Feedback should also inform the planning of subsequent lessons and activities and come from a variety of perspectives including the student, classmates, and the teacher (Kirkwood, 2000).
Problems with this method of instruction occur when expectations are unclear or feedback is ambiguous, sporadic, or overly negative. Classroom behavioral norms must be established and respected. Care must also be taken to protect and support students from undue ridicule and criticism in order to achieve and maintain a classroom culture that nurtures an open learning environment.
According to Bell (2010) project-based learning (PBL) is a novel means to learning that teaches a plethora of strategies critical to success in the new millennium. Through inquiry students drive their own learning working independently and collaboratively to research and create projects that reflect their knowledge. PBL facilitates student mastery of essential skills in areas from technology to oral communication and advanced problem solving.
In this methodology learners pursue knowledge by asking questions that have piqued their natural curiosity. Students originate projects by exploring a question and are guided through research under the teacher’s supervision. Student choice is a key element of this approach. Teachers oversee each step of the process and approve each choice before the student embarks in a direction. Students with similar inquiries may elect to work cooperatively. PBL is the basis of the curriculum. Most projects include reading, writing, and mathematics by nature and many inquiries are science-based or originate from current social problems. PBL provides a vehicle for greater understanding of a topic, deeper learning, higher-level thinking, and increased motivation to learn. This strategy is conducive to creating independent thinkers and learners, and real-world problem solvers (Bell, 2010).
Like inquiry/problem-solving this methodology may not be appropriate for instructing large groups of dependent learners. A majority of the students must possess a certain level of academic maturity for the skills required for independent learning, such as self-regulation, goal setting, help seeking, self-evaluation, and the ability to develop problem solving strategies are essential to ensure success.
Simulations and games emphasize the meaning of authentic learning tasks, experiential learning and collaboration. Kiili (2007) asserts this methodology allows students to creatively test hypotheses and reflect on outcomes in a controlled environment. A simulation game can be viewed as a big problem that is composed of smaller causally linked problems. The authenticity of learning situations and tasks is a significant factor in facilitating higher order learning. The basic idea is to anchor the learning of knowledge and skills into meaningful problem-solving situations encountered in everyday life. The situated learning theory supports this view by stressing that learning is a context-dependent activity. Such an approach supports the transferability of learned knowledge and skills into practice.
Students begin by forming a playing strategy in order to solve the problems that the game provides. Initially students form a playing strategy based on prior experiences. If the prior knowledge about the subject domain and the game genre is inadequate the student may start the process by simply exploring the game world. After strategy formation, students test their strategies and possible hypotheses and observe the consequences of their decisions. Subsequent to the active experimentation phase occurs a processing or reflection phase. Reflection is a human activity in which people recapture their experience and evaluate what happened. The feedback that the game provides from students’ actions should provoke reflective thinking and knowledge construction by focusing a students’ attention to relevant information gleaned during the process. The outcome of the reflection phase may be personal synthesis or appropriation of knowledge, validation of hypothesis laid during playing strategy formation or a new strategy to be tested. Reflection may take place in isolation or with collaboration with other students (Kiili, 2007).
Important factors to consider when using this methodology are the authenticity of the simulation/game and again, the academic maturity of the students. The more realistic the simulation/game the greater the student interest and resultant transfer of the knowledge gained into real world situations.
WebQuests have been characterized as a practical and effective way for teachers to integrate computers and the Web into instruction meaningfully. According to Feng and Hannafin (2008) hundreds of education courses and staff development efforts around the globe have incorperated the WebQuest model. Many attribute the popularity of the WebQuest model to its adaptability. Teachers compose explanations, pose questions, integrate graphics, and link to Web sites to utilize real-world situations when designing a WebQuest. There are a variety of approaches used to support experienced teachers’ collaborative WebQuest design activities, including brainstorming, diagramming concepts, narrowing a focus, facilitating group work, collecting feedback data, and evaluating and modifying basic designs. Teachers report that designing and implementing WebQuests help them discover new resources, hone technology skills, and gain new teaching ideas by collaborating with colleagues.
There are several factors that contribute WebQuest’s popularity with students (Lipscomb, 2003). First, they present students with a motivational task that is usually realistic in nature. Next the structure of a WebQuest, with its introduction, task, and process divisions gives students a framework of how to complete the activity while allowing for varying approaches to the assignment. Finally the process encourages collaboration; students normatively work in groups to complete the assignment.
Although pre-defined structures make them comparatively easy to develop, Feng and Hannafin (2008) report WebQuests have been characterized as “shallow” and failing to engage students in meaningful learning. It is therefore imperative that teachers thoroughly research and test WebQuests before introducing them in the classroom.
Writing prompts are statements or questions designed to get students to think about a topic in depth and motivate them to produce their best, most expertly expressed writing. Prompts are extremely beneficial in any number of ways. They are a tool used in order to develop writing proficiency. Prompts encourage thought provoking ideas and give students an opportunity to develop a style and tone as a writer. Prompts focused explicitly on planning and monitoring can improve students’ understanding. Students who perform well on learning tasks consistently have been found to do more monitoring than do poor performers (Davis, 2003). Prompts are valuable for both sense-making and metacognition.
Davis (2003) reports research points to the value of specific, contextualized prompts over abstract prompts. When a prompt is specific and contextualized it points students toward performing a specific desired action. Prompts for self-explanations are typically focused on a specific line of idea or on specific terms.
We also know, however, that specific and contextualized prompts must be very carefully designed so they do not confuse students. Thus, specific and contextualized prompts may have drawbacks as well, especially when they are “one size fits all” rather than being tailored to individuals (Davis, 2003).
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