September 16, 2017
Today we have the second instalment in a series of posts celebrating marginal gains. Marginal Gains is what Team Sky have attributed their recent success in the Tour de France to. They have won 3 of the last 5 Tours, so if it works for them, it could work for us.
Every year our grade 10’s take part in the Eskom National Science Expo. They are expected to do an independent research project, collect data and present their findings.
In the past, doing a survey meant that they would have to photocopy a questionnaire and convince a significant number of their friends (and sometimes family) to complete it. Every year several of these surveys will end up on my table to be completed. After all, a teacher is unlikely to refuse to complete it. I will even admit to sometimes completing the same survey more than once, to help learners who were struggling to get a large enough sample group.
When assessing the projects, the judges often turn a blind eye to the fact that the sample groups tend to consist mainly of 16-year-old girls. Stratified sampling was almost unheard of.
Today we have the second instalment in a series of posts celebrating marginal gains. Marginal Gains is what Team Sky have attributed their recent success in the Tour de France to. They have won 3 of the last 5 Tours, so if it works for them, it could work for us.
Every year our grade 10’s take part in the Eskom National Science Expo. They are expected to do an independent research project, collect data and present their findings.
In the past, doing a survey meant that they would have to photocopy a questionnaire and convince a significant number of their friends (and sometimes family) to complete it. Every year several of these surveys will end up on my table to be completed. After all, a teacher is unlikely to refuse to complete it. I will even admit to sometimes completing the same survey more than once, to help learners who were struggling to get a large enough sample group.
When assessing the projects, the judges often turn a blind eye to the fact that the sample groups tend to consist mainly of 16-year-old girls. Stratified sampling was almost unheard of.
Fast forward a few years and all those issues are gone. I don’t think the grade 10’s realised how much easier and more authentic their research is than a mere three years ago. I might not be a huge thing, but it is a significant improvement.
It is not something that we planned, trained for or even taught. I wasn’t on our list of goals we were aiming for. In the past three years, we have been using Google Forms increasingly. Everything from subject choices to quick tests, to voting for the school leaders are done on forms, so the while they might not have created their own forms yet, they understand them.  When they asked me to help them, all I had to do was give them the website address for Google Forms and they within hours they had an electronic version of the survey ready to go.  (Saving on 100’s of photocopies should count as a marginal gain on its own.) But it is not just Forms that made a difference. Because all learners now have school email addresses, I could send out the survey (that was all they actually needed me for) to a selection of students, spread over all the grades. By the time they went to bed, not only did they have more than the 200 responses that they were aiming for, but they were evenly spread over all the age groups. And then I am not even talking about the time saved because Forms has already created beautiful pie-charts of the results.
I would like us to build on this foundation to increase the quality and authenticity of the research they do. One way to do this is to make all the learners create a survey in grade 8 or 9. It doesn’t need to be a big project and it doesn’t need to be in science. While Google Forms are so easy to use, that you don’t need to practice it, setting up the right questions to get good data take some practice.
In the past learners would easily spend up to 75% of their time on collecting and recording data. Google Forms now took care of that in a day, which left them with 75% of their time to interpret the data collected.
One of the principles of effective learning is making learning authentic. Too often, as teachers, are we forced to make up fake scenarios or turn a blind eye to bad research methods, because of logistical problems. So anything that can create an authentic learning experience is a huge win in my book.

Have you used Forms to create a more authentic learning experience for your learners? Tell is how Forms changed your classroom.

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