SLO #1 - Reflective Practice
Professional educator demonstrates reflective practice by critically examining his own subject knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and pedagogical skills to improve his own students’ learning.
Web based field trip lesson for AP environmental science. This is a self guided trip where students will observe prime examples of California's famous Chaparral Biome, document sample species and relate adaptations that have allowed those species to thrive in these conditions. The Web accessed lesson includes map/directions to the park, a study guide with leading questions for use in the park and a PowerPoint presentation of examples from the park. Because the lesson is Web accessed, students can download information from home and share the lesson with friends and family. This project was created as part of a course requirement for SED 695 B as a fieldwork guide. The project is located both on my professional website (xrl.us/whsphysics) and the wiki site for SED 695 B (http://sites.google.com/site/sed695b).
By examining desired content standards in AP environmental science and comparing that to learning outcomes of students within the class, I noticed a severe disconnect between what was being taught with what was being synthesized by students. AP students could remember key facts and examples, but when asked to relate these facts to their own local environment, they often failed to make new conclusions or combined ideas to justify observations. I attempted to create an on campus field trip to begin to show students how environmental systems are interconnected and cannot simply be viewed as individual parts. There was some success in the on-campus field trip, but it still needed additional scaffolding to draw students into higher level cognitive thinking strategies and to transfer textbook ideas into real world examples. I created an optional fieldtrip lead by a virtual docent. By planning an easy to follow set of directions for several short hiking paths through Malibu Creek State Park, I led students to make observations and connections between flora and fauna within local ecosystems. Students see concepts in action and then record these events and present their findings in a PowerPoint presentation that demonstrates their understanding and increases their practice with technology for multimedia presentations. My reflection included creating a way to get students into the field even when funding is difficult to obtain for field trips. I contemplated how to use technology to make up for missing elements within the classroom. I also explored ways of using technology to make the project available to a wider audience. I recalled one of the ideas learned from SED 690, that a cognitive apprenticeship needs to occur in a hands-on environment. I reflected on how to better get family and peers involved in the education of the student and how best to turn student into teacher. I reflected on the power of visuals and modeling, so I included my own example PowerPoint. I also reflected on what made me love science was not reading about it, but fully immersing myself in the activity of being a scientist. By creating a series of questions for the students to ponder as they walk the field trip, I create a sense of scientific thinking, asking for observations and hypotheses on why different phenomena occur.
I have received excellent feedback from colleagues, peers, parents and most importantly students on this project. While I thoroughly enjoyed creating this project, the time involved was immense. I not only had to plan out how to lead the students through the park without them getting lost or sidetracked, but how to carefully select subject matter that was permanent, relevant, and not prone to disappear with the seasons changing. I also had to create photo images, which required not only many attempts, but often many images of the same subject shot at different angles and different lighting in an attempt to create the most detailed image. Then I learned through several courses in the masters program how to create an interactive website to deliver the lesson. I owe a great deal of thanks to my cohorts, who have given me inspiration and motivation. I received great support, both emotional and pedagogical from my colleagues in the cohort. They offered many excellent suggestions as well as technical and creative insights. They helped me to reflect upon the types of questions I was asking and the responses those questions were stimulating. They helped me to diversify the style of my teaching by getting me to incorporate a more real world, hands-on approach that was underrepresented within my curriculum. I feel that even though the field trip is optional, many students benefit from engaging in this activity and those unable to go benefit from the review of the PowerPoint presentations afterward. One important aspect that I learned to focus on from my time in the cohort is to turn the student into the teacher whenever possible. This project allows students to demonstrate their mastery of complex ideas by teaching the class what they have discovered. I am very pleased and surprised by the students who are not in my class that have gone with a friend and commented on how much they enjoyed the field trip or hike as they refer to it. When a student brings along a peer or family member, the project is less like a task and more of an enjoyable learning experience. One of my goals as an educator is to make learning fun and create lifelong learners.
Malibu Creek State Park Fieldtrip