A few weeks ago, I designed a prototype for my Problem of Practice. While the goal of my POP is to redesign my SIMPLE Learning Cycle in AP Biology (in an attempt to create a more hands-on, relevant and personalized learning environment) my prototype started at square 1 – the organization of topics and the creation of lesson questions. With my prototype ready to go, it was time to test it! I decided that this round of testing would ask for feedback from other AP Biology teachers as they would be familiar with the topics and standards that need to be addressed in this class. Down the road, once my plan has been refined, I will seek input from students as well. Through various conventions, I have become friends with a few AP Biology teachers in other cities and states. Therefore, I invited them to view the prototype of my suggested organization and to offer comments on the order or topics, placement of standards, proposed lesson questions, and any suggestions as to unit and/or course questions. Their feedback was collected in two places. First, they were encouraged to leave comments within the Google Doc. Since I invited each of these contacts to the same Google Doc, this allowed a sort of brainstorming dialogue to emerge where we could build off of each other’s thoughts and ideas. In addition, I created a short Google Form that could be filled out during or after looking through the organization. This form allowed me to collect and organize general thoughts on four categories: overall organization, placement of standards, lesson questions, and unit questions. I was also curious if other AP Biology teachers would be interested in this prototype so I tweeted out a request for help. Linked to this request was a new copy of the Google Doc for them to comment on as well as a link to my survey. Finally, I emailed a former AP Biology teacher who currently trains teachers in good science practices. She felt more comfortable discussing this organizational prototype in a person so we will be meeting in the near future (the meeting was delayed due to spring break).
So the big question is what have I learned from this testing phase? Well, in terms of the testing itself, don’t ask teachers for help during Spring Break! While the teachers I contacted directly have been good sports, I did not get any feedback from my Twitter plea. In hindsight, I probably should have Tweeted my request a few more times and now I plan to sent out a second request after I post this blog. In addition, I think the conversation of comments occurring on my Google Doc will continue for the next few weeks and I am hoping that Spring Break will have served as an incubation period. I have also realized that the testing stage might be the most time consuming phase of the design model as it is heavily dependent on other people (but again, my experience might be skewed by Spring Break). As for what I learned about my POP? The jury is still out! For now, I am hearing that, a few of my proposed units may have become too big and therefore might have to be split. In addition, while the lesson questions I came up with are functional, they might be a bit boring. Now that I am getting new ideas as to the topic organization and possible questions, it may soon be time to enlisted the help of some of my current students as I look to test prototype number two.