To provide practical guidance for the teaching practice of schools in SSI-L project and promote exchanges and cooperation between them, the middle school group of SSI-L project held the third online seminar via TencentMeeting from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on November 25th, 2020. Three schools gave reports on their project progress, including Wanghaiyuan Middle School in the Weihai City of Shandong Province, Shichang Branch School of Weihai Hi-tech Zone No.1 Middle School, and Experimental Middle School of Jiancaoping District, Taiyuan City of Shanxi Province. Based on their reports, this meeting also encouraged other partner schools to get involved and share their ideas. Presided by Zhang Tao, Head of the Middle School Section of SSI-L project and Director of Middle School Teaching and Research Office of Weihai Education and Teaching Research Center of Shandong Province, this meeting was attended by more than 30 people, including backbone teachers from partner schools of the middle school section, as well as heads and leading teachers from other sections.
Qiao Ranjie, a teacher from Wanghaiyuan Middle School in Weihai, reported on the implementation of their school research about the relative merits of vegetation dyes and chemical dyes for clothes dyeing. The school carried out various forms of scientific activities in the curriculum, like decocting dyes and dyeing in traditional patterns, and encouraged students to keep reflecting throughout the whole process. As the courses carried forwards, students who participated in the SSI-L project began to show serious and practical characteristics. In addition, Qiao also introduced the course designs of other three issues they are going to research: is it true or not that people in coastal areas better not eat iodized salt? Is the sea-view house built on reclaimed land the most beautiful one? And last, the past and present of shared bikes in Weihai.
In response to the report of Wanghaiyun Middle School, Lu Te, a teacher from Sandun Middle School of Hangzhou gave her comments. She affirmed the“home-school collaboration” in this project and believed that students had become more open-minded and positive in SSI Learning. Teacher Yang Jun from Guizhou Normal University put forward her advice on what to teach about vegetation dyeing and thought it’s good to introduce ethnic minority culture to enhance students’ awareness of national unity. She also said that as SSI in essence is an open question itself, there’s no need to find a definite answer. Yu Dongsheng, the teacher from the Experimental Middle School of Nanhai New District in Weihai had an in-depth disccussion with Yu Lianhua, pricinpal of Wanghaiyuan Middle School over the controversial aspects of this issue, and rasied the question about “how to determine the depth and breadth of SSI Learning.”
Afterward, Mr. Cui Wenhao from Shichang Branch School of Weihai Hi-tech Zone No.1 Middle School, reported on the issue of “whether it’s necessary to reclaim land from the sea for Xiaoshi Island in Weihai”. This issue is closely related to student life and is quite worthwhile to investigate. Mr. Cui introduced the top-level design for this issue in a star chart and presented how to put it into practice in terms of activities like field trips or cost-benefit calculations under the guidance of this chart. The whole plan is highly structured.
Mr. Yu Dongsheng from the Experimental Middle School of Nanhai New District in Weihai raised the question of “whether Xiaoshi Island, for now, is taking any measures for sea reclamation” and had a thorough discussion with Mr. Cui. Besides, Mr. Yu also asked three practical and SSI-Learning-oriented questions: 1) though social issues don’t have to give definite answers, should they be able to give suggestions for social decisions? 2) How are students’ abilities reflected in SSI courses? 3) What’s the model of SSI courses? These questions have high disscussion value. Mr. Zhang Tao responded to Mr. Yu’s questions. For the second question, Mr. Zhang said that SSI Learning is not targeted at problem-solving, but has its value in encouraging students to stand by or against a certain issue, therefore, based on facts, to develop their own ideas by scientific thinking. For the fourth question, Mr. Zhang thought that there’s no fixed models for SSI-Learning, but basically, it starts with a proposal for one issue, ends with a wrap-up discussion on this issue from all aspects in the star chart, and develops in students’ unceasing exploration and swinging attitudes for this issue.
Finally, Yang Shufang, a teacher from the Experimental School of Jiancaoping District in Taiyuan, Shanxi, gave a detailed report on their research of “the future of plastic track”. In the activities carried out, students used their math knowledge to calculate the economic investment of plastic track and conducted a field investigation on the biodiversity of the playground, making rich achievements. Ms. Yang also shared the problems they had met: first of all, the seventh and eighth grade students are relatively weak in knowledge reserve while the ninth grade students don’t have sufficient time to do the research, so it’s hard for them to decide which section to learn; secondly, there‘s a time conflict between students’ schoolwork and their second classroom activities.
For this problem, Mr. Zhang Tao advised that SSI courses involve professional and extensive knowledge, which is far beyond students’ previous knowledge reserve, therefore, we should consider less about how much they know, but instead, encourage students to use directly the knowledge they’ve already mastered and further equip them with the knowledge they haven’t gotten. There’s no need to go deep into all of them. Ms. Yang Jun said that SSI Learning has different training goals from STEM-Teaching or other scientific education methods, so teachers need to change their views and pay more attention to the unique target of SSI Learning to improve students’ scientific literacy and moral standards. Bing Jie, a teacher from Beijing Normal University, thought that teachers should strengthen their understanding of SSI Learning, making the ultimate goal of teaching return to the goal-achieving of scientific education. She also emphasized that teachers need to further clarify the teaching goals of scientific courses and know the supplementary role SSI plays in providing contexts, therefore to make SSI a powerful engine in boosting the development of scientific education.
Lin Jing, SSI-L project leader and director of the Science Education Quality Development Department of China Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment for Basic Education Quality, concluded tonight’ seminar from the following aspects. Firstly, for the question of whether SSI courses should have a unified model, she pointed out that though there are no fixed methods for teaching, it’s still necessary for teachers to explore the good models of SSI-L in practice to help the promotion of courses. Secondly, regarding the question of whether SSI is controversial, she said that the issue proposed should tackle a real problem, and it should be considered what kind of learning goals students need to achieve in the course in order to assess the educational value of the issue. Thirdly, to address the question of SSI-L’s depth and breadth, she thought that deciding the issue value should come first, then comes to the accurate decision of the learning depth and breadth of SSI, in the combination with learning sections and specific curriculum standards. The vision should be broad and the activities should be profound. Last of all, in response to whether students need to propose solutions, she stressed that after SSI-L, students should come up with their own answers based on “mutual understanding and common consensus”. SSI, in nature, is not restricted to one definite answer, so students have to understand and compromise with each other, the key to which process lies in the accurate positioning of the driving problem and it series sub-problems.
This middle school group seminar further explored the problems occurring in the implementation of SSI-L of each partner school, focused on the essence of SSI, and determined the general direction of curriculum design and development. Moreover, it enhanced the exchanges between schools in the middle school section, laying a solid foundation for them to learn from and cooperate with each other in the future.