Welcome back for another exciting round of the GRS weekly class blog. This week the major topic discussed was student engagement. Student engagement through literature, through technology, through questioning, and the like.
Class began with a group discussion on our reading this week: The Way Students Want to Learn by Laurie O. Campbell and Dara Williams-Rossi. The reading delved into a variety of technologies that may be used to help engage science students. However, as the discussion continued each of us in the classroom picked apart the piece of writing to demonstrate that assuming engagement comes with technology is a slippery slope. Student may be engaged in learning through technology, but the article notes that ALL students love technology, a dangerous generalization that may ostracize certain learners in the classroom. On the same note, we did all agreed that there is a place for technology in the classroom. Technology can serve as a valuable tool for increasing accessibility for groups of learners, and provides the opportunity to demonstrate science concepts in new and innovative ways that wee once impossible before tools such as chromebooks and iPads came into the classroom.
Moving forward, we were fortunate enough to have a powerful Ponderings and Proposals by our very own Ms. Jean. The topic delved into focused on negotiating difficult relationships with co-workers. Without going too far in depth, as a student teachers we are forced to be very careful in our placements. We are effectively renting the space from our CTs and have to be courteous and respectful of the other professionals around us, even when there are those who we personally deem to be ineffective in their teaching, or who we see as an active detriment to the learning of our students. However, in the fall when we enter our first full time teaching positions, negotiating this relationship becomes even more difficult as we will have the power to effect change. We will have the agency to support other professionals who may be struggling, or, potentially, to take measures towards alerting the administration about the nature of the situation. In any case, it was an enlightening conversation and helped us move one step closer towards our professional practice next year.
Although we discussed and participated in a number of other activities in class, the session culminated with a discussion led by a guest presenter Allison Rook on the topic of questioning. The conversation was very illuminating and demonstrated to us all that there is a lot of value in thinking deeply about the kinds of questions you prepare for your students, and even more in the kids of questions you in turn ask to your students, and attempt to elicit from your students. She shared that, effectively, there are 2 major forms of questions: Open and closed. Open questions have a place in education and will lead to more discussion without any definite answer in goal, though a direction nonetheless. In contrast however, closed questions are directed with a definite end goal. They may be factual, with a yes, no, or vocabulary term answer, and function as an immediate check for student understanding. Allison’s visit helped us to see that, in a day, we ask as many as 300 questions, each of which takes its own form and serves it own function. Maybe 60% of those are straight forward closed questions to check for understanding, or to lead students to see how this vocab word can be used in a sentence to better explain a scientific phenomenon, while others are open, leading students down a line of thinking to promote their comprehension of a scientific way of mind. Regardless, through the thick and thin or questioning, what is essential (in my understanding) is the thought behind the question. Having a good reason for why the question is being asked is paramount and can make the difference between a productive discussion, that can build student engagement and interest in science, and a boring lecture.