My seventh grade teaching colleagues and I returned from Christmas break with a new direction. We are realizing more and more within the context of our inquiry based school that to authentically teach inquiry learning skills, we need our students to be engaged, committed and responsible for their own progress. This is not to say that we don’t have any responsibility as their teachers. It just means that we need our students to want to know what we need them to know according to the curriculum that has been set before us. We decided to shake things up a bit.
If you’re having fun and not learning, that’s bad. If you’re learning and not having fun, that’s worse. If you’re having fun and learning, that’s our classroom.
This is a mantra we’ve been thinking a lot about. Why can’t fun be learning and learning be fun? We believe it’s all about perspective… the students’ and ours. So that is the foundation of our new action research project with 44 kids, four teachers and a lot or positive energy. Here’s how we started…
Increased Engagement Through Purposeful, Self-Directed Cross-Curricular Learning
- Blend core curriculum subjects for seventh grade
- Develop peer teaching methods that utilize both seventh grade homeroom spaces
- Students will become responsible for their own learning
- Students will become meaningfully engaged in the learning process
- Students will develop a sense of wonder, curiosity, purpose
- Students will demonstrate their understanding of learning concepts using chosen methods to make their learning visible
Through the exploration of blended learning environments, project based learning and self-directed cross curricular learning, the aim is to engage students willfully in the process of teaching and learning so that their perspective changes toward it. We intend for them to realize that learning can be fun when it is done with consideration for personal interests, individual strengths and elements of choice that leverage both of them.
Our baseline measurement will be twofold. Firstly we will compile a qualitative set of data relative to observed levels of engagement prior to the first integrated project attempt. Secondly we will participate in the first integrated project. Understanding that this first attempt to learn differently will come with growing pains, and that we will need to see some degree of increased engagement to justify further exploration, we will initiate a second round. We will then reflect, retool, recalibrate and refine subsequent projects. We will compare and contrast levels of project sophistication, advancing skill sets and deepened understanding displayed during each round, and record progress.
What will this look, sound, feel like?
- contracting for grade
- choosing partners or no partners based on goals… choice is the rule of engagement
- student developed projects
- teachers will support and inspire
- others in school will ask questions about projects and process to nurture inspiration
- students will choose metaphors to represent the blending of curricular ideas in their projects
January – June 2014 (with a data analysis process at beginning of April)
- January- Integrated Project round #1
- Week 1: Pre-teaching
- Weeks 2-4: First attempt
- February- Integrated Project round #2
- Week 1: Reflection- Evaluation of first round and reflection re. how to improve and what is needed for support
- Week 2-4: Second attempt
- March- Integrated Project round #3
- Week # 1: Evaluation of second round and reflection re. how to improve and what is needed for support
- Week 2-4: Third attempt
- April- Data analysis
- Compile and analyze data with a purpose to decide whether this is a learning format we will continue to utilize, and especially to determine if it could work in a three way partnership (we will have three 7th grade classes next year).
We believe as teachers that we also need to be learners embedded purposefully within this AR process. By modeling the learning process we are trying to share and teach to our students, we are showing them that we are ourselves engaged and curious people… the type we want them to be.
- “The Active Classroom- Practical Strategies for Including Student in the Learning Process” by Rich Allen
- “World Class Learners- Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students” by Yong Zhao
- “Five Minds for the Future” by Howard Gardner