Today I read a chapter from Don Wettrick’s book, Pure Genius: Building a culture of innovation and taking 20% time to the next level.
Reading this chapter on 20% time was a wonderful moment in my day. It turned out to be exactly what I needed to read today.
Last semester, I taught a course called Adventure Tourism Project – it was the first time our department offered the course, and I had developed it based on PBL pedagogy. Like any new course, there were things I really wanted to improve. I was stuck, though, on one aspect of the course that didn’t fit with anything I read about PBL: in this course, instead of the teacher proposing a driving question and the students deciding how to go about answering it, the foundation of the course was that students would design their own question based on their own interests. What this looked like in my classroom was that I had 3 groups of 2-3 students working on 3 very different projects, all of which I had to somehow tie in to the competency for the course.
I suppose a name doesn’t really make much difference to the outcome of the course, but reading the term “Passion-based learning” made all the difference to me today.
It is so hard to find tools for use at the college level. Most of what is out there (rubrics, strategies, topics, curriculum links) is for primary or high school. So I had to do some adapting and since it was my first time implementing PBL, I tried to stick to the formula as much as possible. However, the formula didn’t work so well for what I can now call passion-based learning. After reading the chapter (whoa! wait till I read the book!), I have some ideas of where I can tweak assessments, classroom management, class planning, and the expectations I have of myself and of my students.
Reading all of Wettrick’s own failures and what he learned from them turned around my perspective (I had been down about the failures I experienced).
I realized that I need to be more compassionate towards myself as a learner and a risk-taker, and use failures as opportunities to improve while not getting down on myself for them.
Wettrick discusses the value of having students submit project proposals and I recognize the list of proposal elements as important to this course. Most of these (checked) I used in the course I gave:
- a driving question √
- a list of objectives √
- a collaborator/mentor for the group (I had required an “outside expert” but did not make this a non-negotiable)
- A list of learning objectives that will be attained √
- A deadline (I allowed this to be too fluid…)
- The point value – or as I required, assessment criteria for the finished product √
Yesterday, I felt down about the ways in which my course had failed, in which I had not lived up to my own expectations. Today I feel proud of what I was able to do, and ready to search for solutions and make the course what our department and our students want it to be.