Personalized learning has lately been a major focus at our school. It’s kind of a no-brainer — give learners agency by letting them have input into what they want to learn about, how they want to learn, how they want to be assessed, what they want to be assessed on — and they will be more likely to dig deeper into their inquiries. Our job as educators in this scenario is to ask guiding questions, help students with metacognition, and provide guidance in the form of assessments.
Our old way of structuring co-curricular activities was to meet as a grade level team and decide on various activity-based sessions that were loosely related to what students were already learning in class, but with a connection to STEAM. This was passable, but not ideal. We have also tried various other methods – from totally open-ended makerspace chaos for 8 weeks, to solving prescribed problems with purposely limited tools and materials to teaching discrete skills and knowledge in isolation.
And now for something completely different.
We asked grade six students to consider the central idea for their new unit of inquiry and to find or think of a real-world problem connected to it. 168 out of 201 students responded! We collected all the information using Google forms, collated it into groups connected by larger problems, and asked students to then consider what problem interested them the most. We divided students up into groups based on that choice (there was no ranking of first choice, second choice, etc.) and assigned them a teacher to work with the larger group. We are using the ISTE Innovative Designer standards to help us know what to aim for in terms of solutions, and the MYP design cycle to help us to get there. We’ve also designed some simple Google forms to help us track student progress and understanding, so we will have a better idea of how to support each other. Students have access to the portable makercart, the makerspace, and of course the rest of the resources normally available to them. The focus is on creating solutions, not products, and solutions will likely be quite diverse.
Let’s see how this pans out.