Science Grade 9

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Developed as a curriculum guide for Grade 9 Science in British Columbia, Canada.

The Issue: The process of shifting what is happening in our schools toward 21st Century learning strategies and processes such as authentic and engaging learning, brain-based learning, assessment for learning, project-based learning, and systematic learning support strategies is time-intensive, expensive and slow even in schools that have made progress in becoming professional learning communities, devoted to improving learning and the assessment of learning. Wikipedia-style, broad-based collaborative development, which opens the development process to everyone in the province who has time, interest and expertise, has a tremendous potential to accelerate and enrich this effort. It may only require some group to take the initiative to get the ball rolling.

Goal: ‘Wikipedia’-style, online development to create course curricula with differentiated, SmartLearning-based lessons and learning strategies, differentiated Assessment for Learning strategies and processes, and a pyramid of intervention strategies to support both students who are not learning, and students who are learning well and need greater challenge. In time, it would be expected that there would be multiple versions of the curricula created, each meeting the course PLOs with different sets of themes, strategies and resource utilization such that the curricula would be tailored to the circumstances of a school, region, class or student.

Characteristics of 21st Century Education (link)

Recent research in Education tells us that the best schools are those in which teaching and teaching assistant staff work productively together in teams on curriculum and teaching strategies on a regular, systematic basis. We meet monthly to plan and to help to promote promising innovative learning and teaching practices at Oak Bay. The Learning Team will focus on three strands this year:

• Assessment for Learning (discussed below)

• Differentiated Learning (strategies to meet individual learning needs)

• Active, individualized Learning (strategies to make learning more flexible, individualized and engaging)

PHILOSOPHY • each individual has a natural set of potentials and talents and interests

• we learn constructively – by connecting the new with the known, in context (so ‘big picture’ questions and themes are important)

• purposefully engaging emotions positively (expression, movement, stakes, novelty, staring, apprenticeships, thinking big)

• teacher is coach – providing interesting learning opportunities, helpful feedback, and striving for max effective student self-direction (age and maturity appropriate)

• focus on individualized learning in a continuous progress model with universal access supported by tech

• we often forge meaning through social interaction and teamwork (talking, sharing and discussing)

• stories and games are important: (learning and accomplishing goals within sets of rules)

• this kind of education also naturally promotes the development of social responsibility

So, for this course, we are implementing the following:

Assessment for Learning

This involves a shift of the purpose of assessment from being primarily the way ‘to get grades’ for students, to being primarily a way of providing them feedback to help them to learn. This way, the focus is on the learning vs. the method of assessment, so that the ultimate goal is to master the course material vs. to ‘get a good grade’ (although both can be desirable).

Provincial Ministry of Education Prescribed Learning Outcomes [1]

Active, individualized Learning with the use of performance assessments (projects): A three-year study of teaching and learning in more than 400 third-, sixth-, and eighth-grade classrooms in Chicago found that when students were given writing and mathematics assignments calling for more authentic work, they performed better on tests used to judge basic skills.

We find it helpful in developing a project to classify problems one of three ways: design a product, service, or system, improve one, or plan and stage an event. For maximum motivating power, the problem should be one adults face in a constructive field of human endeavor. When students tackle an actual problem in the community, by far the strongest learning occurs.

Link to more info on project-based learning [2]

Effective use of Educational Technology We will also do our best to take advantage of available technology to support learning in our course:

• Internet research

• Wireless streaming video in the classroom

• Use of online Science 9 course lessons and units to support remediation and enrichment

• Student projects and presentations using PowerPoint and multimedia