It has been a while! Last post – beginning of July. Now, I’m in Egypt and pondering the same questions with new friends!!!
So… How do we bridge the gap between what we know is best and the constraints of the current system that we are in?
A system that is largely dictated by university/college and employer expectations and guidelines as well as parent perspectives on what education/classroom learning SHOULD look like. Is this fair? Can we change this? Is it already changing?
Then, I come across Will Ferriter’s post
on a Will Richardson TEDx Talk
. Both are worthwhile to spend some time digesting and reflecting on! What resonated to me is the idea that, when something happens that makes us want to learn more… we dive in deep for the sake of our own curiosity. How can we, as educators, create those events that make students want to learn more about what we are TRYING to teach?
We have talked long and often about the disconnect between what we know about how learning best occurs and how we ‘do’ learning. So, let’s work on connecting some of these concepts, within the constraints that we face, as we work on eliminating the constraints.
Here are some concepts we can immediately use to engage our students more (many of these can be hit by developing Project-Based Learning activities – see previous posts on PBL
- Make it fun
- Make it with a real world application
- Make it relevant to young lives, now
- Make it social
- Make it for a real audience
- Make it challenging
- Make it from the ideas of our students!
We set the bar high and our students are expected to reach or exceed what might be very challenging heights of academic standards. What if they are just not motivated to try to reach those learning goals?
How do we keep our students motivated as they strive to meet increasingly challenging academic standards?
Actually, “Every student is motivated – just not necessarily in the way teachers hope” (Quate and McDermott, Sept. 2014). Two key factors are (1) helping students feel that teachers are committed to their potential AND (2) “making sure students feel intellectually challenged” (Ibid). When students know you support them and believe in them they are more motivated to do the work. Add to that (3) as many of the factors that go hand-in-hand with Project-Based Learning:
- Give students more voice and choice (still making it teacher-guided, though);
- Localize the project (for added relevance and personal connection);
- Keep it real (again, in relation to the student, personally);
- Launch the project with an entry event;
- Emphasize commitment to the team;
- Involve outside collaborators;
- Have students present their work to a public audience.
(From: John Larmer. “Boosting the Power of Projects.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 42-46. Print.)
Now (1-2-3, P-B-L), we can sustain an environment of motivated learning! For immediately useful links related to PBL see my previous posts, “Stressed out about projects? Here’s a handy checklist!” and “More PBL Resources!”
By incorporating Project-Based Learning into our instructional plans we can engage students to a degree that they may not normally have been, in the past. PBL is recognized ” as a way to boost students’ motivation to learn” (Larmer, Sept. 2014). Ideally, our students will happily choose to strive to meet and/or exceed those high standards and we can continue to support their optimum learning!
- Larmer, John. “Boosting the Power of Projects.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 42-46. Print.
- Quate, Stevi and John McDermott. “The Just-Right Challenge.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 61-65
From: Andrew Miller’s post: “Resources for Getting Started With Project-Based Learning”
As y’all know I’m a big fan of Project-Based Learning. I’m also a big fan of Edutopia! Here’s a repost of one of their recent “News” emails…
I highly recommend Edutopia’s Newsletter! Enjoy!!!
Students have been given ‘projects’ as assessments for as long as I can remember. However, I have often questioned how these projects actually tie-in to the learning goals and whether they do anything for learning other than causing stress. They can also be real ‘monsters’ to grade, once all the projects come in.
The folks at the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) have developed a handy-dandy checklist to help ensure that projects are well-structured and meaningful (see below).
Project Based Learning (PBL) has always had much potential but, as is true of many things, must be used in moderation and with other learning strategies to help keep students engaged, reflective and exploratory learners. Nevertheless, when used properly PBL can help encourage life-long learning by giving students the opportunity to direct their own learning, take some risks and explore a topic more deeply than worksheets and textbook section review questions can.
In a related post, Jeff Dunn at Edudemic makes the point that the BIE checklist can also be useful for guiding the development of any learning activities. Point well taken! I would add that the checklist also fits well with Understanding by Design framework that utilizes Essential Questions and Big Ideas.