Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair on a field trip with my students. The amount and quality of science fair boards was unbelievable. Students from all over the world presented their findings and many times I could not believe they were teenagers. To keep the viewing students accountable they were given passports so they could go around and get stamps and/or signatures. I heard many teachers say these will be turned in and graded. Is this how we keep students accountable or are we just restricting their interests and ultimately being quite hypocritical?
There was an intro video raving about how students get into science because they find a topic they are interested in. I completely agree this is true but the passports they gave out seemed to restrict those interests in my opinion. Students were so focused on getting to the stamping stations or finding a presenter from another country that some didn’t get the chance to really stop and find projects interesting to them.
I had a group of 10 students. I told them they had an hour to go to the sections they are interested in and talk to presenters they think they might learn something from. A couple kids went to social sciences, a few went to computer sciences, a few went to engineering and 2 girls bought ice cream and looked for hot guys. Some of the kids came back and said this is pretty boring and others were raving about a cool project they saw. The 2 girls who were eating ice cream were somehow ready to eat lunch. None of them had to prove to me with stamps and signatures so does that mean I didn’t hold them accountable? I didn’t get upset with the girls who didn’t look at any boards. Should I have? Would that make them more interested in science?
I think as educators, me included, we worry too much about accountability when in some cases unintended consequences occur. How often do we show a video and then make them answer questions or take notes. To me the students who don’t want to watch the video still don’t watch it but write a few things down so they don’t get in trouble. The students who are interested want to make sure they get notes down and thus lose some of the enjoyment of the material. The same thing happened with the passports. The students who weren’t interested went around getting stamped to make their teachers proud and the students who found interesting topics may have had to cut them short so they could get more stamps.
I am not saying we should not hold students accountable but we have to be careful not to restrict the students who are actually interested by bogging them down with pointless notes, stamps, etc.