The last week and a bit I have been in Edmonton Canada working with the teachers and facilitators of the Edmonton Catholic School district. The purpose of the week was that, with Lee Crockett, we were developing an understanding of the 21st Century Fluencies and beginning the development of problem based units of learning for implementation across the schools, across the curriculum and throughout the years.
It was a pleasure to work with such enthusiastic and committed teachers and managers. Everyone got stuck in and had a considerable amount of fun and came away with an improved understanding of how they could make learning contextual, relevance and integrating higher order thinking , specifically creativity. Core to our workshops was solution fluency and information fluency which underpin the whole concept. The teachers developed problem based scenarios based on their curriculum that had relevance and context to the students. For some people this is rather hard, but the groups that we worked with did a superb job at this. They then had to use a structured problem solving process, solution fluency, to define the problem, discover the background dream, design and deliver a solution and debrief. Design includes group formation, roles and time wise planning.
Torkel Klingberg in his book the overflowing brain states that students in their early teens who have education focused on problem solving, inductive and deductive reasoning, inventiveness, decision taking and observation skills will have a 10% increase in IQ. The quoted study was supported by Israeli, Yugoslavian and German studies supporting the teaching of problem solving processes, creativity and inductive and deductive reasoning. All of the studies showed increases in the students IQ irrespective of age, sex or initial test scores. In other words its beneficial for every one. [Klingberg, Torkel, The overflowing brain: information overload and the limits of working memory, 2009 Oxford University press Inc ISBN 978-0-19-537288-5]
While we were in Edmonton we were invited to see St Joesphs Catholic High School. A school of 1100 student with 600 on Self directed learning programmes. It was fascinating! The students were motivated and engaged learners. The courses while self directed and personalized were very well organised and presented, students had access to support and regular structured session with their teahcer advisors and course advisors. It was not a here is the stuff and go away and learn. Rather a managed approach which saw student taking responsibility for their own learning. The students who struggled were quickly identified and very well supported. As they say there is constant review of student progress. Here are two quotes from their manual that I like…
“At St Josephs, student are personally responsible for their learning and are engaged within their learning”
“Students at St Joesph are active participants in their learning on a daily basis whether it is though group discussions, participation in social justice activities, participation in field trips, etc. St Josephs students are amongst the most active in the city!”
St Josephs is a BYOD school which teaches the Alberta curriculum and the IB Diploma and Certificate courses. A fascinating and exciting trip, even if it was a warm (for edmonton) -5c.