Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Prove It!

Last year, none of my Selected options had enough enrolments for the courses to run in Term One, 2017. Instead, I was asked if I wanted to take a class of "Proof", a course about forensic science and New Zealand law. Fortunately for me, and sadly for two other staff members who did the original course design and brief, there was a timetable clash which meant I was being offered the chance to lead one of the two classes of Proof.


A lot of planning went into getting this course ready and making it feel authentic, including writing a script for the first crime scene, setting up a crime scene, and preparing the evidence for the students to use. Some amazing colleagues gave up their own time to help with staged interviews, to plant evidence leading to them as suspects, and even to pop into class to be grilled by the students.

Today was my first 100 minute block, and all of the effort was worth it. I can honestly say that was one of the most invigourating, enjoyable "lessons" that I have ever "taught". Not only were the students engaged, they were challenged and having fun. Word must have got out, because we had a lot of visitors during the lesson...

It was a huge relief to see that our crime and available evidence is not too easy to solve. They may only be Year 9, but these students have already exceeded my expectations in other things in the first few weeks. Luckily, we have written in enough stumbling blocks and misdirection to keep them engaged, entertained and driven to succeed. They have been asking questions that I never considered when writing the script. Overachievers!!

We are very lucky. This is a Selected course, so students opt into it. We also have two uninterrupted 100 minute blocks on subsequent days (Monday and Tuesday for one class, and Thursday and Friday for my class). We have a small roll in a big school, so can close off a lab to set up as a crime scene. Only the last of those things will change in the future, and it is definitely not an insurmountable barrier.

I am buzzing at the moment, more than I ever have after a lesson in 17 years of teaching. I am genuinely excited about what lies ahead in Proof...

The grand plan goes something like this for "Proof 1.0":
Week One: Use evidence to solve a crime scene - Crime Scene #1. The evidence has been collected for you and suspects interviewed. Now use this information and your own observations to create a timeline and deduce "whodunit".
Week Two: Reflect on Crime Scene #1. What went well? What did not? Reveal the true story and reflect on our own conclusions and assumptions.
Week Three: Learn about some forensic and other crime-solving techniques via online games. Students will decide which skills they want to become experts in. We will seek out experts (and do some actual teaching and experiments, of course) to help students become competent at, for example, collecting and analysing fingerprints, or interviewing suspects, or collecting and analysing fibres. The students decide, we guide them to those who can help...
Weeks Four-Six: Learning skills and proving competence and/or proficiency in these skills. During this time, I will be writing Crime Scene #2, based upon the skills the students have elected to learn.
Week Seven: Crime Scene #2
Week Eight: Reflect upon Crime Scene #2. The class then plan and set up Crime Scene #3. This may be a Murder Mystery evening for teachers, parents and/or friends. It may be something completely different. The students get to choose how to celebrate the amazing learning they have achieved.

We will be offering learning experiences beyond the obvious scientific observation and analytical skills. "Proving" is tougher than "knowing". Writing convincing arguments. Articulating convincing points of views. Weighing up the value of evidence. Formulating questions for interrogations. Using evidence to catch people out on a lie. Teamwork. Resilience (there will be deception in Crime Scene #2, so students will get frustrated). Science. English. Social Sciences.

Then, we are looking at where we go from here: Proof 2.0. What will the next level of course look like? When will it be offered? Just for Year 10? For any student from any year level who has completed Proof 1.0? Will the timetable allow for that? Should it? Will Proof 2.0 provide opportunities for students to earn NCEA credits? Should it?

This is what teaching can be like. This is what learning can be like. And I get to do it all again tomorrow...

2 comments:

  1. Why the question around ncea credits? Focus more on the learning, having year 9 and 10 together allows for the sharing of the knowledge, developing new thinking. Have fun with the learning.

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    1. Thanks for your question. Shall we just say that I'm being "Agent Provocateur" a little... :)

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