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Research-backed and teacher-approved methods, techniques, and more for incorporating a constructivist approach to classroom learning.
STEMscopes 5E + IA Model
Research suggests that science inquiry in a classroom is best served by using an instructional model that follows a certain lesson cycle. 5E empowers teachers to meet the needs of the various learning styles and academic levels in their classroom while keeping students engaged and actively participating. Here are its 5 components:
Engagement - a phenomena is introduced that is relevant and meaningful to students, allowing them to explain their current level of understanding and inspiring them to learn more.
Exploration - students interact with the phenomenon through exploration and work towards answering relevant questions.
Explanation - students share with the teacher and peers their reflections on answers revealed.
Elaboration - students apply their new understanding to novel situations.
Evaluation - students’ understanding is assessed in a way to inform further instruction (formative assessment) and provides feedback to the student. helping them understand and take charge of their own learning.
To this process we, at Accelerate Learning Inc. have added two additional phases to reflect one of our Guiding Principles of Best Practice, differentiation. These are Intervention (I), meant to address students who need extra time and opportunities to master specific knowledge or skills, and Acceleration (A), for those students who require extra challenges. As with the 5Es themselves, these phases should not be viewed as separate steps that are followed in a particular sequence, but rather as elements of instruction that can and should be integrated whenever appropriate.
21 STEM Methods & Techniques for 21st Century Learning
In 1956 Benjamin Bloom published a taxonomy categorizing educational goals on six different levels, from the most basic to the most complex. The framework, often referred to as Bloom’s Taxonomy, or simply Bloom’s, has been integrated in a variety of ways in classrooms. Questioning strategies based on Bloom’s suggests that teachers should try to ask questions from all appropriate levels. The levels are briefly described below and sample questioning words are provided.
Recall - Questions that require the recollection of specific information (list, state, define, memorize)
Understand - Questions that require students to explain ideas or concepts (explain, classify, translate, describe)
Apply - Questions that require students to use knowledge or skills in new situations (solve, use, demonstrate, apply)
Analyze - Questions that require students to draw connections between ideas (compare, contrast, organize, test)
Evaluate - Questions that require students to justify a claim or opinion (argue, justify, defend, support, critique)
Create - Questions that require students to develop an original product (write, design, construct, formulate)
Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER)
The acronym CER stands for Claim, Evidence, Reasoning and refers to a classroom technique in which students start with a claim (often the answer to a question), provide the evidence that supports their claim (usually observations and data collected by the students themselves), and explain their reasoning for why the evidence supports their claim. The method is adaptable to any classroom and, depending on the amount of teacher scaffolding, students of any age.
Concrete - Representational - Abstract (CRA)
The acronym CRA stands for Concrete, Representational, and Abstract and refers to a 3-step classroom technique for introducing a math concept. The first step is Concrete which means using hands-on manipulatives. When students have mastered concrete, they move on to Representational, which means to draw pictures and/or models to represent the concrete objects. The last step is Abstract, the phase in which only numbers and symbols are used. Using this concrete-representational-abstract sequence helps students develop the thorough mental representations that are foundational for conceptual understanding. The analogy of CRA applied to the concept of an apple might begin with students handling an actual apple, then drawing or looking at a picture of an apple and finally the word “apple”.
The CLOZE reading technique consists of starting with a grade-level appropriate reading passage in the target content area, removing certain words, then presenting the passage to the students, requiring them to fill in the missing words.
A formative assessment is any assessment that is administered within the context of instruction with the goal of using the information gained from the assessment to inform instruction and/or to provide feedback for the students. Using the data collected from a formative assessment allows both the teacher and the student to make appropriate adjustments. Formative assessments are distinguished from summative assessments (see below) which are administered at the end of instruction and are meant to evaluate teaching and learning. The analogy is often made that a formative assessment is like a check-up and a summative assessment is like an autopsy.
Group Work is a general term for any classroom activity in which students collaborate on the outcome. In general the groups referred to consist of at least two students, usually three or four, and not much larger. Group work allows for increased interaction and participation compared to whole-class instruction.
What I Know - What I want to Know - What I Learned (KWL)
The letters of KWL stand for the key words in the phrases, “What I Know”, “What I Want to Know”, and “What I Learned”. At the beginning of a unit of study the teacher using the KWL technique displays a three-column chart for the whole class. The chart is filled in with student responses, written directly on the chart, or on post-it notes. In the first column the students record what they know, or think they know, about the topic to be studied. In the second column they record what they want to know or hope to learn about the topic. The chart is maintained throughout the unit of study and displayed prominently in the classroom so that students can return to it frequently. At the end of the unit of study, the class completes the final column, recording what they have learned.
A math journal is a notebook, often a spiral notebook or binder, in which students in a mathematics class record what they do in class, especially the process of solving problems. Students' entries could include, but are not limited to, practice solving problems, glue in their foldables, glue in worksheets and explore activities, and sometimes copy down anchor charts. Math journals allow students to organize, clarify, and reflect on their thinking. Students can use their journals to record their thinking and show their strategy for finding the solution. A Math Journal provides for an excellent formative assessment. Teachers can use an individual’s notebook to assess their understanding and evaluate the strategies used.
Open-Ended Response (OER)
OER questions are assessment items that allow the student to generate their own response, freely. OER questions are contrasted to items with a finite set of responses, such as Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), matching, or fill-in-the-blank items that include a word bank.
Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
Problem-Based Learning (PBL), sometimes referred to as Project-Based Learning is a classroom technique that begins by introducing students to a specific challenge. Students learn about a subject by developing their own research skills to solve an open-ended question. This technique is student centered and promotes the collaboration that creates communities of learning. PBL allows the learning to be more at an analytical and creative level, instead of just memorization and recall.
Reading in the Content Area
Reading in the Content Area is the method of using students’ literacy skills to read informational text on the subject matter. The text is typically nonfiction and in the expository form. There is no narrative or action in reading in the content area.
Rubrics are assessment tools. They list the specific criteria for the product that is going to be assessed. Each rubric includes a scoring guide. This entails a set point scale for each criterion (1 ,2, 3, and 4, for example) and a detailed description for each score under each criterion. Rubrics are used for all types of products whether written, oral, visual, or performance.
A Science Journal is a strategy that requires students to keep a written record, often in a spiral notebook or three-ring binder, of all work done in a science classroom. Recording and reflecting is a method that students practice in order to gain a better understanding of the topic. In an Interactive Science Journal, a student also has a space for teacher feedback. Students can include drawings, sketches, tables, charts, graphs. It can include questions and observations from an experiment. A Science Journal is a great resource for a teacher and student to have a conference for assessment or for intervention or review.
The use of simulations is a technique that allows students to manipulate variables and outcomes, usually in a virtual (digital) environment. Simulations mimic, in most important aspects, the interaction with the real world. Because they do not require physical objects, only access to a digital resource, virtual simulations allow more students to participate rather than having to passively watch classmates or the teacher demonstrate. A virtual simulation enables students to interact with things like cells, planets, or the deep ocean, that would be impractical or impossible to experience otherwise. Simulations give immediate feedback to students while they are interacting. Because, in a simulation, a student can manipulate elements and immediately see the consequences, they can discover patterns and construct, on their own, a meaningful understanding of difficult concepts.
Socratic Dialogue is a method of questioning students with repeated questions until the student gets the wrong answer or until the teacher is convinced that the student understands. Socratic Dialogue is used to encourage students to not just read the material, but explore it deeply and form an opinion about it. Students should be able to clarify and analyze their thoughts and knowledge of the material. A teacher using Socratic dialogue continually asks fact-based questions as well as critical thinking questions. Sometimes teachers will ask the same student repeated questions and other times may pick random students and come back around to the first question. It’s important that teachers explain to students ahead of time that they will be allowed to use the reading and/or their own notes. Teachers need to keep track of who gets the answers correct. If a student gets an answer wrong then that student needs to be corrected immediately.
The use of stations is a technique that allows students to interact with several phenomena in a short period of time, or to differentiate instruction for students with different needs, interests, or levels of mastery. The strategy involves setting up activities in different locations in the classroom, stations, each with its own task and materials. Stations can be implemented simply, with a single station the students rotate through while the rest of the students engage in whole-class instruction, or can involve the creation of a large number of stations which students visit based on their interests or needs.
Summative Assessments are given at the end of a unit that evaluate what a student has learned, usually compared to standards. Summative Assessments include but are not limited to, end-of-year tests, standardized tests, end-of-unit tests, or cumulative projects developed over an extended time period, etc. A summative assessment can also be a technique to evaluate teaching. Poor results could be a sign that instruction needs to be re-evaluated. Summative data can give insight into strengths and weaknesses. As in formative assessments, students need feedback from the summative assessment to recognize mastery as well as areas where more study is needed.
Think/Pair/Share is a technique which requires students to work together to solve a problem, answer a question, or respond to a reading. In Think/Pair/Share, students think about the answer independently, then pair up with other students, and finally, share their thoughts and collaboratively come up with an answer. Using this technique not only encourages reflection, but also allows students to build their social, listening, and speaking skills. Students are given the opportunity to learn from each other.
Whole Class Discussion
Whole class discussion is teacher-led and engages as many students as possible. This method of dialogue allows students to correct any misconceptions or misunderstandings. Whole class dialogue gives teachers a chance to focus on areas that need to be addressed in a different manner or an area that needs more attention. Using whole class dialogue allows enough wait time during instruction and discussion for students to think through and justify their answers. During whole class dialogue, students are not judged on their performance. Teachers are given the opportunity for immediate feedback from students as a group.
A Word Walls refers to a classroom wall on which high frequency words are displayed for all the class to see. The words are often arranged by starting letter (all words beginning, for example, with the letter “C” together) and in alphabetical order. This technique, by promoting the daily use of content specific terms, builds greater familiarity with the subject-specific vocabulary.
STEMscopes Layered Approach
We believe doing is the best form of learning. That’s why we follow a layered approach to classroom instruction. These are the research-backed, tried-and-true inspirations to our framework that are at the heart of every STEMscopes lesson.
Based on the guiding principles of best practice and constructivism, we have derived these Methods and Techniques to use in a student-centered classroom.