It can be very challenging to have big ideas for pedagogical change in your head whilst firmly ensconced in a traditional classroom, with a traditional grade book, surrounded by tempting traditional fallbacks (read: handouts). Disappointment is inevitable; you will be disappointed with yourself, but therein lies the potential for growth. Falling back onto tradition is tempting; it’s right there and how easy would it be? A perfectionist’s definition of failure is probable; you can’t please everyone all the time. As the latest saying goes: “One size fits none.”
So it is that I continue to grapple with what needs to be taught based on our high school biology curriculum while attempting to meet the students where they are and to build community in the process. I am so grateful for my recent recollection of the cheques activity in the middle of last week; talk about “just in time!” First introduced to me by my APES instructor a few years ago at a UTArlington APSI, it seemed to be the perfect combination of the potential for student engagement, community building, and authentic collaboration, all easily linkable to the nature of science as an iterative exploration of our natural world. And so that’s what we did.
In 65 students I had only two who appeared unmoved by the most curious mystery of the cheques. Prefacing the whole activity with a great Bill Nye interview short on the nature of science, we were able to discuss the nature of science beyond the content of the cheques themselves. My only regret: It still involved a handout at the end as a wrap up. I was hoping to go paper free this year, but as more evidence in support of handwriting as a tool for learning emerges, it is hard to deny the functionality of a well designed closure handout, especially when some students ask for them by name. Personal learning is coming to the fore!