I chose to examine the WISE project entitled “Investigating Planetary Motion and Seasons” (4873), as this topic area (seasons in particular) is a component of the Grade 6 unit on Sky Science. This project is designed for students in Grades 6-12, with an intended completion time of 8-9 hours. One of the strengths of this particular project is the fact that it includes examples of student work and discussion ideas based on classroom experiences. This provides students with the opportunity to engage with ideas and visualizations from other students that may conflict with their own previously held notions about the motion of the planets and the seasons. According to Linn, Clark, and Slotta (2003), learners hold multiple conflicting views and ideas about virtually any scientific phenomenon, often tied to specific contexts, examples, experiences or situations, and by viewing the ideas and perspectives of their peers, they are able to develop their repertoire of views concerning a given scientific phenomenon. Ideally, students will be presented with opportunities to analyze ideas, reflect on the nature of science, and self-monitor their learning in ways that ultimately support autonomous learning by carrying out projects without having to constantly seek guidance from teachers or peers (Gobert, Snyder, and Houghton, 2002).
With the wide range of grades targeted within this particular WISE project (grade 6-12), I found that the content and vocabulary, as well as the volume of reading required, would create significant challenges for students at the lower end of the targeted range. Within the introductory section of the project, there is an extensive amount of questions for discussion and consideration, but very little space included for students to respond within the context of the technology. For students at a Grade 6 level, this would require a restructuring to allow students to select perhaps a question or two for response, and provide a means for them to contribute or collect their ideas online (such as in an idea basket or a collaborative brainstorm). As the students move into the investigations portion of this WISE project, there are more collaborative opportunities built into the format of the project, and there are more idea baskets available through these sections. However, my concern would be that some students might feel overwhelmed at the initial, introductory section of the project, and this would preclude them from participating further without greater teacher or peer support built into the framework.
Furtak, E. M. (2006). The problem with answers: An exploration of guided scientific inquiry teaching. Science Education, 90(3), 453-467.
Gobert, J., Snyder, J., & Houghton, C. (2002, April). The influence of students’ understanding of models on model-based reasoning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New Orleans, Louisiana. Retrieved from: http://mtv.concord.org/publications/epistimology_paper.pdf
Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.