Posts Tagged ‘passion-based learning’
One of my guilty pleasures is watching MasterChef Junior, a cooking competition for 8 to 12 year olds, and as an educator, I have been analyzing it as a model for good teaching. My observations include:
- The challenges are hands-on and naturally engaging for these kids. They are based on the kids’ passion for and interest in cooking.
- The kids don’t need to be graded about their performances. Consequences are natural. Food gets burned. The kids sometimes get burned. The food dishes taste good or they don’t.
- There is a gamelike atmosphere. There are elements of play, leveling up (each subsequent challenge is more difficult), a sense of mastery or achievement upon accomplishing each challenge. The experience is immersive with the kids living the part of a chef. The kids get to try new roles such as team leaders, lead chefs, team representative, and being popular (this is one of the first situations that some of these kids get to shine).
- The kids push themselves to the limit within seemingly impossible challenges – mostly because of their love for cooking, a strong intrinsic motivator. The kids often create very difficult food dishes that they have never created before. They often rise to the challenges surprising both themselves and the judges with what they created.
Just seeing the kids … when their hands go up, and the look on their faces of what they have done is unbelievable. You can tell right on their face at that moment if they’re happy or if they’ve completely blown it. Obviously there are failures, and they’re crying. For the ones that have done well, when they put their hands up and they are proud of what they just put on the plate, that look — there’s no words to even go there with it. It’s unbelievable, because you know that they put everything into it. (Inside “MasterChef Junior,” the best cooking show on television)
- The challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for the kids – there are things like mystery food boxes; the judges introduces challenges are astronauts; the kids cooking for other kids at an amusement. The kids visible shake with excitement and anticipation while the challenges are being introduced.
- The judges are clear, specific, and truthful with their feedback: both positive and negative. The judges give brutally honest feedback. They are very specific in describing what worked and what didn’t work about about the kids’ food creations. Sometimes the kids cry but there is visible respect that the kids have for the judges and that judges have for the kids.
Even when Gorden (the top chef and host) is disciplining them, or yelling at them about something, there’s this level of respect that the child has for him, and he has for the child, that total care. They know, they get it. He’s this grandiose father figure that has the career of their dreams, and he just does it so naturally. He doesn’t sugarcoat things for them like they are a toddler. I mean, he really goes at them when they need it, but there’s always this wonderful constructive element. So that was awesome to see. (Inside “MasterChef Junior,” the best cooking show on television)
- There is an atmosphere of mutual respect . . . kids for the judges, judges for the kids, and kids for one another.
- The adult judges will come in and help the kids if they see any individual being pushed too far over their limits and capabilities. This intervention is based on teaching the kids proper technique not doing it for them.
- There is a healthy competition where the kids have to compete against one another. The objective is to win but the kids seem more concerned about their own performance rather than the performance of their peers.
- The kids, through working together on many of their challenges, develop into a close knit team and visibly support each other. Even though they are competing against each other, they seem to understand they are with like minded peers. In effect, they develop their own PLNs based on similar interests. For some, it is the first time they have been with peers with a passion for cooking. Many cry when one of their peers in eliminated from the competition and say that they made friends for life.
What I believe the kids learn during their MasterChef Junior experiences:
- Additional cross-curricular skills including math skills, oral communication, following directions;
- Working with a team;
- Tolerance for frustration;
- That their passions and interests are valuable and meaningful.
Many of the kids in interviews following their elimination from the competition state that it was the best experience of their lives. I have a hunch that many of these kids would say their MasterChef experiences taught them as much or more than all of the school years combined. I’ve written about creating the conditions for the best day ever.
It’s mind blowing how much I grew as a chef, how much I grew as a person. 12 year old Zac
Educators, in this era of learning, should focus on those conditions that create an environment that each and every one of their students love coming to school and love learning.
Educators are creating their own professional development opportunities on their own time without compensation, acknowledgement, nor credit.
With so many great resources on the web, teachers are realizing that they can learn just as much (if not more!) from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development (PD). Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals across the globe, reading about best practices and new trends in education, and sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Through social media, popular blogs and webinars, teachers are taking ownership of their learning and finding PD opportunities that weren’t possible a decade ago (Do-It-Yourself Virtual Professional Development: Taking Ownership of Your Learning).
Here is a list of how they are doing it:
- Being active on Twitter via
- Twitter Hashtags (see http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/a-comprehensive-index-to-educational.html )
- Tweet Chats (see http://goo.gl/IYDNqk)
- Attending and/or presenting at a virtual conference:
- Participating in a MOOC:
- Attending and contributing to ongoing webinar series:
- Writing Blog posts – reading and commenting on others’ blogs.
- Going to and/or helping organize Edcamps (see http://theeducatorsroom.com/2014/05/edcamp-unconference/)
For more information on self-directed professional development, see my post, Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development:
Due to the interest of my post The Other 21st Skills, I decided to individually discuss each of the skills or dispositions I proposed that are in addition to the seven survival skills as identified by Tony Wagner. This post focuses on vision for the future.
Having a vision for the future is an natural extension of Hope and Optimism, another 21st century skill I proposed. A vision for the future enhances hope and optimism. To clarify, having a vision for the future is identifying and taking steps toward fulfilling one’s dream. It goes beyond and is qualitatively different than identifying what one wants to be when one grows up or thinking about college. It is about dreams.
The following excerpt was from my post, Dream-Driven Education. . . Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams states:
Have we created a trillion-dollar, multimillion-student, sixteen-year schooling cycle to take our best and our brightest and snuff out their dreams—sometimes when they’re so nascent that they haven’t even been articulated? Is the product of our massive schooling industry an endless legion of assistants? The century of dream-snuffing has to end. The real shortage we face is dreams, and the wherewithal and the will to make them come true. We’re facing a significant emergency, one that’s not just economic but cultural as well. The time to act is right now, and the person to do it is you.
We can teach them not to care; that’s pretty easy. But given the massive technological and economic changes we’re living through, do we have the opportunity to teach productive and effective caring? Can we teach kids to care enough about their dreams that they’ll care enough to develop the judgment, skill, and attitude to make them come true? (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)
I propose that educators take a proactive stance to move from a system that may steal kids’ dreams to one that promotes the actualization of learner dreams. I have a dream today and everyday that education can become a conduit through which learners are provided with the time, knowledge, strategies, and tools to make their own dreams come true. We are living in an era that education can be passion-based and dream-driven. In this context, the role of the educator becomes that of dream-facilitator.
The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen. (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)
- Vision for one’s own dream.
- Identifying and taking steps to achieve one’s dream.
- Finding and connecting with a like minded community.
- Reflecting on progress towards achieving one’s dream.
One of the first tasks of the educator as a dream-facilitator is to discover and help his/her learners discover their dreams, passions, and interests. The message given to the learners can be something in line with the following:
Visions must be about your deepest dreams of what you want when you listen to you heart. You can’t dream about toys or things we buy that only make you happy for a few minutes. You must use your heart to imagine yourself creating a happy life – what you want to do, who you want to be, and how you can help others. (adapted from http://glad.is/article/create-a-vision-board/)
Some guiding questions to help learners identify and articulate their dreams include:
- Given no restrictions, what would you like to do in your spare time?
- If you could wave a magic wand and be or do anything you want, what would it be?
- In one year from now, 10 years from now, what would you like to be doing that would make you happy?
- What would your life be like if it were perfect?
Learners can be provided with a choice with how they answer theses questions: verbal or written responses, video or audio recording, or a drawing. Erin Little, a 5th-6th grade teacher, had here students blog about these questions. Here are some example blogs:
An extension of this activity might be asking learners to create a vision board (see Vision Boards for Kids and Visions & Values for Kids). Technology could be used for this process by giving students the opportunity to create a Glog or an Animoto of images that symbolizes their dreams.
20% Time or Genius Hour
Classroom time can be set aside for students to spend time with and work towards their dreams and visions. Genius hour and/or 20% time is being implemented in many classrooms for this purposte:
For more information about Genius Hour and 20% time, see:
- Embrace Change in the New Year with Genius Hour
- 20% Time in Education
- Genius Hour Manifesto
- Why “20% Time” is Good for Schools
Student-Driven Personal Learning Networks
Support systems or personal learning networks could then be established based on grouping learners with similar dreams. The group would act as cheerleaders, support-providers, progress-checkers, and resource providers for one another. One of the group’s learning activities could focus on expanding their personal learning networks to include folks with similar dreams who they locate via social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other social networks.
Dreams will only come try if actions are taken to achieve them. As such, the educator should facilitate a method for learners to reflect on progress towards their dreams.
- What did you do today, this week to achieve your dreams?
- What obstacles are you having or foresee having in progress towards your dream? How can you overcome your obstacles?
- What resources did you locate that can help you fulfill your dreams?
Blogging or micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter) could be used for this reflective process.
As a parting shot about young people and their dreams, here is a short film by high school student, Sam Fathallah. The asked his classmates to write their dreams out on a transparent whiteboard.
. . . and for those who just want some additional inspiration, Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams . . .
Zak Malamed of StuVoice.Org mentioned in a student voice panel that when given projects by teachers to complete, it was often just another “thing” to get done, just like a paper or worksheet. I have seen lessons shared by teachers that they called Project-Based Learning, Inquiry Learning, or Maker Education, but upon close examination they appear to be another form of direct instruction with a hands-on activity thrown into the mix. These activities had no connections and very limited relevancy to the real lives of students. Students using scissors, markers, drawings, or a Web 2.0 tool does not make a PBL or Maker Education curricular unit.
Just because it’s hands-on doesn’t mean it’s minds-on. Many projects, problems, situations, and field trips do not yield lasting and transferable learning because too little attention is given to the meta-cognitive and idea-building work that turns a single experience into insight and later application. Grant Wiggin’s Experiential Learning
As noted in the TLC High School Google site in Projects” vs. Project Based Learning’s What’s the difference or are they the same?
Projects done in school are usually the result of learning students have done. The typical approach is to learn about a topic through readings, worksheets, direct teacher instruction, then to create a project that demonstrates the learning that has occurred through the unit.
Project Based Learning is an approach that guides the learning, through driving questions and student inquiry, to uncover or discover the information needed to answer a question, solve a problem/mystery, or invent/create something new. In Project Based Learning, the project is not simply the visible result or culmination of the learning, but rather the cause of the learning.
This got me thinking about the necessary conditions for implementing PBL or Maker Education as a viable and effective instructional strategy. The guiding questions I developed are:
- Does the educator have a deep understanding the philosophical principles and theoretical underpinnings of the instructional strategy?
- Is there an authentic and relevant context directly related to the students’ lives?
- Does the educator incorporate student voice and interests in its conception and development?
- In its implementation, do the students have permission and freedom to go in a direction that interests them?
- In its implementation, does the teacher fade into the background with students coming into the foreground of thinking, doing, and discussing?
- Are there the venues, space, time, strategies for reflection so students can construct their own meanings and understandings?
Does the educator have a deep understanding the philosophical principles and theoretical underpinnings of the instructional strategy?
In order to use any instructional technique effectively, the teacher needs to understand the fundamental principles and assumptions upon which the specific technique is based (http://www.adprima.com/strategi.htm). Educators should go through a process of learning, understanding, and articulating the theory and guiding principles of a new teaching strategy-framework when considering the use of the strategy in their own classrooms.
Grant Wiggins recommends asking students the following questions about their learning within an experiential framework, but educators could benefit from also addressing these questions in determining and developing PBL and Maker Education curriculum:
- What are you doing?
- Why are you doing it?
- What does this help you do that’s important? Grant Wiggin’s Experiential Learning
Free and accessible content on the Internet provides educators with a variety and full range of opportunities to learn about the instructional strategies being considered for implementation in the classroom.
Resources for Project-Based Learning:
- Buck Institute of Education Project-Based Learning
- Edutopia’s Project-Based Learning
- Scoopit of PBL resources
Resources For Maker Education:
- Invent to Learn book by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager
- Maker Club Playbook
Why the Maker Movement matters to educators article by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager
Is there an authentic and relevant context directly related to the students’ lives?
The topics, content, and processes being introduced to students need to be relevant to the students themselves. It needs to have a context within their lives. School curriculum often presents content in these bits and pieces of facts and knowledge that are un- and disconnected to anything related to the students’ prior knowledge and life experiences. Because of this disconnectedness, this content often floats away. A relevant, current, and timely context provides students with the stickiness needed to make the content relevant, deep, and long lasting.
Contemporary views on learning see it as an active and recursive process. This perspective is driven by greater recognition of the pivotal role of the ‘learning context’ in knowledge construction and understanding. This is the constructivist perspective on learning. It is grounded in the belief that learning and cognition are most potent when situated within a meaningful context, and within the culture and the community within which learners live. (http://pcf4.dec.uwi.edu/learning.php)
“In education we provide problems separate from the relevance or the context in which they need to be used.” Ntiedo Etuk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_T9ePzANg#t=345)
Without meaningful context and sensible processes, learning can become, well, merely academic. The learning system of the 21st century must be designed to deliver the right content via the right processes in the right context. The definition of “right” is whatever gives learners access to their own skills, creativity, and success. What works today could be obsolete in six months, so we must focus on creating opportunities for self-generated, relevant learning that allows people to discover avenues for self-empowerment in the future (http://www.fastcompany.com/73376/how-learning-relevant-me).
Project-Based Learning and Maker Education, when effectively implemented, have the potential to establish relevancy. Hands-on, experiential activities, the uses of all senses, a sense of play and fun, and immediate and authentic feedback are natural elements of these instructional strategies. They are multisensory, multidisciplinary, and multidimensional increasing the chances to be seen as relevant by the students.
Because the educator has the background knowledge and skills related to the PBL or Maker Education curriculum being implemented, s/he can clearly address each of the following questions:
- What? What are we doing in class today? What questions will we try to answer? What concepts will we address? What questions will we answer? What activities will we do?
- Why? Why are we studying this? How are today’s content and activities tied to the other areas of one’s life? What should I know or be able to do after today’s class? How can the information and skills be used in everyday life?
- How? How are we going to address the content? (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/why-are-we-doing-this-establishing-relevance-to-enhance-student-learning/)
Add to this mix student voice and choice (see next section), then relevancy can be almost assured.
Does the educator incorporate student voice and interests in curricular conception and development?
If the educator develops the guiding questions, the methods of exploration and inquiry, and the expected outcomes, then it is the teacher’s project not the students’. The students still may be interested in the lesson, but the ownership is still that of the teacher.
Effective PBL and Maker Education are often driven by guiding or essential questions. If the educator is serious about students voice, then s/he will involve students in generating these questions. As I discussed in Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions:
The most important questions of all are those asked by students as they try to make sense out of data and information. These are the questions which enable students to make up their own minds. Powerful questions – smart questions, if you will – are the foundation for information power, engaged learning and information literacy. ( (http://fno.org/oct97/question.html)
. . . and if students are helping to generate the guiding questions for the PBL or Maker Education curricular unit, then it follows that their interests, passions, and wonderings will also be incorporated
As both PBL and Maker-Education are process-oriented instructional strategies, these questions should be re-visited throughout the process by the students to see if they need to be changes, revised, or re-generated.
In its implementation, do the students have permission and freedom to go in a direction that interests them?
PBL and Maker Education entails the educator becoming a tour guide of learning possibilities; showing the students the learning opportunities and then getting out of the way. This translates into letting go of expected products or outcomes; letting the learning process naturally go in the directions that students take them; expecting and embracing failure as learning opportunities; and listening to and validating student suggestions.
In its implementation, does the teacher fade into the background with students coming into the foreground of thinking, doing, and discussing?
Another one of my beliefs about good education is that the students should be doing more talking, doing, and thinking than the teacher during instructional time. This literally means the educator becomes the guide on the side and the observer from the back. Students naturally emerge as co-learners and peer tutors as the PBL and Maker Education learning activities evolve when they given the permission and freedom to do so.
Are there the venues, space, time, strategies for reflection so students can construct their own meanings and understandings?
PBL and Maker Education, when done “right”, become discovery-based learning leading to students constructing their own understandings and meaning. It is a constructivist approach to learning.
Discovery learning is an inquiry-based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. Students interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments. As a result, students may be more more likely to remember concepts and knowledge discovered on their own. (http://www.learning-theories.com/discovery-learning-bruner.html)
Incorporating reflection into the instructional process with the goal of articulating learning insights helps insure that learning is not left up to change. Moon points out the conditions for reflection include time and space, a good facilitator, a supportive curricular, and an emotionally supportive environment (https://sites.google.com/site/reflection4learning/why-reflect). It needs to be intentionally built into the curriculum and as with all aspects of instruction, student voice is the primary voice during the reflection process. To read more on the reflection process, visit Where is reflection in the learning process?