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.
A look through the most popular MindShift posts this year reveals a strong interest in student-directed learning, inquiry-based approaches to teaching and the desire to help students learn how to learn in a changing world.
Sometimes, being thrown into a new situation with few resources and little knowledge can be the best way to innovate. Educators, especially those who work in smaller rural districts, can sometimes be called on to teach classes without a lot of support or resources. While those moments can be terrifying, it’s also a good time to step back from the anxious swirl of curriculum and standards to think like a kid. What would they love? Zombies, superheroes, and fairies, of course!
If an inquiry-based system is to succeed, we’ll need really good human beings in the classroom who know their field, but who also radiate the kind of positive, non-judgmental love that helps students open their minds and hearts.
One educator tries a different approach: “It’s a different way of approaching education, with educators not being the controlling force. It’s about breaking down boundaries and seeing yourself as an equal. We’re all just doing the best we can to learn and to try to form a narrative with cohesion and meaning.”