More Faith

I did a webinar yesterday afternoon with Marc Siegel, Deb Wolf, and Ramsey Musallam on the various ways Flipped Learning can be incorporated into a science classroom. We spoke about changing mindsets, thinking about mastery learning and standards based grading, and using video tools in class along with other ideas and tips.

Ramsey spoke near the end of the broadcast about using inquiry learning in his Explore-Flip-Apply method. I asked him, "Ramsey, how do you train your kids to work well in an inquiry environment? I'm not sure mine could handle that from day one in the semester, so what do you do?"

Ramsey came back by saying, "Actually, I drop them right in from day one. I don't really train them in anything at all. Kids have an innate curiosity that we have to tap into in order to fully engage them in the content." (Or something along those lines.)

Now, let me preface this by saying I've heard Ramsey say this over and over as I've gotten to know him. But, I never really put any faith in my students.

I decided to take it to heart. Today, I had an entire lab planned out with procedures, data tables, and follow-up questions. I knew what my kids would do, and they would fill in the blanks and then move on. I decided to scrap the entire lab and go with one statement:

Photo is mine.

Photo is mine.

I have a sample. It has water attached to it. I need to know how much water it contains.

The only question I asked them for this lab is: "What percent of my sample is water?"

I didn't have enough faith in my classes. I didn't really trust them to do anything like this. I was proven wrong this morning. For you science folks, our average error from the first two classes is two percent. Two. My students have encouraged me, and from what I've observed, they've felt proud of their work. They were so excited to hear how close they had come. I haven't seen energy like this in a while.

I'd lost sight of the excitement that should come from science...from discovery. I'd lost sight of the process because I'd focused too much on the end result. I can talk about the process, but I need to have them go through the process.

My students can now explain how to find the mass percentage of part of a compound. They can do it better than if I had stood up or recorded a video and taught them. Tomorrow, we'll involve mols somehow and see what happens.

Hopefully, my students will begin to feel more trusted and more empowered in the process.

11 thoughts on “More Faith

  1. Sue says:

    Keep us posted, Brian – good work, man!

  2. I love this! I feel the lack of faith in my students as well. I keep trying to find ways to translate this to Bio. Putting a scalpel and specimen in front of a 14 year old and just posing a question does not foster that faith just yet. But I’ll keep working on it! Thanks for yesterday, too!

    • I agree in the fear in biology, having taught it last year. When we did frog dissections, rather than giving them a lab manual, I told them that they needed to do some research so they could create their OWN manual. They really poured into it, and took care to do everything well so they could put a good instructional piece together. Most of them included some kind of photo or video of each step so others could follow along. Unfortunately, we couldn’t publish them because of some district rules, but I didn’t really do much instruction other than how to open the body cavity on the frog.

      Be sure to let us know of any other ideas you have for biology as they come up!

  3. Tom Currie says:

    Sometimes with Middle School 8’s and 9’s I’ve done this (its always successful but highly criticised) My only scaffolding beyond making myself available was to also draw attention to a reading, recording, or session that might serve as an example, and the limited apparatus available. Depending on student leadership some classes will solve collaboratively, others will scream “why don’t you just tell us how to do it!” IOW they leave a forty-five minute session having attained something and believing it could have been done a lot more efficiently if I had just “taught” it. (dirction following). Immediacy is so important to them sometimes it’s hard to hear the criticism from Ss and parents and yet keep pushing for moments of great self relience. Yes there are five or so students who thrive and become advocates, but when teens band together in disharmony (when things require work mostly) it’s a tough tide to fight.

    I write this as encouragement (ha!) for those who are afraid to have faith in Ss below HS, it’s hard, maybe harder, but still important.

    My only reflection is that (as always with this kind of adventure) some will solve too quickly and will not want to ask the deeper questions, while others need an extra ten/twenty minutes to feel comfortable. Prescribed periods are a continuing hurdle.

    Brian, thanks for modelling pedagogy, and lasting learning methods in Flip that prove it is always more than a ‘video homework assignment’.

    • Tom, thanks for the comment. How have you built this up in your classes? Are you teaching science also?

      I ran into the problem of some solving it too fast. Others know what to do, but lack the confidence to do it. Or, they do it sloppily and then can’t draw any conclusions from it. The whole “instructing-on-the-fly” idea is still scary to me…I have different things I need to focus on with each class, but I think it’s something that will help me reach my students more effectively.

      Do you have any planning or organizational suggestions as I begin to get my feet wet?

  4. Nice job, Brian! I am glad that you have began to believe in your students more. Doing this in middle school (5 and 6) is a bit more challenging, but well worth it. I use Ramsey’s Explore-Flip-Apply method a lot my teaching of social studies, and the results are amazing.

    • Thanks George. How do you encourage it with your history students? Do you look for inquiry exercises online, or do you come up with your own most of the time? I’m curious to hear what this looks like in other rooms.

      • Hey Brian, I create some of my own content, using primary sources, having kids explore the textbook using SQ3R, and doing web searches. I will have to say, its much harder than probably in science, but the kids are creating better work. they are becoming more thoughtful in their answers too.

  5. Karl Lindgren-Streicher says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Brian. I’ve been trying to figure out legitimate ways to integrate EFA into my world history classroom. I’ve committed myself to teaching an entire EFA unit on South Africa at the end of this year. I’m hopeful that using images, songs, and news footage will create the space for my students to do most of the heavy lifting during the Explore and Apply phases. It’s good to hear that you’re having success with this method in chemistry!

  6. Lindsey Estes says:

    Hi Mr. Bennett,

    My name is Lindsey Estes and I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL. I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 course this semester. I am an elementary education major, looking to teach fourth or fifth grade.

    I really enjoyed reading your post and found myself excited when your students were able to succeed in the task assigned. I believe that to many times, as teachers, we limit our students and underestimate their ability to complete tasks through self learning, motivation and creativity. Most likely only a handful of students followed the exact procedure that you would have asked them to follow, but through trail and error they came up with the solutions. By allowing students to learn on their own we are creating students that will be life long learners. They will have a motivation within themselves and not rely on someone else to essentially do the work for them. Your experience gives me faith that there are still students out there that will push themselves and have the drive to learn on their own. Thank you for sharing your experience in placing the learning in your students’ hands. Have you tried this again recently? If so, what success have you continued to have or do you see any long-term benefits in this type of teaching/learning?

    Lindsey Estes
    Twitter: @lindsey_estes

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