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.
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.
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.
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?