Author Archives: jlneyme

My Teaching Philosophy

This course has helped me to develop and refine my personal teaching philosophy, particularly as it relates to online teaching. My philosophy of teaching has been based on three fundamental components: clear expectations, integrated course design and active learning. This course has helped me support and develop these ideas, but has also encouraged me to add community and reflection to those fundamental components. In the relatively small classrooms, in which I teach, community has come about naturally and readily. In the online environment, this aspect, which is equally important as my previous components needs to be deliberately developed. I have also learned that by adding more metacognative experiences for the students is necessary for their growth as learners.

I believe that clear expectations are the cornerstone of any well designed course. Students that clearly understand what is required of them and the direction of the course can focus on learning the material, rather than navigating through the course. As Stewart (2008) states “clear rules and policies coupled with the incentive to become familiar with them, prompt instructor feedback via a variety of means, a sense of community, and a variety of lesson and assessment types are essential to student success in the online classroom.” Clarity is important for all students, but particularly for non-traditional students and English Language Learners that already face additional barriers to success in online courses (Muilenburg and Berge 2005).

Having clear expectations and policies requires thoughtful instructional design. I think that Backwards Design promotes thoughtful course design and helps me to create meaningful assessments and activities that lead to mastery of the final assessment (Wiggins and McTighe 2005). While a clear instructional design is the goal of my teaching, I believe that it should also have some level of built in flexibility, when topics need further development or revisiting. Flexibility should be built around frequent formative assessment so misunderstandings can be detected and clarified early on. Fink’s (2013) model of integrated course design suggests the three integrated components of learning goals, teaching and learning activities and feedback and assessment. His model allows for flexibility and proposes a model that is more cyclical than linear. This model focuses on learning and teaching as a continuously evolving process, much like the scientific method and adopts a “growth mindset” rather than a “fixed mindset” (Dweck 2013).

Overall, my teaching style can be considered  primarily constructivist and relies heavily on inquiry based understanding. For both face to face and online classrooms I feel that deeper understanding of the material, especially within the context of Science, requires students to construct their own meaning through experimentation and observation. The CoI (Community of Inquiry) exemplifies this theory and I think it works particularly well with Science (Swan, Garrison, and  Richardson 2009). Creating authentic assessments and activities that allow online students to experience CoI’s is a challenge, but with the tools and skills I have learnt in this course and other ONID courses, I believe it can be successful.

Works Cited

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Random House

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student barriers to online learning: A factor analytic study. Distance Education, 26(1), 29–48. doi:10.1080/01587910500081269

Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In Payne, C. R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Rationale for Ecology Unit

Final Unit Plan

The purpose of this unit plan was to create a hypothetical online unit on the topic of Ecology for a 10th grade Biology class. As a classroom science teacher, I strongly believe in an inquiry based approach to understanding scientific concepts. The online environment presents a special challenge to these types of activities, but is not insurmountable as Reuter (2009) suggests.  My goal for this unit was to have students design, observe and analyze an ecosystem model. I felt that this type of project would meet Fink’s (2013) criteria of “active learning.” This project requires several weeks to complete and an in-depth background of the interrelationships between living and non-living components in the ecosystem. This summative assessment dictated the necessary length of this unit and the activities required for the unit and was designed with the Backward Design principles in mind (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) . The final lab report and presentation of findings from this activity constituted the unit summative assessment and meets the criteria for Standard I of the Utah State Core “Students will understand that living organisms interact with one another and their environment” and the accompanying benchmark:

Ecosystems are shaped by interactions among living organisms and their physical environment.   Ecosystems change constantly, either staying in a state of dynamic balance or shifting to a new state of balance.  Matter cycles in ecosystems, and energy flows from outside sources through the system.  Humans are part of ecosystems and can deliberately or inadvertently alter an ecosystem.

I designed this course for at-risk students, in an alternative high school population. These students are transitioning between early adolescence to late adolescence and their levels of maturity and capacity for abstract thought are varied, but growing. Most of the students I have taught in this specific population, have been identified as visual or kinesthetic learners. I have experienced that students with these characteristics often benefit from clear expectations, meaningful hands on activities, scaffolding of material and interaction with peers. Each day in the unit is designed to meet some component of these needs. I tried to begin each day with the objectives and key words clearly defined. These are followed by activities that utilize several modalities. For scaffolding of the ecosystem model project, I have students engage in peer review of design and require daily posting of their observations. My hope with the daily blog posts of observations, was to encourage students to be self aware of their own learning and create feedback for each other.  I felt that it was also necessary to build in a lesson on the scientific method and how to offer constructive peer review.To build up the content knowledge required to produce a quality summative assessment it was necessary to address the following three learning objectives:

  • Objective 1: Students will be able to summarize how energy flows through an ecosystem.
  • Objective 2:  Students will be able to explain relationships between matter cycles and organisms and infer human impact on cycles.
  • Objective 3:  Students will be able to interpret interactions among biotic and abiotic factors within an ecosystem.

I designed activities and formative assessments to monitor the mastery of each of these objectives. For Objectives 1 and 3: activities included: watching videos and presentations, reading the text, listening to a podcast, taking a photo and identifying abiotic and biotic factors, and creating a food web using local organisms. The energetics lab, where students calculate their own energetic budget is meant to serve as an assessment to this objective.  There is also an Ecology unit test that is used to assess mastery of these two objectives. For Objective 2: activities included, watching videos, reading the text, creating a model of the water cycle using a bottle, and calculating their carbon and water footprints. There were two assessment projects for this objective:creating a diagram of one of the Biogeochemical cycles using Glogster.edu and a role play activity on global climate change. The footprint calculators and role play were used to add the “human dimension” and encourage students to “care” as outlined by Fink (2013) in his description of “Significant Learning.” The final activity in the unit is an end of unit post that requires students to reflect on their learning during the course. I hoped this metacognitive activity would add an opportunity for students practice self awareness of their own learning and provide feedback to me as the teacher on which activities were effective.

Works Cited

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. SanUSOE. (2013).

Reuter, R. (2009). Online Versus in the Classroom: Student Success in a Hands-On Lab Class. American Journal of Distance Education, 23(3), 151–162. doi:10.1080/08923640903080620

Utah State Office of Education: Concurrent Enrollment. Retrieved from http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/earlycollege/Concurrent-Enrollment.aspx Fancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

Survey of Emerging Tools: Nearpod, ClassDojo and Biteslide.

Nearpod

I spent quite a bit of time exploring Nearpod this week as I think it has the potential to focus and engage the students in my traditional face-to-face class. Nearpod is a program that allows teachers to create interactive mobile presentations. It allows teachers to embed a variety of media and activities in their presentations, such as polls, quizzes, videos, web content and slideshows. There are also presentations that are already prepared and available for download. The biggest advantage of this program that I can see is its ability to build in formative assessments that allow for instant feedback. I found it relatively easy to use, there is an excellent function that allows you to take pre existing google presentations and “nearpodize” them with a tool in Chrome. This automatically imports your presentation slide by slide. I also found the option to import videos directly from Youtube, to be very handy. Though the number of pre existing presentations and types of activities are limited, it appears that the program is still expanding. Having spoken with a sales representative, I learned that there are many additional activities that will be available after January. The program is multiplatform and “students can interact through iOS devices, Chromebooks, Windows 8.1 devices, Android devices, Nooks and any PC or MAC.” Some of the drawing activities are designed specifically for iPads, so they are not as useful for my students with notebooks. Pricing depends on features, but for the standard “Gold” level it is $10/month per teacher.  Creation of a product does not take very much time and this product would be useful for both face-to-face classrooms that have one-to-one capabilities and also for online or distance education. Being able to control student activity and get feedback in real time, can be a very powerful tool for guiding instruction. Below is a link to the Nearpod presentation I created for a lesson on the cell membrane, that I am going to try this week.

Sample Nearpod on Cell Membranes  open this link.

Tutorial https://app.nearpod.com/#/presentation?pin=FEXLW

ClassDojo

ClassDojo is a free “realtime behavior tracking and skills management” application. I learned about this program at  a conference and was intrigued by the overwhelmingly positive feedback I was hearing. This program is geared towards K-12 students and is extremely easy to set up and use. I gave this program a test run with two of my classes this week and it took, at most, 10 minutes to set up the program. Initially, each student is assigned an avatar, that they can then redesign to their liking. The teacher can use any mobile device to award or take away points for specific behaviors.  The program comes with a set of behaviors, but the teacher can customize extra behaviors that they are interested in monitoring. I chose to add the negative behaviors of texting and web surfing and the positive behavior of asking thoughtful questions. Students then log on to the website and they can see their progress and reflect on their performance in class. One of the best features of this app, is that it logs points for the individuals and class over time, allowing you to see trends in behaviors and award points for behavioral improvement. Below is a screenshot of my classes data so far.

Parents can also log on or sign up for email notification of the students progress. I used this program only twice in class and saw a significant improvement in some of my most challenging students. I was initially skeptical that high school students would be interested in little cartoon avatars and a program that is essentially a behavior chart. However, I think the gaming aspect of it, is what caused the excited response I received when I started ClassDojo. Several of my colleagues reported that students were asking them to start the program in their classes. I simply walk around the class with my iPad and award or take away points. I think that the program makes students more self aware of their behavior in class and they are already beginning to self regulate.  Other useful features, are the autogenerated parent letters, a student introductory video and educational handouts to send home with students. There are also professional development materials you can download for use with colleagues.

 Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 3.07.05 PM

www.classdojo.com

Biteslide

Biteslide is an application that allows you to create and present projects. It allows both students and teachers to create, manage and share online interactive portfolios and posters. I found this application to be very similar to Glogster.edu, though not nearly as user friendly.  The initial creation of the project is relatively user friendly. Users can browse for content using Google or Youtube and upload directly into their portfolio.  I felt that the number of graphics, fonts, backgrounds and other aesthetic tools were limited, but perhaps this was because I was using the trial version. I was unimpressed with the help section. I spent a good deal of time looking for ways to embed the portfolio I created and finally found that the option to embed is turned off by default. I was also unhappy with the placement of the “delete” presentation directly on top of the project. To select and edit a project, it is easy to accidentally delete an entire project, which I unfortunately found out first hand. I think that engagement would improve with a tool like this, but I also think students would experience some level of frustration. I can see the use of this program as an alternative to a traditional paper portfolio or flipbook. Having tried both Biteslide and Glogster I would recommend Glogster over Biteslide. Glogster is much easier to navigate and has a greater range of tools. It also has the added bonus of animation, which I did not see in Biteslide. I created a basic “scapbook” on mitosis, as a model for a projects that students might be able to create. I found this tutorial to be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmcSM42xho0

Biteslide - Mitosis_N02TUFEllgv_934118

Works Cited

How to Use Biteslide by R. Hampton. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmcSM42xho0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 

 

A preliminary look at new tools: Weekly writing 10

For this week’s writing I spent some time looking at Edudemic’s Best Free Education Web Tools Of 2013 and Steven’s (2013) Teachers’ Favored Web 2.0 Tools and I felt that the majority of the top tools focused on active learning through student project creation, rather than passive teacher presentation. While there were tools dedicated to helping teachers manage and organize educational materials, most tools that were teacher centric included ways for teachers to improve interaction with and engagement of their students. Tools such as GlogsterEDU, KidBlog and Thinglink are all tools that can be used by both teachers and students to present and share learning in a fun and easy to use way. These tools appear to be highly engaging and could help students build positive eportfolios.   Other tools that featured active learning were Storybird, an tool that allows students to create and share books and Scratch, a tool from MIT that allows students to create animations, video games and other products. Scratch also has the added bonus of teaching coding, which is of great interest to many of my students. All of these tools can be used in both individual and group projects and would lend themselves to the community of inquiry idea. I believe these tools have a lot of potential, particularly at the secondary level.

Part of the challenges in teaching at the K-12 level (and in an alternative high school as I do), is the issue of motivation and behavior tracking. Steven’s (2013) list of tools included quite a few classroom management and behavior tracking tools, that I was unfamiliar with. ClassDojo is a free behavior tracking tool that allows teachers to assign points to student avatars for the desired behaviors in a game-type program. As student’s earn points they can redeem points for incentives. Another motivation tool, that has possibilities in the badge earning tools. Students can earn badges through Khan Academy and Open Badges. Here students can track their learning and earn badges for new skills of concepts. I know that my students are highly motivated by online “badges” and this would be a way to increase engagement.

One tool that I was very excited about was called Nearpod. This tool is a way for teachers to present new material to students while embedding interactive activities into the material. This tool requires all students to have access to a mobile device or laptop, but allows for engaged synchronous learning.  The program allows you to insert polls, quizzes, drawings and other types of formative assessment into your presentation and prompts all students to participate. It then generates feedback for the instructor and instantly gives you an assessment of student understanding. I can envision using this in my face to face classroom, with all students in a circle interacting together, but it can also be used to actively engage distance learners in synchronous discussions.

I am excited to further explore many of these tools, as I think they could improve the overall quality of my course and the work produced by my students. It is important, of course, to lay a solid foundation of content to maximize the use of these tools, but they have the potential to greatly improve engagement and motivation overall.

Work’s Cited

Lepi, K. (2013). The Best Free Education Web Tools Of 2013 | Edudemic. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/best-free-education-tools-2013/

Stevens, K. (2013). Teachers’ Favored Web 2.0 Tools. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-08-21-teachers-favored-web-2-0-tools

 

 

Ecology Unit Curriculum Draft

Unit Title: Introduction to  Ecology

Unit Summary:

This unit is part of a 10th grade Biology core and is designed for use with an online class. I designed this as a hypothetical unit. This is assuming that classes would be taught 2 times a week for a 6 week session. Students will be required to conduct an experiment at home and maintain a blog journal with regular updates on the progress of their experiment.

Utah State Office of Education Biology Core Curriculum

Science Benchmark: Ecosystems are shaped by interactions among living organisms and their physical environment.   Ecosystems change constantly, either staying in a state of dynamic balance or shifting to a new state of balance. Matter cycles in ecosystems, and energy flows from outside sources through the system. Humans are part of ecosystems and can deliberately or inadvertently alter an ecosystem.

 STANDARD I: Students will understand that living organisms interact with one another and their environment.

USOE Intended Learning Outcomes Addressed: 

  1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
  2. Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests
  3. Demonstrate Understanding of Science Concepts, Principles and Systems
  4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
  5. Demonstrate Understanding of the Nature of Science

Unit Objectives

  1. Objective 1: Students will be able to summarize how energy flows through an ecosystem.

  1. Objective 2:  Students will be able to explain relationships between matter cycles and organisms and infer human impact on cycles.

  1. Objective 3:  Students will be able to interpret interactions among biotic and abiotic factors within an ecosystem.

The detailed curricula draft can be found here on my webpage http://jpsamak.com/ed655-curriculum-plan/.

There are a few assignments that have not been fully developed, but they are noted as such. I look forward to any feedback on my project.

Student work in the public space-ww9

Students presenting in the public space presents both challenges and benefits. The potential benefits to having students produce public work are immense. By having students publish work in the public domain, students are “pushed” to produce better products. They get practice with new ways of interacting and communicating and build their online portfolio.  As a public school teacher, I have also heard a lot of skepticism on the benefits of having students produce work for the public space. Most of the concern centers on issues of student safety and a potential time drain for both students and teachers when entering the online environment. While these drawbacks are real, most of the risks can be greatly reduced through better planning and preparation of students. I believe that the advantage of having students produce work in the online space outweighs the potential risks.

One of the primary drawbacks to online student work is the idea of the negative digital footprint. Will students leave behind digital footprints that may hurt them in the future? Is student information more available to people or companies that would exploit that information? Both of these questions are valid, if perhaps somewhat exaggerated. One of the critical pieces to creating a safe and productive space for students to engage in online work is to provide the necessary education on understanding digital citizenship before students make work public. For K-12 students it is imperative to build the skills and awareness necessary to protect their digital identity and understand the responsibility that comes with a digital footprint. I would suggest that having a deliberate digital citizenship curriculum and expectations are critical. Any type of public presentation will add to the student’s digital footprint, however, the creation of a positive digital footprint is possible and desirable in today’s environment.

The other major concern is that online work may result in a time drain. Many students will experience frustration with online work, because of technical difficulties and lack of understanding. There is also the problem of access. Many students do not have access to internet outside of class and this limits what they can do. Monitoring classroom discussions and activities outside of class can also add a significant burden to teachers. These potential problems can be lessened through good planning and do not outweigh the benefits of public work. Once again, by practicing with students the process of using online tools to make work public and setting clear expectations can lesson time costs dealing with these issues later on. I have experienced this set of issues first hand with students, in my one-to-one high school classroom. While offering students a vast pool of knowledge, access to the internet also has the potential for distraction. This is where it is critical to monitor and redirect student work when possible. Creating high expectations for online work by providing positive examples and nonexamples for students to critique are ways to scaffold the products you would like to have students create.

The greatest benefit that publicizing student work may have is to improve the level of work produced by the student. The theory behind this is that students will feel the pressure of peer review and public comment and spend more time or energy to put forth their best work. According to Drenan (2012) “Students realise how high the bar of public domain writing is. This can be initially intimidating, but that removes all apathy or sense of the humdrum.” While I believe this can be true for many students , there are also some that will not feel the pressure of public presentation and produce work that is weak or undeveloped. This should be seen as an opportunity for growth. The online portfolio for student work is a good opportunity to document student growth. With many universities looking at online work in determining acceptance, it is necessary for many students to begin to develop their positive online portfolio in high school.  Another  benefit to online work, is that it opens a new method of communication and interaction up for students that may not participate in a traditional face-to-face environment. It allows introverted students and those that typically like to think through their responses more time and opportunity to contribute. By setting response expectations, the teacher can level the discussion, so no one student can dominate it and the teacher has a better formative assessment of what the whole class understands.

Student online work in the public space can propel students to produce their best work and give them a venue to observe personal growth. Public presentation can create opportunities for students to share ideas with other students and the greater public in ways that were previously impossible. Drawbacks to public presentation are overstated and with careful planning and high expectations can be minimized.

Works Cited

Drennan, M. (2012). Blogging in the classroom: why your students should write online. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/jul/17/students-should-be-blogging

 

Metacognitive Review

While I am not new to developing curriculum plans, I found this exercise to be both challenging and interesting. I felt that my process relied heavily on training that I had done in the past, such as Backwards design and SIOP. The application of this background knowledge to the online environment, however, made me rethink much of the way I structure my presentation of the material and particularly the types of activities that would be feasible in an online classroom. Traditionally, I have always tried to make my face-to-face science classes very hands-on, however, the online environment adds a level of challenge to this type of instruction. After working through the steps involved in designing the curriculum plan, I found that there was a lot more opportunities for hands on activities than I had believed possible.

The actual design of the learning objectives followed backwards design principles. I knew that my final assessment for my unit on ecology should be a lab report on a unit long ecosystem model that the students would design and study. The objectives themselves were derived from standards set out by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) Science Core, with only slight modifications. With the summative assessment and objectives in place, it was really the activities that were the most challenging. The Fink (2013) reading on active learning vs. passive learning was particularly helpful in giving me ideas of ways to create more active online learning activities. I still struggle with the desire to have students do hands on projects in an online class, while worrying how successful they might be. I know that success will depend greatly on the scaffolding that this course will provide, but ultimately requires motivation from the students. I think that through the article reviews I have done, I have gained new insights into how to better scaffold student projects and that having students interact with the instructor and with each other more frequently can be an effective tool in having them produce meaningful products. Scaffolding and monitoring for understanding is something I can do easily in a face-to-face environment, but requires much more deliberate effort in an online situation. I still have three distinct concerns for my plan: 1. That students will not have a realistic experimental design that can be carried out. 2. Students will lose interest or not take accurate data. 3. That they will have difficulty interpreting their results and produce a meaningful lab report. For the first concern, I feel that one way to reduce the error possible in a faulty design, is to give students detailed instructions on the basic materials to use in the project, while allowing for a degree of choice in the variable that they will manipulate. I will have them write a design plan and collaborate and review plans with other students to find possible challenges to their design. For the second challenge of loss of interest, I will require students to maintain an online journal and data notebook of the project. For the third concern of difficulty in interpreting their results, I think that I will try to build a solid foundational understanding of biogeochemical cycling and have them review articles that relate to human impacts on the environment. I will have them discuss possible human influences on their own models and that of others. Then I will have them peer review each others drafts and make recommendations. By requiring them to post their final version, I hope they will feel the importance of developing a quality product. Overall, the process of designing curriculum for an online unit has given me the opportunity to reexamine how and why I teach certain concepts in ecology. I think the process of reflecting on each objective and how to create active, meaningful assessments and activities to support that objective was a good exercise and I plan on applying some of my new insights into my face-to-face classroom as well.

Works Cited

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Fancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Providing case-based online science courses for gifted students.

I chose the article Describing Learning in an Advanced Online Case-Based Course in Environmental Science because it addresses differentiation for gifted students and problem-based online activities in the context of a science classroom (Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010). In my own classes I spend quite a bit of time trying to improve differentiation for my students that find material or concepts too challenging. However, I can greatly improve in the area of offering better differentiation for students that need additional challenges.The opportunities for differentiation and adaptive learning using online classrooms appears to have endless possibilities.  This article was based on a study that “examined the learning outcomes of an online environmental sciences course using a case-based and problem-based model designed for academically advanced learners.”  The project was titled “Project LOGgED ON (the Project)” and was developed by the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and the Department of Environmental Science. It’s proposed purpose was to address the problem of “access to highly challenging science curricula for economically disadvantaged, rural, or otherwise underserved gifted and academically advanced learners”(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010). The study was designed to offer an alternative to the AP examinations for students that did not have access to these programs. The goals of “The Project” were to:

(a) prepare students for advanced science studies by increasing knowledge and skill acquisition, (b) provide students with opportunities to communicate with peers, (c) write about advanced science topics, (d) work as independent learners, and (e) provide authentic experiences in studying science online.

Course designers used a case-based approach to teaching content by developing 16 cases, assigning students roles using genuine scientific organizations and were intended to give students a “perspective on the environmental problem at hand, to enable them to participate as one who endeavors to solve environmental problems, and to expose them to the role of an actual scientist grappling with environmental issues and problems”(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010).  Content was presented in a variety of ways (access to an expert video library, primary source references, and the use of open-ended questions) and “students were required to apply new  knowledge to evaluate the issue presented, to explain why it presented a problem, and to use their scientific understanding to defend and support a proposed solution to the problem”(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010).

The sample population included 138 self-identified students, from 14 states, ages 12 to 17 years old.  However, only half came from rural school districts, from school districts comprised predominantly of minority students, and/or from school districts with a significant population of students receiving free and reduced lunches. Of these, 60% were female and 40% were male. Students were encouraged to take the AP exam at the end of the course, free of charge to serve as a comparison. Only 30% of those that chose to take the exam received a 3 or higher on the AP exam. Not surprisingly, the study reported that “students who were independent learners with strong time management skills and were more active on the discussion boards had the most success with the course” while students that were weak in these skills were most likely to drop the course (Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010).

The study concluded it was a success because students who participated in the Project’s environmental science course “experienced learning, engagement, and challenge”.

Course work promoted “inductive thinking and the use of problem-solving skills as it called upon students to interpret data, analyze case studies, and solve complex real-world science problems.” While these are noteworthy and desirable outcomes the Project did not serve its ultimate purpose of studying the effect of access to rural and minority populations, because the authors did not confine the study to those specific students, nor did they collect the necessary demographic data from the students that would make it possible to compare these populations.

I believe that this article serves as an excellent starting point for further inquiry. The need for alternative challenging coursework for advanced learners is an area that deserves attention. The curriculum design of this course used best practices from both science and the National

Association for Gifted Children and it appears that it had successful learning outcomes for the participants in the study. The AP exam data did not indicate that it could be used as a direct substitute for an AP course with positive outcomes on the exam, but this was not the intention of the researchers. I think one of the most interesting quotes in this paper was found in the conclusion and stated that “an interesting impression derived from this study is that the instructors played little, if any, role in the overall success or failure of the students. That is, learning and engagement resulted principally from student-to-student interactions, and without significant instructor facilitation”(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010). If learning success is primarily dependent on student-to-student interactions, perhaps it is the facilitation of student interaction between academically advanced students in remote, rural and underrepresented populations that should be the focus of further research.

Works Cited

Missett, T. C., Reed, C. B., Scot, T. P., Callahan, C. M., & Slade, M. (2010). Describing Learning in an Advanced Online Case-Based Course in Environmental Science. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(1), 10–50.

Instructional Design Unit Reflection-ww7

Integrated course design is, in my opinion, critical to creating effective courses. I have followed the Understanding by Design model for most of my teaching career, but I was very interested by the approach suggested by Fink (2005). While he incorporates many of the same ideas as in Ub.D, I like how uses them in a more integrated rather than linear fashion. Fink suggests that “the learning goals, the feedback and assessment, and the teaching and learning activities must all reflect and support each other”. While this is somewhat implied in Ub.D. I think that Fink’s model is stronger, because it allows for more flexibility in the process of design.  I found the exercise of examining situational factors suggested by Fink to be very enlightening and it helped me realize areas of my curriculum that I might need to further adjust for my population. I also like his emphasis on student reflection and metacognition. I learned that I need to integrate more opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning in a more deliberate way.  The taxonomies of learning served as good reminders on creating learning activities and objectives that ask students to use higher levels of critical thinking. I think it is valuable to revisit objectives and ask “Is there a way I can make this objective more rigorous and more meaningful?” The most interesting part of this unit for me was the information on active learning. As a science teacher, I have always felt that providing opportunities for active learning is one of my strengths.  However, after reflecting on the reading this week, I realize how much I rely on indirect experiences and materials for learning. Fink gave excellent examples of how to integrate more “doing and observing experiences” into my classes and how I can produce these experiences in an online class as well. 

Overall, I believe that the online learning environment has worked well for me. As a working parent of two small children, living in a rural area, I would probably not have the flexibility to take traditional face-to-face courses. This class also allows me to attend the program of my choice even though it is produced 3,000 mi. away. I am also able to stay current with the class while traveling to conferences and on family vacations. One of the challenges of this class are the synchronous meetings, which because of the time change, typically fall during very difficult times of the day for me. I prefer the asynchronous communication, because it allows me to think through my responses and respond where I might otherwise remain silent. It also allows me to work at times of the day when I don’t have other commitments. I think that having a set of prompts before a synchronous session, would give me the time to process the information so that I can better contribute the conversation. I like the relative independence this class offers in pacing, while providing some deadlines to keep me focused.

This unit has helped me reflect on the way I teach and the types of activities I have been using. It has inspired me to reevaluate some the activities I currently do with my students and think of ways I can create more authentic learning experiences. There are many ways that I can substitute more meaningful observation and “doing” experiences for topics I cover using direct methods. I have learned that I am not as comfortable working in synchronous meetings as I would like to be and that this is an area that I need more practice in.  I have learned that there are ways to effectively and ineffectively use online synchronous communication and that it is somewhat of an art that requires preparation and good design to be successful.

Works Cited

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Fancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.