Biology and geography Individually, collaboratively and freely (CC BY -SA)

The main goal is to learn 21st century skills

The new curricula highlights on 21st century skills or so called transversal competence skills in the teaching of subjects. The aims of transversal competences are

  • thinking and learning to learn
  • cultural competence, interaction and expression
  • taking care of oneself and others, managing daily activities, safety
  • multiliteracy
  • ICT competence
  • competence for the world of work, entrepreneurship
  • participation and influence, building the sustainable future

So, in biology and geography too the main goal is to learn these 21st century skills or transversal competence skills - not just contents of biology and geography.

Digital collage of species

Teacher designs the learning

Before the pupils start studying - the teacher - design subject entities (learning modules). I collect exercises and works – learning tasks - that are relevant to transversal competences and basic content and skills of biology or geography. I collect videos, animations and web pages too which pupils can watch, read and learn at home or in school. Entities include also suggestions of different methods of learning and learning environment, so pupils can choose the method or environment they want.

Learn in different ways – the choice is yours!
  • Concentrate on reading the text, examine the pictures and discuss the topic in small groups.
  • Teach and help others.
  • Make a concept or mind map.
  • Do the exercises in your textbook.
  • Follow the media and collect stories that interest you.
  • Make an excursion and collect materials to study.
  • Watch a document or video and take notes.
  • Make your own teaching video or animation.
  • Share the results of your work (e.g.Facebook, Instagram)
  • Create photo collages with captions.
  • Interview and take notes.
  • Prepare an oral presentation or tach the class something.
  • Etc.

Collect all your works at the same place and build a portfolio of your learning.

When learning starts, I give and explain these entities to pupils. It is important that pupils understand the goals – not just exercises or other works. In the beginning I shortly introduce the topic of learning (entities) and try to wake up pupil’s interests. I try to avoid long lectures. Pupils find the theory in their textbooks or on the internet.

Entities can be like concept maps with contents, exercises, tasks, videos, animations, web pages, suggestions of learning methods and learning environments.

Biology of 7th grAde - for example:
Study skills
  • I can use terms that are characteristic of biology.
  • I understand cause and effect relationships.
  • I can use appropriate research equipment.
  • I can make small scale studies and report the findings.
  • I can study individually at my own pace.
  • I can study collaboratively.
  • I show effort and take responsibility of my learning.
  • I am able to use ICT.
  • I can process and analyze information and present it to others in a meaningful form.
  • Etc.
Organisms and biodiversity
  • I know the principles of taxonomy.
  • I can classify and compare organisms.
  • I recognize different species.
  • I can make a digital collection of organisms.
  • I can describe the structure of different organisms.
  • Etc.
Basic phenomena of life
  • I can describe basic phenomena of life.
  • I can describe the effect of genome and environment on organisms.
  • I can tell how organisms have evolved.
  • I can grow plants.
Sustainable living
  • I know the principles of sustainable living.
  • I can describe the factors that contribute to the wellbeing of animals.
  • I can describe sustainable food production.
  • I can describe how biological knowledge can be used in everyday life.
  • Etc.
Pupils can learn for example in the classroom, in the school’s lobby, in the schoolyard or nature and in virtual environments.
Forest, virtual environments (documents, videos etc.), laboratories and visits are different learning environments.
Technology plays significant role in every lesson: pupils can use their own phones and tablets and computers.

Pupils can learn individually, collaboratively and freely

So, pupils can choose the exercises, works, learning methods and learning environment and so on. They can learn in groups together with each other or at own pace. In this way the learning is at the same time individual and collaborative.

Within one entity (learning module) pupils can learn at their on speed. But I control the time which can be used in one entity.

Fast and motivated pupils might complete many exercises and works, while the slower ones might only complete one or two exercises or works.

Every pupil can learn in the way they want. Quite freely. The Teacher does not lecture a lot but instead helps groups or single pupils one by one.
Pupils can also choose the amount of homework. However, I recommend that pupils at least read the textbook and watch some videos related to topics.
Thus, through their own choices, pupils learn different skills and build their own paths of learning.

Short lectures simplify the content

Teacher’s lectures are short and “simple”. I do not lecture all theory. Pupils find the theory in their textbooks or on the internet.

The focus and main goals of the lectures are

  • wake up pupils’ interest
  • key issues
  • build up entities and phenomena
  • cause and effect relationships and
  • clarification of issues and content (e.g. explaining issues that are most difficult to understand).

Learning assessment methods are diverse

The curriculum describes what kind of competence is required for an assessment grade of 8 (good) in every subject in 9th grade. So in biology and geography too.

In biology and geography there is no final exam. Instead of it there are many other ways to measure pupils' learning.

There are several checkpoints or tests inside and between subject entities. These are tests which are self-assessed by the pupil. In that way tests include a self-evaluation on how well pupil has achieved goals and understands the basic contents of biology and geography. The pupils can take the test again – and again. Until they are satisfied.

Methods for assessment:

  • observing the learning process
  • evaluative discussions
  • self and peer evaluations
  • evaluation of exercises, tasks: digital collages of different organisms, research, laboratories and reports, concept maps, studybook exercises, oral presentations, etc.
  • questionnaires, tests and exams: species recognition tests, cheat if you want – tests / open books exams, group exams, etc.

Evaluative discussions include self and peer evaluations

There is no big final exams in biology and geography. Instead we discuss pupils’ learning in small groups. These evaluative discussions are held between learning of entities. In these situations every pupils can show all the works (skills) they have done. At the same time they can tell the teacher what they have learned (contents). Pupils can concentrate on their own strengths and issues that they are interested in.

Evaluative discussion
The basis of the evaluation of learning is of course the aims of the subject.
With this kind of table pupils can evaluate what they have learned and how well.

In the evaluation discussion, the pupils and teacher together estimate every student’s learning. In that way evaluative discussion includes self and peer evaluations too.

Then we discuss pupil’s own goals: what kind of grade they are trying to achieve and what they are prepared to do for that in the future.

Smaller and shorter evaluative discussions are held almost every lesson when the teacher is guiding pupils learning on their own or in small groups.
My way - summary:
I design my teaching. I Build entities for example into concept maps. I give these maps to pupils.
I make sure that pupils surely knoW the aims of learning. Skills and contents.
Pupils can learn like they want. Individyally, collaboravively and Quite freelY.
I try to minimize my lectures.
EvaluatioN discussions give the direction oF learning. And teaching as well.
Created By
Rita Keskitalo

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