Use design to improve the cafeteria environment.
One question asked after the presentation was whether or not the students had been encouraged to consider the "Mercy values" in searching for a solution. On the face of it, the question may sound completely sensible. But actually, it betrays a complete misunderstanding of the CBL design. Ideally the CBL template allows students to explore such matters independently and arrive at the conclusion that these kinds of values such be implicit in the solution, owning the values rather than hearing them. The comment also ignored the fact that for years the students have been scolded about their thoughtlessness and carelessness in the cafeteria, to no avail at all.
The second remark occurred the next day. In a professional development session we were discussing the implementation of challenge projects. A teacher, (once again, reasonably) voiced her concern that the CBLs were creating time management issues for students who lacked the ability to cope with even conventional college prep high school assignments. She even suggested that perhaps 9th graders should receive orientation instruction in time management to prepare them for challenge based learning.
I have a few reactions to the two incidents:
1) I think that many of my students (and several adults that I know) really do need support with time management skills.
2) I think that lectures and work sheets on these skills would be an utter waste of time.
3) I believe that each teacher should take responsibility for employing a learning program for time management and take a tough love approach when implementing it.
4) I believe that if properly designed a challenge project is a wonderful way to "teach" time management. I have had excellent results, by requiring project teams to establish documented guidelines and assignments for all members. These generally work better than teacher mandated deadlines.
In both the issue of teaching values and time management, my colleagues place too much faith in instruction. Developing curriculum is far more challenging than deciding at which junctures and in which courses, students will be told about important values and habits. The focus has to be understanding. I have far more faith in designing experiences for students where they will come to embrace these important ideas.----------------------------------------
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