Monday, September 26, 2011

"We Are a Laboratory, NOT a Factory"-In Action

 In earlier blog post, I had explained that for the last several years Oneco's Gifted Program has been using the motto “We are a laboratory, Not a factory.” However, I feel that I may need to do a better job explaining how things work and where standards are built into our projects. We work from The Constructivism Learning Theory where a multitude of curriculum standards are threaded together and explored on a deeper level through projects. Our integrated standards reflect Florida's Grade Level Sunshine State Standards, The State of Florida's Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners  and National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and Performance Indicators for Students.  In The Constructivism Learning Theory the basic belief is that the learning is in the process. This is partly done by not doing anything for students that they can do for themselves.

To illustrate my point, here is an example from one of our Challenge Based Learning Projects. Students wanted to conduct a survey for adults to participate in. It then was the students’ responsibility to:
-Write a letter requesting that the adults take the survey.

-Write the questions and answers for the survey. 
This was a wonderful learning experience and there was a long discussion on why answers to our survey might need to be multiple choice and not open ended. There was a lot of critical thinking that took place during that discussion and in the process of writing both the questions and answers to our survey.

-Write a thank you note for taking the survey.

-Analysis the data from the survey, which forced students to make and analysis several double bar graphs.

-Finally, use that information to either create new questions, conduct more research and/or create a solution.

Oneco’s Gifted Program mainly utilizes two framework that I feel embrace The Constructivism Learning TheoryProject Based Learning and Challenge Based Learning. They have many of the same basic principles.  However, I have several reasons why I feel  Challenge Based Learning is more effective, but feel that is information for another blog post.

 As we have learned to embraced our motto, my role, as their teacher, has also changed. I have made a shift from being less of a dispenser of information to now being more of a guide and fellow researcher.  There are many conversations and coaching sessions during the CBL or PBL process. Most of our conversations, seem to center around the hows and whys of doing quality research and not just on the content of the research. It is through these conversations and their reflections that my students are forced to look at what they are doing, how they are doing it and ultimately gain the skills needed to solve other challenges they will come across in their futures. It is a balancing act to live out these authentic learning experiences and there are times when this process seems very long.  However, by getting out of the way and letting the students have some control their learning becomes both meaningful and sustainable.

There is some wonderful research out on this subject and I've included a couple articles if you are interested.

Project Based Learning ,- Edutopia
Challenge Based Learning  -