Saturday, June 30, 2012
Reflections on the Pursuit of Passion
The last post I did was on a pilot program we had developed to help our year 7's become better researchers by improving their information literacy skills through special scaffolded program focusing on these skills. It was held in the last two weeks of school and involved 4 subjects, about 10 teachers in it's development and execution, 120 students and 21 lesson of 50 minutes in duration.
It was an intense 2 weeks for me as I tried to get to as many of the lessons as I could to support the teachers. We did run to into some problems with timetabling issues, students being away for a a day and becoming very behind and having to catch up on what they had missed, and a few other minor issues.
We asked the students to do a reflection on the Pursuit of Passion, as always they had different perspectives on what went on in those two weeks and their reflections are quite interesting. We used a Positive, Negative, Interesting graphic organiser with a special part of what was the best part of the PoP program.
It was almost unanimous that everyone loved not having homework during that time. One of the other observations was that we took too long preparing to research but actually spent a small amount of time researching. This is interesting as we were researching as we went along, yet they did not connect that finding keywords & concepts, creating & evaluating questions is part of the research process, that while we were learning how to skim & scan a document, they were doing so on their own topic, when we learned about diigo they were finding their own sites and bookmarking them. Learning about Google advanced search they were using their own search terms, and yet this was all still just 'preparation' rather than research.
It was also very obvious that they particularly enjoyed presenting to their peers and creating a presentation. This is interesting as I am not sure of how many tasks they do during the year where they present to each other in such a way. They do a lot of written work through the year, so maybe this is something that can be pursued further in the next years.
They all particularly liked how they could research on something they are interested in, and this is where I think school does fall down. How much of what is part of the curriculum is something that the students choose out of interest? Most of the curriculum is determined by a higher being somewhere and the students are subject to learning about things they may have no interest in.
Some of the students felt the program was a bit long, some of the lessons boring. They probably were, but this is the best reason for these skills to not be taught in isolation. If they are taught or reinforces as required through the curriculum, then the time required is short and the 'boredom' factor would be reduced.
We also discovered many skills that the students did not know how to do that we assumed they could do - such as effective brainstorming using a mind map.
The reflections are also an interesting look at the maturity levels across the year 7 cohort on how they reflect and what was important to them. We do need to continual remind ourselves these are 11-12 year olds, and that their brains are not quite what we may expect them to be.
The teachers also had a reflection time - the positives were about the collaborative nature of the program with so many people involved. Many of the teachers also learned new skills and tools to use, and are wanting to know more. They are now keen to embed information literacy skills into the curriculum and want to learn more about them and they want me to work with them
So overall I do think the programme was a success, however if we were to do it again there would be major changes. The skills would be taught through the year, then at the end of the year for two weeks, the students would have the opportunity to pursue their passion using the skills they already have, and refining those they may not be as strong in. They would have a longer time to present their passions and learning.
The templates will be used across the curriculum as a reminder of the process. The next step will be making them writable PDF documents so they can be used and stored online and without printing. The students and teachers involved have a greater understanding of the skills and actions that are required before research actually begins to achieve authentic learning and better quality work.
If you are interested, you can see most of the reflections from the students here the reflections of the teachers involved are right below it.
I have also made available the booklet we created and used with the students. You can access that here : Pursuit of Passion booklet. I have removed some of the pages due to the use of text that we used to practise notemaking.
Now onto the Annual Report which is way overdue!