"This is a shift for kids who are not used to driving their own learning," she admits. The project approach often involves "learning in a messy environment." Students are asked to make choices, to work in teams, to tackle problems that may have more than one right solution. "If students are used to just following directions," Mueller admits, "it can be frustrating. It's a new arena for them."The story goes on to describe what happened with one group of students who took initiative on a project--with fantastic results. But I can't help wondering how many more students never get that opportunity. How well are we preparing them for the "messy environment" of life beyond the classroom?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Learning in a Messy Environment
Elise Mueller is a Bellingham, Wash., teacher who seems to be in an ideal setting for project-based learning to thrive. She and two fellow elementary teachers share teaching responsibilities for grades 3-5. Students come to Mueller's room for social studies and language arts; her colleagues teach science and math. All three teachers integrate technology, and they regularly plan projects that cut across disciplines. But as Mueller told me recently in an interview for Northwest Education magazine, there's still one remaining challenge: getting students on board.