Learning Frameworks, Deeper Learning, and Assessment

Course 4, Week 5

Learning Frameworks, Deeper Learning, and Assessment

How can we use different frameworks to develop deeper learning?

This week, we were asked to consider a variety of learning frameworks that could be used to support deeper learning in our classrooms. What struck me most while reading about the different frameworks this week, is that they hardly stand alone. Throughout the reading and examples, I kept finding ways that these different frameworks overlap or even build upon each other.

Ahmedgad, Pixabay.com

For example, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between “Project-Based Learning” and “Challenge Based Learning”, except that Challenge Based Learning is fully focused on students working to solve real-world problems. Whereas in Project-Based Learning, students might work to solve a real-world problem, or their project could be a more traditional academic project.

I loved the example of the project-based learning experience for the third graders building tiny homes.  In this particular example, the students were challenged to design a tiny house based on the specific needs of their client. Throughout their project students mastered many math, science, and communication skills. They also had experiences with “Virtual/Augmented Reality” learning when they first designed their own homes using Minecraft. By the end of their project, they had designed and built a custom-made model of a tiny home that would suit their clients’ needs and budget. To me, this could very easily be an example of Challenge Based Learning, as this type of project is very much a real-world problem.

The one framework that I am a bit wary of is “Game-Based Learning” or “Gamification”. My concern with the idea of turning learning into a game can, to me, send the wrong message to students. While I truly believe that learning should be engaging and interesting, it doesn’t always need to be classically “fun”. I feel like I might have made this point before, so if I have please forgive me.

DG-RA, Pixabay.com

In this day and age, I think teachers often run into the challenge of trying to keep high-stimulated kids focused and engaged in learning. Our classrooms and lessons cannot always compete with the flashy video games and social media that kids get most of their entertainment from. Sometimes to try and compensate we lean on having students use games to engage them in learning. However, learning isn’t always going to be a game, and sometimes we will be less interested in content that we still need to learn.

So how do we learn, when the learning isn’t fun? Well, we need to help students develop a sense of accomplishment for completing a project, or mastering a new skill that was perhaps challenging. I like to use this metaphor; when I want to have fun, I might choose to go to an amusement park. However, I can still get enjoyment and be interested in a day wandering around a museum. In the museum, I might not feel like I am having fun the way I would on a rollercoaster, but I can still feel engaged, and at the end of the day I can feel happy about the new things I saw and learned from that experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I do use games in my class from time to time and as the blog post, “Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer”, mentioned, I think “Oregan Trail” is a fantastic example of a purposeful educational game. I still sometimes have my students play it when we learn about the Silk Road. It helps them to get into the mindset of what it was like to travel long distances without modern conveniences.

I just think we should be careful to help students move past the need for everything to be “fun”, and develop a sense of accomplishment for persistence and a job well done.

The Challenge of New Pedagogies – Assessment

I was actually very relieved to read chapter 5 of “A Rich Seam; How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy, because it hasn’t always been easy for me to assess students when it comes to their work in project-based learning.

As a teacher in a PYP classroom, we very often take a project-based approach to our summative assessments, and while I am familiar with using rubrics for grading, I sometimes feel like I am not quite hitting the nail on the head, so to speak, when I design my own rubrics.

This year for the first time, I have begun to have my students help design the rubrics we will use to grade their projects, and I have noticed that they feel more ownership in their learning when they have helped to decide what their learning outcomes should be.

I think I have often felt that I need to keep my rubrics more general so they are not so long, but then I don’t always feel like I have an accurate assessment of their work and/or understanding. I really found the rubric example from this chapter to be helpful.

A Rich Seam; Chapter Five-Table 3: Student Assessment Rubric for H20 Heroes Mission #6


This example is much longer than I tend to make my rubrics, but it makes the learning outcomes and success criteria very clear for students and will be supportive in helping them to reach the content and creativity goals.

I think another challenge with deeper learning tasks and assessment, is that it is taking time for schools to change over report card grading to suit these new tasks. This is partly because of parent expectations. It can be hard for parents to understand rubric grading. They want to see the traditional letter or percentage grades for their children. It is what they understand. As educational communities, it will be important for teachers and schools to help parents understand the importance of these new types of grading systems and how they help their children to learn in a deeper more authentic way. As shared with us in chapter five, it will take some time for assessment to catch up with the new pedagogies for many schools.

Dear fellow COETAILers

What strategies have you found that helped you develop better rubrics? How open to these new grading methods have you found your parent community to be?

4 comments to “Learning Frameworks, Deeper Learning, and Assessment”
4 comments to “Learning Frameworks, Deeper Learning, and Assessment”
  1. Hi Coleton, thanks for an interesting read! Your talk of using gamification as a source of entertainment really resonated with me, as I am too questioning if every lesson I plan has to focus on “fun”. It does feel like a punch to the gut when kids compare classes based on how fun they are.

    I agree with you that certain things are life skills that may not be fun, but we still carry on and do them – we must do! I use gamification in all my lessons, and students love it, which has made me stick to it for years. But I sometimes wonder if I am doing more harm than good. For instance, the real world is gamified, and we are all drawn to these silly games with or without knowing we are playing them, such as committing to an airline for the engaging reason to earn mile points. We stay with the same car insurance company for the thrill of lessening the monthly price based on our good behaviors, and so forth.

    The very nature of gamification is based on competition, making some winners and others losers. The part that worries me most is that it generates a feeling of being left out, devalued, and provokes anger in some students. Nevertheless, it makes them focus, keeps them motivated and engaged.

    Happy holidays to you! I hope you have an excellent restful break.

  2. Colin,
    Your reflection on various frameworks is brief and informative, I agree that Project-Based Learning ( PBL) and Challenge Based Learning ( CBL) have a lot in common: students are asked to develop solutions to real-life problems in CBL while they extend their ideas and complete an entire project. I use a blend of both in my classroom: CBL when a definite set of skills is the focus and PBL when the variety of skills are targeted.
    It was interesting for me to read your opinion about Game-Based Learning and Gamification: these two are actually different: games have rules and objectives while gamification is just a series of tasks/ problems; gamification rarely has a winner and intrinsic reward; building games is expensive and hard and gamification is easier and cheaper.
    I am a strong believer that GBL is a framework with a lot to offer, particularly to appeal to diverse learning styles, providing intervention, enrichment and re-inforcement of skills. Gamification also brings many benefits to a classroom, my students love quests ( and dread tests :)) and enjoy getting experience points (anxious about Grades). Finding a well-fitting game requires a lot of research and work to align it with learning goals; planning for gamification is also a process requiring creativity and time. I am just at the start of my exploration journey within these frameworks but I am super excited!

  3. P.S. About your questions.
    Rubrics: we create them collaboratively with the students while looking at the units’ learning goals; within grade level collaboration is also very beneficial.
    Parents: in my school we have been using rubrics for a number of years and the parents are quite open to that , though new parents often request meetings and explanations. I think it is all about the clarity of Learning Goals and Clearly Defined Steps on the rubric.

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