“The greatest impact on learning is the daily lived experiences of students in classrooms, and that is determined much more by how teachers teach than by what they teach.”
(Wiliam, Embedded Formative Assessment, 2002)
Being a part of the Science faculty at Parramatta Marist where a collaborative approach to interdisciplinary learning is the centre of the everyday life of the school, a constant focus to review and rebuild projects has always been paramount. Staff and students regularly work on rigorous PBL projects creating a PBL culture in the school. Utilising the expertise of teachers in the school, effective practices are shared through UnConferences, collegial discussions, Professional Learning Teams and ‘Pedagogy in Practice’, a collaborative approach of schools in the Westmead Education Precinct connecting and sharing ideas on current practices. Parramatta Marist has embarked on an methodology and language from more than one discipline is integrated in a PBL project to examine a theme, issue or solution to a problem. The Science projects integrated with Physical Education/Technological and Applied Studies (TAS)/ IST have a real world context where students engage in the teaching and learning working through rigorous Formative and Summative Tasks. Concept Maps, Concept Cartoons, Digital Story, Reflection Journals, Experimental Design using Design process, creating prototypes of end products and using IPad apps to present information are some examples of Formative Assessments. Students play the role of scientists, developers, advisors, or website designers to create products that simulate the real world. eg.The Nature Vs. Nurture debate, a Summative task for Year10 students allows students to express their arguments on the topic: “A person’s development is predisposed in his DNA”. Other examples include: ‘creating a sustainable school garden design’ integrated with TAS, Designing a Smart Home (Science & IST), Information Brochure on Impact of Chemical substances in Drugs (Science & PE), Development proposal for a Sustainable Community, to name a few. The STEM education approach integrates and analyses interdisciplinary connections within the Science, technology, engineering and Maths to develop solutions to challenges and real world problems. Public exhibition of student work/ presentation ensures projects are authentic and nurturing the 4C’s – Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking and Creativity.
“The greatest effects on student LEARNing occur when the TEACHers become LEARNers of their own TEACHing and when students become their own TEACHers.”
(Hattie, Visible Learning ,2009, p.22)
Striving towards authenticity teachers envisage to create projects where the work has a direct impact in the real world or is used in the real world. Team teacher meetings are mandatory while implementing projects to address issues within the project or student collaboration. Involving students in the development of projects/critical friends’ protocols will enhance student interest and participation. Project Calendars/deadlines can be made flexible whenever the need to elicit high quality student work is found to be compensated by unexpected events. Giving students and teachers the time to revise and reflect on their work will foster deeper learning to go beyond the 21st Century Skills.
Science & STEM Teacher
Parramatta Marist High