Developed and maintained by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.
Dr. LaBanca was recognized by eSchool News and Discovery as the 2006 National Outstanding Classroom Blogger for his blog, Applied Science Research
In Search of Creativity was a 2011 Edublog Awards Finalist in the "Best Teacher Blog" Category
Problem finding is the creative ability to define or identify a problem. The process involves consideration of alternative views or definitions of a problem that are generated and selected for further consideration. Problem finding requires individuals to set objectives, define purposes, decide what is interesting, and ultimately decide what they want to study.
Andragony offers an effective use of formative assessment 10/22/08
Do teachers understand? 1/31/08
An apparent paradox in idea and workload 8/29/07
The disenfranchised student, the suspect counselor, and a reflection on an Ed Tech’s perspective 6/1/07
A chat with Carol 5/2/07
Type I error is when we reject a true null hypothesis. Type II error is when we do not reject a false null hypothesis. Although we cannot eliminate the possibility of making an error in hypothesis testing, we can control the criterion for rejecting the null hypothesis . . .I’ve struggled with what this actually means and how to explain it well until a recent science fair experience.
At the fair, on the first day of judging, the scientific posters are evaluated without the students present. The top 25% are identified and these students are called back for finals. This year, eight of my ten students were called for finals. One of the eight was called just for a category award. That basically left three in the lower 75%. One was not surprising to me. His project “a” was weak, poorly conceived, and poorly presented. The other two, however, were a bit surprising.
As I was traveling home from a graduate stats review I was conducting, I had a student “b” call me very upset about her results in the science fair. She did not make finals. I was surprised, because she was a finalist the previous year and her project this year was far stronger. She had, only the week before, won first place at a different science symposium for her work. The other student, “g,” who had not made finals also placed first in her category at yet a third event. Student g failed to heed my advice about her poster – I informed her that it was convoluted and difficult to follow. Without her present, the judges might have a hard time evaluating it. And so it goes – that project was not selected as a fair finalist. However, that student was named a finalist for a special award category. Unfortunately b’s ride ended at that phone call. However, g ’s trip continued on. She wound up winning many special awards, even though she was not recognized as a finalist:
Xerox Computer Science Awards – MedallistUnited Technologies Corporation AwardQuinnipiac University ScholarshipConnecticut Academy for Education DeRocco Award for ExcellenceIEEE, Connecticut Section AwardMeyerand Young Woman Scientist AwardThe Howard Lessoff Award for Excellence
As g received these awards, I thought to myself. Surely a mistake was made in the preliminary judging. I know why it was made – the judges couldn’t get past the poster and see the great science that was there. And then it hit me . . .
This is a Type II error. B and g were false negatives. They should have been there but they weren’t. This was a pretty bad error, because there was no way to correct it. If a project was selected in the prelims but wasn’t good, it would have made it to finals, but would have been weeded out there – the false positive. Not as bad here, because a correction can take place at a later time.
Summary:The false positive – the student who was recognized, but should not have been.The false negative – the student who had the great project, but wasn’t recognized.
I have recently been considering what makes a great science research project great. There certainly have been some common characteristics – long term involvement, metacognitively recognizing that the problem is significant to an authentic audience, working with an experienced and well-versed mentor. However, after having a talk with Ed Schmidt, science research director at Brewster High School, I realized that there is a very critical component which differentiates a good project from a great project.
A good project often will observe and analyze phenomena. However a great project offers a novel solution to a problem.
This is a very important distinction. I have had absolutely wonderful projects that have been observations of phenomenon – Igor’s mummichog study, Drew’s mummichog study, Aman & Caitlin’s ribbed mussel studies – many of the wonderful environmental projects I have done have focused on observing phenomena and reporting environmental impact. These have been very successful, however, the trick to take it to the next level is the novel solution aspect – Dayton’s coliform detector, Rebecca’s neural nets, Sara’s microwave strategy, Wesley’s fuel cell. These projects have an important distinction. Their contribution is not only reporting authentic information, but also includes a potential method or solution to evaluating or fixing the problem.The challenge, therefore, is to get students thinking about new challenges and new solutions. Ones that are original, unique, and valuable.
Student: I think that the only difference is the medium from which they work. You know, a musician is working with an instrument – a musical instrument which is going to produce music. An artist works with paintbrushes. That’s their instrument that produces artwork. A scientist is working with a microscope, a telescope – and that’s producing the art of science. It’s just the medium for which they conduct their artwork.
Me: How are scientists different/similar from Journalists?
Although this is not the first big idea I’ve come up with, it is the one that I’ve worked on this morning. I have been compiling the student descriptive adjectives from my interviews on a spreadsheet. The question reads: