Keeping it REAL

Students interact with challenges that address a real-world problem, creating a workable solution and presenting this to an authentic audience.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Progress so far...

I thought, after one semester of trying out challenge-based learning that it would be a good time to stop and take stock of how things have gone. In this post I will share with you some of the things that my students have reported back, along with my own thoughts on the progress so far.

Challenge-based learning has certainly lived up to its name so far - it has been challenging. It is great to see what students can create when given time and space to do it. At the same time, it is hard to get used to the idea as it also means that sometimes students do not pull off the dream they had and both they and I need to be ready for that. That has been one of the more difficult things to get used to. As a teacher the norm is to work really hard so that all students are able to succeed in what they do. I don't think that changes in challenge-based learning but the word 'success' needs to be redefined.

As adults, we know that when we have a time limit and task to achieve, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When it is children who have the time limit and the real task this is made more extreme by their inexperience and the fact they are still learning how to stay focused on a goal, how to work together and how to achieve what you set out to achieve.

What it comes down to is this: Success as a teacher in challenge-based learning can't be measured on whether every group is able to fully realise their goal. That is not going to happen unless all the goals are very safe, which in my opinion takes away from some of the benefits of the approach. So the question is, what does a successful challenge-based learning classroom look like? This is an important question for me as I want it to be successful but I also do not want to invent a definition of success that simply makes what I'm doing look successful. It is a question I have not found the answer to yet but one that I will continue to research, test, apply and seek to answer through the coming months.

So they are my thoughts. Let's flip it around and have a look at some of the things the students have said when they reviewed the term. Below is a 'Word Cloud' showing some of the things students stated when asked to list words that describe Integrated Learning, the name of our challenge-based learning subject.


I have also included below some graphs showing student responses to key questions. All up I think it backs up my feelings so far. The subject has gone fairly well. It has not been as successful as I would like, but certainly it has not been a complete failure either.





These graphs show that most students found what they were doing in Integrated Learning valuable and were happy with what their group were able to achieve through the unit. It was also nice to see that students felt that they were learning and improving in areas such as creativity, collaboration, research and goal setting - though I would have liked  to see a higher results in this final one.