#ModBio Workshop Day 1

At the beginning of the workshop we did introductions; names, where you teach, who you teach, what you teach, and any experience you’ve had with Modeling Instruction. There are 10 of us in the workshop from around the country, NY, NJ, PA, DE, TX, MI and ME.  I was really impressed and envious of the number of people who already had Modeling Instruction implemented in their schools.  We made a plan for food during the week, including a couple tips on good local places.  We biology folk are generally concerned with the input portion of the digestive process! Then it was on to business.

Our trainer Angela Gard introduced us to the difference between “teacher mode” and “student mode”.  We will be alternating between “student mode” were we will think (and hopefully not act) like the students in our classes as we work through the #ModBio curriculum.  We will periodically break into “teacher mode” to discuss questions and concerns.   I think this is a great way to conduct a workshop and it appears to fit with the modeling instruction pedagogy nicely.

Angela provided the storyline to the #ModBio curriculum which is built around seven units.  I’ll be going into more detail about these units in subsequent posts as we work through them, but briefly they are:

Model 1 – Experimental Design

Model 2 – Classification of Life

Model 3 – Evolution by Natural Selection

Unit 4 – Energy and Matter in Ecosystems

Unit 5 – Cell Structure and Function

Unit 6 – Growth and Reproduction

It occurred to me that after the initial unit about experimental design and the characteristics of life, all of the other models could really be deployed in any sequence. I think this flexibility is really important.  I currently teach ecology in the fall because the weather in Maine is the most predictable during that time making it easier to get my classes outside.  Angela agreed with my observation but she reinforced the importance of having idea of a thoroughly developed storyline as the sequence of models are developed.  I’ll need to do some thinking about what my model sequence will be and what my storyline will be to tie together the sequence.

We all then took the Biological Concept Inventory, a 30 question multiple choice exam.  It was interesting to read the possible answers.  I can see how the questions and answers were constructed to tease out common student misconceptions.

We began construction of our interactive science notebook by sequentially numbering both sides of a 100-page grid ruled composition book.  I’m really excited to use the interactive notebook because it is one of those ideas that I’ve been thinking about implementing for a couple years.  I purchased a copy of Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks by Kellie Marcarelliand I’ve read through it, but have not put it into practice.  I really like the idea of students building their own combination textbook and laboratory notebook as the course progresses.

We had a philosophical discussion centered around two questions: What is a model? and What is Modeling Instruction?  After discussing each question with our partner (we are arranged as five groups of pairs), we reported out the whole group.  We then did a jig-saw activity about several articles relating to models and Modeling Instruction.  We then discussed our two questions again.  One of our homework assignment is to develop a one sentence description of a model and a couple sentence description of Modeling Instruction.

Angela provided several tips about whiteboards:

  1. Brake fluid makes an excellent cleaner for removing shadows left behind after   erasing with clothes.
  2. Alcohol is a good general cleaner and it is important to clean with alcohol after the brake fluid treatment because the brake fluid leaves a chemical residue.
  3. Butcher’s brand Bowling Alley Wax is a great treatment for maintaining the finish of clean whiteboards.
  4. You can make a nice whiteboard holder by using a 2″x4″ or 2″x6″cut to the length of the whiteboard with a 3° bevel cut down its length.  The saw blade width of 1/8″ is perfect for holding the board securely and the bevel makes for a good display angle.

I can see that I’ll have a little prep work to do on my existing whiteboards because some of them have definitely seen better days.

My reflections on what we did today:

  • It is interesting to take on the role of a student and to think like a student.  Our experiences as students can dramatically shape the teachers we eventually become.  Chris Lehmann wrote an interesting post about this topic last fall.
  • One of the criticisms I often hear about reform of science teaching is the content vs. science process dilemma.  Teachers feel like they can not teach the science processes because they can not give up the class time because they have a curriculum to cover.  Angela reminded us of what to “cover” actually means.  Think about that one…
  • Modeling Instruction is the HOW, not the WHAT.  This makes a ton of sense to me because I’ve been discussing with my colleagues for the last few years about the science practices not being an add-on to teach, but rather the way to teach.

About ryanwoodside

I help students learn science. I teach at Windham High School in Maine.
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