Studying Energy in a Senior Phase Classroom
Mr. Hlabana teaches six sections of Grade 8 general science, ranging in class size from 26 to 33 learners. Because his school implements a full inclusion programme, Mr. Hlabana’s classes incorporate learners with a wide-range of abilities, including special education learners of varying abilities, non-first language speakers, and gifted learners. Mr. Hlabana knows that project design is the most important factor in addressing all learners’ needs. By designing open-ended projects and activities, he can address learners’ strengths and needs while building content understanding, self-management skills, and independence.
Mr. Hlabana’s classes are about to begin a 3-week project centred on the theme of energy resources, called Who Has the Power? Learners answer the Focus Question, Can I make decisions? while they learn the science concepts of the project. Mr. Hlabana wants learners to reflect on how they make decisions related to scientific issues and refine their decision making processes to include research and critical thinking skills. Since his learners are very excited about getting their driver’s licences in the next few years, this project helps learners learn about energy resources as they choose a car to purchase. They select a format in which to present their decision making processes and reveal the car they have chosen.
Preparing for the Project
Mr. Hlabana begins this project with assessments designed to tell him what experiences and knowledge his learners have about energy concepts, what they can describe about their decision making processes, and how well they manage their own learning. The information he gains from the assessments helps him tailor the lessons and activities to his learners’ needs and experiences.
To determine his learners’ prior understanding about energy, he conducts a discussion about the following questions:
- How can we use energy resources responsibly?
- How does technology impact the development of alternative energy sources?
- How are alternative energy sources developed?
During the discussion, Mr. Hlabana takes notes about the concepts learners appear to understand as well as noting areas of misconceptions and missing knowledge. To prepare to meet learners’ needs related to the scientific content they must learn, he examines his project outline and locates where learners’ misconceptions can be addressed. He also prepares a set of assessment standards at varying levels for his learners with learning disabilities.
Mr. Hlabana asks learners to respond to the following questions in their journals:
- How do I make decisions about science-related issues?
- How can I become a more independent learner?
To obtain additional information about his learners’ decision making processes, Mr. Hlabana places them into small groups. Then, he asks them to discuss what decisions they make about energy in their own lives and to justify their decisions. He notes the kinds of thinking learners demonstrate as well as their understanding of energy concepts. He uses this information to help him prepare explicit guidelines in the thinking skills learners need to complete the project.
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