The Entire Summer Institute 2008 Reflection
Taking a step back from the Summer Institutes for K-12 Teachers, the three individual institutes seem to work in a spectrum of traditional to non-conventional form of educating. This order, ironically enough, is set up in the same way the institutes proceeds throughout the summer. For the first of the three, the Computer Science Institute, is the most information-fed workshop. It resembles the more habitual way of teaching in the way that its participants are suppose to work through the computer programs and programming only through example. The following institute, the Brain and Behavior, had a fair amount of lecturing but this was interspersed with a lot of open discussion and just as much free time for self exploration. The last institute of the summer about Inquiry then was the least traditional and most radically different of all because the entire workshop was contingent on how the participants can utilize the resources (lesson plans, tools, etc.) made available to them to create something applicable to their own class.
Looking at the three as a whole, one thing that should be consistent throughout the institutes and future institutes is the full utilization of the interns. As one of the interns this summer, there were several occasions where I could have been put to better use. The best way to remedy this would be to give the intern(s) more responsibility directly before, during, and directly after the institutes.
For example, in the week long hiatus found between the first and the second institutes, the intern(s) should be given the opportunity to create something of their own that is related to Science education or education in general. This can give more purpose to the first half of the summer where the different members working in the institutes discuss issues regarding inquiry, open-ended based education, education in general, etc. It seems only fair to give the interns the opportunity to put what they’ve found particularly interesting into a useful form, applicable to one of the institutes. This can be accomplished in the form of a lesson plan or model that is meant to be presented during the institutes and could be especially valuable for the Learning as Inquiry Institute that could use more people to conduct morning sessions. If not, the piece may be postponed, supplementing the poster board presentations required of the intern(s) in the fall.
For the intern(s) to figure out how their findings and interests best fit with one if not all of the institutes, it is important for the intern(s) to get know what’s to come in the institutes as well as get to know the professors running them beforehand. All three institutes lacked, in one way or another, this very valuable experience which would have maximized the intern’s participation during the actual institute itself . Having the interns simply jump in each day and play by ear and be most helpful can make the institute at times be sloppier, less effective, and overall a less valuable experience for everyone involved. With that said, I find it essential to allow for the relationship of the intern(s) and the professors running the institutes to be as strong as possible, as early as possible so as to minimize any sense of disconnectedness and maximize their utilization throughout their entire stay working there.
An area where all three summer Institutes this year failed to execute well was explicitly prioritizing their workshops “goals” to the entire class. This was experienced first with the Computer Science Institute where the participants felt disconnected from the work they were doing in the class and the experience they were hoping to receive about computer programming and its relation to other fields of study. This was then seen when Paul’s intentions and the participants’ expectations of the Brain and Behavior Institute did not match up and the participating teachers began to second guess their involvement entirely. Finally, in the Science and Inquiry Institute, the notion of creating video useful for their own classroom or to show some level of mastery with the flip camera was misinterpreted as being top and basically only priority, sacrificing valuable time and efforts of other planned activities.
Something both the Brain and Behavior and Science as Inquiry Institute can do to resolve this is Wil and Paul commencing their institute with their own personal and professional insight on formulating and developing open-ended, interactive, inquiry based lessons. This will help the participating teachers understand more thoroughly the kind of work the can be expected of them in this institute and dissolve any confusion they might have regarding what to do. This example will not only bring a better sense of certainty in the participants during the two weeks, it will also better prepare them when the academic year starts and they wish to implement some of the new things they’ve experienced there.