User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

PBL is Passion-Based Learning: Show Me Your Passion

with 4 comments

During the weekend of July 30-August 1, I attended the Reform Symposium, an online conference for educators, administrators, parents and students.. One of the sessions was by Angela Maiers, What the Heck is a 21st Century Skill Anyway? in which she spoke of her Dream Team.  My big “aha” from her session was providing students with the opportunity to live like a scientist, an artist, a mathematician …

Let them find their hero(s) — their choice, not yours. Once they pick their hero(s), have them dive into what made them tick – and what made them successful.

Fast forward one week later.  I watched a segment on 60 minutes about Jose Andres, a molecular gastronomy specialist.  My interest in this man was instantaneous due to his extreme passion for culinary arts.  When asked to describe him, a food critic stated, “Expect wonders.” The why’s and what’s of high school didn’t interest him so he dropped out to enroll in cooking school.  I repeat, he quit high school to pursue his passion.  What is the purpose of education especially in this century? Shouldn’t at least one major purpose be to nourish students’ passions?

Passion-Based Learning appears in the Blog-o-sphere every so often, most notably through the words of John Seely Brown.  During his New Media Consortium keynote this past summer, he stated:

What’s the mindset? A passionate pursuit of extreme performance with a deep questing disposition and a commitment to indwelling. Perhaps we should teach not skills, but dispositions. Immersion in, not about; marinating in the phenomena. Without digital media, this quest and this indwelling and this immersion would not be possible.

As I see it, if the characteristics of Passion Based Learning could be identified, they would include:

  • Self and Intrinsically Motivated, Learner-Driven
  • Individualistic
  • Desire for Deep Understanding of the Content-Topic
  • Driven by Innovation and Creativity
  • Vision of What Can Be
  • Desire to Make the World Better Via the Passion

If a student is passionate about a topic, doesn’t it make sense to have that student study, really study, professionals who who are also passionate?

Mastering a field of knowledge involves not only “learning about” the subject matter but also “learning to be” a full participant in the field. This involves acquiring the practices and the norms of established practitioners in that field.

It is passion-based learning, motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something (John Seely Brown)

A student, who is passionate about culinary arts, has a possibility of learning about culinary arts through Jose Andres.  Not only could this student learn about the craft of culinary arts, but also study and “practice” some of the dispositions.  Andres owns several restaurants, teaches a course in culinary physics, works with Harvard scientists to understand the science of food, and works at a food kitchen.  Some segments from an Interview with Jose Andres exemplify these dispositions:

Don’t be afraid to fail. I came to New York to open a Catalan restaurant that later closed. Failure, right? But not really, because that brought me [to the United States] and out of that came everything else … A lot of young people are afraid to make mistakes, and I think that keeps them from succeeding. Churchill said success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. So screw up, but don’t lose heart. Learn from it and keep moving.

Being on the board of directors of D.C. Central Kitchen, a non-profit that feeds the hungry and offers culinary arts training to the unemployed. Meeting Robert Egger, founder of this amazing organization that fights hunger and creates opportunity and trying to help him achieve his dream … to make sure no one is hungry and that we give opportunities to those people who want to contribute. That has been my sidekick job for 14 or 15 years and is probably the one that has given me the most joy.

As I watched the 60 Minutes segment and read through interviews I found online, I realized that it becomes much more than learning about the culinary arts.  It becomes a way of being in the world, the dispositions that contributes to success as a culinary artist.

Due to the Internet, the student can read and view media about Jose Andres, possibly connect directly with Jose Andres, and find similar minded students-professionals.  Follow-up could include the  study of molecular gastronomy, volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and writing/preparing his-her own recipes. This, in essence, would become a Personal or Individualized Learning Plan (PLP).  The student would learn about – live the dispositions of the culinary artist.

Even though I think students should find their own passion mentors, I believe that in my role as a tour guide of learning possibilities (how I explain my role as an educator), I can help identify possibilities.  I have begun a list . . .

  • Architecture – Cameron Sinclair
  • Animation –  John Alan Lasseter
  • Online Gaming – Jane McGonigal
  • Creative Writing – JK Rowling
  • Data and Statistics – Hans Rowling

This year, I have a half-time job as the technology instructor for a K-8 Charter school.  I plan post a big sign in my classroom that says, “Show me your passion!”

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 10, 2010 at 2:26 am

4 Responses

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  1. This has everything to do with what I also believe in. I just wrote a post about passion, and reigniting our passion, our drive to learn

    Excellent post!

    carla arena

    August 10, 2010 at 3:32 am

  2. Many people are raising their kids in this way. We call it unschooling- autonomous, interest driven, learner in the lead, self directed learning.
    It’s authentic because it comes from the learner; not imposed on the learner.


    August 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm

  3. […] William is living proof of Passion-Based Learning.  See my post PBL is Passion-Based Learning: Show Me Your Passion for more about […]

  4. Thanks for these insights. I just realized that this was written a year ago! But it is serving me well now as I think about how to leverage real time internet with PBL. As the example of the culinary arts shows –‘doing’ is the key to igniting PBL. Talking about it, reading about is all fine and well to a point–but somehow we don’t trust our students to DO things. I strive to create a dialogue with my student’s passion–moving between doing what we are studying and then reflecting upon it. Why don’t the students cook for each other at lunch? Can you imagine? The Center for Ecoliteracy has it right in this regard. Literacy is doing and using knowledge. This is the best way to verify a student’s passion. “I want to be a lighting designer” they might say, after a show or 2 of actually designing and actualizing the design, then we revisit this desire. I’m fortunate to work in the performing arts where students are there because they have passion–I sat in on a Business class and was shocked at the lack of passion. Yet if these students had been allowed or encouraged to create and run a business in high school, or even younger–wow.

    Jan Herder

    July 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm

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