Have you stood in front of a room full of 30 students, all eyes are on you, maybe your lecturing about the carbon cycle, and all you see are blank faces? You’ve probably thought to yourself, “gee I wish I knew what was going on inside their heads”. If you could take a look inside ala Disney’s Inside Out you could a clear picture of each student’s level of understanding and see how engaged they are with the material. Then with a snap of your fingers, you could address each student’s specific needs and probably solve world peace while you’re at it.
Unfortunately, life isn’t a Disney movie. So we have to find other ways to get inside the minds of our students. Luckily for us, the folks at Project Zero at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education have created a list of strategies that help students take what’s inside their heads and get it out into the world, along with expanding, curating, and enriching their mindset. Here’s a video made by the folks at Project Zero that elaborates on their message:
I think a really important element to pull from this video is that through the use of all these skills that students are creating habits of mind. The wildly popular book The Power of Habits author Charles Duhigg writes about the importance habits play in our lives, and how they have more of an influence in then we might think. This why I think the strategies are so great, and why they are essential to a science classroom.
A major goal in science education is to have our students develop a critical eye to view the world through. Whether this is assessing the validity of data, potential bias in the author, or how results may influence future research. These skills, or rather, habits, can be honed and sculpted through the MTV strategies. Let’s take a look at a few.
In this strategy, students pick out the main ideas or important concepts and condense them into a single headline. I really like this strategy for a few reasons:
- it’s quick! You can ask students to come up with headlines on the spot without taking up a whole bunch of time.
- it’s creative! Headlines need to be eyecatching, so students would need to come up with a creative way to present their idea.
- it’s a formative assessment! By seeing the students headlines you can gauge whether students are following along and grasping the content.
As with all MTV strategies, it is important to have the students reflect on their thinking and provide justifications for their reasonings. This is also a good way to introduce media literacy into the classroom, while headlines are an important part of journalism and reporting, they are often limiting in the amount of information that can be conveyed.
2. Concept Maps
I am a big fan of concept maps, especially in science classrooms where one big idea can have multiple branching parts. Some other benefits of concept maps are:
- They’re a visual medium. Students can see the physical lines that connect many topics, and what those connections are. These maps can also hang on a wall and can be used as a reference throughout a unit.
- They can be creative! Concept maps allow students to use their creative skills through their choice of mapping, symbolism, or structure. Concept maps can become pieces of art!
Concept maps are one of the strategies that actually make thinking visible, literally. The students actually map out the connections that they are making to their prior knowledge and they can place their new knowledge into the map, and it’s all visible there on the paper.
3. Circle of Viewpoints
In a science class, it can be easy to lose sight of the social aspects of the topics being discussed. Circle of Viewpoints gives students the opportunities to take a step back and view the problem from another angle. Activities like this challenge students to look at the world through multiple lenses and evaluate their feelings about science in a social world.