Spring 2013: Taking Action: Applying Teaching Techniques to Science Content to Increase Student Science Literacy

Week 1 – April 4 and 5

Our activities this quarter in the Science Literacy Teaching Journal Club followed the general theme of Taking Action: Applying Teaching Techniques to Science Content to Increase Student Science Literacy. In general, we spent one week reading about a technique or method and the following week volunteers used the method to teach some science content, with special attention to addressing aspects of science literacy. To refresh our memories about what’s important as far as science literacy, we started the term by reading the following article:

The Meaning of Scientific Literacy, by Jack Holbrook and Miia Rannikmae, Int. J. Env. & Sci. Educ. 4, 275 (2009).

Week 2 – April 11 and 12

We began the first of our “Taking Action” modules: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL). During our meetings this week, we discussed a couple of articles that lay out what POGIL is and factors to consider when implementing it in large classes:

  • A Guided Inquiry General Chemistry Course, by J. J. Farrell, R. S. Moog, and J. N. Spencer, J. Chem. Educ . 1999, 76, 570. (this link is available for free if you are using the UO wireless or off-campus by searching for the article through the libweb.uoregon.edu, using find text, and logging with your Duck ID and UO ID number.)
  • POGIL Implementation in Large Classes: Strategies for Planning, Teaching, and Management, by E. J. Yezierski, et al., Chapter 6 in _Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), R. Moog, et al., ACS Symposium Series, American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 2008. (attached)

Next week, our volunteer facilitators used POGIL to teach us some science content.

We began the day with a short presentation by Jane Irungu, Associate Director of the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE), who described the support services available to students and faculty on campus. This was followed by a brainstorming session about the essential features of POGIL:

  • several small groups
  • assigned roles within group
  • faculty student ratio
  • no/limited lecture
  • instant feedback due to in-class communication via clickers
  • requires student accountability
  • requires student buy-in (or “acclimation period”)
  • pattern learning cycle

The discussion then turned to the topic of team dynamics that are inevitably present in a POGIL course. As one professor put it, “POGIL introduces ‘real life’ into the classroom.” We debated the merits of this reality. On one hand, a group dynamic can prove distracting and create a diversion from the content of the course. On the other hand, the POGIL model is more in line with structure of the modern work force where, like it or not, we don’t always get to choose our colleagues.

Week 3 – April 18 and 19

This week in the Science Literacy Teaching Journal Club our volunteer facilitators put into practice the POGIL method we discussed last week, using it to teach science content.

THURSDAY APRIL 18: Richard Wagner and Samantha Mellin guided us through an exercise about ways to protect digital messages from errors in transmission. To prepare for the meeting, they asked us to read the following short introductory paragraphs:

“In information science, error-free transmission of information is very important. We need to be able to protect against any errors that have happened during the transmission of information. Error protection encompasses both error detection (knowing that an error occurred during transmission) and error correction (fixing the error).

For us, information is defined as the number of bits (binary digits, 1s and 0s) that make up a message. It does not refer to the meaning of the message, its interpretation or its importance, just the raw bit-count.

How messages are formed relies on the transmission code. A code is a list of code words along with a protocol. Code words are combinations of symbols that translate to something with meaning. A protocol is a system for forming a message using the code words. For example, Morse code has code words made up of dots and dashes and the protocol determines things such as the duration of a dash, the time delay between letters and the time delay between words. We will talk exclusively about binary codes, codes that translate alphanumeric symbols into binary numbers of 1s and 0s.”

FRIDAY APRIL 19: On Friday, Alex Whitebirch guided us through an exercise about The Nuclear Atom.

Thursday morning session:
Richard and Samantha, our guest facilitators for the week, began by describing the POGIL activity they had prepared for us. Next, they passed out colored index cards numbered 1 – 4. We formed groups of 4 based on the color of the index card and assumed the role (recall the four POGIL roles from last week’s reading) that corresponded to the number on the card.

The activity consisted of a critical thinking worksheet that asked groups to consider several questions about how we think about, use, and share information.

Please view the POGIL worksheet prepared by Richard and Samanth below:

Friday afternoon session:
SLP undergraduate fellow Alex Whitebirch, our guest facilitator for the day, led the journal club through a chemistry activity on the nuclear atom. For 30 minutes, groups of four worked together to complete a worksheet of critical thinking questions, exercises and problems. Group members were each assigned one of four roles (manager, presenter, recorder, reflector). This exercise, an example borrowed from a 2013 POGIL workshop, simulated for journal club participants the experience students would have in a POGIL classroom.

After completing the activity, we reconvened to reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of the POGIL model.

Please view the POGIL worksheet on the Nuclear Atom.

Week 4 – April 25 and 26

This week in the Scientific Literacy Teaching Journal Club we read two articles about screencasting:

The topic of this week’s journal club was the development and use of screencasts as a teaching tool. A screencast is, by definition, a digital recording of computer screen output often containing audio narration. We began our discussion by listing the ways a screencast is distinct from other forms of online teaching methods like podcsats or online lectures. We agreed the main component that defines the true nature of a screencast is the display of another user’s computer screen while they present visual and audio information.

We then watched the first five minutes of two screencasts on diffusion and osmosis and compared the styles of the two narrators. Please follow the links below to view the screencasts.

Khan Academy – Diffusion and Osmosis

Kristina Gremski – Diffusion and Osmosis

Through our discussion, we discovered that a number of elements go into creating an effective screencast including:

  • Pace – Too slow and students will be bored quickly; too fast and students will be left behind.
  • Clarity – Attention to detail (e.g. clear handwriting, well articulated speech and smooth transitions between ideas) is important for a high quality final product
  • Content – The material presented in the screencast must be appropriate for the intended audience.

Week 5 – May 2 and 3

This week in the Science Literacy Teaching Journal Club, we continued our exploration of screencast technology with a look at the screencasts our journal club volunteers put together.  Each person used a different program to create a screencast on a topic of their choice. We spent some time discussing the relative merits of the software as well what people found to be easy or difficult in the production process.

This week’s journal club featured four original screencasts prepared by journal club members. Each volunteer produced a screencast using different software and reported to the group on their experience.

After watching the screencasts we formed groups to compare the four approaches.

Gesa Welker – Screencast on Surface Tension using Screencast-o-matic

Strengths Limitations
  • Free and widely available
  • Ability to pause, write then capture screenshots
  • Captures screenshots and webcam footage
  • MP4, AVI and FLV compatible
  • Publish to YouTube
  • Can mark up screenshots with MS Paint
  • Free hosting limited to 15min/upload
  • Few production/editing features
  • Can’t publish to Google Drive/Vimeo without Pro version ($15/month)

Hilary Nadeau – Screencast on Registering iClickers using QuickTime

Strengths Limitations
  • Free, widely available
  • Very easy to use
  • No editing or

Mark Lonergan – Screencast on Screencasting Soft/Hardware using ScreenFlow

Strengths Limitations
  • Free 30-day trial available
  • Extensive production/editing capabilities
  • Ability to speed up writing and match with recorded audio
  • Available for Mac or PC
  • $100 to download full version
  • A/V equipment required to make use of all features

Brian Wells – Screencast of Mathematica tutorial using Jing

Strengths Limitations
  • Free, relatively easy to use
  • Select windows or regions of a window to capture
  • Free storage up to 2GB
  • Ability to mark screenshots with text/animations
  • Limited to 5 minutes/screencast
  • No option to publish to YouTube
  • Pro version available for $9.95/month

**Note: If you plan to use one of the screencasts for your own purposes, please contact the author first.
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Week 6 – May 9 and 10

This week in the Science Literacy Teaching Journal Club we started our study of the use of various forms of comics in science courses. To get an idea of the variety of comics that exist and some examples of how they can be used, we read:

Our discussion began with a quick-write on a comic featuring the Amusement Park Function World.

Week 7 – May 16 and 17

This week in the Science Literacy Teaching Journal Club we continued our study of how to use comics in science with an activity led by Samantha Mellin and David Grych on Thursday and Jana Prikryl, Win McLaughlin, and Ann Petersen on Friday. We looked at a couple of comics designed to teach science content:

Hillary Nadeau pointed out another interesting use of cartoon animation to convey science content. She originally heard the story on NPR’s Radio Lab, then later discovered the animation.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DDF8WZFnoU

Journal club participants spent this week’s session creating comics relevant to a topic from their course. Below are several examples of comics created by journal club members. Click on the image to view the complete comic.

Week 8 – May 23 and 24

Reading: This week we began our study of the development and use of demonstrations to teach science concepts. Because not everyone has (or will have in a future job) access to a library of demos maintained by their department, we wanted to highlight low-cost, easy-to-implement demonstrations. To prepare for our meetings this week, we read two very short articles and do a quick search:

  • Bridging Activities: Concrete to Abstract. Jim Hicks, Physics Teacher 51, 252 (2013).http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4795380
  • Garage Demos: Using Physical Models to Illustrate Dynamic Aspects of Microscopic Biological Processes. D. K. O’Dowd and N. Aguilar-Roca, CBE Life Sciences Educ. 8, 118 (2009). http://www.lifescied.org/content/8/2/118.full
  • Find a resource for demonstrations (preferably low-cost) relevant to your discipline. If you find something that looks great, please be prepared to talk about it at our meeting too!

This week’s discussion focused on the effective use in-class demos. Journal club participants exchanged ideas and strategies for maximizing the utility of demos. Topics included:

  • What type of concepts are easily reinforced by demonstrations?
  • When is the appropriate time to introduce a demo to a class?
  • Who benefits most from the seeing demos?
  • What types of demos do students prefer?

Midway through the session, we broke into two groups for a debate on the merits of “people demos”, a type of demo involving participation from student volunteers. In most people demos, students represent (either by acting or by using props) the concept or process they are learning about. The consensus was, while these types of demos can create distractions in the classroom, they are an effective way of making abstract concepts more relatable to many students.

Week 9 – May 30 and 31

During our regular week 9 journal club hours, the Science Literacy Program hosted the following events in the OCO Conference Room (240D Willamette):

  • Thursday, May 30th from 9-10am, two groups who taught SLP courses (PHYS 152: Physics of Sound and Music & GEOL 110: People, Rocks, and Fire) this year shared their experiences in our first Teaching Showcase.
  • Friday, May 31st from 4-5 pm Jana Bouwma-Gearhart, Associate Professor at Oregon State University College of Education presented a lecture titled: “Building, Sustaining, and Selling Commitment To the Challenging Interdisciplinary Work of Undergraduate STEM Education Improvement”

Engaging STEM Faculty While Attending to Professional Realities: An Exploration of Successful Postsecondary STEM Education Reform at Five Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative Institutions http://www.aplu.org/document.doc?id=4101

Week 10 – May June 6 and 7

For our last journal club meeting of the term Sam Hopkins, Justin Stockwell, Adam Unger, and Dean Walton led us through some sample garage demos covering a range of topics. If you’d like a sample of biology garage demos visit Diane O’Dowd’s webpage: http://www.researchandteaching.bio.uci.edu/lecture_demo.html