In my University career, I have only a few times come up against assignments and projects that were open ended. In these open ended projects many a times we have been given very basic outlines (for example use at least 3 drama conventions) to create a sort of assignment that fits your own learning style and personal story. Every time I get these project outlines, I automatically find myself in a panic. When given the freedom to define my own learning and look for content that fits me in the context, I find the possibility of finding something that is “good enough” to be incredibly overwhelming. I am finding this right now in one of my English classes, where we have been asked to create our own presentation about anything to do with a specific genre. I think what I am having such a hard time with is the open ended nature of the assignment, and the possibility of not fully being able to find what really interests me in terms of this genre.
How does this relate to education? Well this past week our education class was asked to access a variety of online educational resources that better showcased some of the front-runners in educational development. In doing so, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many great videos and blogs from educators and policy makers surrounding new and inventive fashions to engage students. One major aspect of a lot of these websites was “Project Based Learning”. In this kind of learning students are asked to ask questions and investigate an authentic area of discovery. An example of this approach can be found at the “Inquiry Hub” website, where students are asked to frame their learning within 1 of 3 themes or streams of study. These are Community and Global Issues, environmental sustainability, and media arts and technology. Furthermore, instead of having a “old story” lecture style set up, students are given the ability to inquire through workshop and collaborative practice. It is in this new distinct style of schooling that students are able to base their understanding in authentic open ended questions, with complex and ever changing answers.
Looking at all the incredible resources in terms of Project Based Learning in sighted a questioning for me. Why at the University level do I so dramatically reject the notion of authentic learning, and the ability to decide my own questioning? I remember first coming to University and being very thrown off by the possibility of making my own choices in regards to educational discipline and assessment. Was I trained in the “old story” to only follow directions, and engage in unauthentic educational possibilities? And if so, did my ability to critically think and work through complex issues become dejected? Personally I think that it takes practice, but eventually we as “old story” learners will be able to develop into the “new story” and away from inauthentic education.
As a future educator, I can really see the merit in authentic and inquiry based learning. When looking at how students can engage so deeply in their inquiry based projects, it is amazing that many of these models are not more fully integrated into the curriculum. I really am excited to attempt to use some of these great ideas with my own future classes. Check out these great resources!