My rather brief notes on a talk by Ron Berger…

Who is rather inspiring and a very engaging speaker, however, my abilities as a note-taker or blogger are perhaps *less* inspiring, but regardless, handy to have a record of basic reactions and thoughts to the talk.

I live in Doncaster (admittedly in a very outlying village towards the border of South Yorks and sometimes I feel like pretending that I don’t and just that Doncaster is the closest place ‘of note’, but technically this village is part of Doncaster).   The talk I attended today was organised in relation to XP school which is a new Free School opening in Doncaster in 2014: http://www.xpschool.org/ (Gwyn Ap Harri) which is to be based (as I understand it) on the Experiential Model (Ron Berger http://elschools.org/).  The talk was hosted at Campsmount School (not PBL-based, but courtesy-link 🙂 )

Of course this relates to ‘in school’ and many of these ideas are utilised by home-educators, however, I include for possible interest’s sake (and personal reference).

All notes are my own personal opinion and I readily admit that I should read more about this approach!

Key Points (IMHO):

Importance of:

  • Critique – positive and constructive.  Perhaps the easiest way of demonstrating this is to watch: http://vimeo.com/38247060#at=0
  • Through critique pushed beyond ‘comfort zone’ and the development of personal evaluation skills.
  • Critique sessions may help with student developing ‘sympathy for reader’ – able to self-evaluate their own writing with consideration for the reader. (random personal thought)
  • Co-constructed learning (child having say in direction of learning)
  • Engaging ‘more able’ members of the group with supporting/teaching less able/confident members.
  • Involving professional specialists to be involved in projects (skill-sharing)
  • Projects based on ‘problem-solving’ on a community-based level around issues that will engender a personal connection with subjects
  • Audience for work (wider that the ‘teacher’) – ‘work’ needs to be valued, not ‘throw-away’
  • Exhibition space (in town – to follow up) – physical demonstration of projects being valued
  • Public presentation of projects (as I understand it similar to final exhibitions as might be experienced by art students, as such, real-life local examples of this to show children may be gained from seeing students work at The Hub) – recognised that some children may not feel confident to do this, but still emphasised that it is important that the child(ren) share with at least a significant adult – so could be public presentation, but also more private ones.
  • Experience of domestic duties in the educational spaces – sense of pride in environment and responsibility for.
  • *Real life* experiences

Examples of students work at: http://elschools.org/studentwork

Various videos available at: http://vimeo.com/channels/corepractices

The two ‘example schools’ (with regards to PBL) in England were:

Cramlington Learning Village, Northumberland

Matthew Moss, Rochdale (8 out of 30 periods are PBL)

Personal concerns (but only in relation to implementation within mainstream schools):

  • That there appeared (from the two ‘example’ English schools using Project-Based Learning) an emphasis on external worth (ie academic ability) being more valued than development of person/softer skills.
  • Still an emphasis on university entrance (whether or not the student subsequently attends) – my personal issue here is with the value of the student being attached to academic performance, but again, this is personal bias AND from what I understand, part of the reason for this ‘expectation’ is because it’s a societal one and the reasoning behind it appears to be that the student thus knows they *could’ve* gone to Uni if they had wanted’ – still a very *middle-class* bias IMHO.
  • Again from the English example schools, there was still a distinction between ‘normal subjects’ and PBL – whilst I recognise the potential need for more specialised key/core skill study, surely better that, for the most part, there is as little distinction as possible and that PBL is also seen as ‘normal’?

My other thoughts are that I think there are some fab ideas to be had here, although much of it, IMHO, will be rather familiar to home-educators (the project-based/holistic learning).  My personal bias is that I would like to see a more ‘formal/organised’ home ed co-op come into being – where we have more of a plan in place for activities and where there is room for collaborative projects that may be ‘exhibited’ at the museum and library (as has been offered).

I feel that whilst individual, family-based learning is very valuable, that the opportunity for collaborative work within the local home-ed community is also important and something that it would be good to develop further locally.

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