16 year olds on plate tectonics

I was so lucky I got to take a look at feedback from 72 16 year old students on the subject “internal forces” (which includes plate tectonics). My findings:

  • Most of the students could argue why the subject is important, and many of them used words like “our planet” and “my country”. The most mentioned reason had to do with natural disasters (why, how, when, where etc), but also understanding “how the world works”. Still, few of them used these arguments when answering whether they believed they would need this knowledge when they grow older – here many of them thought in terms of profession. This raises a question: do the students see secondary school as a place where their whole being gets educated, or simply as the first step towards their final profession? In fact, half of the students believed they wouldn’t be needing this knowledge later in life.
  • What they thought was important about the subject did to some extent match what they thought was interesting about the subject (like natural disasters). While many thought “plates” and “landforms” was exciting, many also thought “rocks” was boring (they don’t see the connection?).
  • A lot of students said they thought there was too much lecturing, and that lectures were boring. However “lecture” was stated as one of the forms of learning from which they gained the most knowledge (together with textbook, videos and debates).
  • When answering how they learned, field trips and digital learning resources were the least mentioned learning forms. Many students wanted more variation.
  • Many said they preferred reading in their textbooks and doing assignments – this because they learned more working on their own (their own pace, they decide what to focus on).
  • Almost all students found viten.no easy to use, and the animations to be the most interesting part of the program. They spent an equal amount of time on reading the texts, looking at animations and doing tasks (this does not fit with my observations, where it seemed like the students spent most of their time doing the tasks).
  • My conclusion: As long as the digital learning resources tries to do everything, they fall between the cracks : 1) the content is not individualized enough(textbook and assignments from the teacher) 2) the content has not enough depth (90min lecture) 3) they’re not exiting enough or that visually appealing (videos). I’m also not certain whether the digital learning resources did encourage students to debate, something I know the makers of the resources want them to.

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