Shifting to Situated Learning

In education, we are constantly being bombarded with the idea of Innovation; of shifting the paradigm from traditional classrooms to the new.  We’ve seen George Couros constantly write in his blog about shifting from a Fixed-mindset through a Growth-mindset to an Innovator Mindset.   One of his contemporaries, Katie Martin, writes about developing that mindset by making it Learner-Centered Innovation in her book and blog.  We even have a shift in the rebirth of making Project-based Learning more engaging as well in A.J. Juliani’s newest book The PBL Playbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Actually Doing Project-Based Learning.

In my classroom, I’ve decided to embrace an older method of teaching as well and polish it up a notch or so.  It’s called Situated Learning or Legitimate Peripheral Participation.  In older times, it was referred to as Apprenticing.   The casual observer  might ponder how that would work in a classroom.  It’s easy to picture a student following this type of curriculum if they were in some Performing Arts class or Agriculture course, but what about technology, or other classes for that matter?

The simple truth is, I am a life-long learner.  In that I see this as an intellectual career that I will pursue, I want to transfer it to my students.  So, in my classroom, students are in charge of the learning.  I provide a cluster of information, learning objectives, standards that must be covered, and a few resources to kick-start them in the right direction.  I use the Kagan student partnering schema to make sure that students are partnered with the best match to help the be successful.  As you have read from a previous blog entry, I post a statement everyday and have the students formulate a complex, deep-reaching question.

I frame each lesson as such:

  1. I expect the students to identify the problems in the lesson (objectives),
  2. Students ask deep-reaching, complex questions about the standards in the framework of the objectives.
  3. Students then research the resources needed to answer each of the questions.
  4. Once resources are in place, a plan of action is crafted that shows how and what is needed to answer each question using S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  5. Students then implement their plan of action, learning and answering the questions.

Finally, I have the students brainstorm and develop a proposal for how they wish to demonstrate mastery of learning in this cluster of info (unit).  It must be detailed and include a rubric of how they wish to be graded as well.

I don’t just leave them to the wolves either.  I help them along the way so that they can keep perspective of what they are doing.  Sometimes, students will formulate something too big to be accomplished within the limits of the time frame I have to give them.  In this case, I can help  them scale it back a bit.  I can also push it to include more info as well.

Students feel more comfortable to take risks.  It looks more like organized chaos, but it works.

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