I am currently part of a Leadership Development Initiative in which I need to lead a project or process in my school plan. The leadership process needs to be linked to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. My project is about leading the implementation of project based learning in my school and Community of Schools. There are 5 references to research-based learning at Lead level of the Standards so I have bee doing some research on Project Based Learning and let’s just say, they educational research jury is still out. But the contradictions got me thinking, particularly after I watched a video shared by Bianca Hewes who introduced me to Project Based Learning several years ago through the generous sharing of her work and expertise through her blog and social media.
Bianca shared Innovative Teaching and Learning: Lessons from High Tech High’s Founding Principal.
At 6:47 Larry Rosenstock discusses How We Learn. He talks about an exercise he has done called with large groups of people called, The Most Memorable Learning Experience Exercise.
In these exercises Rosenstock asks participants to write down the 2 most memorable learning experiences from their high school years. They are then asked to discuss their answers in a group and come up with the the key characteristics that defined these learning experiences to be shared with everyone.
From his experiences, he is certain that the group will come up with the following characteristics: It was a project, it involved community, it included a fear of failure and recognition of success, it had a mentor and a public display of work.
Rosenstock then respectfully asks if these are the components of our most memorable learning experiences, are we providing these to our students?
So this made me think of my most memorable learning experiences and to be honest, the learning experience that defined my future career choices had nothing to do with anything I did at school.
Yes, it was the Curiosity Show. My experience in Science at a Queensland High School, in Years 7 to 10, was not great. We were only allowed in a laboratory once a fortnight. The Curiosity Show was my link to practical science. This was in spite of my high school experience. These learning experiences were purely project based, inquiry-based and self-directed. I did the experiments at home because my interest was piqued.
As teachers, we can not under-estimate the value of personal interest projects to stimulate curiosity and build a love of learning in our students. It is what inspired me to pursue a career in science education.
My reading about project based learning, educational research, effect sizes and what this suggests about what works and what doesn’t has just begun but has created some big questions for me. Hattie suggest that this type of learning has little or no effect size. The linking of educational activities to short-term outcomes does not sit comfortably with me and I think it is because of the Curiosity Show. My learning was problem-based, inquiry based and 100% student centred but according to articles like this, those things have no impact. I understand that I am 1 person and Hattie’s work is a meta-analysis but my engagement in this TV show and trying to replicate the puzzles and projects created a life long learner and an enthusiastic Science Teacher but it made no difference to anything that was measured at school because it was not measured and I don’t think it could have been in the short term.
As a teacher and school leader, how do I balance my need to encourage those things that I see as important but cannot be or are difficult to measure in the short term with the need to justify what I do in a classroom with the widely accepted research? How do innovative teachers develop new ideas if they have to justify what they do in terms of what has already been done? My research and reading continues.