Public records

With a focus on students' ideas, we need a way to help keep track of ideas over an entire instructional unit. Public records not only keep track of ideas, but play an important role in collaborative sense-making. In this section, we describe a number of public records we have found effective during MBI units.

Initial hypotheses list

An initial hypotheses list is often created on the first day during the Eliciting students' ideas phase of the unit. Constructing the list helps narrow down a group's initial ideas to explain the phenomenon, shares these ideas across the class, and provides a visual reminder of those ideas throughout the unit. To create the list, we introduce the phenomenon and then provide the driving question. Groups then have initial small group discussions to elicit the ideas they bring with them on the first day to explain the phenomenon. We then facilitate a sharing out of their ideas and keep track of them on the initial hypotheses list. Often multiple groups will have similar ideas in which case it only needs to be written on the list once. It is important to remember that on the first day, there are no right and wrong answers. Instead all honest attempts at explaining the phenomenon should make it on the list. Over time, as students' explanations evolve because of engaging in the activities of the unit, we can come back to the list and ask for revisions, deletions, or additions.

The example initial hypotheses lists on the left are from a high school chemistry class during a nuclear chemistry unit anchored in the phenomenon of the Little boy atomic bomb. The image on the left was constructed on the first day of the unit. The image on the right shows the amount of additions, revisions, and deletions of important ideas over the course of the unit.

Summary Tables

The goal of a summary table is to keep track of what was learned from each activity and how it applies to the anchoring phenomenon. It is used after each activity and provides an important public record at the end of the unit as students' are pressed for evidence-based explanations. We think it is important that the summary table stays up throughout the unit since we can never be sure exactly when students will refer back to it to help make sense of a new activity. 

As shown here, there are a number of ways to set up a summary table. The table below on the left shows three columns: the name of the activity, what was learned about the science idea at play, and how that idea helps us explain the anchoring phenomenon. The other tables focus on the patterns students see during the investigations in addition to the explanation and connection to the phenomenon. 

The statements written on the summary table are consensus statements developed in a whole group discussion. We have found that it works best for small groups to work together to write 1-2 sentence responses for each box on the table in complete sentences. We can then facilitate a discussion across groups and write the consensus statements on the table.

Gotta have checklist

The goal of the 'gotta have checklist' is to build a consensus list of the important science ideas and facts that need to be present in a gapless scientific explanation of the phenomenon. This can be built throughout the unit or constructed during the Pressing for evidence-based explanation phase of the unit just before students begin writing their own evidence-based explanations. Constructed as a whole class, the checklist provided an invaluable resource for students as they begin the writing process.  In addition to important science ideas needed, the checklist can be used to help students coordinate the evidence they have for each of the important ideas as well.  This can be seen in the example on the right. 

Additional Resources