Next up in whiteboarding modes: The Whiteboard Face-Off (aka Board Meetings*).
When we have a Face-Off, every group is whiteboarding the same problem. No one presents. Instead, we sit on the tables (bringing in our circle and keeping people from just doing more work in the packet and skipping the discussion) and all share our boards at the same time, then the groups talk to each other, ask questions, and try to come to a consensus (fixing their group’s board along the way as they change their minds about parts of their work).
What is the same about all of the boards? What’s different? Ask questions if you see something you don’t understand or don’t agree with. At the start of the year, they need some clear guidance about what they should do during a board meeting. After a while, they need nothing (or almost nothing) to get them going and discussing.
Keep them from presenting their work. (a) It is really, really, incredibly boring to have each group present their work for the same problem. (b) If they fix the first board, then it makes the rest seem pretty redundant (and they miss all of the cool unique things happening on any subsequent boards). (c) Everyone just whiteboarded the same problem, so they should be really familiar with it and shouldn’t need any intro to the problem, context, etc in order to be ready to think about the other groups’ work. (d) All of the above.
So instead, get them talking about differences they see among the boards. Get them to inspect the differences, decide whether both ideas can work or whether they are in conflict, and resolve the conflicts.
A really important detail here that could (but shouldn’t) be overlooked is what happens before the meeting (when they are drawing on the boards or even earlier, when they are working the problems on paper). If every board going into the meeting has a different wrong answer, most times (in my experience), the class will still end up with the correct answer by the end of the discussion. However, if every board has the same wrong answer, they’re obviously not going to get anywhere. I talk about that with them early in the year. They need to keep themselves from hearing or seeing what the other groups are doing before the meeting. You can’t really police that (nor would you really want to spend your time policing that), but it is usually pretty easy to get them to agree with the idea about how everyone going in with the wrong answer will be bad news.
We finish every experiment with a board meeting, but that’s not really the same as a Whiteboard Face-Off. It follows a similar format, but we’re looking for a relationship from our graphs rather than trying to agree on a solution to a problem.
I tend to use the Face-Off mode when I know we need to slow down on a set of questions because of how much depth there should be to the discussion about them. For example, I always plan to do the first set of Balanced Forces problems in my packet as Face-Offs because I expect every (or almost every) group to have a wrong idea about some part of the velocity graph that goes with each problem. When we face-off one problem at a time, they really argue out their thinking and have to immediately deal with the ideas in Newton’s First Law. The first problem takes a while, but the subsequent ones generally move more quickly.
This mode can also work well in partnership with the Mistake Game, though since I generally reserve it for problems where I expect a plethora of unintentional mistakes, students usually aren’t ready to think of a good mistake for that type of work yet. If they ask if they are supposed to be making mistakes, I say something noncommittal (“Sure”).
*Haha, yes. So funny. Actually, one of my students this year insists on calling every meeting to order and saying, “Meeting Adjourned” when we finish.