Two weeks ago my wonderful honors chemistry students asked to do a more project based assessment for the upcoming chapter instead of a traditional test. So now I can come back to this blog and report on their amazing work! They did such a fantastic job and I am convinced they learned much more with the projects than with a traditional test. Not only did they learn more, but they had way more fun doing it too, and as I have been repeating over and over on this blog, I do believe a learner’s emotional state is one crucial key to his or her success.
The chapter they were studying was all about the Periodic Table. It is chapter 6 in this I-book text, which incidentally is a great book. The project was divided up into four parts: the development of the Periodic Table, characteristics of the Families of the P.T., Electron Configurations and the P.T., and finally Periodic Trends. Students were encouraged to work in small groups and for two of the little projects the group could hand in one presentation together. Students spent time in class, with me there to help guide them, but also many of the groups found time outside of class to meet. Some met in person and some were able to work together remotely through the internet.
Students were given freedom to choose their method of making a presentation and there was quite a variety from Keynote to Notability to Google Slides. At the end of the week the students all had a “portfolio” of wonderful creations. We invited people to come to that last day when each group had a chance to share a piece of work they were most proud of. Although we only had one visitor (perhaps because it was Friday after lunch?) the students still stood up with great enthusiasm to present to their peers and our one guest. There was no grade given for the speaking part, as I really wanted kids to have a chance to simply get used to the spotlight in as low a pressure environment as possible. (Does everything a student does have to be graded? I think not!) Students were very supportive of each other and the spirit of the class was enthusiastic and positive.
Beyond learning chemistry, we all had a “meta-learning” experience about learning too. Here is a quick list of some highlights we discussed as a class at the end of the unit.
– Learning by creating is much more rewarding than simply learning material and spitting it back on a test. (no kidding!)
– Working together is invigorating and really fun, especially because the students in this group get along so well together. This is no surprise as neuroscience tells us that learning is “social and emotional”.
– It worked well to alternate working in small groups with time for larger group collaboration, then back to small groups.
– Student learning is increased if they have the opportunity to get a bit of coaching from their peers and the teacher to polish up their work before turning it in.
– Keeping due dates a bit flexible to allow these motivated students to complete their best work reduced anxiety and increased the quality of their work and the depth of their understanding.
I cannot say enough about this group of young people! They are motivated, hard working, and very good to each other. Working with them is so inspiring. This past week with them once again demonstrated that learning, just like life, turns out to be best played as a team sport!