Posted in Teaching and Learning

A blog with a collection of blogs posts about research in education

The link itself isn’t that stunning:
Read all about research/

But some of the links are more interesting.

The link that caught my eye was the evaluation of Project Based Learning.

You may recall I’ve been quite gung-ho in the past in favour of PBL but I’ve changed my mind in recent years.

I helped bring in the Pompeii Project. Initially we wanted this as a very open project but due to the collaborations with the multiple subjects some firm requirements were established and clear assessment criteria (based on the KS3 levels) shared with he students.  I originally found this very frustrating, but it did focus the students and now reflecting on this, I think it probably gave them the scaffolding they needed to sustain a six week project.

In ICT in Year 9 we trialled Self Directed Learning projects where the students would pick their own learning project (within the field of ICT) and devise a strategy to teach themselves what they needed to complete the project.  We even invited guests in to see their finished projects.  My initial analysis of the results of the projects was that some students did not have the skills to work independently (even with a framework to guide their approach) and that explained why some of the projects were unsuccessful – especially when some of my very able students could not produce work of any merit.  The first thoughts are that this child just likes to be spoon-fed and she’s good at regurgitating facts but lacks the core 21st century skills (6Rs/PLTs/Eli dimensions).  What I suspect was really the issue is that many students pick inappropriate projects that were well beyond their current experience and knowledge (or too safely within that they were not stretching themselves or leaning anything).  When they analysed the project to work out what they needed to know they did not understand it well enough to truly establish what they needed to learn.  When they did try and learn they then couldn’t focus on the key concepts that would bring success because EVERYTHING was new to them.  Even when they had their chats with me as a mentor, they couldn’t process the advice.

This graph hit a chord when I saw it.


It matches my recent experience with teaching computer programming.

I have students from 3 schools in my A-Level Computer Science class.  One school has taught programming and the other two haven’t. So as not to bore the students who have programmed before we chose to teach a language that nobody had done before.  The problem was that those who had experience understood the principles of programming  quickly adapted to the new language and got frustrated in the lessons. All they wanted was to know the new ‘vocab’ of the language and to get on with challenges so they could apply it.  Problems were what these students craved.  They were capable of using resources to find the commands they needed because they knew they must exist.  As they hit new concepts they could assimilate them quickly because they were adding it to existing knowledge.

The new programmers found all this demoralising because they could see the more able students just flying. They were just as capable of searching the internet as the other group, but they couldn’t make sense of the resources.  They needed much slower paced worked examples so that they could understand the concepts as well as trying to learn the language.  Giving these students a project at the off would be impossible for them and off putting rather than engaging.

The challenge for me is to try and establish where my students are on the experience axis and determine the stage to introduce more problem based learning and when I actually need to spend more time working through problems with them…


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