Monday, 29 July 2013

#artmooc2: Art and Inquiry: Inquiry, Project and Problem Based Learning

I was due to start a new MOOC today, my third this year: Art and Inquiry from MOMA (Museum of Modern Art This MOOC is designed to introduce us to Museum teaching strategies that we can use in our own classrooms.

When I went to log in to the class this morning there was a problem and I found myself staring at the recommended reading rather than watching an introductory video.Oh good grief. Forced out of my comfort zone or what? So – I actually did start to plough through the reading – and what a joy… Blogs and SlideShare on Inquiry and Problem and Project Based learning – spot on – totally engaging – and I am already so excited about re-shaping my teaching next (academic) year.

Here’s the Recommended Reading
Suggested readings include reviewing materials on the MoMA site: 
Other readings:
Inquiry Learning Vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist? 

Creating Classrooms We Need: 8 Ways Into Inquiry Learning

And so – Project Based Learning
Following the links led me to a great piece on IBL: ‘How to trigger students’ inquiry through projects’ . There are six steps to designing valid projects – I am instantly thinking about how to use this in my University teaching.

Step 1: Identify project-worthy concepts
Students relish being set real challenges that have meaning in their lives – for my Project I’m thinking about re-framing my whole course as a Project. As my module is entitled: Peer Mentoring in Practice (PMiP) – and is concerned with students grappling with the theory and practice of Peer Mentoring (PM) – that could be the Project:
What does successful Peer Mentoring and Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) look and feel like?
Sub-categories: for the mentee; for the mentor; for the institution; for…
Stepping stones: Explore PM/PAL theory – practice strategies and techniques with cohort of first year students – run interactive workshops passing on information to own peers – produce reflective/discursive essay.
Additional mile stones: Get involved with the student conference: Get Ahead; develop resources to support PM/PAL at our University.

Step 2: Explore the significance/relevance of the proposed project
Ask yourself why the projects that you are brainstorming would matter. Why should the students engage with those topics? Why and how might they benefit over time because they had engaged with those ideas and that material? How relevant is the topic to their lives – to the lives of others – to the world?
A reasonably easy justification can be found for PMiP as my students are educationalists – but most professions have some form of mentoring policy – and all have a CPD condition…

Step 3: Find real-life contexts for the topic
The advice here is that you hook your project to the real world of work and the professions – between 5-7 arenas – and that you consider inter-disciplinarity.
As my PMiP students are training to be educationalists there is an obvious benefit to their future professions – but if I were running the module in the Business School or for Life or Computer Science students – or Architecture students… I would have to find reasons for them to engage with the Project as well.

Step 4: Engage critical thinking
Here we are asked to wrestle with how we can engage our students in the project – and provoke investigation, analysis and synthesis rather than rote learning and comfort…

One tip that is hared on the accompanying SlideShare presentation (see below) is that we share our philosophy of teaching with our students – and require them to reflect and feedback upon it. This activity could help justify Project work per se – and a Project approach to PMiP.

Step 5: Write a Project Sketch
For all our Project ideas, we need to produce:
* An overview
* A relevant scenario to explore
* Meaningful activities  - and
* Clear learning possibilities.

Step 6: Plan the set up
We are advised to really think about:
* Project title
* Entry event
* Driving question…
Suggestions in the post include setting the scene with a mysterious letter, jarring news, a provocative video or an attention-grabbing event.
Last year a colleague initiated his ‘Becoming an Educationalist’ module with a post-apocalyptic scenario – student groups imagined themselves emerging from their nuclear bunkers and having to think about re-building the world. In that context – what education system would be needed – immediately, after five years, ten, fifteen? The entry event was designed to distanciate the taken-for-granted notions of what education is and who it is for – and to free up the students to discover their voices. Most importantly the activity was novel – so students were ALERT to the task – and it had emotional significance – so that they CARED about it.

For more on better Projects: SlideShare:
Suzie Boss & Mike Gwaltney (2013) Signposts to better projects at ISTE June 2013:

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