Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Class 6: 09/13/11-Petrosino (2004)

Tara, our teaching assistant, began the class discussion for today with a review of the critical aspects of Project Based Instruction (PBI) as defined by the readings for 9/8 (Baron et al and Krajcik & Blumenfeld).  The six most important components of PBI discussed were the driving question or challenge, scaffolding, collaboration, creation of a tangible product, ample assessment opportunities throughout, and authenticity or a “real-world” situation.

The importance of PBI as opposed to traditional laboratory and mathematics approaches was emphasized with the above "Ted Talk" video of Dan Meyers entitled “math needs a makeover” and the following quote from Ausubel

It should seem rather self-evident that performing laboratory experiments in cookbook fashion, without understanding the underlying substantive and methodological principles involved, confers precious little meaningful understanding, and that many students studying mathematics and science find it relatively simple to discover correct answers to problems without really understanding what they are doing.

The class then discussed what it would mean for the Petrosino case study of an astronomy class to follow the “How People Learn” text.  The How People Learn framework is focused on four classroom environments: knowledge centered, learner centered, assessment centered, and community centered.  Knowledge centered environments focus on student understanding of content, not just their memorization and requires meaningful engagement.  Learner centered environments draw on students’ prior knowledge, skills, and cultural experiences.  Assessment centered environments provide feedback on assignments whether these assignments are tests, worksheets, or assignments.  The feedback does not necessarily have to be tangible though.  For example, a teacher can jot down notes to themself on student productivity or have a conversation with a student or group of students.  A community centered environment creates connections between the school and the outside world.  Connections are made between the home, school, after-school programs, and experts.  Perhaps even more importantly, community centered environments form a community within the classroom and give students individual roles that draw on their strengths.  Great classrooms incorporate all four of these components.

Petrosino’s data collection methods were then reviewed with a focus on the type of data collected.  He used interviews (with the teacher, students, and colleagues), email correspondence, field notes of classroom observations, classroom artifacts (copies of the lecture, notes, handouts, computer programs, and class projects), and he focused on the photometry topic of the unit only instead of analyzing all topics covered.  These methods are qualitative, not quantitati/div>

Lastly, the class looked at whether the unit the teacher in the case study taught followed the How People Learn framework.  The majority of the class felt that the unit was knowledge centered because students actually used software and telescopes instead of learning about them.  The concern was brought up, however, that there was a focus on skills in the class rather than understanding but after some discussion there was a consensus that the ability to learn new skills is important and an ability the kids must have for future careers.  The class taught them HOW to use technology which prepares them for their future jobs that we may not even be able to picture yet.  Most importantly, the students understood by the end what a scientist is better than students that did not take this course.

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 Rebecca. ­­­

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