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.

Ramayana Translation Project-Patience and Perseverance

How long will it take you to accomplish your dream?

For Robert Goldman, distinguished professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies UC Berkeley and Dr. Sally Sutherland Goldman, senior lecturer in South and Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, the answer is “about 40 years.”

That is how long the Goldman’s toiled at the painstaking research required to complete the Ramayana Translation Project. The Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic, written nearly 3000 years ago, in which Prince Rama attempts to capture his wife. Of course, a one sentence summary can not do justice to a 50,000 line epic, that professor Goldman states, “Think the Illiad and the Odyssey and the Bible in one package, and you might get the sense of it.”

One of the main messages we can give our students is that accomplishments require tremendous effort-sustained, patient, effort. And that, as we learned from the great work of Walter Mischel and others through the Marshmallow Test- this habit of delaying our gratification for a greater reward is a skill that can be learned.

As the Wide Open Research community knows, I am striving to help educators share the great work of brilliant researchers like the Goldman’s, but also to help students learn how researchers chose the path they chose. Many students do not have access to individuals in their circle of family and friends who pursue advanced degrees. This lack of a robust network of highly educated individuals limits their access to those careers.

It helps to know that professor Goldman achieved his success not only through his intellect, but through hard work and  by following his passion through choices he made along the way.

snow-and-treewaiting

I am very grateful, for Dr. Robert Goldman for taking the time to answer a few questions about his “career” path.

Dr. Goldman shares how he started off in one direction, but like so many of us, changed paths to truly follow something that inspired him,As a premed student in college I had a desire to learn as much about things of which I was utterly ignorant as I could. Since I was at a university (Columbia) that offered a wide range of subjects, I took a course on Asian (the called “Oriental”) civilizations. I became fascinated with the culture and history of India and changed my major to Sanskrit Studies.”

What are some skills that he learned that he believes teachers could help their students with?

Goldman states, “ The skills that this discipline taught me and should be taught as widely as possible are those connected with philology,  that is to say, in essence, with learning how to read carefully and critically.”

It should be noted that professor Goldman did not really have a sense of pursuing his love of languages until sophomore year in college at Columbia.

I asked him if he would have done anything differently that might have benefited  him and he noted,” Probably I would have taken the Latin course that was offered. But that might have set me on a different track than the one I took.

So, how do we as educators, help our students develop their intellect, and help them develop to their potential?

Teachers need to excite students  and inspire them with a love of learning. But to do so they themselves need to have it,“ according to Dr. Robert Goldman.

Here is hoping that we all have the energy to re-kindle that inspiration that brought us to the education profession in the first place- to put aside the data analysis, lesson plan curriculum cross-walks, the incessant standardized test preparation and love learning again.

For then, we will be able to help our students love learning as well.

Thanks to Dr. Goldman for his time to share his thoughts with our small blog and to the work of Robert and Sally Goldman for inspiring us through their 40 year journey in completing the Ramayana Translation Project.

In a perfect world, their accomplishment would be celebrated throughout the cities and villages, and their work would be given to every graduating senior in America with the admonition, “Learn, Read, Persist.”

But for now, we will simply say thanks. (And read the Ramayana Translation Project!)

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does the Ramayana story still resonate today?
  2. How do we develop patience and perseverance as skills with our students?
  3. What about the work of Dr. Robert and Dr. Sally Goldman is inspirational to you?
  4. How do you develop the skills of philology as Dr. Goldman notes, “learning how to read carefully and critically?”
  5. What are you passionately learning “to excite students and inspire them with a love of learning?” as Dr. Goldman encourages?
  6. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

For a link to more info about the Ramayana Translation Project, please click here.summerblooms