Friday, December 7, 2012

Challenge-based Learning And Other Buzzwords


Leaving public school allowed me to shuck off buzzwords like "best practices" and "research-based." This does not mean I am not doing these things or concerned with these things; it simply means I don't have to listen to people who have no idea what they are talking about throw buzzwords in their daily speeches to me. This is a beautiful thing that one can only really appreciate if one has been in the public schools.

I still read research, though, because that's what (good, professional) educators do (as opposed to doing it because an administrator told you to and for no application), and this latest piece popped up this week, happily. "Challenge-based learning" is the name of a "new" pedagogical model that has kids identifying a challenge in their community and addressing it; the authors of the article say it differs from "problem-based learning" (semantically, in my view, and not totally) in that in problem-based learning the instructor gives kids a problem to solve, and kids come up with the problem to solve in challenge-based learning. An excellent example of both is Studio H in rural North Carolina.

Both types of pedagogy focus on issues, collaboration and problem-solving. They tend to use the design process in conjunction with the scientific method (both are remarkably similar in their approach to problem-solving).  Both utilize technology in creative ways; both require significant engagement and commitment on the part of student and teachers. Both don't teach to a test but end up teaching what needs to be learned for the test.

Both are hot buzzwords, but that's okay. This is the kind of instructional model we should be investing in, not more test prep and assessment, so I don't really care what people want to call it. For more research on the validity of this approach, here is some further reading. Enjoy!

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