The impact of discrepant events on a 10th grade biology classroom

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


I find that the first few minutes of class is the most critical. The students have a hard time settling in and switching their brain to the lesson at hand. If I lose them, it can take 15-20 minutes for them to become calm and focused which wastes almost half of the 47-minute class period. Students have seven classes each day so I recognize that it is hard to switch gears when you are a struggling learner. I believe their brain needs some help to engage, and engaging in a discrepant event might be the way to do that. I hope to engage the students as part of the 5E lesson cycle through the use of discrepant events. Discrepant events are designed to have an unexpected outcome, which puts the learner in a state of cognitive dissonance. An example of a discrepant event in biology class is observing osmosis in an egg. Raw eggs are decalcified in vinegar for a couple of days until the shell dissolves. The mass of two eggs is measured and recorded. One egg is placed in corn syrup and the other is placed in water. After one day, the eggs are carefully removed, massed, and the data recorded. The egg left in corn syrup becomes shriveled and the yolk is visible while the egg left in water swells and becomes taut. Students do not expect the water to leave the egg in corn syrup and enter the egg placed in water. The brain is stimulated to ask why the event happened and the learner becomes curious to explore further. The brain is set in motion down the path of knowledge acquisition. The rest of the 5E cycle is designed to bring the learner along until they reach the evaluation point. The parts of the 5E cycle are engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. Focus Questions: The primary research question my project addressed was, "How does the use of discrepant events impact student academic achievement in biology class?" The first sub question I investigated was, "Are students willing to struggle through the lesson if their brain has been engaged through a discrepant event?" Sub question two was, "How do discrepant events affect students' confidence?" Finally, the third sub question was, "What effect do discrepant events have on me as the teacher?"



5E learning cycle


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