If you truly want to engage pupils, relinquish the reins and give them the chance to learn by doing
I was delighted to be offered the op-ed for the BETT edition of the Times Education Supplement. I chose it to highlight the potential of thinking about learning as construction, rather than a series of activities that need 'done', and I'll be developing its ideas for my opening keynote at this year's Naace Annual Strategic Conference:
Harnessing entirely pupil-led, project-based learning in this way isn't easy. But all of this frames learning in more meaningful contexts than the pseudocontexts of your average school textbook or contrived lesson plan, which might cover an area of the curriculum but leave the pupil none the wiser as to how it applies in the real world.
There is a line that haunted me last year: while pupil-led, project-based learning is noble and clearly more engaging than what we do now, there is no time for it in the current system. The implication is that it leads to poorer attainment than the status quo. But attainment at High Tech High, in terms of college admissions, is the same as or better than private schools in the same area.
The assumption that pupil-led, project-based learning offers less success in exams is a false but persistent one. John Hunter was the anatomist who defined modern medicine because, frankly, no one else had. He had a saying that has since become the mantra of the modern surgeon: "Don't think. Try the experiment."
In the piece I cite just a few of the examples I've been lucky enough to see through 2010, and as a result I've started hearing about other maker-curricula on my own doorstep: Oliver Quinlan's students, described in his TeachMeet BETT talk as they created self-determined projects around the theme of London's Burning, is just one more prime example.
What are your contributions to a maker-curriculum? Let me know, and I'll be sure to include more glorious examples of students engaged in making to learn rather than doing to learn when I open the Naace Annual Strategic conference with my keynote, Don’t think. Try: How brave teachers around the world are making change for themselves.