On December 15, 2021, from 7:30-10:00 pm, the SSI-L project team in middle schools held an online seminar via Tencent Rooms to discuss each school’s selection of SSI issues and curriculum implementation progress. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Zhang Tao, the head of the middle school team, and attended by subject guidance experts, contact persons and key teacher members from partner schools.
Jiang Qianqian from Shichang Middle School in Weihai, Shandong presented the school’s project, “whether it’s suitable for Weihai to develop tidal power generation?”. The teachers’ team incorporate a number of multi-disciplinary teachers, and the 11th-grade students participate into the learning process. The project designs 9 motivating questions based on the five-star map. At present, students have gained some understanding of the status quo of power generation methods in Weihai, the comparison between different power generation methods and relevant government policies, and have their fieldwork at to the old power station site. At the later stage, the school plans to develop in-depth curriculum categories that allow students of each grade have corresponding research topics. The teachers’ team will continue to further develop the existing topics, take in combination with the in-class teaching reform and group cooperative teaching that the school has been promoting, and eventually form a set of inquiry teaching model that conforms to the school’s education philosophy and the actual needs of students, which can help better foster virtue through education.
Li Yuan from Longyue Experimental Middle School of Beijing No. 11 School pointed out that this topic has regional characteristics, which is conducive to students’ discussion. The content matches the knowledge level of middle school students with suitable level of complexity. Meanwhile Li wanted to know how teachers build up the framework for students. In response, Jiang said that teachers will provide students with some pre-class materials for reference, and students can also search for information on the Internet to support their arguments in class.
Zhang Tao affirmed that the selection of this topic conforms to the various characteristics of SSI, and the content design is innovative. He pointed out that the feasibility of those activities is the key issue that the project team needs to consider when carrying out the course, and the team teachers need to support the smooth development of the activities with sufficient social resources.
Gu Ting from Xi’an Aviation No. 618 Middle School introduced the design and development of the school’s SSI-L issue “Tourism Resources Development and Environmental Protection in Xi’an – Taking the Grand Tang Mall as an Example”. This issue incorporates the local social context and discusses how to balance economic development and environmental protection in the development of tourism resources and help students establish a better idea of man-nature relationship, based on the development status of the Grand Tang Mall. Regarding activity design, this issue first introduces relevant background knowledge to students. Students will then make field trips to identify existing problems in the development of the Grand Tang Mall. After that they will carry out physical experiments, and have debates, role-playing and other activities based on the experimental results. Eventually they will come up with a solution. At present, based on the results of the preliminary investigation, the team plans to carry out scientific experiments of acoustics and optics based on the physics curriculum standards, so as to provide a basis for the debate in the next stage.
Jiang Qianqian from Weihai Shichang Middle School pointed out that this topic combines the local characteristics of Xi’an and is close to students’ daily life, which can stimulate their interest. Different sections are also well connected. Jiang hoped to learn more about how teachers cultivate students’ conception of the balance between tourism industry and environmental protection. Gu responded at first, students will collect a lot of data and do their own investigations before class. Teachers will guide them on how to prepare claims and counterclaims based on the data and experimental results. In the end students will be divided into different groups and debate on different issues.
Zhang Tao affirmed the controversial nature of the topic. The issue is closely related to real life and the local context. Students can actually relate themselves to this issue. The design is also logical. At the same time, Zhang Tao raised two questions: first, what are the motivating questions; second, what roles do students play in the activities? In response, Gu said the driving question is the controversial point of this topic, “how to balance economic development and environmental protection?”. The roles played by students include traders, government officials, tourists, sanitation workers, etc. They will take different perspectives to understand problems in the development of the night-time economy and propose corresponding solutions.
Li Weilin from Beijing Yuying School introduced the school’s issue design, “Campus Innovation Expo”. Li pointed out based on the preliminary research, the project team found that students have various ideas on the forms of museum visit, and the types of museums they hope to visit are also very diverse. Therefore, the project team expects students will bring expo onto the campus in a creative way and set up a “Campus Innovation Expo”. The implementation process includes task discussion, individual visits during the winter holiday to make up themes around museum, the design of creative campus reproduction of museum resources, and organizing groups by museum types to carry out activities. Li indicated that at present, the team plans out three types of activities, including the creative reproduction of cultural and historical museum exhibits, the reproduction of scientific experiment experience activities in the museum and the creative display of museum.
Mu Shaofan from the Rui’an Affiliated School of Beijing Foreign Studies University suggested that the project has made full use of the local resources in Beijing and anticipated that it would lead to good outcomes. He also expressed his hope to learn more about the controversial points and motivating question on this issue, as well as the design of the five-star map. Zhang Tao said the idea is very innovative, but this course operates more like a project-based learning activity rather than an SSI-Learning activity as per features of the activity. This issue displays openness, but lacks social, scientific, and controversial points, and thus needs to be further revised in the future. In the meantime, Zhang believes that the school team should first understand the definition and connotation of SSI learning, and clarify that the main actor of SSI learning is supposed to be students rather than teachers. Specific designs should be carried out after fully understanding of the project.
Xie Yijun from the Beijing Economic Development Zone School of the High School Affiliated to Renmin University, shared the school’s issue design, “Can Beijing develop the chip industry?”. This issue is based on the policy background of government’s priority of chip production, and relies on the geographical advantage of the school’s proximity to chip R&D companies. In terms of the ideas of issue design, teachers will guide students to first understand the importance of chips, then the bottleneck problems China have, and finally to identify the technical difficulties in R&D and think about whether Beijing should develop its chip industry. Specific activity design includes: gaining knowledge related to chip production through literature reading, parent lectures and field visits in the early stage; in the mid-term, understanding the technical difficulties chip production through practical operations such as making integrated circuits and dismantling used mobile phones; and in the later stage understanding the environmental pollution and safety issues in the chip industry through field visits and questionnaires.
Ji Qingqing of Jiefang Road School in Linfen City, Shanxi Province affirmed that the project gives full play to its geographical advantages and is closely related to the demand of economic development. At the same time, Ji also raised three questions: first, the star map based on the issue design has not yet been presented; second, whether the issue is too difficult for middle school students, and the existing activities may not be able to support discussion around the issue; and third, the issue is not controversial given the country’s existing policies. Xie responded that the team will further improve and optimize the star map in the later stage. And on the implementation of activities, the team will have school-enterprise cooperation and encourage students to have an in-depth understanding of chip knowledge by means of internships in those companies.
Zhang Tao pointed out that the topic is very distinctive, with highlights in design. Regarding the specific issue design, Zhang suggested that the topic should focus on one specific motivating question to increase its controversial value. Meanwhile he pointed out that the significance of chips can be used as content for students to learn about the issue’s scientific value, instead of demanding them grasp everything, and that students should understand the international situation that our country’s chip industry is restrained by others. Based on these two points, students think about the necessity of developing the chip industry. In addition, students should also take technology, urban planning, and talent pool into account, to access whether the city has necessary conditions for chip industry development. Zhang emphasized that existing relevant policies do not mean that the issues are not controversial, and the process of questioning existing policies can cultivate students’ query spirit and critical thinking.
Yu Dongsheng from the Experimental Middle School of Nanhai New Area, Weihai, Shandong Province shared the school team’s thinking on “the setting of motivating questions under virtual scenarios of SSI”, and introduced an example — “the construction of tidal gate on the Xiangshui River”. Yu pointed out that SSI learning research should build up a virtual environment on the basis of real situation to stimulate students’ learning by role-play. In the previous research on “is the development of the Nanhai New Area a reason for clams’ reduction?”, the team found that there are too many factors involved in this issue. Therefore, at this stage, the team focuses on small issues and sets up the motivating question as “Will you build a tidal gate for the Xiangshui River?” In the investigation process, students will assume different social roles and make judgments based on their respective positions. In the next stage, teachers will guide students to discover the issues around them, and adopt appropriate methods to interrogate and solve the issues in scientific ways.
Liang Zhongxian from Beijing 101 Middle School Affiliated to China University of Mining and Technology pointed out that the design of activities around this issue is very clever, and the ways in which students take different roles in discussion can encourage them to pay more attention to ecological environment and enhance social participation. Liang suggested that a series of small issues could be refined under the big context, “is the development of the Nanhai New Area a reason for clams’ reduction?”, to organize a progressive design of issues and activities.
Zhang Tao emphasized that it is necessary for front-line teachers to study the basic concepts of SSI learning. Understanding the definitions and characteristics of related concepts is the basis for developing high-quality SSI-L activities. Meanwhile he pointed out that although virtual scenarios can prompt students to take themselves into different roles and increase their participation, it will also lead to biased decision-making that lacks objectivity. It is contrary to the original intent that SSI-L encourages students to incorporate different perspectives and make comprehensive decisions. He also suggested that in these activities, students can assume multiple roles to make suggestions, so as to enhance their comprehensive thinking.
Peng Menghua, a subject guidance expert and a master-class teacher of the Second Affiliated Middle School of Beijing Normal University, highly affirmed the efforts made by each school in the design of SSI activities, and commented on the five schools. Peng pointed out that the issue selection of tidal power generation in Weihai Shichang Middle School has controversial value. The school has also polished and refined the content, which is close to students’ daily life. The issue selection and activity design should be acknowledged. For Xi’an Aviation No. 618 Middle School, the issue of economy-environment balance also has points of controversy, close to daily life, and meanwhile is a social issue. But as the Grand Tang Mall is a place of night-time activities, it might be difficult to conduct specific on-site investigation. Beijing Yuying School’s Campus Innovation Expo is more like social survey, with relatively scattered content, so the topic needs further refinement based on the grasp of characteristics SSI issue. For the Beijing Economic Development Zone School of the High School Affiliated to the Renmin University of China, the issue on Beijing’s chip industry development involves complicated scientific knowledge, which might be too difficult for middle school students and thus lacks feasibility. The physics teachers may not have sufficient knowledge reserves to provide guidance for the students. It is recommended to focus on the problems around students in issue selection. Wei Nanhai New Area Experimental Middle School has narrowed down the topic to improve the feasibility of learning. Such practice is worthy of recognition and learning by other school teams.
Lin Jing, head of the SSI-L project and director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment for Basic Education Quality, summarized the meeting. Lin pointed out that Weihai Shichang Middle School needs to consider further where points of “discussion” are in SSI learning, what problems will the development of tidal power generation bring to Weihai, so as to upgrade the idea of SSI learning around energy issues. Xi’an Aviation No. 618 Middle School’s topic is innovative. Its research should closely follow the local government’s policies and think about how to better develop the Grand Tang Mall. The project team needs to further consider how to reflect the scientific nature of the topic. Beijing Yuying School’s Campus Innovation Expo is not an SSI issue, so the school team should further consider the characteristics of SSI learning, the motivating question, and developing SSI issue within the context of innovation expo. The chip industry issue raised by Beijing Economic Development Zone School of the High School Affiliated to the Renmin University of China involves science and technology innovation, technological innovation of factories, and the advancement of information technology. These topics might go beyond the scope of students’ discussion. The school team can use the chip industry as background and combine its regional characteristics to find a controversial entry point that fits into students’ knowledge and cognitive level.
Nanhai New Area Experimental Middle School’s proposal to create a virtual situation based on its issue of building tidal gate on the Xiangshui River is not very appropriate, because on the one hand, SSI-L emphasizes learning in real situations, and on the other hand, the virtual situation Yu referred to mainly relies on students’ role-play created on the basis of reality. It allows students to discuss issues from the perspectives of different groups, but that’s not equivalent to a virtual environment that simulates real situation. In the end, Lin emphasized that the SSI issue selection must first ensure its scientific and social aspects, and must incorporate the local reality. Only in this way, can it be meaningful to further integrate interdisciplinary content. All partner schools should pay more attention to and reflect on the star map design, and all objectives should be refined from the perspectives of being evaluable feasible.
This seminar has shown substantial materials, and each school’s sharing and exchange reflects the project team’s thinking and exploration. On such basis, it is hoped that all schools will incorporate SSI learning public lectures, further refine their SSI-L activity design, and take the design and optimization of SSI learning as the long-term project.