April 13, 2016 by Doug Napolitano-Cremin
Day 4 of the NSTA conference was my last full day in the wonderful city of Nashville.
Session 1 of the day was focused on the use of exercise books: ‘Science Notebooks: Tools to Develop Scientific Practices and Student Learning’. The session was delivered by Lori Fulton from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She made some really interesting points about the progression of the use of exercise books. We generally begin to use exercise books to record elements/activities of lessons, the use them to record scientific content but the ultimate aim should be to turn the exercise books in to tools that can be used by pupils. One interesting point that was made was that all exercise books in a class shouldn’t look the same. If they do look the same, what does that show us about the learning of the individual pupils in that class? Lori also discussed how exercise books could be utilised as a tool for discourse in science classrooms. They could enhance wait/thinking time. A really interesting strategy described by Lori was ‘Line of Learning’. When a period of discussion has been completed in a lesson, all pupils are asked to ‘LOL’ – they draw a line across the page in their books and reflect on what they have heard/discussed by writing a sentence or two.
My next session was focused on ‘Promoting Academic Integrity in Your Classroom’ and was delivered by Stacia Hottle, a Science teacher from Tampa Preparatory School. To be frank, I had never previously thought in much detail about academic integrity and how to train my pupils to be more aware of plagiarism etc. This session really opened my eyes. I liked the idea of an ‘Honour Code’ that was presented by Stacia. This was a code that was developed by the school, with input from students. It set expectations for all students and how they completed work like essays but also when completing formal summative assessments. It also set clear guidelines about how group work would be conducted. Students are expected to sign the code of conduct at the start of the year and are reminded of what it contains before summative assessments. Stacia signposted a few good websites to use to check pupils work for plagiarism like turnitin.com and plagtracker.com. One idea that really struck home though was that if we want to reduce the likelihood of pupils from being tempted to cheat in examinations etc. the best policy is to limit the stress that they experience in these situations as much as we possibly can. A method that Stacia uses is relatively simple: ensure that pupils are as prepared as they can be for the assessment. The first picture below was of what information is given to pupils by Stacia before a test. We tend to shroud tests in secrecy to try to ensure that the test is the best representation of what pupils know, but is that really the case? The information given by Stacia has not very much to do with the content of the exam but will ensure pupils are as prepared as they can be. Could we conclude that pupils will have reduced anxiety about the exam and therefore be more able to demonstrate what they have learned? This is an area I am going to be looking at for the next academic year.
My next session of the day was delivered by Lisa Bohn from Arkansas University. The focus was on organising and delivering professional development: ‘App and At ‘Em: Using Technology in Professional Development’. This was a really great session and I left with lots of ideas as to how we can utilise technology to try to deliver high quality, high value professional development (PD). Lisa first started by discussing how when planning PD events it was helpful to focus your planning in to the following stages:
- Early pre-PD.
- Later pre-PD.
- During PD.
A number of apps that could have positive impacts on the planning, delivery and evaluation of PD were discussed. The stand-outs for me were:
- Eventbrite – this is an app I am familiar with through ticketing to various events, but I had never considered using it to organise an event myself. Some of the session attendees mentioned that they had used this for organising ‘office hours’ with pupils and also parents evening appointments. There are so many tools within Eventbrite that enable you to keep in contact with anyone attending an event you are organising. This is definitely an app that I will keep in mind for the future.
- Yapp – this looks like a brilliant app. An app that helps you to make an app! I haven’t explored this yet but again, many people attending the session described this as a brilliant app. You can use this to create an app for an event that you are organising or even a series of events. I am thinking about looking in to whether I could use this to design an app that could be used by my department to keep up to date with what is going on and also reduce the number of emails we send each other. I am also going to investigate whether we could use this with our A-Level & GCSE students.
- Airtable – this looks like a fantastic organisational tool. It is pretty much a spreadsheet online but you can do so much more collaboration with this compared to a simple EXCEL spreadsheet. I am looking in to how we can use this within my department to evidence our PD throughout each academic year.
- Qualtrics – this is a survey website, in a similar vein to SurveyMonkey, but was described by a number of people in the session as being much better. Another site I will explore – possibly to use to gather pupils views on various department related business.
Another (!) really useful session with lots of tools to take away and explore.
My final session of the conference was delivered by a group of educators from San Diego, California and centred around the use of exit tickets: ‘Enhanced Exit Ticket: Round-Trip to Greater Student-Teacher Accountability’. The idea behind this was that these ‘tickets’ are not just used at the end of a lesson, but can be used at the end of any activity/practice etc. They are a one-question mini quiz. They are designed to test one essential skills or concept. Differentiation comes in the form of the format of the question e.g. solve for x, compare/contrast, draw, explain, etc. The question should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete. The presenters displayed various examples of tickets that they have used and emphasised that the tickets encouraged the development of pupils’ independence as pupils were able to diagnose their own difficulties, seek help, but also see some immediate success. Pupils also remarked that the exit tickets enabled them to keep track of the important skills, content that were key to success. It will be interesting to explore the use of these ‘enhanced exit tickets’, especially considering the increased emphasis on the recall of content within the new specifications and programmes of study within secondary science in the UK.