The article, Mapping Students Minds, summarizes the experiences of a California middle school science teacher, Ariel Owen, who enhanced the learning experience of her students by studying a local creek using actual as well as virtual field trips. In their work, students were put together as teams and help to monitor the condition of the stream over time. Most importantly, the information they gathered allowed them to create a causal map, one that allowed them to observe and define cause and effect relationships.
1. Is this tool useful in all classroom settings, such as Social Science?
It seems that the observation element of the causal map suggests that this kind of learning experience is geared toward a science classroom. Nevertheless, I don't see why students wouldn't be able to map out causal elements in a World History classroom, for say, the spread of a plague and its effect on population, economic production and urbanization.
2. Is this model of learning useful for all students?
Ms. Owen suggested in her article that her gifted students seemed to benefit more from the experience. Therefore, perhaps an AP classroom setting is the most effective time to employ this kind of teaching. I do wonder, however, if it would make any difference if students worked individually instead of in pairs as she had them. The pairs basically sparred for their ideas about causation and effect. This clearly is the comfort zone of the more gifted kids. More normal kids might thrive more if not in the shadow of a more confident peer.