An encouraging new report describes preliminary, first-year outcomes from a study of 3,000 middle school students that shows kids can, in fact, learn more in science classrooms that adopt a well-designed, project-focused curriculum.
The Independent Project is a result of a high school student's mission to create a school where students would feel fully engaged, have an opportunity to develop expertise in something, and learn how to learn.
It’s the hunger for learning rather than raw intellect that distinguishes Extreme Learners from the gifted. Intensely motivated and harboring a breadth of interests, they also consider ignorance a temporary and reparable condition.
When you want to improve your physical health, you don’t have to eat one specific type of food or exercise in a specific way. Rather, you need an appropriate mix of healthy foods and exercise -- no one thing is required. Different types of exercise and foods are in some sense interchangeable. What matters is that you get the appropriate dose. Could this common idea from health translate into the world of education?
Project-based learning continues to be misinterpreted as a single teaching strategy rather than as a set of design principles that allow us to introduce the philosophy of inquiry into education in an intelligent and grounded way. It’s time to not only address the flaws in PBL, but to reinvent it in a way that leads to deeper learning, creative inquiry, and a better fit with a collaborative world in which doing and knowing are one thing.
For subjects like math and foreign language, which are traditionally taught in a linear and highly structured context, using more open-ended inquiry-based models can be challenging. But inquiry learning is based on the premise that, with a little bit of structure and guidance, teachers can support students to ask questions that lead them to learn those same important skills -- in ways that are meaningful to them.
Most classrooms follow a prescribed formula. Teachers plan and lay out what is going to be learned. Students come into class and have the responsibility of switching themselves into “ready” mode, waiting for the teacher to instruct and guide them in the day’s tasks. Surely there are parts of the learning process where the control could be shifted to the students – where teachers can hand them responsibility and freedom and give them a voice in what they would learn.
The opportunity to extend access to technology in the classroom and at home is enticing, but school districts can get hung up on important details like providing a strong network, making sure each child has a device, and questions about around distraction. Of course, no one answer will work for all teachers or students, but one guiding principle that's shown to work is for schools to focus on how mobile technology will help shift instruction to be more collaborative, learner-driven and inquiry-based.