Learning to Learn with Years Seven and Eight

This has been an exciting year in the Middle School with the introduction of a new project designed to encourage a transition towards a more student centered paradigm of teaching and learning, with a focus on learning. Central to the project was the idea of introducing a level of independence to students learning, thereby giving them more power over their education and the progress they make. Building on the ideas of Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner, the Learning to Learn project was introduced into Year Seven and Eight at the start of the school year.

Learning to learn is not a new idea, indeed Vygotsky was discussing to Zone of Proximal Development in 1978, and his ideas were developed by Bruner in the 1980’s. In the United Kingdom, the subject has been taught both as discreet subject and as a strand of teaching and learning (depending on which school you go to) since the early 2000s. It now represents the backbone of many Schemes of Work, in many schools.

So how did it work?

The project started with students getting “hands-on” and taking charge of a project to design a means of getting an egg safely to the ground, obviously without breaking it. The idea behind this was to start a conversation about organization, and how becoming better organized will help them better manage their time and therefore become better learners. Despite a few cracked eggs, the project worked very well and as a result in a recent survey completed by Jonny Olmos, a high percentage of students confirmed that it had indeed helped them to become more organized.

In the spirit of developing an understanding of the biochemistry of learning, the project went forward to design a module where students looked at the brain and its functioning. This produced a great deal of interest amongst particularly the Year Seven groups. Again, with independence and leaving their comfort zone in mind, students involved themselves in developing presentations about how their brains worked which were presented to their peers.

This project built on this work, and developed further to study students learning styles and critical thinking. The critical thinking element of the course proved particularly interesting as teams with in each class developed treasure hunts around the Senior School, and challenged other classes to solve their clues, all of which required the reader to deduce specific pieces of information in order to find the treasure (actually a packet of Toddy Cookies).

The project has been a steep learning curve for those involved too. It has been an enjoyable and exhilarating ride so far, but a tiring one. In the coming year the project is set to evolve and work alongside departments within the school to produce six subject based projects, as outlined below.

Project 1 – Maths
Linking learning styles with an independent learning project (ping pong balls)
Project 4 – English
A project aiming to link the Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory with the Book Bash.
Project 2 – Construcion de Cuidadania
An independent learning project based on their tutor group project – organisation
Project 5 – Construcion de Cuidadania
An independent learning project based on their tutor group project – team-building
Project 3 – Geography
A project looking at developing a sustainable school of the future, at the new site – Reaching for high order thinking – Bloom’s Taxonomy
Project 6 – History
A project based on the Industrial Revolution or the renaissance in Europe, linked to de Bono’s Thinking Hats (Source Analysis) – short project because of the DPTs

The contribution of my colleagues cannot be ignored, so many thanks to Jonny Olmos, Paula Romano, Mariel Pons and of course Marisa Marquez.

Categories: Professional Development Contest 2014

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