Benefits of Employing the Discovery Phase in the Classroom

There’s a war going on in classrooms across the country. The collaborative arts of teaching and learning are being reduced to metrics. Teachers and students are becoming faceless numbers, while people who’ve (for the most part) never set foot into a classroom for the purposes of teaching and who don’t remember what it was like to be in a classroom for the purposes of learning are deciding what constitutes a “best practice” for what happens in a classroom. 

Teachers tend to be a pretty resilient, scrappy bunch, though, and so they’re fighting back, trying to find ways to connect with students and to make learning something more than just somebody else’s statistic. As a result, project-based learning and inquiry-based learning are gaining ground, and interest-driven (and student-led) learning is finally a serious part of the conversation.

Project-based and interest-based learning work well with the PLE because both require the learner to start off by establishing a topic, question, or problem to focus on. But the Discovery process offers another benefit for those independent learners – an opportunity to search out and evaluate resources and research, and to build and curate relevant streams to pull both information and inspiration from. And in selecting a topic to focus on and in developing those streams, learners engage a number of transdisciplinary skills, including curiosity, research, and information literacy.

This will likely get me in trouble with certain corners of the education reform movements, but the dreaded Bloom’s Taxonmomy (which I don’t think has lost relevance) fits in with this as well. The learner, at the beginning of the learning process for the chosen topic or skill, engages in activities of remembering and understanding as he conducts his initial research and starts building his streams of information and inspiration. If he has to interview an SME as part of his initial research, he’s engaging at an application level; if he has to pull together a general overview, he’s engaged at the analysis level; and just the act of taking what he knows and what he’s finding and using that as a springboard to keep furthering his research engages him at an evaluating level. Really, the only level of Bloom’s Taxonomy a learner in the Discovery phase of the PLE doesn’t engage in (for obvious reasons) is the creation level, because he isn’t to that level yet.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because someone says, “I want to learn about this”, they aren’t already engaging with what we have in the past considered deeper levels of learning and analysis. The learner is becoming open to the activities and mindset necessary to understanding and create their own meaning.

But one of the goals of education is to instill a desire to pursue lifelong learning, so next time we’ll look at how to kick off the Discovery phase beyond the classroom environment.

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Volunteer to Build Skills and Experience

Thanks to the way universities now consider prospective students, high school students are figuring out some of the benefits of volunteering. College students sort of have a handle on it, but it’s the adults who honestly might consider how useful volunteering is.

Volunteering your time to a cause you care about is always a good idea. It lets you do something relaxing that makes you feel good. It’s a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people. It’s also a great way to learn and hone skills. Teenagers have even realized it’s a great way to try out a career path they think they might like to have as an adult, so it’s a great decision-making tool for them as well.

Right after I started college, I started volunteering with the planetarium on campus. I spent two days a week presenting shows, giving star talks, building new shows, and doing light office work. I loved it, and I think it was the start of my path toward Career #1. From there, I volunteered with different museums and planetariums, developing teaching and curriculum development skills. It opened my eyes to a new career. Prior to that, I didn’t realize that one could teach somewhere other than a classroom. My teacher prep professors were beside themselves when I told them I was going to become a museum educator. Most of them tried to talk me out of it, tried to talk me into the classroom.

They failed because I was so much happier at my volunteer job than I was in my field experience and my student teaching.

I’m no longer a museum educator, but I still look for opportunities to teach and to develop learning material. Without volunteering, I never would have known about this opportunity, and I wouldn’t have had as many opportunities to develop skills that I enjoy using.

Look for volunteering opportunities. Encourage those around you to take time out for volunteering. It benefits the organization, and it benefits you in so many ways.