Group work in science – is it working?

I have always deluded myself thinking that I was giving students plenty of opportunities to work in groups and all the goodness that comes from that because we do experiments. We also do research in groups and look at issues in Science…what a muppet I was!dr-bunsen-honeydew-and-beakerx750 The truth was that opportunities were created through experiments but so many were being squandered in class.

Group work should be a standard way of working in Science. Why? Because that’s what scientists do….it is the Nature of Science, how scientists work, and this was lost for students.

They understand;

  • that it is beneficial to work in a group,
  • they love to work in a group,
  • however, they do not make the link that this is how scientists work in reality.

So we should mirror this in class! I have tried to look at some other ways that I could achieve this, and my second Mindlab assignment looked at some of the ways that I have attempted to bring more group work into my class using technology and the leverage of their cell-phones as a tool. Some things worked well, others need some tweaking, but I am moving in the right direction.

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The Ako Assignment by Andrew Ricciardi

The concept of AKO means both to teach and to learn. It recognises that both teachers and students contribute to the building of new knowledge through their shared understanding.

Check out Andrew’s video for how he incorporated the concept of Ako into his classroom practice.

Welcome with style….

Check out how Hamish welcomes kids into his health class…. something I have noticed as I have passed his door witnessing these crazy foot taps, elbow bumps, low fives, high fives and what will happen tomorrow…maybe that’s the point? What do the kids think, check out the video below. The inspiration came from this video of a fifth-grade teacher, Barry White Jr. of Ashley Park Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina, who greets his students with special handshakes every day before they enter class.

So there is still some scope for improvement, a unique handshake for every student?

high five

Project Based Learning

Group work is all well and good, but we all know that some students do more than others… So, based on some positive research, I decided to encourage independent learning and improve engagement by using the principles of Project Based Learning with a real-world problem to solve. Check out my Mindlab assignment where I discuss my plans for how to implement this. I have since rolled this out with my Year 9 English class, so watch this space to see what happened!


Four Waimea College staff have taken up the opportunity to undertake the Mind Lab programme offered in conjunction with Unitec. It is a chance to learn how to integrate technology, enhance digital capability and activate new teaching practices in the classroom. There are two strands Digital Collaborative learning and Leadership within the context of teaching in a Digital Collaborative framework.

Our first assignment was a video assignment where we had to critically reflect on a problem or challenge that we identified in our own practice and we had to identify a (Key Competency / He Tikanga Whakaaro or 21st Century Skills related) area for improvement. We then had to justify a digital and collaborative innovation that we think can address our identified problems / challenges. Finally we had to plan how we could begin to implement or trial our innovation (or first part of it) in your practice.

We have shared these with you as part of an ongoing blog of reflection and as an opportunity to showcase some of the work that is going on at Waimea College.

Fostering a Growth Mindset through a Blended e-Learning Approach (Part 2: Mindset Survey) Andrew Ricciardi

The term ‘growth mindset’ refers to the belief that abilities can be developed and honed through dedication and hard work. In contrast, a ‘fixed mindset’ is the belief that you are born with a level of talent and intelligence that really can’t be changed. These concepts are the basis for Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Dweck, 2006). Dweck maintains that how we feel about things like risk, learning, intelligence, tests, failure, effort (and other things) form our beliefs, and those beliefs can ultimately impact our performance and success.

Andrew talks us through his research on this really exciting area of pedagogy.

Using Wii to raise engagement

Check out Stewart’s submission for his first assignment where he looked at the use of a Wii remote and technology to raise engagement with the students of Waimea’s special education department.

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