Managing VCE Environmental Science student investigations and scientific postersA resource for structuring teacher, faculty and network discussions2018
Resource Outline Section A: Scientific posters Section B: Student investigation topics in Units 3 and 4 Section C: Approaches to running investigations Section D: Using Winogradsky columns for scientific inquiry Section E: Managing student-designed practical investigations across Units 3 and 4 Section F: Laboratory usage Section G: Putting it all together
Section A Scientific posters
Scientific poster – Units 3 and 4 • Notes: • The ‘VCAA template’ referred to in the listed assessment tasks for Unit 4 Outcome 3 refers to seven sections listed on the left side of this slide • Physical templates, including digital poster template layouts, are readily available, free of charge, on the Internet VCAA template • For Units 3 and 4, students’ scientific posters must include the following seven sections: - Title - Introduction - Methodology - Results - Discussion - Conclusion - Acknowledgments and references • Word limit is 1000 words
Scientific poster – Units 1 and 2 Unlike the scientific poster requirements for Units 3 and 4, teachers of Units 1 and 2 may choose to: • change word limits (for example, decrease) • provide greater scaffolding of the poster • allow students to produce the poster as a group assignment/assessment task • assess the poster as a group assignment/ assessment task. Discuss: How can poster sections be scaffolded such that there is a balance between providing support for students whilst enabling students to be differentiated, particularly at the ‘top end’?
Evaluating scientific posters Prior to beginning work on constructing a scientific poster, it is useful to ‘unpack’ the strengths and weaknesses of de-identified student work from previous years and/or scientific posters accessed on the Internet • Display a selection of 10-20 posters around the classroom • Students work in pairs or threes and use three different coloured ‘post it’ notes – representing ‘strengths’, ‘limitations’ and ‘suggestions for improvement’ – to evaluate a poster • Student groups then move around the room to evaluate remaining posters, overlapping similar comments provided by earlier groups • Teacher leads a discussion to compare ideas and to summarise elements of effective science communication. Discuss: Is this activity worthwhile undertaking for Units 1 and 2 as well as for Units 3 and 4?
Scientific posters: Succinct communication of science Issues with student posters typically include: • poster title not worded as a question • including data tables (unnecessary) as well graphs • inappropriate graph scaling, axes and labelling • small font size not easily read • too wordy • lack of graphics/illustrations/flowcharts to balance words • inclusion of unnecessary information. Further advice about the construction of scientific posters can be found in the ‘Advice for teachers’ on the VCAA website
Discussion: Science communication The most common problem for students when constructing their scientific posters is exceeding the word limit and having a high word/graphic ratio. • Discuss: • What strategies can be used to assist students to communicate science ideas more succinctly? • Which graphic types require explicit teaching as representations of science understanding and skills?
Poster logistics • No drafts • In Units 1 and 2, a scientific poster may be based on research (library/secondary sources) or primary research • In Unit 3 or 4, or across Units 3 and 4, the poster: • must involve collection of primary data • must include seven sections of poster template, with acknowledgment of level of guidance • may be an extension of a common experiment or fieldwork exercise • may be generated by students based on their own research and subject to authentication (use of photos/video…noted in logbook) • may be undertaken as a class with students contributing to design • may be assessed in stages (if modification required, original marks hold) • marks will be moderated against the examination – class rank order important.
Poster authentication strategies • Adopt and/or adapt current authentication strategies for tasks requiring extended experiments and/or practical activity reports • Mark poster sections progressively • Use specific questions about science investigation processes as part of the poster development under test conditions • Logbook with dated entries should correlate to student work on poster • Observed practical procedures in class • Question students about content in specific parts of their poster. • Discuss: • Are other authentication strategies appropriate for your school? • Do you have a school/faculty policy for authentication of student work?
Section B Student investigation topics in Units 3 and 4
Unit 4 Area of Study 3: Student-designed investigation Coupled or open inquiry • Commonly, this investigation would involve ‘coupled’ or ‘open’ inquiry • Student skills in inquiry types should be scaffolded. Refer to the ‘Advice for teachers’ for more information about coupled and open inquiry Scientific inquiry methods • A range of inquiry methods area appropriate for the student-designed investigation. Refer to the ‘Advice for teachers’ for more information about scientific inquiry methods Investigation approval • Not all student-designed investigations can be allowed to proceed • Investigations must be managed in terms of resources, safety and authenticity.
Some interesting student topics across Units 3 and 4 VCE Environmental Science in 2017 • Is water quality consistent across all Ruffy Lake habitats? • Does soil collected closer to a creek have greater species richness when compared to the species richness of soil collected further away? • PortseavsMornington: which pier is more biodiverse? • Has the biodiversity of the different areas of Wombolano State Forest been impacted by humans? • How is bait type related to the effectiveness of insect traps and what are the implications for biodiversity audits? • What is the effect of distance from the highway on air quality? • How have humans impacted on the food sources of Port Phillip Bay's dolphins and seals? • How has the Grey-headed Flying Fox population at Yarra Bend changed over time? • Does distance from a water source affect species diversity? • What is the effect of changing the angle of a solar panel to the sun on solar panel efficiency? • What is the effect of raising the water vapour levels on the atmospheric temperature?
Some interesting student topics 2107: Class variations on ‘snorkel counts’ • Which pier is more biodiverse: Portsea or Mornington? • Seahorses and blue gropers are protected in Victorian: are the management strategies for these species working? • What are the effects of overfishing on fish populations? • Does Port Phillip Bay have greater biodiversity than the Great Barrier Reef? • Should all piers in Port Phillip Bay be ‘no fishing’ zones? • Are there any tropical species in Port Phillip Bay? • Is it more likely to catch fish in Portsea or Mentone? • What impact have humans had on the food sources for Port Phillip Bay’s dolphins and seals? • What factors affect the abundance of puffer fish? • Is the sea-grass in Port Phillip Bay the reason why sea-dragons are present?
Discussion: Investigation ethics and safety Students cannot proceed with an investigation unless it is safe and ethical to do so • Discuss the role of each of the following in ensuring that investigations proposed by students are safe, ethical and manageable: • student • science coordinator • classroom teacher • laboratory technician
Section C Sample approaches to running class investigations
Developing investigation skills • Investigations may involve students: • generating primary data (practical investigation) • collecting secondary data • working in groups • working independently Discuss: VCE Environmental Science offers flexibility for schools to scaffold the development of students’ inquiry and investigation skills. Use a table, such as the one below, to map your school’s scaffolding of these skills:
Sample approaches to structuring Unit 1 student investigations • Practical investigation topic may relate to any aspect of ecosystem monitoring and/or change • Teacher determines extent of student choice, depending on resources and class sizes • Students may undertake and report on their investigations as individuals or in groups. Discuss: Solving contemporary science problems generally involves teamwork. How can teamwork in undertaking a group investigation be organised and assessed?
Unit 2 Area of Study 2Sample approach 1: Teacher-provided list of topics • Teacher provides a list of possible research questions from pages 19–21 of the VCE Environmental Science Study Design • Students submit a proposed timeline and research plan related to a research question of interest • Anegotiated research question is undertaken by the student and monitored by the teacher.
Unit 2 Area of Study 2Sample approach 2: Group investigation • Groups of students investigate a selected and/or negotiated research question from the set of possible questions on pages 19–21 of the VCE Environmental Science Study Design • Each member of the group contributes a nominated newspaper item related to the research question in a class environmental science e-newspaper (for example, letter to the editor, a report of an environmental science issue, survey results from a public opinion poll related to an environmental science issue, a cartoon about an environmental science issue, interview with an environmental advocate, an environmental scientist or another environmental science professional).
Unit 2 Area of Study 2Sample approach 3: Experimental investigation • The teacher selects questions from each of the six topic areas listed on pages 19–21 of the VCE Environmental Science Study Design that have an ‘experimental’ theme • Students work individually or in groups to provide a response to investigate the research question of interest; questions may need some modification in order to become investigable • A sample questions in this category includes: “Should all roads be paved to minimise erosion impacts on waterways?” (Modelling of different road surfaces and simulated erosion may be used to investigate this question).
Unit 2 Area of Study 2Sample approach 4: Case study • The teacher selects questions from each of the six topic areas listed on pages 19–21 of the VCE Environmental Science Study Design that have a ‘case study’ theme • Students work individually or in groups to provide a response to the case study • Sample questions in this category include: Can demolition and construction sites be managed sufficiently to control the effects of particulates? What are the salination risks associated with different types of crop irrigation methods? How are mining practices regulated to minimise environmental impacts?
Unit 2 Area of Study 2Sample approach 5: Student topic selection • The teacher provides students with the list of questions from each of the six topic areas listed on pages 19–21 of the VCE Environmental Science Study Design at the start of Unit 1 as examples of possible research (primary or secondary) investigation • Students are given an extended time to consider their own question for investigation, including allowing time for students to research other relevant topics on the Internet • Students submit proposed topics to teacher • Negotiated investigation topic between teacher and student.
Discussion: Structuring Unit 2 Area of Study 2 research investigations A number of approaches can be used to structure student investigations in Unit 2 Area of Study 2, including the five approaches listed in the previous slides. • Discuss: • Identify the strengths and limitations of the five approaches listed in the previous slides • Evaluate the approach currently used at your school for structuring the three investigations in Unit 2, Area of Study 2 • Identify the advantages and disadvantages of designing investigations that utilise primary versus secondary data
Units 3 and/or 4Sample approach 1: coupled inquiry • Involves a mixture of fieldwork and/or laboratory experiments as a follow-up coupled activity and based on student interest and choice • Examples of student investigation questions: • How does the concentration of salt (simulating water salinity) affect growth of the common freshwater algae, Chlorella? • Does the clearing of land reduce species diversity?
Units 3 and/or 4Sample approach 2: Combination primary and secondary data • Involves student-generated data combined with local/national/global databases • May involve linking with ‘citizen science’ projects • Examples of student investigation questions: • Are you more likely to catch fish in Portsea or Mentone? • What impact have humans had on the food sources for Port Phillip Bay’s dolphins and seals?
Units 3 and/or 4Sample approach 3: Adaptable class question • Adaptable question that can be ‘tweaked’, for example, ‘How does the amount/type of vegetation affect insect species diversity in the schoolyard?’ • Students can undertake different investigations by changing: • schoolyard site for each student • specific plant species considered by a student across different sites • At the end of the investigation, class results may be collated to discuss inquiry elements such as validity of conclusions, investigation design improvement and experimental variables.
Units 3 and/or 4Sample approach 4: Use of overarching questions • Overarching question: What methods do Environmental Scientists use to research or study biodiversity in an ecosystem? • Sample student question: Is there a difference in diversity of plant species in Wombolano State Forest in areas altered and not altered by humans?
Units 3 and/or 4Sample approach 5: Flipped classroom Students: • have open choice of topic • undertake own research out of class • submit research investigation proposal. Teachers: • approve/provide feedback re appropriate modifications to methodology • monitor undertaking of investigation • assess student capacity to design further investigations following completion of investigation.
Discussion: Structuring Unit 3 and 4 student investigations A number of approaches can be used to structure student investigations across Units 3 and 4, including the five approaches listed in the previous slides. • Discuss: • Identify the strengths and limitations of the five approaches listed in the previous slides • Evaluate the approach currently used at your school for structuring the investigation across Units 3 and 4
Section D Use of Winogradsky Columns for scientific inquiry
What can Winogradsky columns be used for? • To introduce VCE Environmental Science in ‘Head Start’ programs in November of the year preceding actual teaching of the study design • As a teaching aid for Unit 1 in taking a ‘systems’ approach to the study of environmental science • As a basis for ‘coupling’ other student-designed environmental science investigations in Unit 1, Unit 2 and/or across Units 3/4 • To support student investigations related to local contexts and issues.
What does a Winogradsky column do? The Winogradskycolumn is a hands-on way to demonstrate the growth of microorganisms. By constructing and monitoring a column, students can: • learn about the metabolic diversity of prokaryotes, applying terms such as phototroph, chemotroph, autotroph,andheterotroph • observe the cycling of mineral elements in natural environments, particularly sulphur • discover how microbes occupy a highly specific niche depending on environmental tolerance and energy requirements.
Winogradsky column – recipes https://www.amnh.org/ology/features/how-to-make-a-winogradsky-column/ https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bring-science-home-soil-column/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winogradsky_column
A simple Winogradsky column Just use a 1.5 L plastic bottle, add ingredients, keep lid semi-loose (OK to allow air interchange) and cover one half of the bottle with foil (to exclude light)… interesting things can be seen at the light/dark interface!
What’s in a Winogradsky column? • Notes: • To incorporate Winogradsky columns into your classroom, you should allow about 3 months to see observable growth patterns • Building a Winogradsky column is both inexpensive and effective in illustrating microv=bial growth under different environmental conditions. Source: http://archive.bio.ed.ac.uk/jdeacon/microbes/winograd.htm
Student investigations using a Winogradsky column: How do varying conditions affect microbial growth?
Section E Managing the student-designed practical investigations across Units 3 and 4
Typical timeline(suggested 7 to 10 hours) • Approximately 2 hours: Students research question, research possible methods, confirm investigation with teacher and provide methodology and equipment list needed for the task. • 2-4 hours: Students reflect on feedback from teacher about their proposed investigation, consider whether their proposed method is feasible and can be replicated, and refine scientific procedure as required. Commence data generation. Students maintain logbook records. Teacher checks and signs off logbook entries. • 3-4 hours: Continuation of data generation, data processing and data analysis. Students were given electronic poster template in the last double period of week 3 and completed their own scientific poster. Discuss: Does the student investigation necessarily need to be completed in a single block of time?
Discussion: Unpacking key science skills The time allocated to the student-designed practical investigation requires that teachers: • explicitly teach required knowledge and skills • ‘unpack’ students’ misconceptions/ uncertainties/ errors etc. Discuss: How is the student design process managed in your class/ at your school? How are students’ range of skill competencies catered for?
Testing students’ capacity to design investigations Unit 4 Outcome 3 in the study design requires that students “design and undertake a practical investigation…” Discuss: Given that this outcome may be completed at any point across Units 3 and/or 4, discuss the strengths and limitations of assessing (diagnostic, formative and/or summative) students’ capacity to design investigations: (a) before they undertake their own investigation (b) after they undertake their own investigation (c) both before and after they undertake their own investigation.
Tips for effective feedback(from ‘7 Key Characteristics Of Better Learning Feedback’by Grant Wiggins, updated 2017 Helpful feedback is: • Goal-referenced • Transparent • Actionable • User-friendly • Timely • Ongoing • Consistent
Discussion: Feedback Discuss: How and when do you provide feedback to students about their progress in: • VCE Environmental Science? • the design, undertaking and reporting of their Unit 4 Outcome 3 investigation? Providing students with meaningful feedback can greatly enhance learning and improve student achievement. - various educational research findings
Section F Laboratory usage
Virtual laboratories The 2017 VCE Environmental Science SAC audit showed that no schools used ‘virtual laboratories’ as part of their teaching and learning programs, and that no schools made use of local universities/science institutions to support their school programs. Discuss: What opportunities exist for extending VCE Environmental Science outside the classroom? Which other schools and VCE Environmental Science organisational and teacher networks could be accessed for resource sharing?
Discuss: 1. To what extent is a laboratory required for VCE Environmental Science investigations? 2. How is safety managed when performing investigations outside a laboratory?