Teaching Brainstorming #VCE11

Teaching Brainstorming Well after the previous post, I thought I would try posting a teaching planning dilemma and see if the internetz have any suggestions. I’m trying to design an activity for a first year chemistry course that will be worth 10 % of a module mark (students do 8 modules per academic year, 4 per semester if that helps evaluate the size of the task, 10 % of a module represents approximately 15 hours of effort). My material is on inorganic main group chemistry which is astonishingly wide as a subject but with plenty scope for individuality amongst students. I’d like to incorporate some kind of activity to encourage the students to research an aspect of main group chem that they find particularly interesting, and present that research in a manner that is engaging to A-level (final year high school students). I would like to include a substantial element of self- and peer-assessment in the mark scheme, with me having the minority share of the marks but with moderating power if required. I would like the end product to represent about 5 minutes of something: video, screencast, podcast, oral presentation, popular science style article, something else. I estimate that articles should be around 600 words long for that time frame, the rest could be timed but with the wordcount for a script as a guide for length. The problem with the above description is that it is too unclear to put in our module planning process – it sounds like it will be badly organised, and with so many different options for presenting the outcome of the research (literature based), marking inconsistencies could be a real problem. I wish to give the students the opportunity to present information in a manner that suits them. I wish to give the students the opportunity to research a topic picked by them (probably approved by me). I would like the students to be heavily involved in the assessment of the results but don’t know whether to use mixed media groups, or to group all the results of one type together for marking. I would like the assignment and assessment criteria to be valid and reasonable – not unclear and confusing as the above may make it sound. So I don’t know whether to restrict the activity to two main media types, for example oral presentation or short essay. Or whether to get everyone to do a podcast. Or whether to ask the students to submit a suitable topic and the media they want to do it in. And I’m not sure how to resource such an activity – I can find a handful of computer microphones for recording screencasts and podcasts (and there are free or trial versions of software or websites on which to do so). I can’t suppy video cameras although I understand most mobile phones are capable of reasonable video. One more thing: there probably aren’t any timetabled hours for watching the products of this activity – the self- and peer- evaluation may well have to be done through the virtual learning environment via blogs or forums. I thought about a time breakdown of 7 hours research, 5 hours producing and editing the product, 3 hours peer- and self-assessment of product. I haven’t waded into the education literature yet, but will do so over the next few weeks. Does anyone have any ideas, suggestions, comments that they’d be willing to share?