Critical Skills Science

Hi all! This is a guest post from Bill Vinton, long-time Critical Skills Master Teacher.

Whole-Class Inquiry: Creating Student-Centered Science Communities.
This is a wonderful resource, especially for science teachers attempting to implement CS model. There are many aspects of the CS model that she has not discovered, but she has done a wonderful job at developing classrooms as communities capable of whole-class collaborative problem-solving.
Of real value are the DVD’s – she and a colleague video-taped a series of classes from the beginning of the year to near the end, showing the progression from a highly-teacher-facilitated multi-day activity (challenge!) at the start of the year, to a completely student-facilitated multi-day activity near the end. I have not had the opportunity to do a careful watching of every video at length. She actually starts the DVD series with  a “Goal” episode that shows a highly skilled class facilitating themselves to accomplish a lab investigation. This woman really gets it! And, these DVD’s could be an extremely valuable resource for showing teachers what actual classrooms can look like!
She includes, as part of the series, some the early chaotic attempts of the class, some of which ended in outright failure (one really painful presentation, e.g.). So it’s not all about ideal situations – this a wonderful documentation of what experiential learning looks like (though, I don’t know if she knows the term…).
One key idea that I picked up and intend to try – what she calls “Whole Class Assessments” in which the class is given about 30 minutes to work as a whole group to come up to a well-crafted response to a pretty traditional, but significant science prompt.
So, thought you’d like to know!
Bill Vinton
Master Teacher
St. Johnsbury, Vermont


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