This past weekend I met with my Knowles Science Teaching Foundation fellowship to continue to work on our year 1 inquiry projects and engage in face to face collaboration. Every time we meet I feel so rejuvenated and excited to bring what I have learned back to my school.
During this meeting we had lots of time to discuss what is going on at our school and discuss data. I love that we use protocols and I feel like that is one thing I need to bring back and introduce for out meetings because they tend to wander off track. For the protocol we used, each person had a turn to be the subject of the protocol, giving everyone the same amount of time. During the protocol, our “critical friends” would examine out data, ask clarifying questions, and just have time to express what they notice or wonder without any comment from the presenter. There were occasional long pauses as we read and thought and no one was checking email or looking at lesson plans. I feel like this processes highlighted the difference between collaborating and just having a meeting. I would like higher levels of collaboration at my school site so that I don’t have to wait between the few fellowship meetings and Google hangouts.
We also had a great collaborative discussion about “Content Knowledge for Teaching” where we synthesized long online discussions into concept maps in groups. These discussions were based on an article and the concepts maps were then posted around the room for a “gallery walk.” We all walked around with post-its to add questions to these concepts maps. We then modified/recreated our concept maps to better reflect the current state of the conversation. This process was an interesting way to allow everyone to participate and synthesize a long discussion board conversation. It also gave us a chance to think about and discuss the many different aspects of our teaching practice, which is something we don’t seem to have much time for during the year. I would really enjoy being able to have these conversations with the other teachers at my school and express our combined knowledge in a way that is useful.
We also had time to talk in our content groups, and since I’m in the math department at my school it was really great to talk with other science teachers about science. We have been discussing electrostatic potential energy since October and trying to get a better idea of what we know, what our students know, and how we can better teach these concepts. We spent a couple hours talking about energy, looking at student work, and deciding where we want to go with our topic. Part way through we started to get frustrated and unhappy with our current direction and everyone’s energy just seemed to drop. At the end we finally started to get going again and decided to explore different charge particle/distribution models and how they can be used to explore different phenomena that are related to electrostatic potential. I think this new direction has huge potential (no pun intended) and may be able to lead to a much stronger conceptual understanding and link between many topics in physics and chemistry (and really just how the domains of physics and chemistry relate). I would love to be able to have these conversations with the other science teachers at my school so that we can better align our curriculum. We may not have time to have the 3ish hour meetings, but we can definitely try to meet more often to make sure something develops.
One of the things I really like about the work we are doing as a fellowship is that it is public to us and really allows us to see what other people are working on. Everyone has a personal site about their teaching practice and what they are exploring in their teaching practice and everyone is in a team to work on a content-based inquiry. On these sites we post information about what we are doing, what data we have collected, how our thoughts or questions may have changed, and anyone within the fellowship can look at these sites. I feel like I have no idea what is happening in most classrooms at my school, beyond the occasional share-outs we have had in our meetings. I’ve been trying a different style of grading system, but have not formally discussed it since the first time I presented it to the department heads (which means some people still don’t know what I’m doing). I feel like having a more public space could help us know what everyone is doing and then be able to find people to have a discussion or ask questions. It could also help if a new initiative isn’t working well by providing an opportunity to get feedback. I think email is a terrible tool for meaningful discussion, because it just gets buried after a few days and isn’t organized in a meaningful way. If we made Google sites (which can be made in a day) we could more easily group up and organize our teaching process and have an actual inquiry process.