My vision of a perfect science classroom for the middle school would be to look around the room and see students enjoying the learning process, while being engaged in the activity, while being able to see the benefits and real world possibilities of what they are learning. They would use me a resource for direction and questions, but not someone who is holding their hand through the whole process. The students would be able to have different outcomes and think differently and still have the understanding that their way of doing things wasn’t right or wrong just different. Students would be very creative in the learning process as well.
My idea of a successful Science classroom has students who are engaged in solving real-world problems. The teacher would be the facilitator, and every student would have a computer or device that they could use for simulations. Some students would be working in collaborative groups while others might be working alone. The teacher would help elevate student thinking. The room would be structured such that everyone would be respectful of each others creative ideas.
I agree with your comment that at the middle school level, structure is necessary. I’d like to add the importance of teacher modeling types of talk and expected behaviors. I’ve experienced that this helps to increase the amount of learning in the classroom. I also know that a lot of middle school is “catered” or lends itself toward the extroverted students. I think it is also important to remember and intentionally provide learning opportunities for the introverted students. It’s ok to have silent or independent work/learning time.
A successful science classroom incorporates different types of learning strategies and practices to meet the needs of the learners in the classroom. The teacher is utilized as a facilitator, not a “question answer-er” or “knowledge giver”. Students utilize technology appropriately when needed and student-to-student discourse to help make sense of their science ideas.
The ideal science classroom is one that has activity-based inquiry learning going on. This format provides students with an opportunity to work at their own individual pace to explore the concepts being studied in class. The differentiation helps to meet the needs of each individual student which holds each student responsible for their own learning.
Your response about middle school students and technology is very valid. Our corporation went to the one to one initiative at the middle school level this past year. Most students handled this transition well, but I had a few students who did not meet expectations. I think the key is to model how the technology is to be used and when it is to be used while keeping a structured format to the classroom. Blending in traditional pedagogy may be the best practice in certain instances. I view computer modeling as being only one tool that I plan to use, coupled with a heavy emphasis on inquiry-based learning in a lab. Having the reservoir near you certainly gives you some real-world opportunities that I do not have. I see that as being a huge asset.
A successful science classroom that integrates modeling and simulation is a very busy classroom where the teacher is facilitating as s/he walks around to observe the students and assist where needed; while the students are working as teams or individuals either on the computer or discussing how to proceed with the work at hand.
A successful science classroom that integrates modeling and simulation should consist of students working in groups at certain times and individually at other times, computer access for all, and a teacher on hand to offer feedback and help redirect the focus of students when needed. Each group of students should be given the chance to choose or create a question that can be explored in greater depth. Students can then delegate certain tasks among the group, or decide what data they would like to study in their search for answers to their question.
A successful science classroom would focus on a mix of guided discovery learning and open inquiry learning. During the guided discovery parts of the class, the teacher would introduce a concept, and then students would complete some type of project or study. The open inquiry part would involve students following their own interests that relate to the curriculum of the class. Students would sometimes be able to work on these projects and studies alone, but the majority of the assigned work would be cooperative–with students assessing and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of other students’ work. As I assume that having students modify and/or create their own simulations would take a fair amount of time, I imagine that students would only be able to produce 2 or 3 in one year. Perhaps one simulation or model could be created by the entire class, and then modified throughout the year. Computers would be needed for research for all projects, as well as for the creation/modification of products, models, and simulations.
As we all know, fear of students performing poorly on high stakes tests like the VA SOLS has caused many teachers to rely on reading and memorizing rather than teaching important skills. It bothers me that over the course of my career I have heard several colleagues in different disciplines say things like, “there are so many fun & engaging activities that I could have my students do, but I have too many SOLs to teach them.” Teaching students to question, think, & analyze will facilitate actually using the information, and make it meaningful to them. Once students master these skills by creating & interpreting models that relate to SOL concepts, the SOL test should be a breeze!
I think a successful science classroom that is integrating modeling and simulation would be one that employs the use, modify, create scaffold to ensure that at all times, students are working up to the proper cognitive level. I would not expect all students to flow through this scaffold at the same time, and so the teacher would need to be a facilitator as students move through the process. Of course, the teacher would need to provide basic solid core content instruction and students would need to feel confident with how to use the technology available to them. I see the teacher introducing a simulation or computer model in a whole class setting, and then allow time for students to explore on a individual basis, and assessing which students are achieving learning targets based on simply using the model. I see students working in pairs to discuss how they could modify the computer model and experimenting with those modifications. With regards to creating their own model, I don’t think all students would always get to that cognitive level, so I see the teacher working with small groups to facilitate the creation of a new computer model by the students themselves. The student created model could then be introduced to the class for individual use, to help solidify the content knowledge of all students, especially struggling students, and provide opportunities for students to discuss the thought behind model creation among their peers.
A successful classroom that integrates modeling and simulation looks like students engaged in inquiry and developing models that represent whatever they are researching or trying to demonstrate on the computer.
Students are asking their own questions and looking up their own answers to find solutions to real life problems. Teachers and students interact with students by giving them the space, guidelines and freedom to complete their tasks. Students interact with teachers on an as needed bases after trouble shooting their ideas and seeking help from peers first.
I envision an ideal Science classroom with students being introduced to a concept and then are asked to engage with the topic through a lab or simulation in which they collect data and through analysis would be able to generate further questions in which they could use data and simulation models to investigate further. The teacher would act as a guide to them and there would be peer to peer learning. Particularly important would be how their learning is related to real life issues and the use of real life modeling and simulations.
I love your mention of real-life connections. I often try to think of ways that my students can draw connections between the content that I teach and their lives or prior life experiences.
I definitely appreciate the ability to support differentiated learning, and see how using the computer modeling would be beneficial.
To me a successful science classroom is one filled with students working in groups using technology to create working models based on background knowledge they have been given through teacher lecture, student discussion, videos, and other resources. The engaged and motivated students develop hypothesis and ideas that they are interested in testing and then work together in groups creating computer models to enhance their learning. The teacher has the opportunity to show their examples, work with small groups as a facilitator of learning, and students take control and responsibility for their learning.
A successful classroom is full of student choice in many aspects of the science curriculum. While some content doesn’t lend itself or at least is harder to visualize it being learned through student choice, it can be.
Modeling and simulations can be an avenue of student choice, seems like a great way for students to show a deep understanding of scientific concepts. The teacher would serve many roles but more as an adviser than a content deliverer much of the time… Help students along the path in any way it branches for them. Students would interact with each other as team members and provide constructive feedback to help each other. Computer, specifically student created models and simulations, would enhance students learning products and allow them to show multiple depths of knowledge.
A successful science classroom provides students opportunities to create and display models. These can be two or three dimensional, as well as digital. Computers are available for students to collaborate and create simulations. The teacher is available to make suggestions and offer encouragement and feedback.
My vision in addition the points that have been posted is the students need to have a clear question and process needed to completely answer the questions. Great ideas were shared.
The most successful classrooms mesh modeling and simulation. The ideal would be a teacher who guides students in their exploration of relevant learning projects. It is the students’ responsibility to participate and drive the activity. Their actions create the meaning in their scaffolding, which in turn gives meaning to the entire exercise. The role of computers is to be present, but unobtrusive. They are not the lesson; they are the tool that offers access to the materials that the students will use to create the meaning of the lesson.