Saturday, June 21, 2014

Southwest Michigan Modeling Workshop Day 2

Another great day!  Frankly, if you weren't paying attention you'd think I knew what I was doing.

The day started with a discussion of the readings - "Wherefore a Science of Teaching" by David Hestenes and "FCI" by Hestenes, Wells and Swackhammer.

The discussion of the "Wherefore..." article was quite good.  I feel like the participants got the idea that although there is a bit of an art to the profession, Hestenes real argument is that there is science behind good teaching; that good teaching can be learned by good teachers.  We have to be aware of the strategies that are involved in good teaching.

The fact that the article was from 1979 did come up but the consensus was that most of his ideas were still relevant.  However, the research on brain-based learning has come a long way since then and to update our knowledge of that was necessary.  Maybe I can find something more current on that subject.

On day 1 the participants took the FCI.  For most of them it was their first time seeing or taking the test.  It was challenging for them - much like the first time I took it.

I remember in the spring of 2000; I was just at the end of my first year teaching.  I felt like I'd done a fantastic job with my students.  Although to be fair - I didn't know what I didn't know so it was easy to be naive.  I got a call from my mentor teacher who asked how I thought I did my first year.  I told him that I felt great about it.  He asked if I wanted to really test what the kids knew.  I said, "Of course" and so he sent over the FCI for me to give to the kids.  On a sticky note pasted to the top of the first sheet it said, "Make sure that you take the test yourself before you give it to the kids".  

So I grabbed the FCI, thinking to myself, "How hard could it be?"  I read the first question and immediately grabbed the answer key.  I felt like I should have known the answer but to be honest, I really wasn't sure.  I checked the answer to #1 and saw it was C and said to myself, "Oh yeah - I totally knew it was C".  Who was I fooling?  It was only me sitting there in an empty classroom.  

My point is that the FCI is tough.  It is a real test of conceptual knowledge.  And just because you've had a physics class in college (or high school) doesn't mean that you have any real conceptual knowledge.  This was me; plenty of physics classes and no real conceptual knowledge.  I saw that feeling in the faces of some of the participants yesterday.  That was a seminal moment in my journey to becoming the physics teacher that I am today and I am hoping that some of them felt the same thing.

The article on the FCI gave the participants some background on the test and an idea that it is much harder for students (and them) than it looks like it should be.

In the afternoon my co-faciltator, Laura Sloma, then introduced the Buggy Lab to the participants and although she and I have never worked together before - she did exactly what I would have done!  There was some trepidation on my part - having never worked together - as to whether or not we would gel.  However, after two days of the workshop and one night of drinking beer together, it is clear that we are of the same mind and values.  I am pumped up!

Can't wait for day 3.

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