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The Ultimate Education Reform: Messy Learning & Problem Solving

The Ultimate Education Reform: Messy Learning & Problem Solving
Have you ever gone to the doctor with a rather vague problem? The kind of problem that has no obvious solution? “Doctor, my elbow hurts.” “Doctor, I have a runny nose.” “Doctor, look at this rash.” From that ambiguity, we expect our physicians to narrow down something that could have a thousand origins to the one specific cause, then make it all better with one specific treatment. We tell the mechanic: “My car is making a funny noise, can you fix it?” A quarterback asks: “What’s the best play to run, coach?” We might ask a decorator: “I need help redoing this room. We might ask friends: “What do you think is the best car for me to buy?” Some of our ambiguous problems are mundane: “What toothpaste should I use?” From our first activity in the morning until the last thing we do before we visit dreamland each night, we are constantly engaged in a series of problems to solve — some easy, some hard. So what’s this got to do with school? I love ill-structured problems. In pursuit of the messy answer Related:  Project Based LearningECE ResourcesThe Learning Process - Building a Philosophy

Dispelling some misunderstandings about PBL I spend a good chunk of time on Twitter, often participating in or lurking on a Twitter chat. I have seen project based learning — PBL — a topic of discussion, but at the same time, I see a lot of claims about PBL that are just not true. What bothers me about these claims is not that they are wrong but that these misconceptions lead to further problems when implementing PBL. “I do projects all the time.” “I don’t have time to do a PBL project and all the scaffolding needed and lessons.” “I have to focus on standardized test prep and don’t have time for PBL.” “Students will copy each other’s products.” Obviously, there are many more concerns and misunderstanding teachers may still have about PBL. Andrew Miller serves on the national faculty for the Buck Institute for Education and ASCD.

Related Pearltrees John Dewey on the True Purpose of Education and How to Harness the Power of Our Natural Curiosity by Maria Popova “While it is not the business of education … to teach every possible item of information, it is its business to cultivate deep-seated and effective habits of discriminating tested beliefs from mere assertions, guesses, and opinions.” “Do not feel absolutely certain of anything,” philosopher Bertrand Russell instructed in the first of his ten timeless commandments of teaching and learning in 1951. And yet formal education, today as much as then, is for the most part a toxic byproduct of industrialism based on the blind acquisition of certainty and the demolition of the “thoroughly conscious ignorance” that gives rise to real progress, both personal and cultural. In How We Think (free download; public library) — his timelessly stimulating 1910 treatise on the art of reflection and fruitful curiosity — John Dewey, one of the most influential minds of the twentieth century, distills the purpose and ideals of education with remarkable clarity and conviction. He later adds:

The Maker Movement: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants to Own the Future "Knowledge is a consequence of experience." -- Piaget Many teachers know that children learn best by doing. Champions of project-based learning have decades of research to support this, including Edutopia’s own compendium. Should we worry that making in the classroom is just the new-new thing, soon to be replaced by some other newer new-new thing? I also think that "making" shouldn't be just making anything. A computer with appropriate software means that opportunities for design, simulation, precision, accuracy, measurement, feedback, sensors, data, and programming are not just possible, but greatly enhanced. Meaningful Learning One of the first people to understand the potential of computers in education was Seymour Papert, a mathematician who worked with Piaget and helped found the MIT Media Lab. Papert defined a learning theory, constructionism, that holds the key to understanding the educational potential of the Maker movement: This is much more than hands-on learning. Human Assets

Crowdsourcing Information in the Classroom I was facilitating a workshop and one of the participants said Daniel Pink’s Drive was the most powerful and influential book she has read this year. I immediately ordered it on Amazon, and I’m thrilled I did! Pink explores human motivation and makes the argument that “for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose” (218). The economy is rapidly changing and jobs are more heuristic - demanding that employees learn, discover, understand, and solve problems on their own. As I reflect the current state of education, I wonder if this generation, which is being labeled the “lost generation,” is developing the skills needed to excel in a country that no longer needs factory workers, but rather innovative thinkers. I wanted to experiment with an idea I had while reading Pink’s book. Crowdsourcing Information Instead of Lecturing In a continual effort to circumvent the traditional lecture model, I decided to try crowdsourcing information about Shakespearean sonnets.

How to Foster Collaboration and Team Spirit Teaching Strategies Flickr: woodleywonderworks By Thom Markham Once they get to the working world, most students, in almost any job, will collaborate as a member of a team. And every student needs to be prepared for that environment — partly for employment opportunity, but mainly because the deeply embedded mental model of learning and creating as an individual process is obsolete. But collaboration doesn’t necessarily come naturally to students. Second, import and adapt the high-performance principles common in the work world to teams in the classroom. Examine individual strengths within collaborative context. Thom Markham is a psychologist, school redesign consultant, and the author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for inquiry and innovation for K-12 educators. Related Explore: collaboration

Constructivism (social or not!) Experiential Learning & Experiential Education: Philosophy, theory, practice & resources Several authors (e.g., Kraft, 1991; Richards, 1977) have pointed out that experiential learning dates back beyond recorded history and remains pervasive in current society, whether formalized by educational institutions or occurring informally in day-to-day life. In this sense, experiential learning is not an alternative approach, but the most traditional and fundamental method of human learning. Ironically, the current perception of experiential education as different is probably less due to new developments in experiential learning than it is to the normalization of didactic teaching as the mainstream educational methodology. Since the 1950's there has been a growing focus in writings and research specifically on experiential learning. Major sources for such material related to experiential learning in the outdoors are journals, conferences, books (e.g., edited texts that focus on current thinking in experiential learning such as Boud, et al., 1993; Weil & McGill, 1989), and websites.

The Power of "I Don't Know" The role of teaching has evolved. No longer are we the carriers of knowledge, giving it to students and assessing if they can repeat facts successfully. We are, instead, tasked with teaching students how to find answers themselves. And it all starts with a simple three-word phrase: I don't know. Adopting a comfortable "I don't know" attitude is far more accurate for what we need to do as educators then pretending we know it all. But in school where every client is a work in progress, we need to cultivate a certain excitement in not knowing something. Changing Attitudes At the start of each year, I have to train students that I will not be feeding them answers. Rather, I will teach them how to develop questions. I will also teach them that when I ask them a question it's OK if they say, "I don't know." "I don't know" has been so negatively ingrained that it can make a student feel powerless enough that just the mere inkling of it tickling their brain can shut down learning. 1. 2. 3.

Giving Good Praise to Girls: What Messages Stick How to praise kids: It’s a hot topic for many parents and educators. A lot of the conversation around it has stemmed from studies by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford who has been researching this specific topic for many years. “My research shows that praise for intelligence or ability backfires,” said Dweck, who co-authored a seminal research paper on the effects of praise on motivation and performance. “What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not. It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.” But what some might not know is that this paradox is strongest for girls. “Of all the subjects on earth, people think math is the most fixed,” Dweck said. [RELATED READING: Girls and Math: Busting the Stereotype] Katrina Schwartz

This is an example of Bruner's notion of "problem finding"-- encourage learners to discover problems, and that will give them the opportunity to solve the problems. by tomparmelee Apr 24