Combining classroom knowledge with real-life expertise

Combining classroom knowledge with real-life expertise

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Masum Billah
We are to prepare our learners to face the challenges of the 21st model of passively learning facts and reciting them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare them to survive in today’s world.Today students need to acquire both fundamental as well as 21st writing, and math and 21st century skills include (i)personal and social responsibility (ii) planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity(iii)strong communication skills, both for interpersonal and presentation needs(iv)cross-cultural understanding(v)visualizing and decision making (vi)knowing how and when to use technology and choosing the most appropriate tool for the task. With this combination of skills, students become directors and managers of their learning process, guided and mentored by a skilled teacher. Project based learning encourages students to become independent workers, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners by brining real-life context and technology to the curriculum. It is not just a way of learning; it’s a way of working together. If students learn to take responsibility for their own learning, they will form the basis for the way they will work with others in their adult lives.
Children have various learning styles. They build their knowledge on varying ackgrounds and experiences. It is also recognized that children have a broader range of capabilities than they have been permitted to show in regular classrooms with the traditional text-based focus. Project Based Learning addresses these differences, because students must use all modalities in the process of researching and solving a problem, then communicating the solutions. When children are interested in what they are doing and are able to use their areas of strength, they achieve at a higher level.It lets the teacher have multiple assessment opportunities and allows a child to demonstrate his or her apabilities while working independently. It shows the child’s ability to apply desired skills such as doing research. It develops the child’s ability to work with his or her peers, building teamwork and group skills. It allows the teacher to learn more about the child as a person. It helps the teacher communicate in progressive and meaningful ways with the child or a group of children on a range Project Based Learning and the use of technology enable students, teachers, and administrators to reach out beyond the school building. It teaches children to take control of their learning which is the first step as lifelong learners’ century.
So, the old-school  century skills to solve highly complex problems. Fundamental skills are reading,
A project should give students opportunities to build such 21st century skills as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and the use of technology, which will serve them well in the workplace and life. This exposure to authentic skills meets the second criterion for meaningful work. A teacher in a project-based learning environment explicitly teaches and assesses these skills and provides frequent opportunities for students to assess themselves.
Students find project work more meaningful if they conduct real inquiry, which does not mean finding information in books or websites and pasting it onto a poster. In real inquiry, students follow a trail that begins with their own questions, leads to a search for resources and the discovery of answers, and often ultimately leads to generating new questions, testing ideas, and drawing their own conclusions. With real inquiry comes innovation—a new answer to a driving question, a new product, or an individually generated solution to a problem. The teacher does not ask students to simply reproduce teacher- or textbook-provided information in a pretty format.To guide students in real inquiry, refer students to the list of questions they generated after the entry event. The teacher should coach them to add to this list as they discover new insights.
The classroom culture should value questioning, hypothesizing, and openness to new ideas and perspectives. How students specifically derive benefits from project based learning: Teachers set parameters for each project and the students are free to propose their own ideas, pending their teacher’s approval. Students feel a sense of educational ownership because they have greater control over what and how they learn, students often feel more invested and responsible for their work.
Project-based learning also makes it easier for students to learn at a pace that’s comfortable for them. Students get the opportunity to acquire complex and real world skills. Project-based learning teaches students about teamwork, critical thinking, communication, decision-making, time management, public speaking, organization, social behavior and more. The traditional classroom lecture model is all about listening. The teacher lectures and the students absorb. A key advantage of project-based learning is that each student has more one-on-one time with their instructors to ask questions and share ideas.
How teachers get benefit from it: Traditional classroom learning involves a teacher more or less speaking to his or her students with little interaction other than to ask or answer a periodic question. Project-based learning puts the teacher into more of a facilitator role that allows for greater dialogue with each individual student. With each new project that’s proposed and presented, teachers receive a glimpse into the interests, passions and motivators of their students.
Everything about a given project – the topic that’s selected, how it’s presented, how students works with others, where they pull their research from – gives teachers crucial information about the learning habits of their class. The assessment process in a project-based learning setting usually involves more than just the opinion of the teacher and often times includes other instructors and even peers of the student. Another benefit of project-based learning is the ability to draw in resources from the entire school and even the community. Learning is no longer confined to the walls of the classroom, but rather is conducted on a more beyond boundary scale, giving teachers an even greater pool of assets to work with.With the ever-increasing pressure to raise performance standards in school, Project Based Learning helps to engage students’ intrinsic motivation to learn and, in turn, increase performance. School leaders are also able to tout curriculums that incorporate school-wide learning. Parents can see information on their child’s educational progress that a traditional report card can’t provide. It often takes students outside of the classroom; a school’s surrounding community quickly becomes an educational resource. Community leaders and places of interest can be tremendous resources for various student projects, and can also be beneficiaries of student work.
Project-based learning focuses on real-world problems, issues, and contexts. It promotes use of all four language modalities namely listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It engages learners in authentic communication with team members and is learner-centered and teacher-facilitated. Completion of projects typically requires learners to use language in a variety of ways to collaborate on a plan, negotiate tasks, contribute ideas and constructive criticism, assess progress, and achieve consensus on various issues that are important to the learners’ lives.
Unlike problem-based learning, which focuses on discussing and solving a problem, project-based learning focuses on developing a product, such as a group presentation, class newspaper, or cookbook of recipes from each student’s native culture (Starr, 2005). Other projects to use with adults learning English might include creating oral histories; designing books for children in the family; writing short plays, skits, or poetry; surveying students in the program (or the community) about an issue of interest or concern, analysing the survey, displaying the data and using it for next steps; listing tips on how to apply to a school or training program; or producing mock TV news broadcasts or talk shows, complete with commercials, focused on issues of personal significance or of significance in the community. When a project is designed for students to produce and practice English in ways they need to outside the classroom (e.g., participating on a team, repairing communication breakdowns), it provides a bridge to real-world communication (Bas, 2008).
Literature circles provide a venue for students to engage with one another while also interacting with texts of interest and importance to their lives. Originally developed by Harvey Daniels (1994), literature circles are similar to a book club, where readers can engage in lively discussions about what they have read.A recent experimental design study showed that literature circles can have an impact on English language learners’ reading comprehension as measured on standardized tests (McElvain, 2010). While this study was conducted with children, it seems likely that literature circles can be adapted for high-intermediate and advanced adults learning English. In McElvain’s version of literature circles, groups of four to six students were formed based on the level of text they were reading. Students read silently in class for fifteen minutes and spent the next fifteen minutes responding to the text in a reading response log. During the final fifteen minutes, students either participated in student-led book clubs by sharing from their reading response logs, or they worked on a collaborative book project. McElvain suggests
that the most important aspect of literature circles is the “collaborative talk” about the reading that takes place among students throughout the activity as well as with the teacher, creating a “classroom literacy community” (p. 182; Mesa & Chang, in press). An additional finding from this study was that both teachers and learners reported increased engagement in reading and improved confidence to participate in class discussions.
Students gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and standards at the heart of a project. Projects also build vital workplace skills and lifelong habits of learning. Projects can allow students to address community issues, explore careers, interact with adult mentors, use technology and present their work to audiences beyond the classroom. Project Based Learning can improve students who might otherwise find schools boring or meaningless. It combines traditional classroom knowledge with real-world expertise and skills to better prepare students for success. Many changes are taking place around the world to make teaching –learning more life-oriented, more meaningful and interesting. Shouldn’t we join them?
(The author is Program Manager: BRAC Education Program and Vice-president: Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA)

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