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How to teach science and improve student engagement

An award-winning approach to teaching science through itslearning

Oddvar Sunde teaches physics, mathematics and chemistry at Lister Upper Secondary School in Vest-Agder, Norway. He has used itslearning for approximately ten years – and during this time he has acquired valuable knowledge about how to use it efficiently. He has even won an award for his work, but what did he do to earn it?

Everyday teaching strategies

”I focus on the everyday use,” says Oddvar, who thinks it is important to engage the learners in order to get the most out of the learning platform. Simple things can make a difference, such as creating folders where learners can submit complete solutions to assignments. These folders have proved to be of invaluable help for fellow learners that are struggling with the subject.

Oddvar’s colleagues describe him as a solution-oriented teacher with advanced itslearning skills who sees possibilities rather than problems. On the basis of this, Oddvar was one of the winners of the Creative use of itslearning award at the 2010 Del & Bruk Conference in Sandvika, Norway.His learners are also allowed to assess their peers. If they have cooperated on a project, he gives them the opportunity to assess each other afterwards. The assessments are carried out anonymously with the survey tool – and Oddvar believes peer assessment encourages students to be more independent and motivated.

Practical work is published as assignments, often with learner-defined groups that let one learner hand in for the whole group. But for testing actual knowledge, Oddvar prefers the test tool.

“I think the interactive tests we create with the test tool are exciting because of the variation you can create with the many question types,” he explains. He likes to use free navigation – which means that the learners can navigate back and forth between the questions – and often uses penalties (a negative score) for incorrect answers, to prevent learners from trying to guess the correct answers.

Sharing resources with teachers and learners

“After tests I always provide feedback with a complete solution for the assignments,” says Oddvar. “When the school year is over, I gather these in a shared folder. This acts as a databank and other subject teachers can go in and use the content when they need it.”

Old tests are not forgotten. All tests are collected in a folder he calls “Test yourself folder”. Learners have full access, so they can take the tests as many times they like. This is a great method for students to repeat what has been taught during the year and proves invaluable when the exam is approaching.

He is also a valuable resource for other teachers – both at his own and other schools. He even let other teachers use the courses he creates.

External teaching tools

Oddvar says itslearning provides a very good overview because everything is gathered at one place. The many tools in itslearning – such as formula editor, tests, assignments and surveys – provide teachers with the aids they need to create good lessons. But if the built-in tools don’t suffice, he uses external tools that he integrates with itslearning. Like many other teachers, he uses Microsoft’s Excel, Word and PowerPoint on a regular basis. The forthcoming integration between Microsoft Office Web Applications and itslearning will make the everyday easier for Oddvar and other teachers who are dependent on Microsoft’s products and itslearning.

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