School Name: Nakusp Secondary School
School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes
Inquiry Team Members: Tori Reid: firstname.lastname@example.org, Julia Flesaker: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Science
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? We focused on helping students develop transferable skills between science subject areas, in particular: laboratory write-ups and methodologies.
Scanning: We both had large classes of Anatomy and Physiology 12, Life Science 11, and Physics 11/12. The students were very motivated, supported each other, and were focused on their learning. Fundamental skills in science courses are universal across topic areas. We supported students in a consistent manner across courses to improve their use of the scientific method and their critical thinking.
Focus: Most of these students are headed into post-secondary programs. We wanted to give them the opportunity to focus on and develop their curricular competencies skills in our classrooms. We were more intentional about teaching these skills and specifically assessing individual skills to address common errors and focus on improvement.
Hunch: Students arrived less engaged and more distant from their learning after spring’s online learning requirement. We noticed a significant forgetfulness and a decrease in required scientific skills. Many students had forgotten about basic thinking and analysis skills. They were struggling with returning to expectations of full-time schooling and time management. Many missed out on hands-on lab experiences during the last school year and have either never had experienced certain lab skills or have been away long enough to not feel confident in their lab skills.
New Professional Learning: We focused on the curricular competencies and core competencies that are common between science course curriculums. We used student-friendly language resources developed by Michelle Brosseau, a physics teacher from Ontario. We also participated in the professional learning being offered by Katie White through our district on assessment for learning. We also were part of the Educational Transformation Committee focusing on meaningful assessments.
Taking Action: We focused on individual skills/competencies during each laboratory experience. The assessed competency was explicit and we had discussions about relevant skills and misconceptions. Assessments were consistent across classes. Labs were more purposeful and students saw relevant skill development.
Checking: This NOIIE opened up the conversation around how assessment is being done within our science department and made us think critically about why and how we are assessing. It was a good start and we were satisfied with the labs and assessments we were able to adjust to be competency-based. We still need to integrate competency style assessment with the activities that are taken from external resources. We were very successful with adjusting our tests to be competency-based. We know this was successful because we saw students who typically struggle with traditional assessments be successful and build skills. The learning goals were made very clear to students and they were able to build skills to meet the goals.
Reflections/Advice: There are so many curricular competencies in the science curriculum. Many build upon each other or are not accessible in isolation because they are so interconnected to other competencies. Moving forward we would like to focus on experimental design and having students design more of their own experiments or investigations. We would like to take the time to update classic labs/assignments and ensure that when we are using resources from outside of our department, that the assessment fits with our class goals.