Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Actionable Challenges

In our professional development groups this past week we took hammer and tong to simple sentences: the basic challenge statements of our interdisciplinary teams'  Challenge Based Learning designs.  This task involved more than quibbling over semantics.  In some cases the discussion over wording exposed extremely different interpretations of the "big idea" behind the challenge.  In other cases it exposed an inherent reluctance to really turn the students loose on a genuine challenge.  We were using old methods to conceptualize a new design.  Consequently, the challenge was shaping into a service project or conventional research assignment.

I began each session with a series of statements about CBL, stressing that the challenges have to be

*real world
*student driven
*aimed beyond the classroom

Thus, our object was to make the challenges actionable.  I urged the teams to make theirchallenges rock.  The challenges need to be easy for all stakeholders to grasp and also carry emotional punch.  So we converted verbs like "learn," "appreciate," "know," "understand"  to "build," "create," "engage," "improve. "

Now of course, I am not opposed to learning, knowing, etc.  But there was a tendency to write curriculum goals into the challenges.

We really went after it.  For me this was hard fun, though I suppose some participants thought I was simply being obnoxious.  However, I have no intention of compromising on fundamental CBL elements in the pd sessions.  If our discussions inspire ideas for conventional assignments, I think that is wonderful.  But the design of teacher scripted lessons can occur elsewhere.  With our challenges, we are going to let the students do the scripting.

Flickr CC photo by simonech

No comments:

Blog Archive