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Physics Teacher, Assistant Debate Coach, Physics PLT Facilitator 2010-11 Lifelong learners
1. How do you stay current with evolving teaching strategies and methodologies, model reflective practices, and seek opportunities to grow in your content area and/or grade level? Last year, I wrote that I read voraciously and built a strong network with physics teachers at Westminster and at other schools. I would say I have increased these two things tremendously in the past year, I now regularly read the blogs of over a dozen math and science teachers, as well as many other blogs about science, technology and other topics. Since the creation of the Atlanta Metro Physics Teacher Network, I met many new colleagues in the Atlanta area, and through twitter and the teaching blog I’m now keeping, am in touch with more than a dozen physics teachers around the nation. My work with colleagues at Georgia Tech has also developed into a grant proposal for a research project to explore new ways of teaching mechanics to physics students in high school and college using computer modeling. 2. Describe an experiment that demonstrates your willingness to take risks and openness to engage new ideas. I think I’m doing this on an almost constant basis, since I am always finding new ideas through my contacts with other physics teachers and blogs about teaching and science. It’s rare that I go a single week without implementing something new in one of my classes. Three particular new ideas I am working on this year are: a. Brain Based Research Program for High School Students: Anna Moore and I are working to develop a research program that will use high school students to conduct psychology experiments on students in the elementary school to test how various forms of praise affect risk taking and academic performance. We hope that this project will captivate some of our ninth grade students, who are very passionate about science, but not yet able to work in a college lab. We plan to use this project to take them all the way through the experimental process: developing and writing a proposal, developing protocols, evaluating data, and presenting their findings. b. Student Stress reduction: I discovered the trailer to the film Race to Nowhere, which describes the overstressed lives of high school students who are jockeying for admission to the most competitive colleges with little sense of purpose or enjoyment in their work. I am now working with Jim Justice and other members of the faculty to raise discussions around this issue, possibly hold a screening of the film with the director here on campus, and design follow up conversations to address the issues raised by the film.
c. Innovation Incubator: related to my interest in getting students to focus on leading innovative lives of reduced stress and greater engagement, I am working on creating an innovation incubator, which would be an organization designed help students identify and explore their deep interests, and then develop and implement projects based on these interests that are innovative and have a lasting impact on the student and community. 3. How do you collaborate with students and colleagues to further knowledge and understanding? I think the Brain Based Learning Research Program I am starting with Anna More will be a fantastic way to collaborate with students, as they will become our research partners in this project, and I am excited by the new discoveries we will make together. Another way I collaborate with students is the website I’ve created for my classes. Last year, I simply kept a blog for my classes, this year, I’ve set up a full-blown learning network, which features a common class blog, but also gives students their own individual blog. The primary goal of this blog is to get my students exploring science outside the classroom, by trying challenge problem, writing about topics that interest them, and generally keeping our discussions going outside the normal classroom hours (Student participation in the blog does not factor into their grades at all). So far, the network is a pretty big hit with about two dozen posts and almost 100 comments so far, students have found everything from fascinating plant research that suggest plants might be able to recognize their kin, to a recent discovery that a ringworm shares a brain structure very similar to humans. Finally, I collaborate with faculty at Westminster and beyond in many multifaceted ways. I’m the facilitator of our PLT, which is launching this week, and has begun some good conversations among the physics teachers about what we see as essential understandings for our courses. I am constantly meeting individually with other teachers in physics to share ideas, everything from helping a colleague to set up the computer to developing a new approach to teaching pendulums. I have also begun to establish a strong dialogue with other members of our department, including a couple with whom I have significant pedagogical differences, which has led to a number of thought provoking conversations. Our Metro Physics Teacher Network is now more than 40 members strong, meets monthly, and many useful collaborations have grown out of this, including hires for both of my paternity leave subs, and a research collaboration with faculty at Georgia Tech.
Master Teacher Reflection I continue to be fascinated by Dweck’s Mindset research and the role that metacognition has to play in my classroom. I think I am now well on my way to re-orienting all of my teaching practices and curriculum so that it both teaches and encourages students to develops a growth mindset regarding their intellectual ability. This year, I am developing a more complete metacognition curriculum consisting of selected readings and follow up questions on webassign. It is my hope that in so doing, these ideas will have a more lasting impact on my students. In addition, I have now fully turned over grading in my classroom to encouraging the growth mindset. Homework is for practice only; it is assigned, and I give feedback, but it does not factor into a student’s grade. Grades are based solely on the understanding a student demonstrates, and they can attempt to demonstrate understanding in a variety of way and are given a near-unlimited number of attempts to do so, with only the most recent attempt to demonstrate understanding counting toward that student’s grade. Community Member 1. I think I’ve already described in detail the many ways in which I collaborated with colleagues last year. I think I am trying to do this even more by attending meetings of the Campus Corps, and working with Jim and Frances to discuss issues of student stress and intellectual engagement. 2. I am continuing to coach the novice debate team this year. With a year under my belt I feel much more confident to instruct the novice debaters, and think that I will begin to take more of the day-to-day responsibility for instructing the novice debate team. Strengths • Passion for learning new ideas and engaging students by doing science. • Desire to teach students a love of learning that empowers them to make a positive difference in the world right away. • Ability to connect ideas across disciplines and use technology to accomplish my goals. Challenges • Maintaining my energy level and all of these projects with the impending birth of a baby daughter in October.
Last Year’s goal Last year’s goal was to set up a class blog and get my students to be active users of it. I think I mostly accomplished this goal, though participation died off near the middle of the second semester. I think part of my problem in accomplishing this was not giving my students enough freedom to explore ideas of interest to them, and instead requiring them to document things from class discussion.
Primary Goal My primary goal for 2010-11 is to develop my personal teaching blog as a place to document what I’m doing in the classroom, raise questions about my teaching, and collaborate with teachers around the globe. I’ve already written ~40 posts, and found the blog to be an incredible resource for helping me to explore ideas for lessons and reflect upon my teaching. This blog can be viewed at: http://quantumprogress.wordpress.com Secondary Goal I would like to continue to develop the learning network I’ve set up at burkphysics.com, as well completing some of the other projects I’ve listed above (brain research group, innovation incubator, metacognition curriculum).
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