When I was young, my goal in life was to be a dermatologist. I took classes in high school geared towards this goal. How did I come to this goal? My parents told me it was what I’d be. As time progressed, I began to realize my goals in life had to be my own. As teachers of specific content, we need to realize that all of our students do not have the goal to be a master in our field of instruction.
This step of allowing students to determine their own goals in taking our class is one key to moving to a truly personalized environment. As an instructor, I am FAR FAR away from realizing this aspect of instruction. But with the help of my co-teacher Andelee Espinosa, we are beginning to realize what this can look like with one of our students who has a very specific set of goals.
I won't go into the specifics of this student’s situation, but teachers will all recognize the situation as not unique in education. This student is taking our physics course for credit acquisition in the hopes that this will be her last year of high school. While the specifics of her situation are quite unique, their effect on her educational experience are not. The main result is that the ability to earn an “A” in physics is not a major priority for her nor should it be. She is already facing the challenges of an adult life. Absences from class are unavoidable and must be accommodated for. Her goal for our course is not to become proficient in all standards nor should it be. Her goal is to demonstrate basic mastery of each objective in the course.
This specific example applies to our forces unit. Below you will find the rubric for the content objectives.
Force Objective 1: Force Diagrams
I can draw qualitative and quantitative diagrams for situations with perpendicular forces for situations not discussed in class
I can draw qualitative and quantitative diagrams for situations with perpendicular forces
I can draw qualitative and quantitative diagrams for situations with parallel forces
I can draw qualitative force diagrams
I cannot draw qualitative force diagrams
Force Objective 2: Balanced Forces
I can apply describe the forces both quantitatively and qualitatively on an object when forces are balanced in a situation not seen in class
I can describe the forces both quantitatively and qualitatively on an object when forces are balanced
I can apply identify the forces on an object when forces are balanced
I can explain Newton’s 1st law of motion
I cannot explain Newton’s 1st law of motion
Force Objective 3: Unbalanced forces
I can apply Newton’s 2nd Law of motion to describe motions and forces qualitatively and quantitatively in a situation not seen in class
I can apply Newton’s 2nd Law of motion to describe motions and forces qualitatively and quantitatively
I can apply Newton’s 2nd Law of motion to describe motions and forces qualitatively
I can explain Newton’s 2nd law of motion
I cannot explain Newton’s 2nd law of motion
Force Objective 4: Action-reaction Forces
I can determine accelerations and forces for action-reaction pairs for situations not seen in class
I can determine accelerations and forces for action-reaction pairs
I can identify action and reaction forces on an object
I can explain Newton’s 3rd law of motion
I cannot explain Newton’s 3rd law of motion
Theories and Models
I can determine if new information fits into a model or theory or if it disagrees
I can compare and contrast multiple models/theories or combine multiple models/theories in an explanation of a phenomenon
I can apply a model/theory to explain a phenomenon
I can describe a theory/model
I cannot describe a theory/model
I can apply multiple formulas to solve a problem with collected data
I can apply multiple formulas to solve a problem
I can manipulate a formula to solve a problem
I can identify given quantities in a problem and choose the appropriate formula to solve the problems
I cannot identify quantities or the correct formula to solve a problem
I can perform interpolations and extrapolations of data. Given new data, I can perform reevaluate interpretations
I can combine, compare, and interpret 2 or more data presentations
I can determine how changing one variable in a data set affects others and determine a mathematical relationship between the variables
I can identify basic features of a data presentation and state data presented
I cannot identify basic features of a data presentation and state data presented
In order to demonstrate mastery of several of these objectives at a base level, we had this student design a lab in which she could demonstrate an understanding of friction. This student was asked to research experiments for studying friction using YouTube. After viewing several examples, she settled on an experiment to demonstrate an understanding of friction. She designed the lab procedure and collected materials required to carry out the lab. With the assistance of a teacher and a fellow student, she collected the data required. Below you will see a rough outline of her experiment.
She will be presenting her experiment and findings orally to her teachers in order to demonstrate mastery of the topics. This presentation will take the form of a conversation in which the teachers can ask questions to elicit understandings that may not have been evident in her presentation. This guided form of questioning can help determine true understanding which might not be demonstrated in a traditional assessment.
I want to make sure it is clear that this is a lab experience designed to meet minimal levels of mastery. But, it doesn't have to be this way. I can imaging teachers guiding students to a level which matches their desired goal. In a truly personalized learning environment, it is the student goals that help determine the destination. All students will not end up in the same place. As teachers, we need to find peace with this because we are not preparing all of our students for the same profession.
I am a long way from truly grasping what this may look like for all students, but my goal is to get there someday.