A recent post by Jackie Gerstein Inspired me to reprint my opening remarks for The Kieve-Wavus Educators Conference in 2013. A dear project of mine and colleagues, The Bridge Year was born upon a burning desire to blend scholastics and experience in education– a middle ground between tradition and innovation for the future of education. As we each manifest this work in new ways, the core remains…. a story to continue and be built.
Open Remarks KWEC 13
Lake Damariscotta, Maine
Student driven education is a burgeoning field today in light of the social, economic and environmental landscapes of a century facing rapid change. Knowing that education is a social construct that must be built and tended, schools and organizations are looking to designs, research and practice that allow for systemic change in education toward more personalized, potent and useful learning environments. Indeed, writes of a new more experiential education in independent schools allowing students the chance to collaborate and take risks. He writes:
without question, experiential learning enhances scholastic learning….this type of learning builds confidence, encourages risk taking, reduces the fear of failure, gives oxygen to collaboration, nurtures imagination, promotes problem solving, allows reverie, and grows a taproot from which scholastic learning flowers.
These are bold assertions and he is not alone in his view of education. Learning scientists, teachers and administrators, parents and students see the possibilities of a learning landscape deeply changed and salient to the future.
is an active 4 day excursion into the theory, design and practice of student driven learning. The conference focuses three main strands of student driven education: Curriculum Integration, Student Driven Project Based Learning and Field Studies. Within each of these strands lay the fields of 21st century education. We will set a tone for the possibilities in education through a close look at curriculum integration as a way to orient learner toward to student and community and away from the department or institution. In the common practice of driving our own project we will practice the skills necessary to scaffold deep learning in young people without the need to deliver and control the environment. Through moving into field studies, we will explore our world as learners living education. For each of these experiences, a theory starts the conversation. We offer the following sections as a conference “theory” knowing that we are covering only a small piece of the research behind each topic. We hope it serves the conference in starting a conversation and fuels the further research, design and praxis of KWEC 13 and well beyond.
Conference Strands: A Theory, Design and Praxis
young people have a right to be intelligent, to be well informed, to search for meaning in the world, to be engaged in significant issues, to do authentic work, to learn the whole story, to think critically, to form [and clarify] values, to make judgements, and to be respected….
At the root of student driven education is an exploration of meaning in an individuals personal and social world. Knowledge can then be integrated in explanatory, technical, personal and social ways through projects, field studies and beyond. Curriculum integration, researched and practiced first by educational thinkers in the early 20th century (Dewey, Smith, Kilpatrick), has remained a solid philosophy and praxis well into the 21st century. writes of relating school to life as a natural path to integration,
alI studies grow out of relations in the one great common world. When the child lives in varied but concrete and active relationship to this common world, [their] studies are naturally unified. It will no longer be a problem to correlate studies. The teacher will not have to resort to all sorts of devices to weave a little arithmetic into the history lesson, and the like. Relate the school to life, and all studies are of necessity correlated.
Conversely, in his book Curriculum Integration: Designing the Core of Democratic Learning, writes clearly that,
….in curriculum integration, knowledge from the disciplines is repositioned into the context of the theme, questions, and activities at hand. Even when teaching and learning move into what looks like discipline-based instruction, they are always done explicitly in the context of the theme and for a reason driven by it. It is here that knowledge comes to life, here where it has meaning, and here where it is more likely to be learned.”
Dewey and Beane offer solutions in theory and example to tremendous questions about education. Erudite questions, posed by educators like and others along with teams of dedicated educators and their communities have a commonality. How do we address the needs of a rapidly changing world through education that prepares young people for it. In seeking ways to give students more control of learning they also recognize that tradition and culture are vital and different in communities everywhere. Curriculum integration allows for tradition and community to be first and delivery methods of knowledge secondary.
KWEC 13 is designed with curriculum integration in mind. The personal and social concerns of educators are foremost in our plans and actions, while the separate disciplines and schedules for learning of the 20th century school are not given weight. Curriculum integration at KWEC 13 will offer a glimpse into another way to experience education. Starting on the first full day of the conference we will:
- Review the core of curriculum integration
- Collaboratively plan the conference by engaging two essential conference related questions with an overarching theme of Student Driven Education:
-“What questions and concerns do you have about yourself as an educator?”
-“What questions do you have about education and the world?”
Student Directed Project Based Learning
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way
Student driven project based learning is a proven practice for student driven education that presents students with new situations in learning to carry out and explore the personal and social concerns they have. The work done in project learning of this kind, creates conditions for significant transfer of knowledge, skills, and understanding. Student driven projects support learning in real-world problem solving, and engaged understanding in varied ways. Projects develop through a dialogue between the students, faculty, administration and community members and reveal the underlying questions, the genuine interest, and possible pathways to carry out extensive knowledge building that is rigorous, relevant and connected.
There are many models of PBL in education and it is good to situate our conference amidst them. Yong Zhao (2012) curates an enormous research profile on PBL in his World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. He narrows the research into three general descriptions of PBL as a starting points:
- academic PBL that is primarily classroom based, content driven, single subject and teacher led
- mixed models where teacher and student collaboration through groups is key and a product is sought within the constraint of academic disciplines inside and outside of a school
- entrepreneurship models that are completely student led, focused on a product with the teacher serving as venture capitalist, consultant, and motivator and focus group. Academic disciplines emerge out of need and feedback.
At KWEC the student driven PBL we will design together is based on and designs for PBL (closest to Zhao’s entrepreneurship model.) As we create our own projects as a vital structure and component of the conference, we will experience the practice, process and requirements for effective student driven learning. Starting on the first full day of the conference we will:
- review student directed PBL and Project Foundry, the software that most easily scaffolds the process well.
- write a summary of our project in less than a page, often a good paragraph
- create guiding questions that focus the inquiry and research
- assess prior knowledge and a clear delineation of knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to carry out the project
- create a plan to address gaps in prior knowledge and gain needed capacity for completing project
- define assessment Tools
- list Resources needed (human, print, technology, personal experience)
- create timelines, sequence tasks, protocol for assessment.
- plan for a product to benefit the field of student driven learning
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
Field Studies enable students to “ground truth” their thinking through research that is multi-sited or in the field as opposed to a fixed location and explore the landscape freely to learn. Field studies offer the student researcher a chance to gather data off campus and in real world contexts. Field Studies also support student research and progress toward project objectives by providing opportunities for students to access a broad array experiences and experts while studying a variety of communities and ecosystems; lending depth and variability to project research (collect, analyze and reflect on data and reporting). Student field studies like those offered at The Bridge Year will use geospacial mapping, ethnography, ecosystem sampling and other techniques to better understand individual or group projects and the broader ecology society and economy of regions (local, regional and global).
Field Studies couple research and peer collaboration with social and physical challenges ranging from extensive canoe and kayak based travel, hiking and more. posits, these experiences provide a field of learning and “fields do not presume homogeneity or consensus, only a common space within which questions are raised, answers are sought, and the overall inquiry is engaged.” Our process for field studies at KWEC 13 will be active, engage our personal and social questions about education and give ample time for practice in the technology and methods considered. As part of the conference we will:
- introduce and review field studies concepts, and activities along with powerful yet simple apps that allow for robust field study data collection, mapping and sharing. We will also look at ways to field studies can be deployed without machines.
- discuss learning and landscape from the perspective of student driven learning.
- explore the botany, geology, wildlife, history and culture, management of lands and ecological connections in Midcoast Maine by motor vessel, kayak and on foot.
- work individually or together to keep a field portfolio of our gathered data and reflections on the conference.
Welcome to KWEC 13
At Kieve-Wavus Education, we launch the Bridge Year with the solid belief that young people given a chance to live their learning will lead informed and active lives as individuals in community around the world. With this same sentiment, we convene and welcome you to the first annual Kieve-Wavus Educators’ Conference at the Kennedy Learning Center this week. If you can not be with us, please follow the conference from afar and allow the combined research curated in the KWEC Wiki to inspire your learning environment and to inspire you to join us next year.
General Reading in the Field of Experiential Education
- Essential Sections: Introduction (pp 212-213) and A Radical Pedegogy of Place (pp 218-219
Thank you to all who are forwarding experience and education– See you at ISEEN 15 or in network.