121 – UbD with Jay McTighe

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Professional Development – I was fortunate to be able to attend a two-day workshop with Jay McTighe, via the Coast Metro Consortium.  Jay’s working partner for many years was Grant Wiggins, who unexpectedly passed away in 2015.  McTighe and Wiggins’ books have been very formative for me, particularly Wiggins because of his blog.

I have a couple of McTighe and Wiggins’ books, Understanding by Design and Essential Questions: Opening doors to student understanding, so the content of the workshop wasn’t all that new to me.  However, it was a fantastic opportunity to hear about the more subtle aspects of UbD, the kind of thing you can only learn in person.  It was also a great chance to collaborate with like-minded people, I feel lucky to have attended.  Thanks go out to my Principal, Ranjit Bains, for getting me into the workshop!  With respect to my previous post on this blog, Jay really emphasized that “covering content” is not in the best interest of students and that he and Grant explicitly decided to focus on quality rather than quantity.  Sacrifices may need to be made in order to achieve the most important things in education.  I think that in terms of UbD this means that

To top things off, I was lucky enough to have Jay sit at our table for lunch the second day!  Four of us got the chance just to chat about education and share our interesting experiences.

The pictures above come from some collaborative work we did at our table, working on a financial literacy unit for Math 9.

120 – Goal-less Introduction

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Physics 11 – Today was our first day back after a 2 week spring break.  As a bit of a review and to try and treat physics as a coherent story, I had students consider a goal-less problem.  Their first task was to come up with some questions that they could answer. I hope to use a goal-less problem for a Performance Task but I’m really starting to feel some pressure in terms of curricular content.  For good or bad, it’s weighing on my mind.

This type of performance task is really what it’s all about though. If someone is a student of physics, they should be able to look at a situation and model it, without having someone prompt them through a series of questions.

Day 118 – Power Testing

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Physics 11 – Today we did some testing on power.  Not assessment testing but seeing “who has the most power?”

I had volunteers run up two sets of stairs, and then we used time and Eg to find which student put out the most power.  As is always the case, the heaviest students have the most power for this short test.

I then told the kids about power curves in athletic performances. I thought a few of my higher achieving students would be interested in this, particularly because they also do high level sports, including nordic skiing.  The idea is that when you model power output from an athlete, you can plot their critical power. Critical power is the average power they can maintain for any particular time period.  In the chart above, Jamar can hold an average of 994 W for 4 s.  As the time interval gets longer, the power gets lower.  This can be modeled in different ways but it typically gets shown as being some type of second order inverse relation.  Endurance athletes, like nordic skiers, are usually most interested in shifting their curve up.  A shorter interval athlete is probably more interested in shifting the curve to the right.  In any event, none of the students were terribly interested in this. This probably helps explain why they don’t really care that much about modeling in general?  Oh, and it was the last day before spring break…

Day 116 – Bridge TRU Results

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Engineering Physics – Today I received the results from the Thompson Rivers University.  As you can see, there is a pretty big jump from the 6 to the rest of the contestants.  My students are further down the list. I’m confident that one team’s design was solid but their construction was a bit off – some of the popsicle sticks were a bit crooked and the bridge likely twisted and failed because of the twisting.

Day 114 – Quantitative Energy

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Physics 11 – Today we moved into more quantitative analysis of conservation of energy. I was pretty pleased with the previous class and the work done using bar graphs, and kids told me that they were feeling pretty good about. Gulp, that’s often a bad sign!

I could see today that several kids were not quite making the jump from bar graphs to using the conservation of energy equation.  Lots of the confusion stems from the students not knowing the beginning and end “situations.”  For example, consider the question below:

A 30.0kg gun is standing on a frictionless surface. The gun fires a 50.0g bullet with a muzzle velocity of 310m/s.  Calculate the kinetic energy of the bullet just after firing.

Several kids were very unsure of what the “beginning” and “end” are.  They were very used to have clearly drawn diagrams given to them.  This isn’t strange, research has shown that giving diagrams to students can actually impair their problem solving (I can’t find the reference just now, but I read it recently).