With access to information nights and documentation, many parents have understandably worked hard to grasp what Contemporary Learning implies for their child’s education. The most common questions are along the lines of:
“Do they just do what they want?”
“Is there any teacher direction?”
“How can you tell if they’re learning?”
The best way to answer these is to give an example of one of the original inquiry process used at school, when we directed investigations using a topic relevant to the goals of the school as a starting point for the students.
We begin by tuning “in on” the topic. A past example is when we were focusing on Asia, we used a provocation table of products made from bamboo and the kids were constantly brining in items that originated in Asia, many were surprised their school uniform also did!
I uploaded images, videos, maps and websites to the blog with questions to introduce students to some information about Asia and to begin challenging their ideas and intentions for their projects.
We then introduced students to different study ideas, for example creating a travel path around Asia with facts such as locations and populations of towns and cities and the motivation they had to visit them. A cooking program, a blog and the design and construction of an Asian themed garden were amongst the many ideas that were pursued as projects.
The students then wrote a project proposal that the teachers reviewed and discussed with them. We constantly checked in with the students to monitor their progress and their evolving learning goals. The students also had a criteria to follow, that we read through and discussed throughout the duration of the unit to clarify their learning outcomes and our high expectations.
We completed the unit with a presentation afternoon where the families of the students were invited to check out their efforts, this day was teeming with parents and siblings visiting all the different displays on offer.
At the completion of the project, the students self assessed or group assessed with the criteria and some questions provided by the teachers.
Most areas of the school retain a time for this practice, under a title such as ‘Investigations’ or ‘Inquiry’, and are committed to providing opportunities for student-directed learning in all areas. Some use a uniting theme, some do not and the children pursue their interests in any area. This freedom requires constant direction from a group of teachers who are dedicated, persistent, patient and able to multitask. It involves teachers giving the control of learning back to students and this approach produces truly astonishing results.
So do they learn?
I can quite safely say students learn more by following their own questions, discovering information that is interesting and relevant and presenting this in the format they choose. Would you learn faster and with passion by memorising statistics or by creating your own card game?
Below is the Collective Knowledge Construction Model from Understanding Virtual Pedagogies.
By clicking on it, you will be taken to the PDF document of Understanding Virtual Pedagogies Contemporary Teaching and Learning.