Day 8: Improving the Lab Experience

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

So I asked my department chair to observe me (only to discover that Robert Kaplinsky invented #ObserveMe  (blog post) a few hours earlier) because I wanted feedback on how I run a lab.

Oh and also, ever since the Great Slangle Fest of 2016, I was unwilling to give that class a bunch of slinkys. So I morphed the lab into something like a lecture with lots of Notice & Wondering, which I was completely happy with.

Now, to the class: After playing with constructive interference, I set the entire class up with a question, “what do you think will happen if the people at both end of this slinky make pulses on opposite sides of the slinky?”

We tried it at full speed. Couldn’t tell what we were seeing. Then one kid asked if he could film it in slow motion. HE ASKED IF HE COULD FILM SCIENCE. ❤ ❤ ❤

Class went on like this all period. We learned all about reflection, transmission, and interference. My cycle looked like this:

  • I pose a question,
  • they make a conjecture,
  • they make an observation(s)

By the way, the physical setup was awesome: kids in a circle, slinky stretched across the diameter. Every time we changed a thing, I had kids pass the slinky to their right.

Here’s that key moment (next time I’ll go for better contrast):

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 9.32.58 PM

It’s just a screengrab — don’t go clicking and expecting it to play.

After the lesson, I dismissed the kids 5 minutes early and spoke with my chair. We brainstormed some ideas (a lab quiz, some tweaks to my current setup, focusing on the students developing experiments to name a few) and I feel now like I have ideas to play around with.

This is all to say, this kind of observation is powerful because the observer has a non-threatening goal — to help me improve. I recommend getting in on this #ObserveMe thing, it might just change your world!



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