The process of learning is more important than the culminating activity or providing the right answers. How can we connect students to the real world? How can we create a school environment that allows enough time for reflections?
Will Richardson envisions that change isn’t just the ability of students to publish, but to connect, reflect, and be able to continue the life-long skill of reflection long after the class or assignment is over. He states:
“Through teaching them to use these tools to publish, are we also teaching them how to use these tools to continue the learning once that project is over? Can they continue to explore and reflect on the ideas that those artifacts represent regardless of who is teaching the next class? Can they connect with that audience not simply in the ways that books connect to readers (read but no write) but in the ways that allow them to engage and explore more deeply with an ongoing, growing community of learners? Isn’t that the real literacy here?”
Do we have expectations? –The students may not be required to spend time on the research/reflection part of the assignment prior to the production part. Kids are in a hurry (and so are we sometimes). I’ve seen students starting their powerpoint on the same day they are doing the research assignment. Where is the time for them to absorb what they are learning? Is the assignment so fact-based that all they are doing is regurgitating information?
Do they have enough time for reflection during the process and afterwards? In our haste to cover so much content, are we neglecting the time to reflect? Can the research be spread out over several weeks or over the semester to create time for more deep inquiry? (This would model authentic research–which isn’t completed in a couple of days or a week.)
Do we ask students to evaluate the process? The product gets evaluated in many different ways. How can we help them be more reflective as they are doing research and share that reflection with other learners who are having similar experiences as a means of extending their reflection and gaining support?
Do we help them build a network for discussing the process and extending their learning? Or are they working in isolation? Do real scientists and researchers work in isolation? Do we? How does helping students build a network help create a more authentic experience?
How can you extend the learning process and create a more authentic experience for your students?