Monday, June 19, 2017

What Could Schools Do To Promote Personalisation and Authenticity

In this next post on my sabbatical I provide suggestions on what schools could do to explore PBL and make learning more personalised and authentic and forming connections between learning areas.

What Could Existing Schools Do To Reflect These Principles?

  • Explore models of Project-based learning. A clear model that all staff understand and commit to and through which students are scaffolded is essential to provide rigour and prevent low quality experiences and outcomes. The following links could be a good place to start:
  • Make every effort to provide opportunities for learning to be connected across subjects. Even with a traditional, single-subject timetable it’s not difficult to change mindsets and school practices to enable students to establish connections.
    • Schools could start by determining common themes that could drive learning contexts across the whole school or particular year levels. This would, at least, allow all subjects to connect to the common theme.
      Grade level Themes at SLA
    • Meeting structures could be turned on their head and regular meetings for the common teachers of each class to discuss how learning could be connected across more than one subject. Students could work on high-interest projects which they have had a say in creating in classes timetabled for 2 or 3 of their subjects. Completing one piece of work, drawing on several subjects and being supported by several teachers will not only result in a quality outcome and deeper learning, but reduce workload for students and for  teachers. Perhaps Departments could be required to find times to run their meetings when necessary, rather than having them scheduled. This reinforces that the focus in our school is on collaborative practice rather than subject silos.
  • Teachers in all classes could share with their students the responsibility of determining the context in which learning could take place. Teachers would still take responsibility for developing the important learning/achievement objectives but invite students to be design partners in determining the context.
    • Rather than informing a class that they are studying Migration and that they would do this by learning about Victorian English people and their migration to and settling in New Zealand, a Social Studies teacher could explore with students the concept of Migration and establish its worthiness of study. They could then invite students to suggest which example of migration from across history, or in the present, they (individuals, small groups) would like to explore to increase their understanding of this concept. Teachers and students would design activities together which allowed the important learning objectives to be met.
  • Wherever possible, provide multiple opportunities for students to provide evidence of their learning.
    • If all students have to write an essay to show their understanding of an important science concept, then those who are poor essay writers will not do well, despite perhaps having a high level of understanding of the science concept. As long as the learning objectives can be met allow students to show their understanding, whether it be by essay, piece of art, spoken word etc.
  • Include some contact or experience with the community or expertise from beyond the school in all planning of learning programmes.
    • At the very least, this could be a guest speaker/facilitator but can include off-site visits, individual/small group mentor relationships, on-line communication and connection with expertise, or a client relationship.
  • Encourage the public sharing and discussion of student work.
    • At the very least, this could be presenting findings back to the class with high expectations of how to make a quality presentation and how to provide quality feedback but can include presenting to students from outside the class or at another school, parents, and mentors and clients who have been involved in the learning.
    • Think about where these presentations should take place.The school might be appropriate but so might a community space (library, parks, malls), a conference or place of work.

I hope these suggestions show how schools, no matter their context, can bring life to the principles of personalisation, authenticity, connection and collaboration.


Cindy Wynn said...

This "They could then invite students to suggest which example of migration from across history, or in the present, they (individuals, small groups) would like to explore to increase their understanding of this concept." is very motivating for students I believe. This term we have had students carry out the generic research process into a biological issue. This started broadly with students collectively exploring what makes something an issue in general, with examples and some debate, ultimately ending in a challenge of could there actually ever be anything that wasn't an issue or potentially an issue!! Students were then given a very large list of biological concepts and ideas and were able to pick one of these or some other of their own design, in which they were intensely interested, to research. This is a Q1 course with students being assessed on their biological understanding of the issue (for bio) and also their research capabilities (for eng and bio). The teaching and learning and assessment of these ideas have been carried out over a period of 6-7 weeks, with multiple checkpoints along the way. We insisted that the students chose something they were intensely interested in, so they felt motivated to manage their time effectively throughout this extended time and work purposefully throughout. Anecdotal student voice around this suggests that students have enjoyed having choice in what they are researching and have been motivated to continue through the process. Currently students are seeking feedback on their work...I am pushing them to add more depth and to refine for deeper understanding. Students think this is to ensure they meet the standard at Level 1. Ha...some of the work is what I would have seen from L3 students in the past.... So choice, I believe is intensely motivating, as is investigating into something that an individual is intensely interested in. Previously in another school the bio is taught and assessed in one context only eg should NZ use 1080? Fine if this floats your boat but not fine if you are not interested in this particularly. Students in this class have chosen topics such as "Should we be concerned about the bees?", "Should abortion be funded by the state?", "Should smoking be banned?" "Should society allow designer babies?", "Why is ocean acidification a problem?", "What is the impact of endangered animal trafficking?, "What is the impact of habitat destruction?", "What is bioaccumulation?", "Is Donald right about global warming? and so on....I am really looking forward to finding out what the students have found out!!

Maurie Abraham said...

Thanks, Cindy. Great example of thepower of simply opening up the opportunity for choice.