The focus of education should be learning. However, much of what we see in schools is a strict adherence to federally mandated accountability standards. While it is important to hold schools and educators to high accountability standards, the exaggerated focus on compliance imbalances what schools should be focused on which is learning. Students should feel inspired to express their own voices through learning. Standardizing students through a one-size fits all approach limits creative problem solving, and does not set students up to successfully navigate a highly unpredictable society (Brien, LeBlanc, & Williams, 2012). Schools now have the opportunity to create authentic, learner-centered environments in hopes that students will be better equipped in their journey to becoming life-long learners. We must teach them to learn how to learn, and be a living example of wonder, curiosity, and an engaged learner ourselves.
The latest course in the DLL program encouraged us to reflect on our original innovation plans. Within the last year, I have incorporated small steps of this plan in my own context in hopes that I will be able to expand in my new district this upcoming school year. My original plan proposing that all classrooms shift to a PBL approach through blended learning is still the same, but I will need to consider the new issues that have arisen due to a change in the amount of technology we are offered as well as the IT support and a lack of continuity in the available technology with student-friendly devices. My original proposal for a blended learning environment involved a district that provided a one to one ratio of chrome-books, but now that my current school is lacking these resources, I will be meeting with school officials to brainstorm solutions to these setbacks.
I have already met with my new school leaders to propose better professional learning opportunities for teachers to implement PBL fully within all classrooms as this is a future goal for the district overall. Although my current school is considered a PBL, these last few months have unveiled some much needed professional development to help bridge the gap between experienced PBL teachers with new teachers to the campus, or who are new to PBL pedagogies. Traditional weekly lesson plans are still required so it is difficult for teachers to implement both PBL units and their traditional lesson plans without a solid vision of how they truly want students to engage in learning. The main goal of my proposal is to create authentic learning environments and present real-world problems to learners so they approach education standards in a more holistic way. The intent is that they would not only master the content, but they would build vital social emotional skills, self-efficacy, and empathy through engaging in real-world problems within a blended learning environment.
What Research Says
Although I have learned valuable insight through my latest literature review, I am still committed to my original innovation plan. The research I did find supports my innovation plan as it reflects multiple studies have been conducted on the importance of authentic learning and personalized learning environments through inquiry based methodologies such as PBL or problem-based learning. I studied a variety of cases regarding PBL implementation at the K-12 level, but unfortunately there was a deficiency in comprehensive studies that currently exist highlighting the effects PBL has in a public school setting (Wilder, 2015). There were also no studies of long-term PBL implementation (Bellisimo, Maxwell, & Mergendoller, 2006). After synthesizing research, and contemplating on lessons learned by observing the path of other innovative leaders, I believe it has created a sense of urgency to conduct even more research on this topic. Educators need sound data with realistic approaches that proves personalizing the learning environment through PBL and blended learning truly does create generations of learners that are equipped to maneuver a world we haven’t met yet.
Based on the evidence that personalized learning environments are successful in helping learners master content and boost students’ attitudes regarding content, more effort should be executed to adopt them into all public school classrooms and professional learning for educators. I am proposing personalized learning environments for teachers and students along with my Innovation Plan. My call to action presentation provides a step-by-step “how-to” and need for implementing this plan within our context. Austin Discovery School should seize the opportunity to conduct action research studies on the effects of long-term PBL through blended learning across multiple content areas.
Global Lessons Learned-What Worked
According to Serdyukov (2017), the evolution of education on a global scale must meet the needs of our rapidly changing society. It is more connected now than in any other time in history, therefore the way we educate generations to navigate this new world has to change. We are no longer confined to the walls of a classroom. Limitless information available to us through technology has given us the opportunity to engage in learning at any time and anywhere that has an internet connection. Thanks to the global connections through ICT, traditionally underserved populations are engaging in online learning which has a direct positive effect on enhancing stability and support in their communities. I was also inspired to learn how ICTs have made such an impact on underserved communities by bridging the gap between geographical, infrastructural, and social barriers. Educational technologies have been highly successful in providing opportunities for students to take ownership of their own learning, interact and collaborate with other online learners, elevate efficiency of the learning process and connect teachers to innovative practices. One of the most eye-opening realizations upon reading the global case studies was the effect American innovative leaders’ research had on other countries’ decisions to shift the way they conducted school all together. It seemed as though other countries learned more from our own educational researchers than we did ourselves. There is a gap between what the American education system’s research suggests in revolutionizing the system than what is actually being implemented consistently. Other countries have built world-class systems based on our research, so it is time we learned from them of what worked, what didn’t, and how we can do it better.
Global Lessons Learned-What Could Have Been Done Better?
If we were to ask most people what they believe the central problem of the American education system is, they would most likely state a lack of funding. Where this is true, it still does not solve all of the problems that would still arise in schools due to the wildly differing beliefs educators have for how students learn and how to best help them take ownership of this process. All of the money and technology in the world will not fix a broken system of beliefs. The first plan of action is for a school to align its teaching and learning philosophies so that the goals, professional learning, and resources needed will have a purpose. Technology is merely a tool to enhance learning, therefore a lack of vision will in turn create unsustainable and inconsistent implementations. The primary concentration schools need is a harmonious vision that reflects a common learning philosophy. The focus should be on the learners, and then we raise funds so support that vision. These funds could support the training, professional learning, technology implementation, research, and resources needed to see the innovative dream into fruition.
Applying These Lessons to My Innovation Plan
After reflecting on what research reveals about PBL and ICT implementation, I discovered that these two innovations are considered evolutionary because they merely restructure how students learn. This course has not only helped me validate what I already believed to be true, but it has awakened a new perspective on how I view my proposal. At this time, my plan is evolutionary rather than what I previously considered to be revolutionary. I have a clearer view as to what these two terms suggest, and where I should focus post graduation from the DLL program if I want to make revolutionary waves in the education system. This would be through going to the source and rewriting policy so that evolutionary methods such as PBL would have a chance to prove their worthiness, and the funding would go to supporting schools’s visions and ongoing support. I am committed to further executing my innovative proposal for personalizing the learning environment through PBL and blended learning, however my vision has been expanded to making a significant impact beyond my district.
What follows is a list of actions taken in this course to get another step closer to implementation.
Bray, B. and McClaskey, K. (2014, June 11). Personalize your learning environment. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=11
Mergendoller, J. R., Maxwell, N. L., and Bellisimo, Y. (2006). The effectiveness of problem-based instruction: A comparative study of instructional methods and student characteristics. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(2), 49-69. https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1026
Serdyukov, P. (2017). Innovation in education: what works, what doesn’t, and what to do about it?. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning., volume number(10), pp. 4-33. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JRIT-10-2016-0007/full/pdf?title=innovation-in-education-what-works-what-doesnt-and-what-to-do-about-it
Wilder, S. (2015). Impact of problem-based learning on academic achievement in high school: A systematic review. Educational Review, 67(4), 414-435, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2014.974511
Williams, R. B., Brien, K., and LeBlanc, J. (2012, July 13). Transforming schools into learning organizations: Supports and barriers to educational reform. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 134, 1-32.