100: What We’ve Learned About 3D Teaching

October 19, 2021

Nicole and Erin recount what they have learned about 3D teaching in the last 100 episodes. They talk about where they are now and how it is different from where they started. They discuss their wins as well as their challenges and mistakes.

Behind the Scenes

It’s hard to imagine that Nicole and Erin have created 100 episodes together. Yet, they’ve never actually met. Nicole lives in Pennsylvania and Erin lives in California. So, there is a 3-hour time difference when they record.

They’d even made tentative plans to meet up. But, COVID prevented them from seeing each other.

How did they get started? Learn how Nicole and Erin met and started the podcast together in this episode.

The Intent to Make 3D Teaching Easier

Both Nicole and Erin started with the intention of making 3D teaching easier for classroom teachers. And, both started by creating classroom resources that teachers could pull to use in their classroom. But, they quickly realized there were some flaws in this plan.

Soon, they realized that teachers needed support in HOW to do 3D teaching. And, their business shifted from there.

Big Shift in Understanding of 3D Teaching

Over the last 100 episodes, Nicole and Erin’s understanding of 3D teaching has changed significantly. They discuss the major changes that they have seen in their own understanding.

The Significance and Use of Phenomena

Their understanding of what phenomena are and how they are used has changed.

Nicole believes that phenomena must come first in the planning process. She explains that choosing phenomena should come before bundling standards, planning storylines, or anything else. From there, it’s easier to build a robust storyline.

She suggests choosing a general topic or a focus standard to help you choose a phenomenon. Then, once you have selected your phenomenon, add in other related standards.

Phenomena are for more than engagement.

Erin recounts how her understanding of phenomena has changed at a fundamental level. Before, Erin only thought of phenomena as a surface-level engagement strategy. However, phenomena are really the foundation on which your unit is built.

In order for phenomena to meet their intended purpose, they must be rich experiences that evoke emotion. To learn more about choosing and using great phenomena, check out this episode.

A Deepenging Understanding of the Science and Engineering Practices

Way back in episode 2, Nicole and Erin discussed the importance of Science and Engineering Practices. But, their understanding of the richness of the practices has grown significantly.

Erin has spent a lot of time thinking about the progression of the SEPs from kindergarten through high school. In fact, she realized that some of the activities that she was doing with her own students were WELL below grade level. So, she’s spent a lot of time thinking about how to use the practices at the appropriate grade level. And, she’s developed strategies to help students move from a limited ability to use the practices to grade-level use.

Student adding blue liquid with a medicine dropper to one of several test tubes in a test tube rack.

And, she has worked on scaffolds to help teachers use the practices more intentionally. In fact, she created a course to help teachers make this shift. To learn more about the course and sign up for the waitlist, click here.

Making Changes Beyond the Illusion of Student-Driven Learning

When they started, Nicole and Erin gave some control of the learning environment to students. However, this isn’t the ultimate goal. Ideally, students are involved in more of the decision-making process as time goes on. Eventually, they should be driving most of the learning.

Part of the desire to make this shift came from the things that were learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. When students were learning online, teachers were disconnected from their students in a whole new way. Students’ interest in learning became more important than ever.

Starting with a Spark then Letting Students Drive the Learning

The desire to create a truly student-driven learning environment was the major driving force behind Nicole creating the Spark Subscription.

Pathways map: Map of potential pathways that leads to the anchor experience.  Blue boxes around the outside that points to a red circle in the middle labeled anchor experience.  Three figurines are on the map.

To learn more about the Spark Subscription, click here.

The Unexpeted Benefits of Student-Driven Learning

The unexpected benefits of a student-driven learning environment are endless.   For example, a student-driven learning environment reduces the teacher’s workload. Because students are doing more of the work, there is less for the teacher to do.

And, a student-driven learning environment makes it easy to naturally integrate socio-emotional learning. Because students work together to answer questions, it’s important to teach them how to work in a group. And, you can easily discuss what to do when a student becomes upset or frustrated.

More Information About 3D Teaching

If you are interested in learning more about 3D teaching, here are a few episodes that will help.