May 20, 2019

Can I Really Be a Scientist?


You may think of your students as ‘scientists’ and you may even refer to them as scientists.  But what do they think a scientist is?  Do they consider themselves scientists? 

Reflection on How Students View Scientists; and Themselves

Draw a Scientist

Many of you may have done or seen the ‘draw a scientist’ activity.  If you haven’t heard of it, it is an activity where students draw their idea of "a scientist doing science." The exercise surfaces students' prior understandings of the nature of science and the demographics of scientists.

Unfortunately, the results show that many students don't see themselves as scientists. According to an article written in 2018, students are still primarily drawing white males as scientists. Over the past 50 years the number of female scientists being drawn has greatly increased, but is still only 28%.   The authors of this article stated that “stereotypes of scientists not only shape ….perceptions of who is a scientist, but also influence their perception of who can be a scientist.”  The researchers also mentioned that these stereotypes go beyond gender, 79% of the scientists drawn were white.

This is a problem.  This is a especially a problem for minorities, females, foreign students, etc.

When we are teaching students who don’t match this image (who are female, darker skin colored, etc) it is even harder for them to see themselves as scientists.

Why is this important?  

This puts students one step farther away from what we are trying to teach them.  This is yet another way that they feel disconnected from school, and feel that it doesn’t apply to them.
We are teaching students science, and we want them to see themselves as part of science, and the scientific process.  However, many students don’t see science as relevant to their own lives. They science as only a subject in school that they need to pass, but they are, in fact, not part of it.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Science should be relevant to students’ lives. Science involves problem solving from everyday life, their own bodies, and the world around them.  However, this is not always what students see.

As educators, part of our role ideally is to help bring students to a place where students can see the connections to their own lives.

Your Challenge

I challenge you to try the “Draw A Scientist” lesson with your own students. It can be a quick activity that takes 10 minutes at the end of class, or a full blown lesson.  I’d love if you’d report back with the results. Are your students drawing white male scientists? Are they drawing scientists that look like them?  It would be really cool to have some discussion or reflection to go along with this.  Lastly, what if you showed some other examples of minority or female scientists and then had them draw?  Would you get different results?

If I taught elementary I would absolutely read them this book first and see if it changed my results.  Maybe I would read it to high school too?

Try it out!

May 6, 2019

Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using

Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using

Spring and early summer brings tests and exams for many students and teachers. If you’ve managed to cajole your kids into putting in some time outside of lessons, congratulations!

The bad news, though, is that left to their own devices, most students will be using ineffective study methods, meaning they will fall short of the marks and grades they could otherwise have hit.

The good news is that there are some simple evidence-based strategies that can transform how effectively your students study, and the grades they are therefore able to achieve. Read on to find out how.
Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using

  1. Retrieval practice: memory training

After almost a century of research, the results are in: there is now broad consensus among learning science researchers that the best study techniques are based on “retrieval practice” (see here or here for reviews). Most students study by pushing information into their brains – re-reading, highlighting, summarising, making notes – retrieval practice flips that on its head, and says they should be spending as much time as possible trying to pull information out of memory, trying to remember it.

There are plenty of options for using retrieval practice to study for tests:
  • Training with flashcards
  • Answering “quiz” questions
  • Writing down all you can remember about a topic on a blank sheet
  • Having a friend / family member test you
The key is to move on from the “pushing information in” stage sooner than feels comfortable, and spend as much time as possible studying by trying to remember what you know. It feels like harder work, but it’s far more effective.

Formative assessment is also a great discipline to use in your classroom as starter or exit activities: Science In The City has plenty of assessment resources available to life a bit easier.

      2. Spaced learning: conquer “forgetting”

Over time, we all forget what we once knew – even if we used retrieval practice to learn it! Spaced learning is the solution: for every new occasion on which your students revisit a fact or concept, their memory of it gets stronger and more permanent.

Try and get your students in a “little and often” habit: rather than cramming all the day before a test, far better to spread that same amount of study time out (or even do slightly less!) over a longer time, e.g. 10 minutes a day for a couple of weeks, rather than two hours the night before.

They will not only perform better on that test, but their knowledge will be much more secure, helping them build on it in future, rather than having to start seemingly from scratch in each new school year.

     3. Chunking: data compression for memory

“Chunking” is the act of grouping a larger number of units of information – letters, words, phrases, numbers – together in meaningful ways to create a smaller number of units, making the information easier to remember. It’s your brain’s version of data compression algorithms that make files smaller for storage in computer memory.

Here’s an example of chunking in action: 18 random letters are very hard to remember, but re-order and add some grouping, and it becomes much easier.

An example of chunking content to remember it more quickly and easily

You probably remember your own phone number by “chunking” the digits into groups. When someone else groups the digits differently, it can be hard to recognise even your own number!

Chunking is at the root of a many mnemonic techniques, such as:

Acronyms: making a new word from the first letters of the words you’re trying to remember, e.g. “HOMES” for the five Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

Acrostics: making a memorable phrase from the first letters of words you’re trying to remember, e.g. “My Very Excellent Mother Just Made Us Nine Pizzas” for planets

Chunking numbers with patterns: look for arithmetic relationships to make digits more memorable. Thulium was discovered in 1879: you can derive the “7” and “9” by subtracting and adding the “1” to the “8”, respectively.

You could spend a moment in lessons working with your students to come up with a novel chunking strategy, which not only helps them learn the content, but trains them in how to use chunking for themselves. See here for an in-depth guide to using a number of useful chunking strategies, with more inspiration on how to apply the technique to a range of information types.

     4. Dual coding: we are all visual learners

Have you heard of “learning styles” – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic? You may also have heard that there is very little scientific evidence that teaching in each individual’s preferred style helps them learn.

However, it seems while we all have our preferences, we all have a bit of every “learning style” in us, and that appealing to multiple styles at once can help us to learn.
The idea of dual coding is that by taking in information as both words AND a diagram / picture, you’re more likely to remember it – perhaps because you’ve got two different ways to remember that information when you get into the test.

If your students are making summaries ahead of an upcoming test, they might like to use a picture AND a description in words for key concepts, to help solidify their understanding and memory.

     5. How to read (no, really…)

OK, so this is more about test-taking than studying: but how many times have you seen students throw away marks by not reading the question accurately?

When we read, our eyes move in jumps called “saccades”, with a focus point every few words. The brain fills in the words in peripheral vision based on word shape and context. That makes it very easy to miss things, especially under the pressure of a test!

Example of how to read most effectively for studying. Can you spot the error?

If you know what you’re looking for, it’s painfully obvious, but if you don’t, a lot of people won’t spot the two “As” before “single step”.

In one example where students were taking test questions, researchers found that emphasising a key command word in a question by switching to a bold typeface increased the proportion of correct answers from 8% to 31%. That’s huge!

You may not be able to change the test papers, but there’s a simple solution: train your students in the disciple of reading questions slowly, deliberately and methodically, using their pen to underline key words in the question to add emphasis for themselves – to make sure they pick up every mark they deserve.

Wishing you and your students every success in any upcoming tests and exams!

Guest Post Exclusive: Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using
****
This is a guest post for Science In The City by William Wadsworth, a Cambridge-trained psychologist and full-time study skills researcher, writer, coach and author. He hosts the weekly Exam Study Expert podcast and blogs at www.ExamStudyExpert.com, both packed with tips to help students score the best possible grades, by unleashing the new science of truly effective independent study techniques.

Mar 30, 2019

Unparallelled Self-Care On Your Spring Break




As spring break approaches, what are your goals?





Are you planning to go on vacation?
Spend it on the couch?
Catch up on work around the house?
Catch up on schoolwork?

I would argue that spring break should be a time to focus on your goals, and on taking care of you. By self-care I don’t massages and pedicures, I mean work on some ways to take better care of yourself, and make yourself feel better! You can do it, but it takes work! Use your time to do the work, and come out of spring break feeling much better!

Self-Care is Not an Indulgence, it's a Discipline
Self-Care for Teachers
Teacher Self-Care

What I do mean is take care of yourself. Do things that will make you healthier, stronger, calmer and feel better!

  • How to do that??
  • Move your body - walk? Dance? Exercise? Try to establish a pattern that you can keep up, even if it's only ten minutes a day of yoga. Look on YouTube for some short simple videos to follow if that would help. Go for a walk! Even if it’s cold, bundle up! If you are looking for accountability or encouragement, join some fitness groups on Facebook. There are many! Ask me for suggestions if you are stuck. I’m in a couple. 
  • Eat good food - healthy is even better! Try a new vegetable and find a different way to cook it! 
  • Do things that bring you joy - read a good book? Do an art or craft project? Go for a hike? What lights you up? Find time for that. 
  • Do something that makes you laugh. We all need more laughter in our days! 

Come up with plans to continue this trend once school begins.

This comes with a change in mindset. It means prioritizing yourself and taking control of your day. If that’s where you are struggling, let me share a few of my favorites:






Chalk Full of Life Podcast

And many more.  If none of those fit for you, let me know and I can recommend others.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...