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Addressing Student Concerns:

September 27, 2011

Today, we took a break from our inquiry into light to do a mini-inquiry into motion and to inquire into childrens’ thinking about motion by watching and discussing a video-case study. We also took some time to examine and discuss some of National Standards and AAAS Benchmarks about what 2nd and 5th graders are expected to be able to do and understand about scientific inquiry. Most of that went pretty well, although we were all a bit zonked out after looking at a bunch of standards. Wednesday, we are back at light for just another day or two. I think we’ll all be happy to wrap up some of the loose ends and have a fresh start at something new.

After class, I got to read over their anonymous feedback about how class is going for them.  The range of things students bring up is quite broad, but the big three complaints are:

(i) Concerns about getting an A in my class and frustration at my Capstone A grading policy

(ii) Not getting the big picture of what we are doing and what they are expected to learn (hopefully I addressed some of this today)

(iii) Annoyance and frustration toward students who have a negative attitude about class

There were a range of other complaints including, boredom, not wanting to work in groups, wishing we were covering more topics, wanting to know the answers, complaining about the workload, being sick of light as a topic.

On Wednesday, I want to re-explain my Capstone policy and try to frame it in a more productive manner. I also want to talk about the exam that is coming up to reinforce what this class is about in the big picture. On the exam, students will be asked to do what we have been doing a lot of, namely

Explain their thinking about some physical situation, using words and diagrams to come to a prediction.

Make some observations and reconcile their prior thinking

Construct plausible alternative predictions and respond to them

Situate their explanations and ideas within emerging classroom ideas.

They’ll be assessed on what I’ve been assessing them on- clearly articulating your thinking, constructing arguments and counter-arguments, reconciling one’s ideas with new observations, etc.

Lastly, on Wednesday, I want to convey to them my (re)commitment to creating a prepared learning environment that can be fun and engaging. I do think class should be intellectually fun in ways that instill curiosity, puzzlement, wonder, and awe. I’m going to leave complaint #3 alone and just remind us all that at the beginning of the year, we all agreed that it was (as a class) we have responsibility to come to come to class with a good attitude and an open mind. I’ll work harder at making class engaging, they’ll work harder at allowing themselves to become engaged.

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