If offered the opportunity to attend a 1-hour class or a 1-hour workshop, most people would choose the workshop. Inherently, "workshop" sounds like more fun! Workshop has the connotation of learning in an interactive environment. Class, well, classes vary from boring to difficult and unorganized. Workshop wins! Many educators are familiar with the workshop model of teaching in the ELA and Math classroom. The workshop model for science is much less familiar--so new that you will likely only read about it on this website. I've heard so many accolades of the ELA and Math workshop model, that I thought surely Science instruction would benefit from this technique, too.
The Workshop Model for Secondary Science (WMSS) is based upon the ELA and Math models, and much of the terminology is similar. One major difference is its emphasis on the Science & Engineering Practices. There are 9 SEPs and there are methods suggested in the WMSS as to how each may be incorporated. The class period opens with a mini-lesson. During these first 10-20 minutes, the teacher poses a question that evokes thought and discussion. Has anyone ever experienced an earthquake? After a few students share their experiences, the proceeding discussion might be about seismic waves. Hospital emergency rooms report more broken bones in winter than any other season--why might that be? The discussion might be about the lack of friction when we walk on ice. Did anyone hear on the news that kidney stones are on the rise? This might be the introduction to a discussion about calcium, diet, the need to drink water, etc. The mini-lesson discussion should be open-ended, but also a learning experience. It should not just be a time to toss around ideas, but should be a guided learning experience. The teacher may give brief notes during this time. Some teachers may post the question along with a strange, thought-provoking image on the screen as students enter the room.
The next element of the WMSS can be either the independent work or the group work. These are interchangeable because they take about the same amount of time and depending on the tasks, it may be beneficial to complete one before the other. During independent work, students are assigned a task to work on alone. During this time, the teacher moves about the room to assist students as needed. Independent work may vary greatly--it can be a reading assignment, students could be given a diagram to label or describe, students could watch a video, take notes and answer questions. This time is intended for some independent processing of information.
Group work is a great time for a mini-lab. During these approximately 20 minutes, students work in a group of no more than 4 to complete a task. Their task could be measurement, since sometimes multiple eyes are helpful for a good read. Students may construct a device to given specifications, or plan an investigation for the following day.
Finally, during sharing, the teacher guides the class to share some common conclusions. The teacher calls on a few groups or individuals to share. This final class discussion is a great time to clear up any misconceptions.
The WMSS is definitely a way to keep students awake. As we struggle to keep student's attention, to compete with their interests and things on their devices, the WMSS changes the pace several times during the class period. According to a 1995 study by Sousa, "children learn the most at the beginning of the period (called Prime Time I) and the second most at the end of the period (called Prime Time II). In between is “down time” when students are less receptive to new information." Anytime there is a transition, Prime Time starts again. The WMSS, with three transitions, will increase prime time and decrease down time. The WMSS will increase student achievement.
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Because Science Education Matters,
Kimberly G. Massey
K-12 Science Instructional Specialist
Copyright 2018 Kimberly G. Massey
Kimberly G. Massey
Science Instructional Specialist, Rock Hill Schools of York County
The views/opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rock Hill Schools of York County SC.
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