It's the summer holidays here at the moment and for some reason I always find myself getting inspiration for change when the last thing I should be thinking about is school!
@VisibleLearning's Tweet got me started this evening with their question, "Where do students learn best in your school?" https://twitter.com/VisibleLearning/status/814322049971695616?s=09
My immediate thought was they learn best in subjects they are interested in and feel are real and relevant to their futures.
I started thinking about the way our school (and most secondary schools in NZ) timetable is arranged and how in this day and age it seems odd that English and Maths have the most periods per week and 'subjects' such as the technology areas, the arts, Science etc have the least...particularly when these other subjects are the ones students tend to enjoy more and achieve more highly in.
This led to an idea - and I think they do this in Year 12 and 13 but wouldn't it make sense to change the way our Year 7-10 timetable is arranged and credits are gained by allowing students to gain numeracy and literacy credits through subject areas that they actually enjoy and/or see being applicable for their future.
Currently the learning areas of the curriculum dictate the required subject areas - English, Maths, Social Studies, the Arts, Science, PE and Health, Languages (at our school te reo Māori is compulsory for junior students). My idea is instead of students spending 9 hours per week doing 'English' and 'Maths' in a silo, these hours would be added on to the hours available for the specialist subjects meaning that there would be more time within these subjects for students to work on improving their literacy and numeracy skills in authentic ways. For example, learning to work out the circumference of a circle in Hard Materials Technology or learning about ratios in Food Technology. How about improving their creative writing skills while writing a script for a play or short film in Drama. Through this model, the number of hours able to be spent on meaningful, authentic, project-based learning would be increased and literacy and numeracy would be explicitly taught and assessed within these areas. This would need to be co-ordinated and moderated across the school to ensure that the curriculum achievement objectives relevant for the students in each year were covered but the benefits would be immense!
Since teaching Year 9 English a few years ago and feeling like I was banging my head against a brick wall I've wondered about how we could do it differently.
Doing it this way would mean that students can spend more time doing things they enjoy while still learning and developing their fundamental skills and competencies needed to be successful.
Now to find some research to back up this idea! I know there is plenty around about the motivating benefits of project-based learning and I guess that's the real impetus behind my idea. Students learn best and are more successful when they can learn what they need to in a meaningful, authentic way - doing something real and relevant to them and their future.