The clock is running!
We are now barreling into the year 2014. Since the beginning of the current school year, students have experienced a multitude of investigative science projects and they have developed the skills and abilities necessary to solve problems, while covering concepts in chemistry and physics. Now is the time to push for real long-term research taking place in the science classroom.
The Earth Stewardship Project in physical science and the independent research projects in honors physics are the gateway into a performance-orientated approach to learning. These long-term research projects require increased levels of autonomy and effort by students, which is inspired by a more student-centered model for learning.
The count down in days to spring break begins a rallying cry to initiate the process of science in the classroom. Doing real science is the goal as students begin their scientific investigation as they define it within their written proposals.
A commitment to the ideals of discovery and problem-solving are the real outcomes of student achievement. In a student-centered model for learning, the learning process becomes untethered from the constraints of grades, quizzes and tests. The goal is to learn, foster understanding and to become experts in their chosen field of research. Students develop timeframes and focus upon self-determined criteria that will shape the outcome of their research. It is a liberating experience for the students and it creates a classroom climate of excitement and anticipation.
Student intrinsic motivation to learn is now encapsulated in their research. Since students pursue areas of personal interest, it is an easy transition from teacher-guided projects to student-centered projects. The teacher functions as a trusted consultant on these projects helping to ensure students' successful completion. Decisions made as to the depth of their understanding and to the magnitude of their research are really up to the students themselves. Peer-reviewed researched findings will be an important factor in the determination of both the quality of the project and the level of understanding that it provides to others.
The long-term research projects provide the means by which teachers build upon students’ abilities to work collaboratively, communicate effectively, reason out solutions to complex problems and to commit to their own ideals as learners. The learning process, in the classroom, takes on greater meaning for the students. It is the students themselves that provide the rigor and the relevance to their work. Their work completed on the projects become a true reflection of the necessary attributes developed by students as productive and caring citizens in the 21st century.