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  • Writer's pictureDerek Stoppels

I Learned The Hard Way

I don't want to say I made a mistake, but I may have made a mistake.

I'm writing this post because one day, someone who is just starting out on an experiential, or PBL, journey is going to read this and thank me for it.

I used the inquiry based learning model for my grade ten chemistry unit. It went well...until the test. Except for a few workshops here and there, I hardly did any direct instruction at all. And before I go any further, I don't for a second believe that if I had done more direct instruction they would have done better. Most of the learning was student directed and centered, and while I was walking around the classroom, it seemed to me that the students were getting it.

But then I gave them a traditional test and it all fell apart. Chemistry is my least favorite unit, and if I'm being totally honest, I have a bit of a fixed mindset for myself towards chemistry. I could learn it better, but I rarely feel like I have the time. That being said it's like someone saying they don't have time to get to the gym...if you really wanted to, you would make the time. Chemistry is like the gym for me (that'll be the title of my book).

I learned that if I am going to use the inquiry method to "teach", then I need to give students more open ended opportunities to demonstrate what they learned. Because of this, I decided that I am going to give the students another opportunity to demonstrate their learning. They have five school days to make an appointment with me, they must bring a mind map of the unit, a flow chart on how to name chemical formulas and compounds and their corrected test and they will have five to ten minutes to explain to me what they learned from the unit/test. They can also submit a video if they don't feel comfortable coming to talk to me about it in person. This opportunity is available by appointment only. If they don't book an appointment, I'm going to assume they are happy with their test mark and we move on. The opportunity is available to everyone, but I am not going to chase anyone around to do it. They have to take the initiative if they want the benefits.

The students seemed to be very understanding and seemed to be okay with this second option. I kind of feel bad that I am making them do extra work, but it's extra for me too, and just the price I have to pay for trying and failing. But if I want my students to try crazy things and fail, I have to try crazy things and fail.

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