As I said in the previous post, one of the key goals in education is to instill a desire for lifelong learning in students. But it’s only in recent years that some schools (not counting Montessori schools where actual Montessori curriculum is implemented) have started helping students tie their own interests in to what they’re studying, giving them a framework to study within.
Unfortunately, it’s still very much on a project-by-project basis. Each new project brings a new checklist and a new rubric, and therefore loses the ability to help students build a routine for interest- or inquiry-driven learning. And let’s be honest, here – It’s challenging to develop a habit without developing a sense of routine, and a sense of routine needs to be in place before a habit can be adjusted to match a new style of interest or inquiry.
That’s why I like to look at the personal learning environment as coming in two flavors: overarching and project-based. Developing a learning environment that effectively becomes a blend of all the projects you’ve undertaken before gives you a set of successful routines to consider before you start on your next project. It’s an overarching framework that you know, that keeps you on track as you develop your body of work, and that grows with you in your studies and your work. That said, each time you start a new project, you can look at how you’ve started previous projects and make any tweaks you’d like to try based on what’s worked and what hasn’t worked in prior projects.
Projects come in two flavors as well: skill mastery and creative project. Personally, I prefer to fold skill building into my projects. That’s one of the things I address in my Discovery phase. Others prefer to work on skills independently, and then bring them to projects later. Whichever path you choose, the Discovery phase is where you establish what it is you’re trying to learn. Questions you should be asking yourself at this point include:
- What do I want to know?
- What do I need to know in order to learn what I want to know?
For those starting a new creative project, the questions focus your project. As much fun as personal scope creep is, having a clear vision of where you think you want to end up can tell you when scope creep has taken you off course. Questions you might specifically ask when setting up a new creative project include:
- Why am I doing this? What do I expect to get out of working on this project? (If your answer is, “I don’t know”, you might be working on the wrong project. Table it and move on to the next one for now.)
- How does this connect with my body of work?
- How does this connect with my interests?
- How does this connect with my goals?
Even if you can only give shallow answers at the moment to whichever set of questions you use, you have still provided some sort of focus to help guide your project, to keep yourself on track, and to hopefully keep yourself motivated to see the project through to its end.