It is important for students to understand how a specific task and idea fits within and contributes to their learning in the longer term and across a whole sequence of tasks. Learning may be described as “an iterative process of moving backwards and forwards through time, trying to make sense of the episodes as a linked chain of interactions” (Scott, Mortimer and Aguiar, 2006, p.26). Evolving wall displays can contribute to building connections because they can be revisited and they endure. Wall displays are also useful as a means for students to interrogate their own ideas (Cowie, Moreland and Otrel-Cass, 2013).
A wall display is good — it helps you remember what you did in the past.
This case study research was undertaken over several weeks to investigate how a primary teacher used the Science Learning Hub in her classroom with her 25 year 4 students (15 boys, 10 girls) who were 7 or 8 years old. The teacher, Mary (a pseudonym) had 10 years of teaching, with 6 years being at this school. This was the first year of Mary teaching such young students. This study investigated how Mary used the Harnessing the Sun resources. Classroom observations and interviews were conducted with Mary and the students. Qualitative data was collected in the form of videotapes, audiotapes, observations, field notes, individual teacher and student interviews and copies of teaching materials and student work. Analysis of the data was guided by the research question: How did an evolving wall display contribute to student learning in science?
The wall display showcased learning
The wall display on solar energy included the students’ experiments, some of the activities they did and posters related to the topic, which were posted on the class wall at the end of each lesson. In this way, an evolving record of the science the students accomplished was built up over time and provided an evolving record of tasks and student thinking about the topic. Connections were made from one day to the next. Students brought parents into the classroom and used the wall display to point out what they had been doing and had learned.
Students used the wall display in productive ways
Students used the wall display in the classroom during science lessons as a reference point
In later lessons, students visited the wall display to read and check their ideas for accuracy. For example, students read the posters related to scientific activity to check that they had included the main steps in their science experiment.
Students also used the display as a source of ideas for other activities. They actively made connections between the ideas already posted and the current tasks they were undertaking. For example, students took work from the display and used the information to craft questions for a science quiz.
Students understood the multiple purposes for a wall display
Student comments indicated that they understood the wall display was a useful way for them to remember what they had learned, was a means for checking their ideas, was a support for help them explain their ideas and was a way to share their learning with their families.
- Amala: “It helps because if you forget you can go up and see and read it.”
- Colin: “A wall display is good because it helps you remember what you did in the past.”
- Noel: “We learnt all these scientist questions like ‘What is a hypothesis?’ We found all these cool words. Instead of plain solar panels, we have photovoltaic cells. You can show your parents or other people if you’re proud about it.”
Evolving wall displays help students keep track of what they have learned and help them make connections and develop coherency between ideas, tasks and lessons. Wall displays expand the time students devote to thinking about the science ideas and practices they are learning because they view and talk about what is displayed with peers and their families. Bringing family members into the class and talking to them about wall displays helps to connect learning between school and family.
Students made and used a solar oven. This activity, Making a solar oven, contributed to the students building their ideas about solar energy and cooking.
These articles were part of this case study:
Cowie, B., Moreland, J. and Otrel-Cass, K. (2013). Expanding notions of assessment for learning: Inside science and technology primary classrooms. Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers.
Scott, P., Mortimer, E. and Aguiar, O. (2006). The tensions between authoritative and dialogic discourse: A fundamental characteristic of meaning making interactions in high school science lessons. Science Education, 90, 605–631.