Category Archives: Assessment

PaperPile: Managing Citations in GoogleDocs

I have been looking for something that can replace MS Word’s citation manager and work in a similar way to Zotero. Here’s a quick post on how to use the PaperPile add-on for managing references in GoogleDocs. Paperpile is free from the Chrome store, though I am using the upgraded version.

Review Vocab Quizzes with Quizlet

In this task we ‘crowd-sourced’ definitions and descriptions for a lot of the (lot of) vocabulary we have learned this year. This is to reinforce that Biology is as much a language course as a science course, and that everything is connected.

  1. Create a google spreadsheet with tabs numbered by subtopics covered
  2. Assign groups of topics to groups of students, with the simple task:
    1. First column, keyword, correctly spelled
    2. Second column: definition (exactly from subject guide if it exists) or clear description
  3. After groups finish, peer-edit
    1. Does it make sense? Are there any errors?
    2. It the definition clear in the ‘wider sense’ of the course?
    3. Adapt definitions with clarifications, or starters such as ‘process’, ‘structure’, ‘hormone’ etc

In our spreadsheet, we identified 312 terms (and growing) from this year. 

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 2.12.28 PM

Click to start a Quizlet set

In between sessions:

  1. Check and edit as much as needed/possible
  2. Import vocab into quizlet to create the set
    1. Very easy: select columns and paste into the right-hand field
    2. Make sure ‘tab’ is set, top-left
    3. Hit ‘import’ if it looks right
  3. Create quizzes/activities
  4. Share quizlet codes and  spreadsheet URL with students
  5. Get reviewing!

During classes: 

  • Students can review using the Quizlet activities
  • Students might use the vocab list to make sure they are meeting markscheme requirements for target language – are they giving complete and correct answers?
  • Students can use the vocab as a foundation for concept-maps, model responses etc.

Example (sadly Quizlet doesn’t embed to


If you have any creative – and effective – review methods, let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

Processing Data: A Department Student Learning Goal

In the 2012-13 school year, our science department worked on a collaborative Student Learning Goal to improve student performance in Criterion E: Data ProcessingClick here to find out more about the process, outcomes and next steps.

What are we really learning from practical work?

As we study science, a lot of our time and resources are devoted to implementing an engaging practical scheme of work. Are we really making the most educational use of this time, these resources and the opportunities that we have? 

Teachers all over the world use experiments and demonstrations to engage students in the concept being taught. But does this actually improve student learning? Two recent videos have got me thinking about this issue, and before you read on you should watch them both.

The first is from UK science teacher & communicator Alom Shaha (@alomshaha), half the brains behind the website. The video was produced for the Nuffield Foundation’s new Practical Work for Learning resource. He refers to a number of research papers in the video, and is also one of the leaders of the #SciTeachJC (science teachers journal club) twitter discussion group.

Do you recognise those labs and how do you use them? Do the labs we do really help us teach the concepts we intend them to, and how can we rethink (or at least evaluate) our use of labs.

The second video is from US Chemistry teacher Tom Stelling (@ChemistTom), on his “vRant” about students asking to “blow something up” and the dangers of ‘wow’ demos as distraction rather than education.

Note: this post rambles a bit from here on. If you want to know more, please read on. Otherwise, all the good bits were in Alom & Tom’s videos. 

Read the rest of this entry

Personal GoogleSites: A Learning Project in #IBBio

Personal GoogleSite: Click to view an example.

Personal GoogleSite: Click to view an example.

Although i-Biology hosts all my content resources, the main class resource students are working with is a personal GoogleSite to track their progress and reflection. Click here to find out more about how it works.

IB Biology: Sortable Syllabus

I made this document to help my students review for their mock and final exams. It is the syllabus presented as a sortable Google Spreadsheet. There are tabs at the top for Paper 1 & 2: Core content, Paper 1 & 2: Core & AHL content, and for each subtopic.

  • Go to “View –> List view”.
  • Use the sort feature to target individual command terms, topics, objectives or levels.
  • It also has the ability to sort by suggested TOK connections or aims.

It does not include any images from the subject guide, as these cannot be included in cells to sort, so you will need to use your own copy or the text(s).

This could be a powerful review tool if used in response to practice papers or as a formative/ self-assessment tool. If a student is identified as weak in a particular command term, they can sort their revision and set priorities. It should allow for quick and focused differentation of exam preparation.

SortableSyllabus: IB Biology. Click to open and go to List View

Forces & Motion

As our G10 class get working on the Forces and Change in Motion unit, I thought it was time to update the resources to take advantage of the Stratos jump and try out GoogleDocs* and presentations embedded into WordPress.

This task was designed based on student feedback from the last unit test. Some students wanted more (!) test-like situations and practice with the criterion, so I put this together. Prior to this lesson we had some short discussion on prior knowledge on forces (based on sports day situations) and free body diagrams. The rest they were learning as they went along. It was more engaging than I expected – lots of reaching for whiteboards, cooperative arguments and research.

The presentation for the unit is first, with the stimulus video next and the task below.

Note: interestingly the GPresentation embedded fine, but the embedded GDoc lost its formatting. 

Aligning IBDP Biology and SAT Biology subject tests. Any takers?

This weekend is SAT Biology subject tests, which will be fun for a handful of kids in our IBDP school. I spent some time today with some IBSL year 1 students who needed help covering the content. We had fun with the respiration, photosythesis and DNA replication, but it made me realise I don’t know how and where the two testing systems overlap.

Are you experienced in teaching both and do you want to help out? If so, please open this GoogleDoc and add the relevant SL/HL subtopics in line with the SAT Bio subject test topics. If you really want to, add the links to the relevant i-Biology pages.

Let’s see how this works!

Updated Turnitin GradeMark QuickMarks

Here’s a new set of Turnitin GradeMark QuickMarks I have saved to More IA resources on the IA pages here.

My QuickMarks

My QuickMarks – click to download

They correspond to the self-assessment codes in the rubric and checklists I use with students, and will only work if your school subscribes to the full Turnitin WriteCycle suite. Each comment has a check or cross, a title and some guidance or further description in the box. You can add your own comments individually to each as you use them in student work.

Some others:
If you make changes to the QuickMarks and Sets yourself, be sure to save them periodically by exporting them to your computer – there is no ‘are you sure?‘ popup when you hit ‘delete set’ by accident
If your school is already using Turnitin, it is well worth asking for access to the full suite of tools. They have a discount for IB schools and you can give quality, paperless feedback.
The presentation below outlines how these can be used (you don’t need to have Moodle):

One World: Coversheet, Submission Checklist and Research/ Writing Frame

This is for my MYP 4-5 classes in Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science. The aim here is to encourage self-assessment at all stages of the research and writing process.

The front page is a standard submission coversheet, which is attached to work before it is submitted to Turnitin. Students need to self-assess their work by highlighting the statements which they feel best fit. The second page is a checklist to help them structure and present the essay or article, in 7 sections. The final two pages is something which could be given digitally or printed and blown up to A3 and used as a research/ writing frame.

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