My TEDxNYED Session: Learning Science by Doing Science

Many thanks to the TEDxNYED 2012 crew, especially True Life Media, Basil Kolani, Karen Blumberg, and Matthew Moran for an awesome event. Be sure to check out the rest of the TEDxNYED 2012 talks.

Learn more about Modeling Instruction in Science.

17 responses to “My TEDxNYED Session: Learning Science by Doing Science

  1. Pingback: Learning Science By Doing Science: A quick reflection on Student feedback to teachers « i-Biology | Reflections

  2. Brilliant. Let’s hope more than those who understand see this!

  3. Excellent video, really nice to have a clear distillation of what you believe in. Your enthusiasm is infectious.

    I vote for more of this (Can I vote for less of that other thing you’re really good at?)

  4. Nice job, frank! Could not have said it any better!

  5. Very cool, congrats! And thanks for giving whiteboarding the exposure it deserves.

  6. Bravo! In addition to the gaining a better glimpse of what it’s like in the trenches of your classroom, Frank, I also learned how to pronounce your last name! No longer will I think to myself…”@f-NOSE-CHEESE” when I see your tweets. 🙂

  7. Very well done, Frank. My only problem with it is the same one I have with any short (less than two weeks) talk about Modeling – it takes time to really explore science, and a talk about even the best practices is still only a talk.

    • Thanks, Hal. Your point is very valid. My purpose for the talk was to inspire folks that there is a better way to teach science and to make more people aware about Modeling. Hopefully it will spur further interest and more teachers will go to workshops. And maybe Modeling will get some more financial support from the outside.

  8. I love it, Frank. I am surrounded by a rising tide of modeling acolytes. I’ll add one more to the list.

    I am curious how you got your principal to relieve you of having to prepare students for the regents exam. That deserves a TED talk of its own.

    Do you do mechanics all year? Is the class you profiled in the talk a conceptual class, honors, AP? What are the math prerequisites? Class size?

    • Hi Jack,

      I blogged about eliminating the Regents Exams here:

      The class profiled in the talk was a college-prep physics class. We do mechanics for about 3/4 of the year. Last year the last quarter was on circuits; this year it’s on waves — mostly due to a handful of students who, during the year, kept asking about the physics of sound and music. The freedom to change things up and try new things has been liberating.

      For college-prep physics, the only math requirement is completion of Algebra, so it’s open to advanced 9th graders up through 12th graders. However, almost all students follow the traditional Earth Sci – Bio – Chem – Physics route, so my class is juniors and seniors typically enrolled in pre-calc or higher.

      Class size is typically capped at 24 (but based on the square-footage of my room, it can accommodate 26 — which it did one year.)

      I also teach an AP class, which, due to the scope of the curriculum, I don’t do this much open-ended exploration.

  9. Awesome talk. I remember when I was student teaching years ago, I was greatly discouraged from using a modeling approach. I had a professor who took great pride in critiquing the “unclear” labs that I would design and teaching me to turn them into cookie cutters. It irks me to think how much time and money I had to invest in order to get trained to do something much more ineffectively than what my natural instinct was.

    You can preach about modeling all day and all night, but until there’s tangible data on its effectiveness, I think the majority of schools will continue to use traditional teaching methods that produce better testing results. Part of the “Hidden Contract” is producing results; measurable results. It’s rare when a teacher gets to call the shots like you were able to do with your principle. I teach Physical Science and have always had to deal with a state administered End Of Course test. And even now with that ending this year, the demands of PLT conformity at my school prevent me from making any drastic changes in the course. I do believe in PLT collaboration, but I’m finding the expectation of 3 different teachers using a common syllabus, common assessments, and common grading to be quite confining.

    I was taught Physics through modeling and I am an enthusiastic believer. However, just to critique you a bit, I must say that I never appreciated the aspect of what you call “Authentic Problems.” I always thought they took up a lot of time and in the end there was never any distinct right or wrong. As long as you put some thought and effort into it, it was deemed good. Even if there was some sort of competition to make the best design or something, the assessment was very arbitrary. I always interpreted those types of assignments to be pseudo lessons because it felt like the teacher was making a desperate attempt to make the class more applicable to the real world. I viewed it as glorified busy work and I actually remember thinking that the purpose of the assignments must have been to improve the outward appearance of the class, as other teachers and administrators would always comment about how great the stuff was. In my mind there’s nothing authentic about designing something that you never actually build. For me, it was far more “real” to work out a prediction and then see it succeed.

    This brings to my attention that you didn’t mention anything about design challenges. Not like designing a theoretical shoe, but like having an egg drop competition. Do you incorporate stuff like this into your curriculum? We would do something like this about once a month and then a Physics Olympics at the end of the year. Again, building an egg parachute might not be an authentic problem, but there’s nothing more authentic than competition.

  10. Hi. First of all, congratulations, really inspiring blog. I have been trying to teach myself physics for a college admission test here in Brazil. I wonder if you could give any tip/resource/guidance on how to translate these educational concepts of modelling instruction and learning by doing and all this non-lecture things to someone learning alone. I have been reading books and using Khan Academy and the MIT class, but after reading your posts I suddenly became aware that they really aren´t that much effective. Many times I watched these videos thinking I had learned a lot, but ended up forgetting everything in a short time. So I wish to find a more efficient, less passive, method to continue self-studying. Any thoughts on what I could do are welcomed!
    Thank you, and please forgive the bad english.
    Liana S

  11. I had several students just like this last commenter. They really thought I was there to give answers, not questions. Sadly, I think this is the biggest source of friction with society in general and students ( the test takers ) in particular.

  12. Pingback: Transitioning from Energy to Momentum | LEARNINGANDPHYSICS

  13. Pingback: Modeling Biology Workshop Day 0 | MrWoodsideBiology

  14. T'Keyan Peoples

    This was a really great TED talk . I love the idea of students doing actually science over the standard forms of teaching. I agree that if students actually perform the art of science then they will understand and love science more.

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