Educational Inputs vs Outcomes
Sep 18th, 2013 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I was meeting with a medical doctor last week who asked me about my profession.  I expressed that I was an educator working on STEM programming with teachers and students across the state.  He asked the off-color question “Do you do that education stuff where you make kids feel good about themselves?”  I didn’t even hesitate to say no.

The programs I run focus on rigor and increasing achievement.  Thinking about it more, I think we work on engagement (a.k.a. “feel good”) as an outcome, NOT an input.  This really made me think more about the design of research.  When conducting studies you need an independent variable and a dependent variable.  To me, engagement is a dependent factor – what should happen with quality instruction.  I wonder if other educators consider it an input.  Kids thinking, working hard, problem solving, collaborating, asking and answering hard questions .  .. .  that’s the essence of good engagement.  Good instruction, success for students, meaningful and relevant assessments .. .  . that leads to success.

Identifying ideas . . .
Aug 18th, 2013 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I am preparing for a workshop tomorrow and will include a session to teach how to correct/comment on papers electronically.  Looking for a sample of student work, I came across Jon Morrow’s post “Seven Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School”  Jon has hit the nail on the head with #2 when he talks about PROBLEM FINDING.  There it is in a different domain, identified, as I often do as a necessary process that is often avoided in education.  Cheers to you, Jon!

2. Expecting someone to hand you a writing prompt

Looking through the eyes of an educator, I can see why telling students what to write about would be useful. You have a bunch of students who couldn’t care less about your curriculum, and making them write a paper about the assigned readings is a great way to force them to read the material.

Makes sense . . . but it doesn’t make it any less damaging.

One of the biggest challenges of writing is figuring out what to write. Whether you’re writing a memo, an article, or a letter to your mother, the process is always the same: you start out with a blank page, and you decide what to put on it.

Sure, that involves considering what your audience will want to read, but no one but you makes the final decision of what to put on the page. That act of deciding is what writing is all about.

Preliminary Judging at the CT Science Fair
Mar 15th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Tuesday, March 13, marked my 12th year participating in the Connecticut Science Fair.  Although my first 10 years brought me the joy of my own students presenting their work, the past two have found me in a new role – judging projects.  Since my leave from the classroom, this is probably the one time of year when I most miss not having high school students.  Their and my collaboration to create meaningful projects, get them done, and present them on posters was a highlight of the year for me.

However this year brought me a new highlight. I was asked to head up a new category: the Urban School Challenge.  As part of my responsibilites, I had to recruit judges and I wound up inviting some that have real significance to me.

First, was Ann – Ann was my high school biology teacher.  She was the woman who inspired me to pursue a vocation in science.  I still look fondly back to my 11th grade year when she mentored me in a year-long independent science project.

Second, was Steve – Steve is a regular commenter here, so I am guessing he will probably read this post at some point.  Steve was a student in my graduate class in Methods in Science class.  A “second-careerer,” Steve was perhaps my most thoughtful and forward thinking student in his class.  I think he really understood the value of having students pursue research, and I was so pleased that he got the opportunity to see the process first-hand.

Third, was Tyler – Tyler, now an undergrad at the University of Connecticut majoring in Computer Science was one of my best research students. He participated in these fairs, now works as an intern for me, and most importantly got a chance to see the fair from the “other side.”

For me, it was a somewhat surreal 3-generation reunion.  Most importantly we were there helping to form the future scientists and engineers of the country.

You’ll never know when a former student “drops” in
Jan 7th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My former science research student, Drew, is a cadet in the Air Force Academy.  He recently made a skydiving splash, landing in the Orange Bowl.  See him below.  Thanks to his Dad, Fred for sharing with me.  Drew was a talented young scientist, winning the Science Horizons Science Fair and the Science Horizons Science Symposium.  He earned a trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair in 2006 and the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in 2007.  As a teacher, it is always exciting to see where my students land next.

(Sorry about the speed – the upload to YouTube sped up the film)

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