From 19:00 to 21:10, May 11, 2022, the Beijing Normal University SSI Learning Project team held an online seminar themed “The Practical Dilemma of SSI Learning Design and Implementation” via Tencent Rooms. Two keynote speakers, Kong Yi from Fujian Normal University and Zhang Shaoyi from Qunzhong Road Primary School in Fuzhou, shared their experience and thinking in the implementation process of the issue of “Waste Sorting and Disposal”. Lin Jing, head of the SSI-L project and director of Science Development Department of Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment for Basic Education Quality at Beijing Normal University, Zhang Tao, a Speical-Rank Teacher of Shandong Weihai Education and Teaching Research Institute, and Cao Chunhao, a Speical-Rank Teacher of Beijing Tongzhou District Teacher Research and Training Center, attended the meeting and offered guidance.
Based on the activity design and in-class practice of the “Waste Sorting and Disposal” issue, Kong Yi and Zhang Shaoyi introduced their thinking on the design and implementation of SSI teaching. After the basic introduction of this case, they focused on the analysis of three problems in SSI learning practice, which are: students have heated discussion and yet poor-quality statement; in-class debates often appear to be solo voices or one-sided views; students are enthusiastic to respond in class but less so towards after-school assignment.
Combined with their reflection on the teaching process, Kong Yi and Zhang Shaoyi further analyzed the possible reasons that have led to the three problems. First, the activity context may be distant from students’ existing cognition and experience and the questions under discussion are relatively broad, which is inadequate to offer scaffolding for students’ thinking development. Second, students may be accustomed to lecture-style classes, lack of independent thinking, and tend to follow others in group discussions. Third, the design of after-school homework fails to stipulate students’ interest, and there lacks monitoring, guidance and evaluation in the activity process.
Zhang Tao believes that those problems presented in this case implementation such as “one-sided view” and “unenthusiastic to assignment” are representative in in-class SSI-L implementation. These problems are closely related to each other, reflecting that it needs improvement in students’ depth and breadth of thinking, and new breakthroughs in activity design. It is suggested that the focus of problem solving should be on developing students’ interest and ability. The selection of social scientific issue should be close to students’ life, with a small and specific entry point. Teachers can start from students’ standpoint, find a practical perspective to delve into, and identify a specific controversial issue of interest to students. In teaching implementation, specific learning requirements should be put forward in a way that students can understand and accept, including both thinking requirements and activity requirements. In addition, it is necessary to increase time investment to the project and conduct in-depth research on all aspects of the topic, so as to encourage students to think through the concerned issue more comprehensively.
Cao Chunhao commented on this case design from the perspective of motivating questions. He pointed out that the motivating questions of SSI-L should be central, contradictory, controversial and argumentative. The reason why students do not have strong interest that motivating questions are not sufficiently central and controversial, which cannot fully stimulate students’ participation. Therefore, it’s important to raise some complex questions that can be answered from multiple perspectives. In the process of obtaining answers, students need to use a variety of methods to collect evidence and make arguments, so as to realize the development of scientific thinking. At the same time, it should be noted that there is a logical relationship between motivating questions and sub-questions, in which sub-questions should serve motivating questions. Taking the issue of “Waste Sorting and Disposal” as an example, the motivating question can be “Whether to build a waste incineration power plant?”, and the sub-questions can be set as “What kinds of waste (waste sorting) can be burned?” “Is the burning process and result (waste disposal) environmentally friendly?”.
Lin Jing suggested that the design of SSI Learning activities is actually a course construction process. Teachers need to realize the internal consistency between “ideological curriculum”, “institutional curriculum” and “experiential curriculum” from a systematic perspective. In activity design, teachers should identify an appropriate issue and think about what students can learn from the issue, so as to construct an ideal curriculum. At the in-class teaching stage, teachers should pay attention to how to make learning truly happen, support and continuously adjust the activity plan with effective teaching strategies, and allow students to have a generative learning process and experience. In course implementation, teachers should also pay attention to whether the activity objectives are conducted onto students, that is, whether the learning objectives are achieved or not. This also requires effective evaluation to monitor and increase the effectiveness of “experiential course” for students. Lin further pointed out that the primary prerequisite to teachers for students to truly learn is to study their cognition, carrying out SSI Learning design and teaching from students’ standpoint.