I had an amazing experience this year. My colleague and I were reviewing a unit we taught on the creation of the universe last year. It was a bit blah and students did not engage with the subject matter as much as we would have liked. The other enemy of teaching was not on our side -time. We though we would open it up a bit and give students ownership of their own learning and also allow them to work as a group. We wanted to enthuse the student by creating a film in Science. In Tasmania Grade 10 is the end of high school so many of our students would be going their separate ways and would not get to work together again. We decided to take a chance.
We threw out everything we had done before.
A rubric was created and we went through what the students were to address. We discussed that it would be peer assessed. We discussed what the students knew about the beginning of life and the universe. Students were told that they had four weeks to research how life the universe and everything came to be. They needed to create a film in science and an A4 hand out. They were allowed to be in groups no larger than three. We also took a risk and said that the mark was for the group. There would be no allowances for the student who did nothing and they could not blame an individual for not having their work completed. If the task was not handed in, the whole group got nothing. This was made very clear. We recommended that students mapped out who was doing what and create deadlines for when the research was going to be completed etc. We also explained that each group would have a formal meeting once a week to discuss their progress. Students were asked to consider copyright and they were informed that their films were going to be placed on YouTube for public viewing. Then we left them to it.
As a support we created shared OneNote Notebooks where all students in a group could contribute the content. We provided help on how to use PowerPoint to create a film in Science but students were allowed to construct their film anyway they wanted. It was a bit messy. Students needed to go to silent rooms to record their voiceovers. Some students would spend some time not working at all. As a group we very quickly became experts in free text to voice programs and sources for copyright free pictures and music. I learned a lot about many different video programs and the difference between Microsoft’s PowerPoint versions for the Mac and PC.
In my meetings with the different groups I would generally ask 5 questions:
- How are you going?
- Are you having any problems?
- How are you solving these problems?
- Where are you going to next?
- How can I help you?
The groups always amazed me. Students were enthusiastic about Science by creating a film. Even groups that looked like they were doing nothing were achieving. Students who had not handed in a single thing all year were producing work. There was one student who I had taught for 4 years. The amount of assessable work he had produced in that time was negligible but in this task he was researching, contributing to his group and doing what we would expect an average student to do. This topic was no longer ‘blah’ for my students. They were connecting to it in a meaningful way. Students were enthused by creating a film in Science.
I got some great films. Out of 60 students only 3 groups did not get their films completely finished and 2 of those were only because they were not rendered. This is amazing as the ‘hand it in on time’ rate up to now was about 60%.
Some quotes from my students about this task:
‘I loved this assignment. It was so much better than doing a project.’
‘The film was a hard but a lot of fun.’
‘Some of it was hard to understand but I really got in to it. I liked being able to talk about what I had found out with my group. You should definitely de this again next year!’
I did have a few problems. One parent really objected to her son being assessed as a ‘group’. The rubric was done in a bit of a rush and needs some work. The task needs a bit more definition, some scaffolding would not be a bad idea and students need to remember to focus on not using copyrighted material. But overall this task is a keeper. We will be continuing to get students to create a film in Science for this unit next year.
Here are some links to my students films if you would like to see for yourself. They are not my best ones but generally average and below average students: