This is my 12th year teaching AP Statistics. About 6 years ago, I attended a week-long session taught by Floyd Bullard (North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics), during the the Anja S. Greer Conference on Mathematics and Technology at Phillips Exeter Academy. That session changed how I taught statistics.
I have taught all my other classes in the Problem-Based/Inquiry-Based approach for the past 8+ years, but for AP Stats, I had been kind of … boring. Lecture and book, lecture and book. Until that session with Floyd.
From that year on, all my stats classes have had labs and inquiry-based learning as an essential component. However, my students weren’t retaining or understanding the labs the way I felt they should be. They were struggling to make the connections to the prior topics and understand how the foundational knowledge was related to the inferential topics.
In class, I caught myself saying, “Think back … remember when … what do you think about …?” And I realized I was guiding them along in reflection, but wasn’t allowing them to do it themselves – where, of course, the most learning would occur.
So, I started “Lab Reflections.”
What I tell the students:
Everytime we conduct a lab or experiment in class, they need to submit a typed reflection paper the next day. This reflection paper should include:
- Describe the purpose of this lab – why did we do it? what was the goal?
- Give key terms and their definitions
- Describe lab procedures – include graphs
- Describe the prior topics this lab relates to, and how
- Conclusion (why do you think we did this?)
- Take away / reflection
What I do:
The first few labs/experiments we do, I give them templates with the prompts written out (and some scaffolding). Then, as the class progresses, I remove the scaffolds and require them to focus on what we are doing – and what they need to know – in real time.
At the end of each lab or experiment, the students must turn in a typed paper answering the above prompts.
Because there isn’t as much “ingrained” reflection and avenues toward metacognition in AP Statistics as there are in my other classes, students can have a harder time with reflection.
Due to the nature of the AP class, some students are completely grade driven. It’s hard to explain, but some of the high-achieving students figure out what you’re looking for and, almost regurgitate your words, rather than reflect. Be careful you don’t reward a student for parroting you, rather than making their own connections (…things I have learned the hard way…)