Any student leaving high school should know what they know and what they don’t know. Unfortunately we have spent 13 years telling them that filling out a worksheet and passing a multiple choice test is a way to prove of what you know. While that is a way to prove something and it takes information and knowledge to complete and pass, it doesn’t really show you can do something with your knowledge.
I have spent this year in my senior science class on a single project. Select, build and fly a quadcopter. We have completed the first two goals. And you could argue that they flew, but not for more than 45 seconds. We are in repair and relearn phase with only 7 class periods to master this task.
Today I asked students to define their own objectives for the day knowing the status and final goal. They did a great job, dividing and conquering. Weather permitting we can fly on Wednesday (this week N. Texas is not cooperating with weather!). When I asked the same question in January, I was met with blank stares. Students have spent this semester in a course driven by a task and executed with plans they have made. I have allowed them to stumble and fix the problem. It has been a challenge to step back and let them succeed or fail. We crashed both quadcopters with 7 days left in the year and they are fixing them and figuring out how they will get them flying for graduation. I know that when the success happens, they will feel triumphant!
I am hoping that this experience has helped them learn about themselves, their learning styles and how to learn. The reality is that I am still struggling with some that have learned to play school with expertise. I still have some who whine and complain that they “don’t get it” when the sad reality is that they don’t really know how to learn. Others have run with the challenge and it has changed their minds about their future (I win!). Asking students to prove they know something and write about their experience has changed my class for the better. The other important piece is allowing students who realize they have missed the mark to go back and learn. Both together have made my class better for me and the students. While I am adjusting for next year, one big adjustment will be more time to prove and think about what you have learned.