A Journey Through Technology

Week 9 Reflection

This was a pretty good week for me. I think that the Twitter session on Wednesday night was very insightful, and I feel like Twitter was my greatest contribution to the learning of others, as well as others’ contribution to my learning. I really look forward to Twitter each week, and actually missed it during spring break.

Another way I contributed to the learning of others this week was through my blog post. I don’t think it was one of my best, and I think that is mainly because there were so many things I wanted to discuss that I had a hard time focusing my thoughts. I didn’t want my post to be too crazy long, so I tried to hit the main points that I wanted, but I didn’t go as in depth as I wanted. If I were to redo the post this week, I would focus more on grading and motivation instead of trying to talk so much about types of assessments as well.

I read through Amber, Sara, and Genevieve’s blogs this week and each of them contributed something to my learning this week. Sara talked about how she would like to change things, but it doesn’t necessarily fit with district requirements, and I see this as an issue as well. I would love to change the way grades are given for my students, but will need to spend some time working on what that will look like so it still fits requirements. Genevieve shared the learning scale she uses in her classroom and I think I could adapt that to better fit my high school classes. Students need more useful feedback from their teachers, and that learning scale would be a great way to give my students better feedback. Amber mentioned using low stakes feedback to keep students from feeling too pressured, which will hopefully get them more intrinsically motivated in class. I also hope that by using more feedback, my students will feel more comfortable and less stressed about learning chemistry, and this will help them become more motivated to learn.

I look forward to the next few weeks as I start the UBD unit. I’m excited to see how the differentiation techniques that I am going to use will change how my students learn, and what the classroom dynamic will be like.

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Week 9 Essential Question

How can I use both formative and summative assessment to enhance (or at least not interfere with) intrinsic motivation?

Teachers use both formative and summative assessments to measure students in their classrooms. “[F]ormative assessment is useful both for the student and the teacher – it provides students with feedback and thus aids them in their efforts to meet learning objectives and it gives teachers insight as to how they can best shape instruction to meet student needs.”(Rasmussen, n.d.) “The goal of summative assessment is to measure the level of success or proficiency that has been obtained at the end of an instructional unit, by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.” (Formative vs Summative Assessment)

However, one thing that is hard for teachers to measure is what motivates their students. According to Harlen (2003), students who are intrinsically motivated are motivated from within, by being satisfied by and interested in what they are learning. Extrinsically motivated students are motivated by external means, like rewards or prizes. If teachers want to get their students intrinsically motivated in the classroom, the way they use assessments and the way they grade them can significantly help in reaching that goal.

According to Kellaghan (1996), as quoted by Harlen (2003), “intrinsic motivation is associated with levels of engagement that lead to development of conceptual understanding and higher level thinking skills.” To me, this means if we can get students engaged in our classrooms, they will want to gain a better understanding of concepts, which will lead them to be better learners. One way of reaching these goals is to use differentiation in the classroom. “An effectively differentiated classroom is invested in assessment and grading practices that are in sync with responsive teaching practices – ones that clearly contribute to enlisting the effort of a full range of students to do the hard work of learning.” (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013, p.127) The type of assessments we use and how they are graded can make a big difference in how successful our students can be in our classrooms.

One thing to think about when using assessments is whether to use norm-referenced tests (NRT) or criterion-referenced tests (CRT). NRTs compare students to one another and CRTs measure student performance on specific learning objectives. (Bond, 1996) At the beginning of a unit, I know which concepts my students need to understand to gain mastery of the topic. In order to get an accurate measurement of how well students are understanding the unit, the assessments that I use throughout the unit should be CRTs and not NRTs. “The content of an NRT test is selected according to how well it ranks students from high achievers to low. The content of a CRT test is determined by how well it matches the learning outcomes deemed most important.” (Bond, 1996) Popham (2014) suggests that criterion-referenced assessments allow teachers to “teach students better” because it is a direct measurement of instruction. (p.64)

Designing the assessments is one aspect of trying to motivate students, but an even greater issue is how the assessments are graded. “Grades should derive from summative, not formative, assessments.” (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013, p.130) Students need to practice concepts before they understand them, but that doesn’t mean all of the practice needs to be graded. If we grade everything students do, it can discourage them from continuing in their learning and prevent them from learning. (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013, p.130)

To me, the main way of getting my students intrinsically motivated is to get them engaged in the class. I am working on using differentiation to do that, and a major part of the differentiation process is looking at how I am using assessments and how I am grading them. I need to make sure that my assessments, both formative and summative, are directly measuring learning outcomes, and that the way I grade the assessments doesn’t take away from whether or not they are meeting the learning objectives.


Bond, L. A. (1996). Norm-and Criterion-Referenced Testing. ERIC/AE Digest. Retrieved from: http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-1/norm.htm 21 March 2016.

Formative vs Summative Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2016, from http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/howto/basics/formative-summative.html

Harlen, W., & Crick, R. D. (2003). Testing and Motivation for Learning. Assessment in Education, 10(2), 169-207. Retrieved March 21, 2016, from http://sohs.pbs.uam.es/webjesus/motiv_ev_autorr/lects%20extranjeras/efecto%20ev.pdf

James Popham, W. p. (2014). Criterion-Referenced Measurement: Half a Century Wasted?. Educational Leadership, 71(6), 62-68. Retrieved from: Egan Library http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=94925708&login.asp&site=ehost-live 21 March 2016.

Rasmussen, J.B. (n.d.). Formative Assessment Strategies. Retrieved March 21, 2016 from: http://www.sonoranschools.org/Downloads/formative-assessment-strategies.docx.

Tomlinson, Carol Ann, and Moon, Tonya R. (2013) Chapter 6: Assessment, Grading and Differentiation. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. Web. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=135&docID=10774725&tm=1428975296051 21 March 2016.



My principal shared a video about motivation with some of the teachers at my school this week and I thought it was quite applicable to this weeks question. It’s a bit long, but I think it provides a lot of insight into why people choose to do certain things.


Week 8 Reflection

This week, as with many of the others, I feel like my main contribution to the learning of others was through the twitter session. I also think that is the main way that others’ contributed to my learning as well. I feel like I learn so much during each twitter session and love reading everyone’s responses to each question. The questions also were very helpful this week in getting me to pull important pieces from each of the readings.

I read through Sara L, Teresa, and Sally’s blogs this week and learned something from each of them. Sara shared a wonderful infographic comparing fixed-mindset to growth-mindset, which I plan on sharing with my students. Teresa shared seven principles about how we learn, and I plan on referring back to those often to make sure I’m thinking about the how of learning as much as I think about the what aspect. Sally had a bit about not sharing too much information in class periods, which I need to be more mindful about. I tend to give way too much information in one class period, and I know I have overwhelmed my students in the past. I want to try and avoid that in the future as much as possible.

All in all this was a good week. I’ve started working on my UBD unit and should have that mostly finished by the end of the week. I know it isn’t going to be entirely PBL, but I think I’m going to make one of the labs my students will complete a PBL-activity, so hopefully it will get them more engaged. I’m so happy it is spring break, but I can’t believe we are over half-done with this class. It always seems to go by so fast towards the end of the semester!

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Week 8: What is brain-based learning and how can it inform problem based learning and differentation?

Brain-based learning is a learning theory based on the function of the brain and its structure. (On Purpose Associates, 2011) “Brain-based education emphasizes how the brain learns naturally and is based on what we currently know about the actual structure and function of the human brain at varying developmental stages.” (Wilson, 2013) By using our knowledge of how the brain works at different stages in a child’s life, we can learn the best ways to help our students be successful in the classroom.

Last week we looked at problem-based learning (PBL), which uses a real-world problem to help students learn about different topics within a subject area. One thing that is appealing about PBL is that students become more engaged in a problem when it has more meaning to them. Learning more about how to engage students is one factor of brain-based learning, and according to Jensen (2005, p.36), students are more likely to be focused and attentive if the learning is relevant and meaningful.

Another aspect of brain-based learning is understanding the effects of poverty on how a student learns. “Understand that children raised in poverty are more likely to display

  • “Acting-out” behaviors.
  • Impatience and impulsivity.
  • Gaps in politeness and social graces.
  • A more limited range of behavioral responses.
  • Inappropriate emotional responses.
  • Less empathy for others’ misfortunes.” (Jensen, 2009, p.19)

Differentiation is one way for teachers to help students affected by poverty become better learners and improve their performance in school by adjusting instruction to fit the specific needs of those students. “Most low-SES kids’ brains have adapted to survive their circumstances, not to get As in school.” (Jensen, 2009, p.57) Part of the differentiation process is to use assessments to guide instruction. Teachers can use assessments to determine the level of skill building that underperforming students may need. (Jensen, 2009, p.39)

Brain-based learning seems to fit well with both problem-based learning and differentiation because it focuses on how students learn instead of what they are learning. I plan on learning more about brain-based learning and how I can use it in my classroom, in addition to problem-based learning and differentiation, to provide an even better learning environment for all of my students.


On Purpose Associates (2011, April 14). Brain-based Learning. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://www.funderstanding.com/theory/brain-based-learning/brain-based-learning/

Jensen, Eric. Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 7 March 2016. Retreived from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=6&docID=10089220&tm=1428258945648

Jensen, Eric. Teaching with Poverty in Mind : What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 7 March 2016. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=28&docID=10375878&tm=1428259489468

Wilson, L. O. (2013). Brainbased Education – An Overview – The Second Principle. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://thesecondprinciple.com/optimal-learning/brainbased-education-an-overview/


Week 7 Reflection

I think this week went very well, though it was also kind of stressful at the same time. Interestingly enough, I was already planning the lab my students are going to be doing this next week, which is an inquiry-based that is perfectly suited for a mini-PBL unit. The idea of doing our differentiation unit as a PBL unit is very exciting, but at the same time I am feeling so overwhelmed by all of the ideas we have been learning about so far. Differentiation seems like it would work so well in my classroom, but the time factor in trying to adapt lessons for differentiation is very daunting to me. I am also very excited by the idea of using PBL in my classroom, but after looking this week, I haven’t found a whole lot of information about using PBL in chemistry. I was hoping to find some good resources with some lessons already made up, but so far I have only found one possibility. I am actually planning on contacting a teacher whose blog I read to see if she shares or sells her PBL units. They seem like they would really work in my classroom.

My impact on the learning of others this week comes from our Twitter session on Wednesday night, as well as my blog posting for this week. I had two comments on my essential question this week, which is the most I’ve had for the past few weeks. We all seem to agree that changing the way we teach is very uncomfortable, and I know for me the main reason is that I just don’t feel like I have enough time to spend on everything. I’m also terrified of not being in control of my classroom, but not because I don’t trust my students. I don’t want to not be in control because I am just a natural control freak. I always feel like things need to be done a certain way, so having students chose their own way is just weird to me. I know I will be able to adjust to PBL, but it’s going to have to be one baby step at a time.

Others have contributed to my learning this week through both Twitter and their blog posts. Twitter is always so informative and I love getting to read everyone’s thoughts and ideas about things. I also enjoy reading about how others in the class have already tried differentiation or PBL and it always gets me thinking about what I could do next. I read through Amber, Kate, and Natalie’s posts this week and found that we all agree on some important aspects of using PBL, like collaboration between students and using scaffolding. I think I am finally starting to understand what scaffolding is based on the posts this week. In the past I’ve thought of it as a ladder, building on things as you go, but now I realize its just ways of supporting students in their learning.

I think I’ve come up with an ill-structured problem for my PBL unit. The unit we will be covering in that time-frame is gas laws, so I was thinking of ways to use PBL and differentiation to help. I think I want my question to center around the decreased supply of helium on earth. Something like, “How can we fix the helium shortage?” or “Could another gas be used in the place of helium?” or “Is carbon dioxide a suitable replacement for helium?”. All of these could be centered around the gas laws and could also help us review other topics we’ve already covered this year. I’m hoping to spend some time during spring break planning this in more detail.

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Week 7:What practical structures could we use to implement PBL in our classrooms?

PBL, either problem- or project-based learning, “is a teaching method in which student gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” (What is project-based learning?) Typically the problem in PBL is “ill-structured”, or has multiple correct solutions. (Hmelo-Silver, 2004) There are two general goals in PBL (Ertmer & Simons, 2006):

  1. Promote a deeper understanding of the content
  2. Develop higher-order thinking skills for students

Most teachers could probably agree that these are goals we have for all of our students, but that are not easily obtained. One reason that teachers do not often use PBL in their classroom is that they are both unfamiliar and uncomfortable “with the new roles and responsibilities required by this type of open-ended learning environment.” (Land,  2000, as cited in Ertmer & Simons, 2006)

We’ve been looking at differentiation for the past six weeks, and PBL appears to share common traits with a differentiated classroom, for example a change in the roles of both teachers and students. In a differentiated classroom, teachers shift their role from knowledge-deliverer to learning-facilitator, which also seems to be a big part of using PBL. “Throughout this process, the teacher’s role is to guide and advise, rather than to direct and manage, student work.” (Solomon, 2003)

A big part of PBL that is intimidating to me is the thought of completely shifting my classroom model to something that is so different from what I am used to doing. However, in Tracy Schloemer’s blog post about PBL, she shares that she held that same misconception. In her classroom, PBL only represents part of the learning process for her students. She also uses “structured inquiry or a more traditional confirmation/verification format.” (Schloemer, 2015)

If I can learn to use PBL as one tool in my classroom, my students could potentially learn much more than I could ever teach them using my current methods. “PBL promotes students’ confidence in their problem-solving skills and strives to make them self-directed learners.” (Problem-Based Learning, 2001)


Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2006). Jumping the PBL implementation hurdle: Supporting the efforts of K–12 teachers. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 1(1), 5. Retrieved from: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=ijpbl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dimplementing%2BPBL%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2#search=%22implementing%20PBL%22 on February 29, 2016.

Hmelo-Silver, Cindy E. (2004) Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn?. Educational psychology review 16(3), 235-266. Retrieved from: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=13682403&site=ehost-live on February 29, 2016.

Problem-based Learning. (2001). Standford University Newsletter on Teaching, 11(1). Retrieved from http://web.stanford.edu/dept/CTL/cgi-bin/docs/newsletter/problem_based_learning.pdf on February 29, 2016.

Schloemer, T. (2015, June 01). Why consider trying project based learning? Retrieved from http://www.chemedx.org/blog/why-consider-trying-project-based-learning on February 29, 2016.

Solomon, G. (2003). Project-based learning: A primer. TECHNOLOGY AND LEARNING-DAYTON-, 23(6), 20-20. Retrieved from: http://pennstate.swsd.wikispaces.net/file/view/pbl-primer-www_techlearning_com.pdf on February 29, 2016.

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bie.org/about/what_pbl on February 29, 2016.