Home' Teacher : October 2010 Contents LOOKING INTO PRACTICE 19
when I was going to get to do an experi-
ment. Now with my own classes, if I was
going to make any changes I had to involve
I came back to school after participat-
ing in an initial workshop as part of the
Monash University Science Teaching and
Learning (STAL) professional develop-
ment program, sponsored by Melbourne's
Catholic Education Office, eager to try
something new in my classes -- interpretive
discussion. I could see that the interpretive
discussion technique was well suited to help-
ing me to address some of the frustrations I
had with my Year 8 science class.
I wanted my class to lead the activity
and to be active participants in discussion.
I decided to rebook the lab for the experi-
ment on chemical change, but this time ou r
approach would be different. Using inter-
pretive discussion, I would have the oppor-
tunity to get my students to run the experi-
ment for the benefit of others, facilitate peer
discussion and the sharing of results.
Are we on the same page?
Rather than use my normal predict-observe-
explain method as I usually did before each
experiment, I asked the students to explain
why I'd got them to pack up in the middle
of the experiment last time.
The responses from the students were
very interesting and highlighted how the
students received a message very different
to the one I intended. 'Cos we were talking
loudly, and we were disrespectful and rude.'
My aims were to get them to follow
safety precautions and to observe reactions.
I tried to tease out the discussion, hoping to
get them to consider whether they'd observed
reactions and whether they'd followed the
safety precautions that we'd discussed but
very few recalled any safety discussions. I
re-read material from the material safety
data sheet and initiated a discussion about
safety procedures -- we knew the effects of
these chemicals so what were the safety pre-
cautions that we should take?
One student acted as the whiteboard
scribe and I stepped back as the discussion
flowed, with students keen to share their
thoughts on precautionary measures. I
found it very difficult not to step in to affirm
or correct an answer.
Often students directed their responses
to me, rather than their peers. When this
occurred, I'd reply, 'What do you think
everyone? Anyone want to respond to
John?' Once we had a long list of precau-
tionary measures compiled on the white-
board, I then instructed the students to
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