After much tweaking, piloting, and re-tweaking, our Module 1 Classroom Game is ready for action! Our goals were ambitious: We were determined to create a low-tech, collaborative classroom-based game that would prompt students to use higher-order thinking skills (argumentation and reasoning) in order to evaluate claims and evidence about photosynthesis. And just as importantly, the game had to be fun!
The result of our efforts is No Way!. Students play the role of science fact-checkers working for a fictional website, NoWay.com. They must figure out whether three incredible-sounding stories that report on natural phenomena are actually true. Each story involves photosynthesis, but the claims made in two of them are based on common misconceptions about the process, specifically having to do with the role of soil. Two of the stories, therefore, can be definitively refuted if students draw upon the necessary knowledge of photosynthesis. Students are asked to review a range of available evidence, evaluate how evidence serves to support or refute story claims, and construct an argument for or against the story’s validity based on that evaluation.
Our development process brought the word “iterative” to a whole new level. At this point, we’ve piloted the game in more than 10 classrooms. Through each round of testing, we learned more about how difficult it is for kids to engage in the types of argumentation and reasoning that the game requires. Our new understandings had implications for how to design our materials more effectively to scaffold students as they played the game. For example, until the most recent round of testing, we provided students with “Claim Sheets” on which they were prompted to (1) determine if particular evidence was relevant to one of the story’s claims, and (2) decide if the evidence supported or refuted that claim. During our field tests, this process proved to be overwhelming for many students because we were asking them to go back and forth repeatedly between two very different types of thinking. The current version of the “Claim Sheets” have been duly pared down and now include prompts to first help students make decisions regarding relevance, and then consider whether it can be used to support or refute a claim. We also created “Tim’s Guide,” a PowerPoint that explicitly models the process that students will go through during the activity.
We piloted these new materials during our most recent field test, and observed a much more streamlined and manageable classroom experience in which students engaged with the materials, had on-task group discussions, and eagerly defended their positions.