching is a really effective way to blend disciplines and modalities to enhance learning! From my own experience in my cross-curricular teaching class, I have found it to be so valuable and rewarding to collaborate interdisciplinary! In the real world though this is hard to practice! The system is not set up for cross-curricular collaboration outside of a few specific schools.
  • The shift in the BC Curriculum to focus on competencies can allow for increased collaboration, however if the system doesn’t support this teachers are often stuck within their own disciplines.
  • Cross-Curricular teaching needs to start in primary education, building through secondary education and move through the university system. Ultimately all of these educational stages need to be on board with interdisciplinary collaboration or it doesn’t work.

A final key takeaway that I really loved was that in a wolf pack the leader of the pack is the last inline. This leader oversees the entire pack, he ensures nobody is left behind and keeps the pack unified in his journey. Although we as teachers frequently stand at the front, this more holistic view of leadership is worth considering within our classrooms. Ultimately we as teachers should aim to ensure a strong learning community, and allow for student lead learning within their classroom while also guiding the class through learning together.

EdCamp #1 was definitely a success! Looking forward to participating in another one!

 

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