Lesson Planning to Support Students’ Argumentation Skills and Learning Outcomes
We want students to participate in class. We want students to share their ideas and opinions. We want students to be able to justify their viewpoints with credible supporting evidence. We want students to engage in meaningful argumentation. To help students do this, authors Antonia Larrain et al. find that it is not enough to simply have class discussions. The design of the lesson plan matters.
Increasing Student Engagement in Small Groups: The Role of Knowledge Diversity
When it comes to small group work, teachers approach grouping students differently at different times. Sometimes students may choose their own groups. Sometimes students are randomly assigned to groups. And sometimes teachers carefully choose group members. For authors Jian Zhao et al., an important aspect for teachers to consider when designing groups is the distribution of prior knowledge among students. In their paper, “Students’ engagement in a science classroom: Does knowledge diversity matter?,” Zhao et al. investigate how mixed-prior-knowledge grouping affects student engagement and group performance. They find that when a group has even one knowledgeable student, group members are more behaviorally and emotionally engaged in the task (6).
Emphasizing Concepts vs. Procedures in Math: Student Achievement and Social Justice
Over the past few decades, teachers in the United States have faced increasing pressure to boost American students’ mathematics achievement. Comparisons with other countries have revealed that American students lag behind in math achievement, especially when compared to student performance in Japan and Singapore. Thus, American education leaders and policymakers have prioritized mathematics achievement in part to secure America as a globally competitive and innovative nation (Yu 82).
In their paper, “Teacher support, instructional practices, student motivation, and mathematics achievement in high school,” authors Rongrong Yu and Kusum Singh explain that for the past 20 years, mathematics educators and administrators have been engaged in “mathematics wars,” heated debates that have pitted those who favor procedural teaching against those who favor conceptual teaching (81).
Previous studies have shown that students in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore “spend more time on inventing, analyzing, and proving, with less time on routine procedures, but U.S. students spend almost all their time on routine procedures” (83).
It’s not interesting. It’s not relevant. Too often teachers hear these phrases from students in science and mathematics classes. In their article, “The impact of college- and university-run high school summer programs on students’ end of high school STEM career aspirations,” Joseph A. Kitchen et al. argue that in order to inspire students to not only find interest in STEM content, but to ultimately choose STEM career paths, it is essential for STEM classes and programs to keep content relevant. The authors show that instructors can significantly and positively alter students’ perceptions of STEM subjects by engaging students with real-world applications and actual professionals in STEM fields (13).
The authors note that it is during high school when many students start seriously considering their future career paths. Given that high school students’ aspirations are still malleable, it is also a prime time for STEM instructors to promote not just present understanding of STEM subjects, but students’ future trajectory for STEM career choices (12).
Time Spent on Math and Science Homework Linked to Higher Standardized Test Scores, But Not Higher Grades
The homework debate has continued in the United States for well over one hundred years. How much homework should teachers give? How should teachers assess homework (for accuracy or completion)? What is the purpose of homework? In their paper, “When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math,” authors Adam V. Maltese et al. remark that over the decades homework has been seen as a way to pull students toward academic mastery, toward educational preparation and competitiveness in increasingly globalized marketplaces. They note that, “After the Russians first sent a mission into space, there was a general feeling in America that students were under-prepared, and homework was seen as a tool to improve the educational preparation of students and ensure America’s safety and development” (53).
Studies about the time that students are required to spend on homework are inconclusive. For example, the authors note that the National Assessment of Educational Progress concluded that as of 2003, only 10-12% of students reported having two or more hours of homework per night. The National Center for Educational Statistics argued that there was an increase of students reporting two or more hours of homework each night from 7% in 1980 to 37% in 2002 (53). Although much media coverage has touted the idea that American high school students are overburdened by homework, the authors of this paper argue that, “statistics do not support the notion that a majority of high school students in the U.S. toil away on homework each evening after school…These data indicate that most of the arguments against homework, which appear in the popular media, may originate from a vocal minority” (53).
Want Students to Memorize Content? Have Them Draw It.
It is typical for a teacher to ask students to write down information so that they can learn and memorize some given content. But authors Frits F.B. Pals et al. question whether writing information is the most effective way for students to memorize class material. In their paper, “Memorisation methods in science education: tactics to improve the teaching and learning practice,” Pals et al. examine the efficacy of writing versus student-created drawings for long-lasting student retention of content. In addition, the authors investigate whether “muttering” during writing or drawing makes a difference for memorization and retention of material, as previous studies have suggested (238). In particular, the study focuses on student memorization of science propositions.