In the last few weeks I have been exposed to new ways of designing lessons, units, and courses. For my purposes at a 6th grade social studies teacher, I chose to design a unit of study for my class. When I began this process, I looked back at the year of learning in my class so far, and chose to focus my efforts on creating a better version of my foundations unit that starts off the school year. After all, you can't build without a solid foundation, and I noticed that there were gaps in the learning that stemmed from this unit.
Creating based on the BHAG
The BHAG or big hairy audacious goal is a term I've become familiar with in the EDLD program at Lamar University, but it was a little daunting trying to come up with one for my students. I began looking back through this year at what we have studied and trying to locate gaps where students really didn't grasp the concepts as I had hoped. I went all the way back to the beginning of the year and the first unit we study which is foundations of geography. This is where things didn't gel the first time. Students struggled with the concept of how geography plays a huge role in where people settle in the world. I gave some great activities and compelling examples of how this worked, but the learning still didn't happen.
I began to think about how much work I had done to make this concept come to life and how little my students had done and that is where I found my problem to solve and my BHAG. The students need to discover why geography relates to where people settle on their own. I can give them the tools, they will have to pick them up and use them. I spent time coming up with a plan to create a significant learning environment for my students and activities that will be meaningful as well as ways to assess the learning.
The creation of the unit with a BHAG as my guide will be a game changer for my students to learn. I cannot wait to come back to this post after implementing my innovation plan and this unit just to see how well the changes I'm bringing to my classroom have gone over!
Harapnuik, D. (2015). Connecting the dots vs collecting the dots. https://youtu.be/85XpexQy68g.
How we as humans learn is an ever changing and evolving process. I can say with absolute certainty that I am not the same learner today as I was in college as a psychology major in my twenties. I am not the same learner as I was in high school. I believe that our ability to learn and the style of learning that best suits us grows with us and changes depending on a variety of factors. Our interest in what we are learning, as well as our connections to prior knowledge and how the learning is presented to us all factor in to our learning process. As I studied the three main learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism, I came to understand that each theory is useful in its own way and that to best teach my students a combination of these educational theories must be employed. The shift in education from teacher centered to student centered is based on the belief that not every student is the same and a one size fits all approach is not effective in reaching all students.
I have referred to in previous posts about how quickly and dramatically media and technology are changing and the way we teach needs to change along with it. New sources of information emerge more frequently and are being underutilized by education. I recently read the book A New Culture of Learning, by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, and it provided more clarity on why we need to shift away from the traditional classroom. In the traditional 19th century classroom, “Learning is treated as a series of steps to be mastered, as if students were being taught how to operate a machine or even in some cases as if the students themselves were machines being programmed to accomplish tasks.” (Thomas & Brown, 2011). The new culture of learning shifts the focus to creating significant learning environments (SLEs) that encourage student learning through inquiry and play. As I developed my innovation plan for bringing blended learning stations into my school my focus had been on creating an environment that is student centered and encourages collaboration and growth.