This topic was introduced with the above Prezi towards the end of Term 1 2013 to both of my school’s Preliminary Society & Culture classes. I teach one of them.
Students were then launched into a PBL style unit with the Who Are You Project (pdf).
To further explain the elements of this project:
- Explore: This is a summary of the syllabus content
- Answer: Students were required to respond to these questions
- Reference: Students were to consult at least one resource within each of the reference categories listed
- Compose: Students needed to communicate what they had learned about their personal and social identity
- Present: An edited version needed to presented to the class – the cone of silence refers to the agreement that anything of a personal nature that’s discussed in Society & Culture does not go beyond the classroom
It was a very successful project with most students engaged and deeply involved with the process. A minority took the more self-directed style of learning as an opportunity to do little.
Other issues included:
- The word ‘explore’ – students didn’t understand that these were the concepts needed to be investigated, even after verbal explanation – this will need refinement for next time
- Explicitly asking questions meant students were inclined to approach the project as a typical Q & A worksheet, answering the questions superficially because they hadn’t investigated the concepts first
- Some of the items on the reference list did not have a clear link to the project at hand – conducting background research to place subject into context needs to be taught clearly
- Many students decided to do a PowerPoint (not listed) but generally did it well, some learned how to use Prezi for the first time, some did scrap-books, others did blog posts and the work avoiders wrote out a speech.
Overall, they really learned a lot about the concepts and terms in a meaningful way because they applied it to themselves and there is nobody they know better.
I was then away with my Innovative Learning Team on and off for a couple of weeks so during this time students completed more traditional textbook and video worksheets.
They also watched Yolngu Boy (link includes comprehensive educational resources), followed by an essay completed in test conditions. The students’ attitude towards this essay made me quite irate. Many held the opinion that since it wasn’t an assessment task “it didn’t count”. That earned them a little lecture on what school and education and learning was about. A singular focus on HSC marks makes me mad! Despite this attitude or because of my tirade the students produced some excellent essays.
Finally, for this unit, students were given a Research Assessment Task to perform primary research (questionnaire or interview) to compare their identity development to others (questionnaire) or another (interview). Unfortunately many students completely forgot all the concepts they had learned from the Who Are You project, the textbook, the videos and from the Yolngu Boy essay in which students had included concepts quite well. All these tasks had been scaffolded so the concepts were reasonably clear but the link of the concepts to the title of the unit, Personal and Social Identity, obviously hadn’t been made strong enough. These research assessment tasks were mainly written as if personality equated to identity. *sigh*
All that been said, I still think the program is a good one. Next year the plan is to make the Who Am I project and the Research Assessment Task into one big assessment task with some tweaking. I want to drop the textbook part altogether but part of the reason it was included was to placate a parent that believes my teaching methods lack the rigour required for the HSC. You see, I made the mistake at parent-teacher night of saying we had been having fun in the course and hadn’t taught to the test (the first assessment task). Obviously I should wash my mouth out with soap!
We are all human, students, teachers and even parents. I know my students have learned much about themselves and others from this unit. Hopefully their learning will also be reflected in HSC results in a year and a half’s time.