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Engagement

PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING IN THE SCIENCES

Ferret It Out Inquiry and Investigation

Definition

A Problem about Endangered Species and Animal Ecosystems

April 2013

TEACHER MANUAL Shelagh A. Gallagher Dana L. Plowden Resolution

Debriefing Royal Fireworks Press Unionville, New York


Ferret It Out is one of a series of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) units written for the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Advanced Academics Program in Fairfax, Virginia. Curriculum for the FCPS Advanced Academic Program is developed under the supervision of the K-12 Advanced Academics Program Coordinator, Dr. Carol Horn. The Advanced Academics Program Specialist, Anne Horak, served as the project manager for this initiative. The FCPS PBL curriculum project is the result of a collaborative effort among classroom teachers, administrators, and curriculum experts. We would especially like to thank Ginger Haas for her participation in the early development and pilot test of Ferret It Out.

Copyright Š 2013, Royal Fireworks Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved. Royal Fireworks Press First Avenue, PO Box 399 Unionville, NY 10988-0399 (845) 726-4444 fax: (845) 726-3824 email: mail@rfwp.com website: rfwp.com ISBN: 978-0-89824-475-5 Printed and bound in the United States of America using vegetable-based inks on acid-free, recycled paper and environmentally friendly cover coatings by the Royal Fireworks Printing Co. of Unionville, New York.


Table of Contents Engagement

Inquiry and Investigation

Definition

Resolution

Debriefing

Part I: Introduction to Ferret It Out..................................................2 Elements of Problem-Based Learning .............................................3 Assessment: The Problem Log and Performance Rubics ................4 Summary of Unit Activities, Assessments, and Generalizations .....6 Alignment of Ferret It Out with National Curriculum Standards....7 Sample Schedules ............................................................................7 Part II: Preparing for Ferret It Out ...................................................9 The Flow of the Problem ...............................................................10 Content Background for Teachers .................................................11 Problem Narrative: The Storyline for Ferret It Out .......................13 Preparing to Teach the Unit ...........................................................16 Classroom Engagement Rubric .....................................................18 Part III: Lesson Plans for Ferret It Out ..........................................19 Problem Engagement .....................................................................20 Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Reintroduction Team.. ...............21 Inquiry and Investigation ...............................................................36 Ferret Facts .................................................................................37 The Ferret Habitat .......................................................................43 Threats to the Habitat .................................................................51 Problem Definition .........................................................................61 What’s the Source? .....................................................................62 Defining the Problem ..................................................................70 Problem Resolution........................................................................76 Creating the Model .....................................................................77 Presentation ................................................................................84 Problem Debriefing ........................................................................89 Reintroduction in the Real World .............................................. 90 Appendix A: Optional Lessons and Kickers...................................94 Genetic Bottleneck .....................................................................95 Ferret Math ...............................................................................107 Kickers ......................................................................................116 Appendix B: Internet Resources....................................................120 Appendix C: Classroom Guides for Problem-Based Learning ..127 Section 1: How to Be an Effective PBL Teacher ......................128 Section 2: How to Manage the PBL Classroom .......................130 Section 3: How to Model and Coach for Deep Questioning ....135 Section 4: How to Connect Problem Definition and Problem Resolution .......................................................139 Appendix D: Alignment with National Curriculum Standards..141


Part I: Introduction to Ferret It Out

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Elements of Problem-Based Learning The Ill-Structured Problem Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an inquiry-based model of curriculum and instruction that initiates learning with an ill-structured problem that has been carefully constructed to guide students to a specific topic in the core curriculum. The ill-structured problem engages students’ natural curiosity by drawing on the power of storytelling. Intrigued by the problem, students ask questions that lead them into the study of the core content area. Because the ill-structured problem is designed to encourage students to ask questions about important curricular content, teachers can focus on helping students acquire skills of gathering and analyzing information. The opening scenario introduces the ill-structured problem and sets the initial agenda for research. Teachers who want to add to the story, refocus students, or introduce a new line of questioning can introduce a “kicker,� or twist in the plot, as the unit progresses.

The Stakeholder Role During PBL, students are asked to consider the problem, as a class, from the perspective of a central stakeholder. When properly handled, the stakeholder role helps students experience the habits of mind used by people in different professions or living in different circumstances. In Ferret It Out, students are required to think like animal biologists whose job is to ensure the survival of the most endangered mammal in the United States. Seeking a solution that will work, they are compelled to consider many different perspectives on the problem, seeing it not only from the point of view of biologists, but also ranchers and local residents. Teachers play an instrumental role in making the problem come alive by encouraging students to stay in their role and requiring them to treat the role more seriously than surface play acting. Evidence suggests that this immersion into learning experiences can enhance academic performance (Langer, 1990).

Teacher as Coach Becoming an effective PBL coach takes time, support, and practice. This unit has been designed to provide enough structure for novice PBL teachers to feel comfortable experimenting with PBL and to provide experienced PBL teachers with tools to use according to their classroom needs. Teachers are given a Content Background for Ferret It Out, which briefly reviews the content associated with the grassland biome, the shortgrass prairie ecosystem, and the relationships among the various elements of the ecosystem affected by the reduction in the black-footed ferret population. A Problem Narrative is included to help teachers understand the storyline of the problem from the first day to the final discussion. Lesson plans are included that will ensure that students think analytically and reflectively. A specific emphasis is placed on conceptual reasoning. Teachers new to PBL can use these resources as a way to create a scope and sequence of events and can take comfort knowing that students will have a rich learning experience while engaging with core content. Teachers who are comfortable with PBL are encouraged to use the resources as flexible tools rather than as a prescribed course of instruction.

Embedded Instruction in Ferret It Out Critical Thinking. The unit incorporates not only traditional critical thinking activities, but also the standards of good critical thinking and the dispositions of a good reasoner. Key question sets are included as templates to encourage depth in classroom discussion; both the embedded instruction lessons and the 3

Ferret It Out Teacher Manual


Problem Log exercises require students to use data to make reasonable inferences, discriminate between important and unimportant information, and ask specific, researchable questions. As always, students synthesize the information they learn in order to create a specific problem definition. Conceptual Reasoning. Ferret It Out provides materials and experiences to allow teachers to follow best practice in teaching about the concept of systems. During the course of the unit, students learn that the black-footed ferret’s problem is, in fact, a problem of two broken systems: the black-footed ferret’s physiological system and its environmental system. Students also learn that when one element of a system is placed at risk, the entire system is at risk. Generalizations: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Elements of a system all must function correctly, or the system will break down. Elements of a system must operate in appropriate balance and proportion. When one element of a system is at risk, the entire system is at risk. A disrupted system must achieve some form of homeostasis in order to function again.

Assessment: The Problem Log and Performance Rubrics A number of assessments are used to gather evidence of students’ understanding, analysis, and reflection about the problem. These are gathered in the Problem Log, a portfolio that shows students’ progress through the problem. Assignments in the Problem Log take a variety of forms, including: ✦ S  ummaries. Summaries are used to gather knowledge about what students have learned or value most about the information they are learning. The simple questions “What do you know about the problem right now?” or “Summarize what we have learned in the problem today” give students a chance to put diverse pieces of information together and provide a quick impression of whether or not they are attending to important information. ✦ C  ritical Thinking Activities in Context. Students make inferences based on research studies, analyze existing evidence, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, and build logical arguments. ✦ G  raphic Organizers. Graphic organizers are provided to help students put information together and make it meaningful. Each of the graphic organizers achieves a slightly different goal: some focus on identifying critical issues in the problem, others look at cause-and-effect relationships, and still others are designed to have students consider direct and indirect consequences of decisions. ✦ V  isual and Conceptual Representation. Students create a picture of a prairie ecosystem using labels that identify each component based on its role in the ecosystem (autotroph, heterotroph, saprotroph). After creating the original chart, they add icons that represent the threats to the system. They then translate the picture into conceptual terms, describing how systems break down when one or more elements are out of balance. ✦ R  eflective Moments. Students’ growing awareness of the nature of the problem, their skills as problem solvers, and their ability to remain flexible as the problem shifts and changes are all assessed through “Reflective Moments,” quick writing prompts that encourage students to contemplate the nature of their learning during PBL. Choices are provided in the Reflective Moments to allow for individualization. Ferret It Out Teacher Manual

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Performance Rubrics Rubrics are valuable tools, but they are most helpful when used conservatively. Ideally, rubrics introduce students to meaningful criteria for quality work. As students and teachers work with rubrics, students begin to internalize the criteria, which should ultimately make the rubrics obsolete. Overuse of rubrics makes students dependent rather than independent. Self-directed learning is integral to PBL. Assessment of written work is not adequate to capture the development of this essential life skill, yet it is sometimes hard to communicate to students expectations for behaviors associated with self-directed learning. The Classroom Engagement Rubric (p. 18) is a tool designed to: (1) communicate expectations to students, (2) help students set their own goals for classroom performance, and (3) assess students’ progress toward some dimensions of self-directed learning. The Research Rubric (p. 40) helps define the expectations for making the most of time spent pursuing learning issues. The Presentation Rubric (p. 81) guides students toward a successful presentation of the solution to their problem.

Unit Summary The Summary of Unit Activities, Assessments, and Generalizations on the following page provides a synthesis of the activities, assessments, and conceptual generalizations in each lesson of the unit. The Activities column shows whether students are building their knowledge base by actively working with information, analyzing information using in-context activities or graphic organizers, extending their understanding by drawing conclusions about the situation they are facing, or making inferences about what might work. The Assessments column indicates the level and type of thinking required of different assessment assignments. The Generalizations column indicates which generalization(s) are the focus of each lesson. Frequently, key questions for the lessons will lead directly to discussion of the generalization(s).

Langer, E. J. (1990). Minfulness. Reading, PA: DaCapo Books. 5

Ferret It Out Teacher Manual


Building Knowledge 

Active Analysis

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Reflective Moment

Student Assessments

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Performance Rubrics

1

2

3

Generalizations

Summary of Unit Activities, Assessments, and Generalizations Class Activities

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Research/ Thinking Analysis Summaries in Context

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Extending Understanding

Ferret Facts 

The Ferret Habitat

Threats to the Habitat 

Genetic Bottleneck (Optional) Ferret Math (Optional) What’s the Source?

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Creating the Model

Defining the Problem

Presentation Reintroduction in the Real World

Problem The Black-Footed Ferret Engagement Recovery Reintroduction Team

Inquiry and Investigation

Problem Definition Problem Resolution Problem Debriefing

Generalizations: 1. Elements of a system all must function correctly, or the system will break down. 2. Elements of a system must operate in appropriate balance and proportion. 3. When one element of a system is at risk, the entire system is at risk. 4. A disrupted system must achieve some form of homeostasis in order to function again.

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Alignment of Ferret It Out with National Curriculum Standards This PBL unit was designed for middle school and was pilot tested in several eighth-grade classrooms in Fairfax County, Virginia. The unit was developed to meet regional and national middle school science objectives. Charts in Appendix D show the alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards and selected objectives from the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Ferret It Out can easily incorporate Common Core standards for middle school or high school language arts. Language arts standards are covered as students read primary documents, compare differing perspectives on the problem, discuss issues with each other, and write a description of their model.

Sample Schedules The sample schedules presented on the following page outline two- and three-week plans for Ferret It Out. First-time PBL teachers are encouraged to select one of these schedules and use it as a guide. Teachers who have some experience with PBL should feel free to make modifications according to their students’ needs or to accommodate further self-direction. The two-week schedule is most practical for science teachers who are following a tight pacing schedule. Two weeks may seem like a long time for many science teachers, but experience has shown that students benefit from the depth provided in units like Ferret It Out. Students learn more content and have the added benefit of increased engagement. The three-week schedule incorporates a little more time for research and analysis and integrates additional facets of the problem, including climate change and invasive plant species. The three-week schedule may be appealing to interdisciplinary programs, homeschool instructors, and summer or weekend programs. Science and language arts teachers could find time for the three-week schedule by team teaching or sharing responsibilities across the two subject areas. Homeschool instructors tend to have more flexible schedules and should follow the three-week schedule. Ferret It Out is an ideal unit for weekend or summer programs, where more time is available for exploring a single topic in depth. This unit benefits from many primary resources available on the Internet, including reports from numerous black-footed ferret recovery teams, research studies, and newspaper articles. Guest speakers such as biologists, environmentalists, farmers or ranchers, or real estate agents could be invited to class to present different perspectives on the problem. Motivated students could follow the unit with independent study projects investigating the various branches of the problem, including invasive species, the process of categorizing a species as “endangered,” or principles of genetic transference.

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Ferret It Out Teacher Manual


Sample Two-Week Schedule Monday

Tuesday

Inquiry and Investigation

Inquiry and Investigation

The Ferret Habitat

Threats to the Habitat

Problem Resolution

Problem Resolution

Creating the Model

Presentation

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Problem Engagement

Inquiry and Investigation

Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Reintroduction Team

Ferret Facts

Problem Definition

Problem Definition

What’s the Source?

Defining the Problem

Problem Resolution Creating the Model

Problem Debriefing Reintroduction in the Real World

Note: Starting the two-week schedule on a Wednesday or Thursday would allow students the weekend to work on their model at the end of the unit. Sample Three-Week Schedule Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Problem Engagement

Inquiry and Investigation

Inquiry and Investigation

Inquiry and Investigation

Inquiry and Investigation

Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Reintroduction Team

Ferret Facts

Ferret Facts, Cont.

Genetic Bottleneck

The Ferret Habitat

Inquiry and Investigation

Inquiry and Investigation

Problem Definition

Kicker!

Threats to the Habita t

Ferret Math

Problem Definition Defining the Problem

Problem Resolution

Problem Resolution

Problem Resolution

Problem Resolution

Problem Debriefing

Research

Creating the Model

Creating the Model

Presentation

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What’s the Source?

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Reintroduction in the Real World


Part II: Preparing for Ferret It Out

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Ferret It Out Teacher Manual


The Flow of the Problem Engagement

PBL progresses in phases: Problem Engagement, Inquiry and Investigation (with Problem Definition embedded), Problem Resolution, and Problem Debriefing. Problem Engagement. Students “meet” the problem with the presentation of the opening scenario. By the end of their exploration of the opening scenario, students will have completed the Learning Issues Board and will be prepared to engage in research.

Inquiry and Investigation

Definition

Inquiry and Investigation. Students gather answers to their questions on the Learning Issues Board using a variety of methods and resources. After completing their research, they analyze their data and make connections between their research and the problem. Most of the lessons in Inquiry and Investigation have no specific order; use the materials flexibly based on your students’ readiness. Problem Definition. Eventually, students will have acquired a clearer understanding of the real nature of the problem. At this point, they are ready to prepare a careful definition of their problem, including both the issues they need to resolve and the constraints that limit their options.

Resolution

Problem Resolution. Students develop options to solve the problem, or at least improve the situation. Often at this phase, students find that there are several possible good ideas, but they aren’t all useful. This helps students make an important transition from seeing solutions as “right or wrong” to evaluating which are “better or worse” in the current circumstances. Problem Debriefing. Once the problem is resolved, students review their pathway through the problem, including the content they learned and the way they came to think about various issues. As students reflect on what happened, they reinforce their content knowledge and also identify what practices helped or hindered their progress.

Debriefing

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