Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Passion Projects: Design Your Own Version (After-Thoughts)

I wrote two blog entries about passion projects and how to set it up with students. You can find the posts here (part one) and here (part two). Now it's time to reflect so that the next iteration of passion projects would be more successful.

There is no doubt that learning about, and walking with my students through their first experiences in a more personalized learning setting has been quite demanding but even more rewarding. In order for students to properly 'learn how to learn' and to become the drivers of their educational vehicle, many things must be planned and taught. Here are 4 lessons I've learned from my own experiences:

Go Slow to Go Fast

I can't emphasize enough the importance of properly planning the experience. In previous posts, I wrote with great detail what I did to prepare for this great personalized learning experience. Try to think of everything you can- from tuning into or uncovering students' passions, to guiding them through the research projects, through getting outside experts, to your role and assessments. The more ready you are, the more flexible you will be able to be!

Student Agency

It was quite incredible to see the kids tuning into themselves and taking ownership of their learning. When you let go of expecting one particular outcome, the learners fill in the "holes" with their own interests, and guiding their learning according to their interests, passions, abilities and personalities. Let them be the drivers and you take the role of a researcher- taking note of how each progresses in his/her own pace, how slowly they become better agents of their own learning.  

Fail Forward 

When learners don't get to have a say in their own learning journey, they become detached from their own selves, and this is what the school experience become for them. Once you transfer the steering wheel to them, encouraging them to have a voice and to exercise choice, they inevitably become better and better at identifying their passions and at achieving their goals. When students spend enough time researching something they are not passionate about, they become less and less engaged in it. Talk to them about it, make sure they themselves notice it and act upon it. Let them struggle a bit, and then let them move on to something they are (more) passionate about. Make sure to emphasize the benefits of this learning, and celebrate it! Reflection is extremely necessary and is an excellent tool that would allow them to move forward.

Notice the Learning

As teachers, we sometimes choose to focus on what did not go well. That's OK, as long as you also take the time to reflect on the great things that happen. Students learn so much more than mere facts about their chosen topic/issue. They improve their research skills, their knowledge of issues, make connections to other areas, learn from each other, take risks, and most importantly, they learn about who they are both as learners and humans. The learning experience is absolutely worth it!

Equipped with these new learning, I look forward to designing new experiences to take my students forward.

How about you? What have you learned from designing passion projects for your students? Please share your experiences or questions!