The Scientific Method

So many of you will already be aware that there isn’t one scientific method. The one we usually learn and teach about however, goes a bit like this:

  • aim
  • hypothesis
  • method
  • results
  • discussion
  • conclusion

Looks familiar right? Now remember when I said there isn’t only one scientific method, let’s consider the field of epidemiology. In epidemiology which is a branch of biology we try to understand human diseases, how they originate, how they spread, what are some factors that predetermine the acquisition of disease and so on. Now it’s really frowned upon to do experiments on people. For example, we can’t PROVE that smoking causes lung cancer because we can’t say “Oi, you 30 people, come over here and smoke for the next 20 years of your life and we’ll see if you get lung cancer, and you 30 over there, you’re fine just don’t smoke”. I’m sure you can see how ridiculous that would be!

So how do we get around this problem? Well by a lot of observation. Epidemiology relies on life already carrying out the method and results, and epidemiologists just go out and try to observe people and find patterns. It’s a very complicated but extremely fascinating process that relies very much on statistics. I might do a post on the bell curve if I get a chance – it’s actually really cool.

So anyway, here is a template you can use with high school students to scaffold for them the (traditional) scientific method.

Can you think of another situation where the classical scientific method doesn’t hold true?

Scaffolding Scientific Method

 

What makes a good teacher?

  1. Patience: teachers need to give each student a fresh chance every single day. Teachers also have to be patient when explaining concepts to their students and try to explain it in different ways.
  2. Organisation: There is nothing worse than a teacher who is unorganised, because it gets transferred to your students. Similarly,
  3. Passionate: Teachers who are passionate transfer this passion to their students. They want to know why you think your subject is so amazing.
  4. Are firm but fair: They are compassionate and try to understand their students but lay down the law when needed.
  5. Have high expectations of their students: They will meet whatever expectations you set them.
  6. Model a love of learning: They seek new ideas and ways of doing things and don’t do the same thing year in year out.
  7.  Good communicators: They build networks with other teachers, they ask and seek advice.
  8. Ask the good questions: They help their students become critical, self sufficient thinkers.
  9. Plan activities that meet students needs with FUN at the core of them.
  10. Reflective: On their own teaching practices.
  11. Engage their students: by making it relevant to them.
  12. Have routines for what goes on in the classroom
  13. Timing of lesson is well thought out.
  14. Assess their students constantly and use this to inform (a) future teaching of this class (b) teaching the same topic to future classes. It’s not good enough to just teach the content. You need to know that your students know the content.
  15. Fantastic pitcher: So that the questions or activities that you ask of your students are just beyond what they are capable of doing comfortably now. You want them just outside their comfort zone.
  16. Approachable: You want your students to feel like they can ask you questions and not be ridiculed.
  17. Clearly outlines the aims of the lesson: The worst question your student can have at the end of the lesson is “So…what were we supposed to learn then?”. Make it super clear.

 

Teaching Philosophy

Extremely passionate about education, my main drive is ensuring the spark of natural curiosity that we all have as children isn’t lost throughout schooling but encouraged and ignited. I want to foster a lifelong love of learning in my students and show them how enchanting science truly is. I intend to instill a sense of pride in students’ learning to constantly push them towards their personal best. With my support and guidance they will become critical thinkers, who engage with their learning and one another. We will achieve this through problem solving, meaningful assessments and collaborative small group work. As a great deal of effective student learning comes from organisation and routine, my ideal school will allow me to have my own classroom and focus on engaging students through the curriculum.

My First Practicum

My prac experience was as others before me and after me will also say a real learning curve. My major lesson was how explicit I need to be when giving instructions and asking questions. I became very self-sufficient in my prac and one of the most useful things I did was ask students for feedback on my own teaching. They have a surprising level of metacognitive ability – they know what they like! And they are a resource just waiting to be tapped into. Things I’d do differently:

  • start with clear expectations of behaviour and outline these. No matter how silly you might think it is you need to be explicit!
  • don’t change too much: 2 or 3 things that you do should be different to their normal teacher. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel cause they’ll get confused and that’s not good for anyone.
  • Try to learn their names ASAP but change the format of the Facebook Get to Know you Profile
  • Hilight the standards for my Supervising Teacher every lesson so that I’d get more meaningful feedback and they wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed.

What feedback I gained from my students or observing other more experienced teachers, I’ve added to my growing list of What Makes a Good Teacher? 

Big History at Vivid Ideas

bhp_life_on_earth

This was a lecture and Q&A session at MCA Sydney on a wet Sunday morning. I was really keen to see what David Christian had to say because I too believe that education should be taught more holistically and not segmented into little chunks. How can students possibly become lateral thinkers if we teach them that this is chemistry and this is biology and that that over there is history and that they have nothing to do with one another. It’s simply not going to happen! And unfortunately that’s not good enough because our world requires lateral thinking. We need to amalgamate information into coherent sequences and we need to know that it’s okay to mixup different faculties.

David Christian with sponsorship by Bill Gates has developed an online curriculum called Big History. What this is is basically a history of time from the Big Bang up until now condensed into a 10 week course. Pretty neat huh? I love this idea. Why do we have to teach students about all the nitty gritty details. Let’s teach them the BIG PICTURE. It’s the most important thing. Those nitty gritty details, in our current age we don’t need to memorise them. That’s not 21st century thinking. We have all that knowledge indispensable to us at our fingertips. We are faced with far bigger challenges that simply memorisation. We need to be able to synthesise and create. Let’s give our students an opportunity to do THAT. It was a really inspiring talk.

David talked about how we give up on asking the big questions at school because getting through the curriculum simply doesn’t allow for it. How wrong this is! We are literally asking our students to stop asking important questions. Imagine if a student asked you what the purpose of life was in class. I can almost guarantee you that you would not indulge them.

His presentation made me think of a fantastic book that I own called “A short history of nearly everything” by Bill Bryson. It also aims to talk about everything in one novel and does justice to every crucial event throughout history.

To find out more: https://course.bighistoryproject.com/bhplive

What makes a good teacher?

From my observations + research

  • having routines
  • being firm and able to control a classroom
  • joking with students/ having a sense of humour
  • knowing what’s going on in the class
  • caring about the education of students
  • not embarrassing students in front of peers
  • having clear expectations of behaviour
  • being clear with your instructions
  • being a story teller + making it relevant
  • builds on knowledge obtained previously

Week 1 already gone.

I’ve just finished a really fast paced week on my first professional experience. I’ve started a “get to know you” profile that the majority of students have responded well to. It’s just a really quick and easy way for me to find out a little bit about my students and it makes it much easier to remember their names which, if our education at uni is anything to go by is one of the most important things you can do in terms of behaviour management.

What else am I learning? How to use an interactive white board. That schools don’t really focus on contexts as they told us to in method (although I’m sure that this would still be vastly more enriching way of learning curricula – see my future post on Big History).

I’m learning that a lot of students actually live at the boarding school and that the majority of them have parents who live in rural areas. The school has a really great culture. There’s A LOT going on.

I’ve come to really appreciate the time my teachers put in to see my during recess and lunch as a student. I’ve come to also realise in a shocking way the importance of planning ahead. Last week I was kind of thrown in the deep end. But as I sit here today on Sunday evening, having lessons up until Thursday planned and ready to go I feel pretty good about myself. Certainly much more in control than last week.

I’m learning that teachers keep on learning for the rest of their lives and that if you’re passionate about it – there’s always someone to talk to. The science staff at this school are so great. They really are very kind and supportive and genuinely seem to care about me. Which is really nice.

I’m learning how important it is to BE VERY VERY CLEAR with students. Every activity can be interpreted in a different kind of way unless you plan for it. Even having extra boxes that needn’t be there confuses students so get on top of that.

I think the students are really liking the mini whiteboards idea that I’ve introduced them too. It gives a chance for even the most shy students to participate and I really like that because sometimes classroom can be dominated by few students and you never really get to know what everyone is thinking. There is a problem with this though because the students still tend to copy each others’ answers. But I mean at least they’re writing it down and thinking about the questions right?

I’m also really learning the features of great teachers which I’ll put in a separate post. Really exciting stuff.

First Week of teacher school

The 3rd of March marked by official beginning as a trainee teacher. While I’d been teaching at university all of 2013 casually around 20 hours per week, this was officially training to start off my career as a high school science teacher. I was excited to say the least.

I met some amazingly enthusiastic people also doing the MTeach/ GDE course at UNSW. Everyone came from such different backgrounds. Unlike my undergrad degree, there were a lot more mature age students which I was really happy about – we can learn so much from them! They came from backgrounds of clinical research to music composition, all looking for a change in career to teaching. I wonder why? It’s great don’t get me wrong – but why now? Did they want to rustle up some experience before teaching? Did they want to fulfil some life long goals they had set up for themselves? Or is it that teaching would fit into their lives better now? I don’t know really but whatever it is the students of those teachers are going to have an experience that I myself cannot share. It’s different to have dabbled in your field and then go teach it. I think it gives a deeper quality of learning – if used correctly that is. My high school chemistry teacher, while being a chemist for a while before becoming a teacher was totally out of sync with how education had developed. So hoping these guys in my course aren’t on that page.

I’m also living the teaching. Yesterday in a lecture they talked about teaching being a vocation not a job and I already totally agree with that. It’s encompassing my life. I have been thinking and talking about teaching all week.

Everyone is also very opinionated and I love that! Yesterday in my favourite course the Science Method course taught by Judith Morgan of Caringbah High School, she asked us if science required experimentation. While I originally thought (in my biology way of thinking) yes of course! That’s what distinguishes science from other disciplines. We later got into a discussion where another student said, quite rightly, that epidemiology exists through observation not methodical experimentation – it is seeking to observe trends in populations because it is illegal to experiment on humans. On the other hand, archaeological discoveries in palaeontology cannot be reproduced, there is no such experimentation that goes on. So perhaps we should say methodical observation is a type of experimentation. But then what about thought experiments? Where do they come into it? It’s all very exciting talking to these people.

Another thing that stuck with me last week was about motivation. Basically this is the scenario: people were given the task of completing puzzles. In one group they would get a monetary prize for every puzzle they completed and in the other group they were told to complete as many as they could. Both groups were given 30 mins to complete the task. After the half hour, the examiner returned and said Okay now I’m going to go get the results of the experiment and you can be on your way. He then left for 10 mins or so. In that 10 minutes the group which had the monetary incentive DID NOT complete any more puzzles. They just sat around. However, the group without the monetary incentive DID complete more puzzles. What’s really interesting about this is that giving someone an incentive for doing something other than the “be the best you you can be” might actually undermine their own motivation. Why didn’t they complete more puzzles? Well as I was thinking about this I thought perhaps they thought that it might be cheating if they completed more puzzles when they weren’t supposed to. A way around this would have been to count the puzzles before the examiner went to get the results, and then if they still didn’t do any more puzzles after that I would be satisfied with the validity of these results. On the other hand, even if the examiner didn’t count the results before leaving, the person being tested could’ve still done more puzzles and just told the examiner to exclude those in the final count to be fair. I don’t really know because I didn’t read the article yet. When I do I’ll edit this post. Got me thinking though.