Alphabet Soup

PBL. CBL. RAFT. GRASPS. UOI. FBI. SOS. Whew! Nowadays, we educators have to navigate the alphabet soup of teaching and learning. There’s so much to keep up with! So much so, that in my music room, I’ve designed my own word wall – for me, NOT the students – so I can remember the jargon. After reading the articles on problem-based, project-based and challenged-based learning, I’ve discovered that the main tenets overlap in that they all share a similar goal of applying knowledge and skills to a real life situation, collaboration among peers, teachers serve as a mentor or facilitator, and so forth. There are slight differences, but, as we say here in the Middle East, they’re “Same, same!”

Using the RAFT summative assessment model, I recently embarked on a project with my students. I wasn’t aware at the time, but knowing what I know now, it can be categorized under project-based learning.

Task: You are an entertainment company. You are to choose a short story and perform it for the school community. As a class, you must organize yourselves as the the actors/actresses, artists and musicians. You will perform this story in [insert date here]. Good luck!

Personally, it was challenging to ‘let go’ of the reigns. I became a mentor – a facilitator. I supported by taking notes and documenting their thinking and their process; but, the majority of the work was student led. They took ownership of their roles because they were able to choose what and how to contribute to the group. Come October 2018, the enhanced PYP will be introduced where student agency is now a major component. Woohoo! Look at us being ahead of the game!

As weeks went by, I was able to sit with the students and create backdrops, props and masks. Little did I know, my quiet Abdulla* was a fantastic artist. Even the class didn’t know that we had a hidden gem! We discovered the natural leaders of the group because they ended up “directing” everyone on stage by telling them where to go and where to face. My little ensemble of musicians discussed what sounds effects and melodies would help the story come to life. Stepping back and seeing the magic happen was a real treat. The process of organizing, creating and executing the short story and seeing its success was evidence enough for me to reevaluate my teaching approach.  

After the performance, we had a moment of reflection. Could it have been better? Yes. Do the students want to embark on another project? Absolutely! The students had purpose. They wanted to share their talents for the school community. They embraced the idea of performing for their little brothers, sisters, cousins in the younger grades. They wanted to “attend meetings” with the artists or the musicians to discuss their ideas. They felt that the meetings made them feel as if they were “adults” in the real world. (Believe me, kid. You’ll regret saying that later). They gained social skills, communication skills, thinking skills, etc., ALL of the skills necessary to achieve a common goal. Maybe there IS something to this whole alphabet soup of teaching and learning…

But what about me?

Thinking back, I feel that I’ve missed out on this whole problem-based, project-based, challenge-based learning approach. It would have been fun to take part in something that my students get to experience now. If given the opportunity, training teachers using this approach would allow us (especially us as children of the late 80’s and 90’s) to participate in this learning model. If given a task and a deadline, I would seize the opportunity to take on a role that I choose, contribute by utilizing my best skills and learning alongside my peers. Who knows what I could have learned and how I could have turned out! But alas, we can glance at the past, but we must move forward to ensure our students can learn and grow so they can navigate their future.

Jack Ma said it best during his talks at the recent World Economic Forum. Take a look for yourselves. Have a great week!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH-fdIkdL_Q[/youtube]