Starting with WHY. Course outline, e-portfolios and non-content standards.

This year I wanted a course outline that signaled to students right away that this course was way more about them as individuals than about a long laundry list of learning outcomes. I also wanted to establish a shared “why” for us as a class and to invite students to formulate their own personal “why” for the year ahead in Biology. This idea gave me a lens for the course in general and one which fits perfectly with Biology; unity and diversity (or individual and community).

I also decided after much internal debate to embrace the e-portfolio as a mechanism for students to collect, document and showcase their own “story”. To that end students will use 9 standards (drawn heavily from the work of Chris Ludwig) to organize their evidence as we go along.

Below is the outline and 9 course standards. Students will collect evidence for each of the 9, but only the first 7 will be as evidence for a letter grade in the course. I will be using Weebly for student portfolios. After much debate this seemed the simplest (although there is a cost for student sites). I have more detailed standards (some still to write) for each unit. This is still very new for my brain and I am by no means an expert, but I am excited to dive in and try.

The Animoto video was shown to students to model the “we all have stories” idea (even us teachers!) .

Biology 12
We all have stories to tell.

I. Why?
We share similarities and simultaneously each of us is unique.
Using themes is one way in which we can learn about the living world around us. One such theme is unity and diversity; understanding how life is united and similar but at the same time how species (Homo Sapiens) and individuals (you) are different.

We could summarize this as:
How are WE all the same? How are YOU unique?

This is the theme we will use this year to guide our study of Biology. Hopefully this will give us a deeper understanding of how we share experiences (birth, death, growth etc.) and at the same time have unique traits (ex. fingerprints, DNA) and combinations of experiences that are uniquely our own.

To make this theme more “student friendly” and relevant to “real life” , we will refer to this as “telling our story”.  Each of us, has a story to tell (part of what makes us unique) and as we tell our story, collecting artifacts and evidence, this will hopefully provide insight into the shared experience of being a human being.

II. How?
How will you tell your story?

Create a self-sustaining community of self-regulating learners.
This year we will work as a community to support, encourage and catalyze each other as a self-regulating learner. In this space we will work towards collaborating as a group of learners, to allow each to find and tell their story.

We will work individually to create your own unique story that spotlights and focusses on our own story. But we will work to recognize and embrace that collaborative work is key to understanding and telling of our story.

III. What?
Create your story.
Create an e-portfolio which tells your story. To this end you will be responsible to collect evidence and artifacts and evidence around the standards below. Your portfolio will focus on 3 areas: Performance, Progress, and Process.

Performance:
1.    Content: I can accurately use key terminology, specific facts, and explain key concepts related to biochemistry, cell structure and function, bioenergetics, cell reproduction, genetics, and evolution.
2.   Research: I can examine past and current research in the biological sciences and articulate its impact on society and consider pros and cons.
3.   Lab Skills:  I can explain the principles and purposes behind the techniques introduced in laboratory experiments.
4.   Experimental Design:  I can carry out scientific investigations to solve problems, formulate hypotheses, and design controlled experiments.
5.   Data Analysis:  I can interpret and manipulate data in a variety of formats, such as graphs, tables, and charts, to analyze results and derive and defend conclusions.
6.    Tech Savy:  I can select and apply contemporary forms of technology to solve problems, compile information, and communicate with a global audience.
7. Communicator: I can communicate clearly and logically in essays and multimedia presentations.

Progress:
8. Metacognition:  I can evaluate my own learning, recognize areas of strength and weakness, and can describe the next steps for growth.

Process:
9. Community Member: I can contribute to the learning community in our classroom through meaningful participation in group work, modeling of good work habits, giving my best efforts, and working towards displaying a positive attitude.

Much thanks goes to Chris Ludwig whose blog was invaluable in my learning around e-portfolios and standards.

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2 thoughts on “Starting with WHY. Course outline, e-portfolios and non-content standards.

  1. Wow! Great ideas and ways to organize and motivate/engage your students. I will probably be borrowing some of these ideas in the future:)

    • Thanks Amanda! Could not have figured it out without Chris Ludwig’s blog. It amazes me how I learn from reading other teachers blogs as compared to what I used to learn. I am still a bit hazy on the whole portfolio thing, but I hope it will become clearer as we work through in class. Hope your year is going well so far!! 🙂

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