Remote Learning Suggestions for Science Classrooms

Remote learning may require you to reduce content coverage to maintain good science instruction.

During this difficult time of remote or socially distanced learning, it is important not to give up on good science educational practices such as sensemaking and using all 3 dimensions of the NGSS framework to help students learn. Remote learning may require you to step back and reduce content coverage to maintain good science instruction that focuses on student engagement and sensemaking of real-world phenomena and problems.

Below are some suggestions for keeping your students engaged and learning in this challenging environment by adapting good science educational practices to remote or socially distanced learning.

General Suggestions

  • Though students may be physically remote from one another, we do live in a time of unprecedented connectivity. Encourage the direct online exchange of ideas among students to help them refine their own thinking and build connections between their different ideas. This sharing also reduces the sense of isolation students may feel in remote learning situations.
  • Teach students how to give and receive ongoing constructive feedback. Encourage them to persist in their sensemaking and remind them that it is an ongoing learning process.
  • Teach students how to use a claim–evidence–reasoning approach to build evidence-based arguments.
  • Build relationships and help students develop comfort with the growth opportunities that come with sharing, asking questions, and providing and receiving feedback.
  • All investigations should involve some discussion—either as a whole class or in small groups, depending on your collaboration tools. Remind students that scientists continually share ideas and collaborate, even when working in physically remote and distant locations.

Additional Reading: 10 Tips for Creating Social Distance in Your Science Classroom

Phenomenon and Prelab

  • Present a phenomenon to the whole class and then use an online meeting app or Google Sheets™ to allow students to share their observations and questions. Facilitate a whole-class discussion of the phenomenon and guide students to discover critical common understanding and to construct explanations.

  • After giving some time to think about the phenomenon, assign students to smaller virtual groups to share and discuss their ideas and initial models. The small groups can report out to the class.

  • Assign students into small virtual groups and have them think–share–pair on the phenomenon and the initial model. Have the group submit a Google Doc of their work to build a whole-class artifact.

  • The prelab can be conducted as a class discussion via an online meeting app, so rather than assigning the prelab to be completed asynchronously, walk through any thought exercises and questions as an open-class discussion in which students collaborate in sensemaking.

  • Using an online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey® or Crowdsignal® or using the Question feature in Google Classroom™, probe students on their prior knowledge and initial sensemaking so that you can circle back and address any misconceptions or areas that need further support and development.

Additional Reading: Investigating Phenomena: How and Why Do Birds Coordinate Flight?

Investigations, Observations, and Data Analysis

  • Assign students to virtual lab groups. Although each student runs the investigation separately, they can use their lab group to share and discuss observations, data, and initial sensemaking.

  • Use Google Sheets™ to create a spreadsheet with places for each student to record and share their observations. Encourage collaboration and discourse.

  • Create a student data chart using Google Sheets™ so that students can add and share data in real time with their peers. If possible, combine the data and have students perform statistical analysis or generate charts or graphs showing how their data relate to those of the class as a whole.

  • Have students use their smartphones to photograph or video the results of their hands-on investigations to share with other students.

Additional Reading: Webinar: Leading High School Science Investigations Remotely

Sensemaking and Assessment

  • Conduct a final class discussion of the investigation using an online meeting app.

  • Have students upload images of their completed work into Google Docs™ to share with the class.

  • Use Google Sheets™ to create a spreadsheet with places for each student to record and share their observations. Encourage collaboration and discourse among students.

  • Bring the class back together to discuss the results and conclusions drawn from the investigation. Encourage constructive discourse and revision of ideas. Remind students that scientific inquiry is an extensive process of investigation and revision of ideas based on evidence and reasoning.

  • Have students share their data, graphs, tables, models, or sensemaking on a slide in a Google Slides™ deck. Encourage students to provide constructive feedback on their peers’ preliminary work and for students to resubmit their work after feedback.

  • Consider using a tool such as Screencastify™ to record your feedback on student artifacts. The recorded video brings context and a personal tone to your feedback.

Additional Reading: Teaching and Learning Science in the Era of COVID-19

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently published a report titled Teaching K-12 Science and Engineering During a Crisis, by Jennifer Self. We highly recommend downloading this valuable resource.

See how Carolina Kits 3D® Flex Digital can support your teaching.

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