Aurelia Burlan “School of continuous learning!”
Please read the success story
Each year, almost 1000 students study in the school ‘George Emil Palade’. They come from different backgrounds, with parents ranging from highly to rather modestly educated people, but who pay a lot of attention to their children’s education. On the other hand, there are some students whose parents are divorced or departed, in which case, greater care is required from teachers. This entitles us to call our institution ‘a school of diversity’.
Aurelia Burlan has been a teacher of chemistry and physics for 32 years. She graduated from the Faculty of Chemistry in Iaşi and Bucharest. After that, she specialized in mathematics, which helps her integrate maths into her physics and chemistry classes. She also teaches chemistry at the Centre of Excellence of Prahova County. “I have always insisted on connecting theory to practice during my classes, so that I can answer the students’ question: ‘What do I need this piece of information for?’. Judging from my teaching experience, the transformation of units of measurement represents a difficult topic for some students.”
The test applied to the students in the class 6B within the unit entitled “The Density of Substances” revealed that 20% of the students knew how to perform transformations of units of measurement and use them in mathematical exercises, while 30% of them did not know how to perform the simplest calculations and transformations. The rest of the students were able to transform, but could not calculate correctly. Which is why I launched them the following challenge: knowing the densities of some substances and having samples of them available, they were required to answer two questions.
- In order to fill a bottle of 500 ml, what mass of each liquid needs to be used?
- Which of the solid things on the table has submerged into the water?
In order to solve the problem, the students had at their disposal liquid substances, solid objects, graded cylinders, scales, rulers and the computer application ‘Metric conversion’. They had three grouping variants at their disposal:
The project’s method is a great tool promoting pupils’ learning motivation, helping to engage not only bright, but also low-achieving pupils. This method helps schoolchildren to develop competences of critical thinking, creativity, ability to learn, communication and Natural sciences, to realize the connections among various school subjects and to understand possibilities of applying the acquired knowledge in everyday life. It is important for every student to offer activities based on his personal abilities and experience.
- the group of experimenters;
- the group of mathematicians;
- the group of computer scientists.
Most of the low achieving students chose the computer group, while the rest of them went to the experimenter group.
The results were good, as each student had the opportunity to go to the group which characterised him/her best. Another important aspect is that they worked in teams. All the three groups got to the same answers and results, but in different ways: by means of measuring, calculating or using digital resources. They all required involvement, passion, intelligence and satisfaction! The next assessment brought about an increase of the class average by 15%, while real progress was visible in the case of the low achieving students.
Such a problem can be approached in subjects having technical-applicative character: physics, technological education, mathematics, chemistry.
Questions for reflection
- What types of problems are appropriate for STEM classes?
- What other chemistry topics can make use of blending theory with practice?
- In which way does the use of digital applications make science classes more attractive to students with learning difficulties?