Monday, 4 June 2012

Student Choice - Too Much or Too Little?

Day 4 - #30DayChallenge

These days in education we always seem to be talking about giving students more choice.

Today's focus is on a project I have been involved with in a Grade 4 Social Studies class. The teachers wanted to to have their students engaged in Social Studies project where they learned about the past through telling stories about artifacts. The focus of the project was to study artifacts from Alberta's history and then find out what that artifact meant to Alberta and its people. The artifacts came from a variety of sources such as The Glenbow Museum, the CBE Aboriginal collection of artifacts and teachers' personal collection of artifacts.

The following is what the students were able to choose:

  • Each student chose an artifact they were interested in and research information about it.
  • Students chose/found their own source of information - in print and/or Internet
  • Each group (that the teacher formed) got to choose a format to present their stories
  • As a class, the students help choose (co-created) the criteria of what and how the project would by assessed

Positive takeaways

  • From the moment I was involved with these classes they were ENGAGED. They have been so into what they are learning about. The excitement on the faces of these Grade 4's has been a sight for sore eyes! They have been so enthused to share their knowledge about the origin and history of each particular artifact.
  • The students acted like archeologists to find out more about their artifacts. They really felt like experts.
  • Almost all student have found success with their learning. Some student have needed more coaching than other but all have been able to learn something about their chosen artifact.
  • The small amount of information that most students found was enough for most to infer, or guess, the value of that artifact to Albertans and the stories it might tell.

Negative takeaways

  • This project has been hard to manage. The students had 7 or more choices of ways to present their information. This made it hard to give enough support/feedback to each and every group.
  • The artifacts were hard to research. We did not come up with enough sources to help the students. The information we found was not necessary what we needed to know about the artifact.
  • Students who often struggle to access information and pull important and relevant information found it hard to infer a deeper understanding of the artifacts.

What would I repeat what I would change next time?

  • I loved the enthusiasm this project brought to Social Studies, a subject I have always found hard to make exciting. I would definitely do a project like this again - Acting like archeologists, and presenting their findings was a powerful way to learn about our history.
  • I think the range of choice when it came to presenting the information was too broad. Next time we could suggest everyone presents in a similar way, such as a video for an online museum, a page out of a brochure, an audio recording for a radio show etc
  • I would make the research more successful ~ give certain websites to use or narrow down possible research sources. This was hard to do with such a wide range of artifacts the students had to learn about.

Things I wonder?

  • I wonder how to find sources of information without making it a HUGE task ~ Is this possible?
  • What are some other ways to engage students with artifacts?
  • Were there enough choice in this project?
  • Were there or to many choices?
I will post some photos of students working on this project soon...

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