Award-Winning Teen Scientists Exemplify Meaningful Learning
When I’m teaching, I don’t want my students to just go through the motions in order to complete the assignments. I also don’t want their grades to be the ultimate measurement of what they’ve learned. I want to teach them curriculum content and give them the skills, motivation, and passion to discover more on the topic long after my class is over. That kind of learning is truly meaningful, which is why one of the topics I find most inspiring when it comes to making significant transformation in education revolves around what researchers call “Meaningful Learning.”
The good news is that I’m not alone. An ever-growing movement of educators is using Discovery-, Problem- and Challenged-Based Learning methodologies to provide their students with 21st Century skills and to make learning meaningful for their students. You’ll find a snapshot description of each of these learning methodologies below, but before you take a look, be inspired by three award-winning teenage scientists who put these amazing approaches into action.
Discovery-based learning is an inquiry-based approach that puts learners in problem-solving situations where the they must draw on their own past experiences and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. DBL activities often include: experimentation, data interpretation, interviews, or dissection.
Problem-based learning is a learner-centered approach in which students learn about a subject in the context of a problem and work in groups or individually to come up with a feasible solution. Here’s an example of a PBL scenario:
1. Problem is presented and read by group member, while another acts as scribe to mark down “facts” as identified by group.
2. Students discuss what is known (the facts).
3. Students discuss what they think and identify the broad problem (brainstorm their ideas and formulate their hypotheses).
4. Students identify their learning needs (what they need to learn in order to prove or disprove their ideas).
5. Students share research findings with their peers, then recycle steps 2-4.
Challenged-based learning is a collaborative and hands-on approach that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. These are the steps CBL learners take:
1. Introduce a big idea (ex: Food)
2. Discover an essential question (ex: Is eating fast food 3x a week healthy?)
3. Identify challenges (ex: Discover how much harm the fast food I eat does to my body)
4. Come up with guiding questions (ex: What kind of fast food do I eat? or Are some fast food restaurants healthier than others?)
5. Participate in activities and resources (ex: Gather data on my eating habits for one month and document the nutritional value of each meal)
6. Create and implement the solution (ex: Create a menu of the healthiest fast food options I like)
There is obviously a lot of overlap with these three different learning methodologies, but all three of them have one thing in common: they require the educator to assume the role of a facilitator to the students’ learning processes. Effective facilitators know how to:
- Ask probing questions (What’s going on here? What do we need to know more about? What is your evidence? What’s the problem/solution? What’s the next step?)
- Provide appropriate resources (technology, people, organizations, etc.)
- Lead relevant and engaging group discussions
- Design student assessments and reflections
The resources below are sure to inspire you in your discovery and implementation of these incredible learning methodologies!