Visual Communication of Science Concepts-Felice Frankel

One of the many challenges educators face daily is how to communicate ideas to learners with a wide range of background knowledge, learning style, interest/motivation and aptitude.

How many of us have told fascinating stories, presented compelling information, or sketched out ideas on the board-only to have a certain segment of the class stare at us blankly?

I think this is especially true in an area like science, where the real world connections are a bit harder for students, especially younger secondary students to make.

So, for an appreciation of the true challenge and artistry necessary to make compelling visual representations of scientific concepts, you may want to read the MIT News article about Felice Frankel’s work. 

Felice is an award winning, MIT research scientist and photographer has spent decades perfecting this craft and has created free tutorials in MIT’s Open Courseware.

I think any secondary science teacher would enjoy reading about her process and may enjoy using principles from the course to enhance their own pedagogy. It’s also a reminder for all of us non-science teachers to think about how we are communicating our lessons and to examine whether we might benefit from a creative re-examination-possibly utilizing some of Felice Frankel’s work as inspiration. I also think students may benefit from reading about her career as it is a blend of the artistic and the analytical and utilizes the best of each to help individuals develop a deeper understanding of their world.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How often do you use visual representations to enhance your lessons?
  2. Why does Felice Frankel encourage researchers to develop “metaphors” to help explain their work?
  3. Is there a concept that you think your students would benefit from seeing a visual image?
  4. What are some creative methods you have used to help “illustrate” a concept?
  5. What is Felice Frankel’s background-how might this have impacted her work?

 

Improving Test Scores

Improving Test Scores

Have you ever felt like you were spinning your wheels when it comes to studying for exams?

Do you notice your students studying, but still not getting results?

If so, you definitely want to check out Milenko Martinovich’s new article in the Stanford News. This article features the work of Stanford University psychology professor, Patricia Chen’s new work on how to help students study more effectively.

In the study, the intervention group was encouraged to utilize their meta-cognitive abilities- quite simply to “think about their thinking.”

Specifically, students were given an online survey prior to their exams in a statistics course and asked to “think about what might be on the exam and then strategize what resources they would use most effectively”  according to Martinovich’s article.

Importantly, students were then asked to self-reflect, recalling why they chose the resources they chose and how they believed it would be effective in their learning.

This intervention lead to an increase in grades in the course by almost a third of a letter grade.

Please click here to read the article.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was professor Chen’s research hypothesis?
  2. What is meta-cognition?
  3. Describe their intervention- “Strategic Resource Use.”
  4. In what circumstances does professor Chen say this would likely be most effective?
  5. What might educators need to do to support students in a “resource-scarce” environment?
  6. Besides studying for tests, how else does Chen suggest this might be used?
  7. How would you develop further research to learn more about this topic?

Benefits of Peer Support in Learning from Michigan State University

Benefits

As an educator, I find this new study from Michigan State University a bit troubling. Quite simply, peer feedback was more beneficial than teacher feedback in an online psychology course.

The research study, co-authored by Michigan State University associate professor of education, Carey Roseth, published recently in the International Journal of Educational Research, found that when students were given feedback to the question, “Why do I have to learn this” from a peer (a confederate posing as a peer) the student averaged a 92 percent for the entire semester long course.

The students who received the feedback from the teacher earned an 86 percent for the course.

Quite surprisingly, the control group, those that did not receive any feedback, earned a 90 percent for the course-still better than those that earned feedback from a teacher.

Professor Roseth explains,”… As a student, I can identify with my peers and imagine myself using the course material in the same way they do. This gives the material meaning and a sense of purpose that goes beyond memorization. When I hear a peer’s story, it connects to the story I am telling myself about who I want to be in the future.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. How many students were in each of the groups? (Why is it important to know the sample size?)
  2. If there was only one course instructor, what other possible explanations for this outcome could there be?
  3. Do you predict the outcomes would be the same in a face to face course?
  4. What did the script say? Why is it important to know what the script was-how could the wording of the script impact the outcome? Would the response be different with a different script?
  5. These were all introductory education students-could that have an impact on the results?
  6. How else could you extend this research-replicate, different subjects different design?
  7. How could you use this information in your own classroom?

For more information, please read Andy Henion’s article on the Michigan State University website, MSU Today.

Your Brain On Learning-University of Alabama Research

What if everything we “know” as educators is wrong?

Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we are likely to be exposed to revolutionary new ideas about how the brain actually learns that will fundamentally alter the way we do our jobs each day.

Sigh.

And I was just getting used to the new curriculum….

The good news is in University of Alabama writer David Miller’s article on neuroscience research on learning. According to researchers at the University of Alabama is that it will probably take ten years for the research to make its way to the classroom level, according to assistant professor, Dr. Firat Soylu- so don’t delete those slide shows just yet!

The even better news, is that much of this research will hopefully take the guess work out of how we think students learn and make differentiated instruction seem quaint, as we hopefully will be able to truly individualize instruction, so each student can learn the way they learn best.

In an ideal world, this will allow computers to handle the basic knowledge acquisition of memorization, solving basic formulas, understanding vocabulary and allow teachers to focus on developing research literacy through critical thinking, project based learning, labs, and other more cognitively complex classroom activities.

Now is a great time to introduce your students to the basics of neuroscience and the fMRI gear that are the tools of the trade.

Who knows, maybe your principal will get you that EEG machine after all?

For additional information on Dr. Soylu’s work, which includes an insightful review of educational neuroscience research and discusses several lesson designs which can likely enhance student learning, please see the article The Thinking Hand:Embodiment of Tool Use, Social Cognition, and Metaphorical Thinking and Implications for Learning Design.  The learning design method of perspective taking as exemplified in the section “Being the Sensor” as great utility for a wide variety of classroom settings.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does fMRI stand for?
  2. How does it work?
  3. How is it different than a traditional MRI?
  4. How much does it cost?
  5. What is tDCS?
  6. Are you a skeptic- does this seem like just another research “fad?” What evidence do you base your skepticism on?
  7. What teaching practices are you doing now, that are likely a bit behind the times?
  8. What do you want to know about neuroscience to help you be a better educator?
  9. How can you use this information to inspire your students?

3 Ways to Make Class Projects Fun

water-descending-rocks

Wichita State University students in the Elliot School of Communication  demonstrate three ways  to add zip to classroom projects of any kind.

  1. Hands-On. Projects where students actually make something, not just a slideshow followed by the students reading the slides aloud. In the Elliot School example, the students not only made their own “instruments” but they made the video as well. Can we go beyond speeches, debates, collages, and posters and inspire our students to actually “make” something?
  2. Simplicity. I have no idea what the actual assignment the Wichita State students were asked to do, but it strikes me that they found a simple solution. Although this video is quite minimalistic- a group of college students drumming for about 90 seconds, it left me smiling at the end. Minimal instructions, minimal time, minimal budget-maximum creativity.
  3. Community. As an introvert, I generally loathe group projects, where school, like life, one person does 90% of the work and the credit is shared equally, or the group is stuck following a dull idea, simply because the “leader” persuaded the others to do it. That being said, we humans are social creatures, and finding ways to engage our social nature is an important part of increasing the enjoyment of the project. Whether this is through an actual group project-as a parent, I beg of you make sure the “group” part is done at school. We are all too busy and have such varied family needs that trying to get a group of students together in the evening and weekend is too much work. If it is a group project, let the students do individual work at home, research, drafting, etc. and then let the group work during class time.  For sure, saving time for a communal sharing and celebration will likely be appreciated by nearly all of your students!

Questions for Discussion

  1. How do you make your projects fun?
  2. How do you ensure all students are engaged-introverts, extroverts, analytical, creative?
  3. How do you assess the project?
  4. How do you monitor the project on an ongoing basis?
  5. What have been the most enjoyable or results?
  6. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”