Research in science education shows time and time again that students learn more, think more deeply and are more engaged when they work in groups. Justifying ideas to others requires evidence – not just an opinion.
Student groups can be formed by teacher selection (ability, age, gender), student selection (often based on friendship) or a mixture of both considering, for instance, areas of interest.
Students will initially require explicit instructions and practice in how to work collaboratively with others. A key focus is to provide a classroom environment where all students feel safe, supported and valued so that they are willing to take risks with their scientific ideas, to voice their own thoughts and to provide considered responses to others' contributions.
Preview the exercise How did we go? below or print a copy to give you some ideas of areas to focus on with your students as they learn to work collaboratively in teams.
Make sure every student has student process and report record and a log-book to record their thoughts, ideas, ideas provided by mentors, results of their scaffolded investigations and their GEMS investigation progress.
Students need to be explicitly taught and allowed to practise how to conduct investigations that are fair tests.
There are various types of investigations that students can carry out. Fair tests are the most likely type of scientific investigation that they will be conducting in GEMS. A fair test scientific investigation is an investigation that is concerned with exploring the relationship between variables (with Stage 2 and 3 students usually two variables). The types of questions that students could ask are:
A. Which fibre is the strongest when wet/dry?
(variables = type of fibre + amount of water)
B. Which cup keeps drinks hotter for longer?
(variables = type of cup + amount of heat)
C. Which medium is best for growing wheat seeds?
(variables = type of soil + height of seedlings)