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"The Collaborative Group Information Collection, Interpretation and Dissemination Technique"

By Anne Buchanan



Type of Entry:

  • Unit Outline

Type of Activity:

  • Hands-on
  • simulation
  • inquiry lab
  • authentic assessment
  • group/cooperative learning
  • community outreach/off-site activity
  • review/reinforcement

Target audience:

  • Biology
  • Advanced/AP Biology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Integrated science
  • Genetics, Biotechnology

Although this approach is essentially my own creation, it is actually a compilation of ideas from exposure to many sources. I would like to acknowledge the following: the Foundation For Critical Thinking and Richard Paul, who stimulated me to ponder how to get children to generate/assimilate information for themselves; Betty Marcoux, Head Librarian, Rincon/University High School, Tuscon AZ who conducted a Forward in the Fifth Library Power Workshop on Teacher Collaboration; Barbara Benson, of the High Success Network; and Ginny Wilder, JCHS curriculum resource teacher for her Foxfire methods. Further mention is due Thomas Armstrong for his book, Multiple Intelligences.


Background

What question(s) does this activity help students to answer?

The essential question answered by my activity/approach is "How are the concepts and processes I learn in Biology relevant to my other classes, to my life, and to my community?" Most students show little or no interest in education, unaware of the role it plays in their personal, vocational and political future. They have "teenage priorities" that do not include the classroom, doing barely enough to pass. The contrast between the unmotivated and the ideal student indicates a missing element in traditional education: Students need to be actively involved in the intellectual work of locating, organizing, summarizing, explaining, and integrating material into their existing conceptual structures, thus connecting past and present learning. This technique allows for efficient coverage that simultaneously compels students to see the practical scientific connections in our world and share those with others. Students respond well to things they perceive as relevant.

Notes for teachers-
We have all endured the cliched, monotonic, reading-from-the-encyclopedia drivel that oral presentations often are. However, we shouldn't entirely discount the value of this technique; if strategically designed, student presentations can be an elegant method of probing the quality of student logic, thus making the implicit explicit so that the teacher can evaluate what the student has learned via performance assessment.

Self-reflection on the part of the teacher determines what objectives the presentation-oriented unit should meet. From that, (non-negotiable!) requirements for the students are developed so that students know what will be expected from their presentation. Doing presentations well requires many skills, such as how to plan ahead, work in a group, how to gather and assess information, etc. These must be taught separately from, and prior to the beginning of, the presentation unit because it is too difficult to learn both new content and new skills simultaneously. (Skills may be practiced using examples from the students' own lives.) Once the required skills become second nature, the students will be competent enough to apply them to scientific content.

A final caveat: Be aware that the first set of presentations will be simply atrocious! Plan ahead for this phenomenon by incorporating a set of mini-presentations just for practice before doing the "real thing". This is invaluable, because the students must have the experience of suffering through terrible presentations in order to realize what it takes to do it right (meanwhile, they gain respect for their teachers! Hee!). Once this has been done, let the students discuss what was good and bad about these presentations, and develop requirements and a scoring rubric for the next set, the real ones. Students tend to adhere more closely to requirements they generate themselves.

Required of students-

  • #1 = Engagement/Participation
  • learning the formats to be used in the construction of the presentation
  • library skills, speaking skills, (Socratic) questioning skills
  • organization, teamwork, planning,
  • creativity and enthusiasm
  • variety of pedagogy
  • communication skills (phone, dealing with community and adults...)
  • practice, practice, practice
  • maturity, motivation, autonomy, responsibility, and accountability (these are innate in some students, in others these must be cultivated)
  • patience and perseverance!

Preparation time needed:

Teacher-
Serious quantities of time are devoted to developing a calendar, content requirements, gathering of resource materials, copying and teaching formats. (After the first time, when you have the hang of it, it goes a lot faster!) It helps a lot to collaborate with another teacher to divide up the work load. I interact with English teachers/librarians to gain a perspective beyond science.

Student-
Student prep time is designated by the calendar given to them by the teacher. It is wise to allocate one to two days for any format you wish to incorporate, 2-3 for introductory library activities (I do a scavenger hunt of info that requires using the library as a set of stations- such as EBSCO, Info Finder, Internet, SIRS, etc- sort of like a lab practical, to force them to utilize all available resource materials), 2-5 days for group planning and practice for the presentations, and 1-3 days per group presentation, depending on the level of student ability and any related field trips, guest speakers or activities. Also, I usually make them write a collaborative group term paper (with the works) about their topic so that they experience this, too. 2-3 days of in-class work and maybe a couple days of typing in the computer lab, too. I never get through a series in less than 4-6 weeks minimum.


ABSTRACT:

This activity is called the Collaborative Group Information Collection, Interpretation & Dissemination Technique. Cooperative groups of students collect information, digest and rephrase it in a suitable manner for their peers and disseminate it via presentation. My basic premise is that to teach someone about something, one must first understand it oneself. Therefore, I try to get the students to synthesize and assimilate FOR THEMSELVES as much of the content as possible. The students design and present a lesson to an authentic audience of peers. Students are actively involved in the intellectual work of locating, organizing, summarizing, explaining, and integrating material into their existing conceptual structures, thus connecting past and present learning. Students research, integrate and present content both as a team-taught lesson for classmates and as a substantial paper.

Each presentation has an extensive set of "non-negotiable" requirements: a checklist of activities that must be included, such as conducting an activity, a lab, plus an assignment with the class, providing handouts, creating a visual aid, pointing out real-world analogies and/or connections, etc... The common non-negotiable requirements pertain to every group, thus ensuring that each student will be exposed to content basics, regardless of the group s/he is placed in. Members accept that they sink or swim together, and, if one fails, they all fail. Through such a project, students practice essential life skills, such as coordinating efforts to achieve common goals; organizing, resolving problems and conflicts; meeting deadlines and integrating the sciences and science skills into other disciplines. The students are called upon to be self-motivated, accountable to others, and intellectually engaged; they are active learners. As the teacher, I am the engineer, model, facilitator, guide, secretary, photocopier, evaluator, cheerleader, arbitrator, and any other role the students need me to play.

In short, my method is an intricate performance assessment, injecting assessment directly into class on a daily basis. The design has explicit structure but there are no constraints on how to develop a particular lesson; it can be approached in a variety of ways depending on the experience and ability level of the students involved. Many interpretations exist, any of which are correct, yet the topic is narrowed enough to isolate evidence of learning. Students receive immediate feedback from peers via evaluation forms based on a class-generated scoring rubric. Despite rigorous expectations, success remains within reach because the process is as important as the solution. Best of all, students demonstrate their ability to USE what they have learned. That's what education is all about!


Activiy

I. Phase One: Preparation (materials needed)

Teach the students any techniques or formats necessary to deliver the type of presentation you seek (i.e. how to write a lesson plan, organizational tactics, planning strategies, critical reading and rephrasing skills, notetaking, library use and research skills, etc...) Teach these separate from any difficult content-oriented material since it is difficult to learn two things at once.

II. Phase Two: Practice

Give several non-presentation assignments that incorporate the above-mentioned techniques for the students to become familiar with your processes. (i.e. have them write lesson plans about simple science topics, as a review, or more personal things). Have an initial series of ³mini-presentations² for practice (use small concepts that the students will need to know later for the ³real² presentations in Phase III) so that the students to become accustomed to preparing as a group and speaking in front of others. They will discover that it is difficult to stay focused up there and that their presentation may be much shorter or longer than anticipated, etc. They will also realize what non-negotiable requirements that were missing or weak. Discuss what they learned from their experience. Students are very anxious to vent after theyıve experienced a presentation, and are often anxious to do another set so they can ³get it right.² Video-taping students so they they can watch themselves improves the next series of presentations considerably.

III. Phase Three: Major Presentations

Distribute and go over the Non-negotiable requirements and scoring rubric (see below). Then, put the students into their formal groups and allow several days for research and preparation. Encourage the students to hold dress rehearsals. Then sit back and watch the presentations. Students are assessed according to the scoring rubric they received and evaluation checklists completed by the teacher and the class. The grade is determined by the degree to which all the non-negotiable requirements are met, as well as the overall quality of the presentation (method of evaluation and assessment).

IV. Phase Four: Group Information Dissemination Paper (extension/reinforcement)

Instruct the students about the non-negotiable formats (note cards, outlines, cover page, bibliography, etc.) you require for the paper. The students take the information they presented and reform it into a group paper, with each person contributing his or her part to the entire project. The papers from each group will be combined into one large class creation for everyone to have as a reference tool. They will use the computer lab to word process the papers.


Materials (handouts) needed for this lesson:

  • "Elements of Reason" by Richard Paul
  • Library Scavenger Hunt Worksheet
  • Peer Review Form
  • Scoring Rubric for presentation & paper
  • Lesson Plan Format & Samples
  • Extensive Research Material
  • Research & Bibliographic Citation (APA) Information
  • Any materials the students need
  • Specific Content Non-negotiables
  • Calendar of events
  • Non-negotiable Requirements for presentation and paper (see below)

SAMPLE:

COMMON "NON-NEGOTIABLE" MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS:
***this means that you MUST include certain content and skills***

  • YOU MUST TURN IN THE FOLLOWING WITH EACH PRESENTATION: (One per group)-

    • a lesson plan of your groups' teach (in the format previously assigned)

    • the elements of reason applied to your presentation

    • each presentation must include a relevant lab or assignment for the class to do; this will count as a real assignment for them!

    • YOU MUST PRACTICE YOUR PRESENTATION AS A GROUP (you must turn in a peer-written letter of evaluation of your practice)

  • YOU MUST UTILIZE A PRESENTATION PRODUCT/VISUAL AID (a video that you found or made, a poster, a map, a brochure, 3-D items, souvenirs, etc...)

  • DEMONSTRATIONS AND ACTIVITIES CAN & DO GREATLY ENHANCE THE COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE ASPECTS OF A PRESENTATION!!!!
    (not to mention retention of content)

  • HAND-OUTS HAVE PROVEN MOST EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE

  • SPEAK CLEARLY/ BE ORGANIZED/WELL REHEARSED/ HAVE EYE CONTACT/
    ALL GROUP MEMBERS MUST SPEAK/BE ENTHUSIASTIC

  • COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY (use good voice projection, speak slowly and clearly, wait for the class to write things down, repeat new terms frequently until the class is comfortable with them, use nouns- avoid words like "it", "stuff", etc...)

  • USE ANALOGIES AND "DOWN-TO-EARTH" EXAMPLES TO EXPLAIN, ELABORATE AND DEFINE DIFFICULT CONCEPTS

  • ASK QUESTIONS DURING AND AFTER YOUR PRESENTATION TO DISCERN WHAT YOUR CLASSMATES HAVE GLEANED (or don't understand!) FROM YOUR PRESENTATION

  • NO READING OF WRITTEN MATERIAL IS PERMITTED DURING YOUR PRESENTATION (an outline or note cards are permitted for reference)

  • YOU MUST INCORPORATE CONTENT FROM CLASS AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY (ecology is the culmination of all we've learned, use it!!) For example, if you are discussing mangrove swamps, you must include a reminder of what adventitious roots are. If discussing desert animals, include info on their specialized excretory systems. If you're describing rain forests, tell about the hydrologic cycle, etc...MAKE YOUR OWN CONNECTIONS!!!

  • Your group will receive a grade as a whole; however, you will receive INDIVIDUAL participation grades during preparation (you will be advised of these on a daily basis); for example, you will be able to earn up to 10 points per day during library research, during in-class preparation, and during dress rehearsals. Note that these points will add up and will indicate clearly who is working and who isn't!

  • You will have a calendar of events so there is no excuse for not being ready!!!!

ONE FINAL WORD OF ADVICE: DO NOT*DO NOT*DO NOT GIVE ALL THE WORK TO ONE PERSON WHO MAY BE ABSENT DURING PREPARATION AND PRESENTATION. THIS IS NO EXCUSE*NO EXCUSE*NO EXCUSE!!! IF THEY ARE ABSENT, YOU WILL BE FORCED TO START ANEW OR IMPROVISE.

***YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONTENT CONTAINED IN THE PRESENTATIONS - A WRITTEN UNIT TEST WILL BE ADMINISTERED AFTER EACH ORGAN SYSTEM HAS BEEN PRESENTED

SAMPLE:

	
Score:  4   3   2    1

PEER EVALUATION FORM

Group Members:______________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

____lesson plan          ____assignment for class    ___letters of evaluation
**********************************************************
____Visual Aid

____Practiced; organized

____No Reading

____All group members spoke

____Eye contact, Clear speech

____Demonstrations/Activities

____Handout

____Questions
**********************************************************
Content:   (fill this section out to suit your requirements)
*write comments on back  
SAMPLE: PRESENTATION SCORING RUBRIC:

4: "A"

    presentation contains all of the non-negotiable elements

  • students demonstrate thorough understanding of the content by making it easy to understand and memorable to the audience
  • students go beyond the minimum requirements and it is evident that the presentation was practiced (it flows well)
  • students can answer questions raised by the teacher or the class
  • the presenters manipulated props appropriately
  • audience was involved and attentive

3: "B"

  • presentation contains all of the non-negotiable elements
  • students demonstrate adequate understanding of the content even though some important ideas may be overlooked or misunderstood
  • students only learned what they needed to for their presentations, nothing extra; when a question is raised, they may not be able to answer it correctly
  • props were used, but did not enhance understanding
  • audience was not always involved and attentive

2: "C"

  • presentation contains all of the non-negotiable elements
  • some important ideas may be overlooked or misunderstood
  • gaps in students' understanding are evident
  • if props were present, they were of poor quality and irrelevant
  • audience was bored

1: "D"

  • students complete only a portion of the non-negotiable elements
  • students obviously do not have a clear understanding of the content or of how to present material

0: "F"

  • nothing
  • reading from a photocopy (or what you copied by hand from a text)
  • in short, reading anything is a NO NO


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