[SLED] Hands on, Minds off????]

Karen Goeller goellerk at bucks.edu
Mon Jan 1 09:55:10 PST 2007

Chris writes:


However, it it not uncommon that "learning by doing" can often result in

"hands on and minds off." I recall my stepson's  freshman science course.

Teams were tasked with constructing an amusement park to demonstrate the

principles of physics.  They literally spent weeks on the project, both at
home and school. 

On the day the final projects were due the parents were invited to the
school over the noon hour.  

The boom box was booming,the popcorn popper popping, the students
distributed candy as the proud parents paraded past the amusement parks.  As
an enlightened skeptic, at each of the parks

I asked one or two students how their project demonstrated relationships

the elementary principles of physics.  Although a couple of students could
name some principles

of physics, not one student would apply these concepts to their project.
The exam following the

unit on physics, of course, tested the students on their understanding of
physics, not on their building ability, or level of engagement.



Sounds like a great project, actually!  You don't say whether it was
freshman high school or college, but I'm inferring 9th graders from the
parents' involvement.  


As with any project, however, the structure of the assignment can have a lot
to do with how the students respond to it.  For example, was part of the
assignment to directly relate elementary principles of physics to specific
components of their thrill rides?  Or was it just assumed that they would
make the leap of logic that the "wheel of death" was using centrifugal
force?  It seems to me that if that part is missing within the assignment.
especially for 14 and 15 year olds. we're not giving them enough guidance as
to what we want them to learn from the assignment.  (Setting clear and
well-communicated learning goals)


As the parent of 2 kids - 9th and 12th grades - I see a lot of potentially
cool and effective assignments come home that they have no concept of WHY
they are doing them and how they relate to what they're learning.  And this
is in one of the best school districts in the country.  I just think there
is too much ASSUMING going on around learning goals.  Students do better
(and I've seen this in my own classrooms) when you tell them WHY you're
assigning something and how it relates to the materials, as well as what
types of things you want them to pay attention to as they're working through



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