Authentic learning runs much deeper than the content at stake. As educators, we must strive to offer the most significant learning environment possible in order for our students to reach their full potential. Significant learning environments include much more than the classroom itself. Learning should never be confined to the four walls of a school room, but instead, offer challenging, engaging, collaborative, and active learning inside and out of the classroom. My ideal significant learning environment is one that combines the perfect ratio of memorization and process based learning with active, engaging learning to eliminate blinders to the hazardous situations that exist in the field that bring about tunnel vision when students act on fact recalling alone.
These significant learning environments should foster imagination and creativity while enhancing learning and collaboration. My environment will support my strongly constructivist learning philosophy. “Learning is an active process of constructing rather than acquiring knowledge” (Tan & Hung, 2003, p.49). I see learning as this active process wherein the learners (or students) are actively involved, engaged, and connected with the information at stake. “Learning becomes active when students are able to connect new knowledge with their prior understanding” (Mims, 2003, p.1).
When designing significant learning, there are many factors to consider in order to create a successful course. One key factor to implementing a successful learning environment, is to focus on aligning course outcomes with the correct learning activities and assessments. Fink (2003) provides a self-directed guide to creating significant learning. His findings focus on the backwards design aspect to ensure that all components of the course are related and relevant. He offers a step-by-step guide to help create a 3 column table that asks users to create a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), identify the course outcomes, then work backward to design the rest of the course to successfully reach those outcomes. Fink’s model is a great tool to establish an outline for long courses or units while staying on track with large, overarching goals and outcomes.
After developing the three column table using Fink’s model, I also had the opportunity to create a course outline using the Understanding by Design (UbD) template. This strategy also uses the backward design concept, but offers significantly greater detail than Fink’s model. UbD is made up of three sections or stages looking at results, assessment evidence, and lastly, a detailed lesson plan where the creator can detail the learning activities they plan to implement in order to achieve their desired results. This learning plan uses the W.H.E.R.E.T.O. elements to code each entry of the lesson plan to ensure all outcomes are met. I thoroughly enjoyed using this template to design a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) course I teach at L.I.T. It allowed me to create several new activities for my students, and recognize a few assessment activities that I was not previously preparing my students for properly. After using this template, I honestly feel like my students will have a better chance of surpassing these course expectations.
All of these models and activities are extremely beneficial when it comes to creating a significant learning environment; however, this task will never be completed successfully without first developing a growth mindset. A growth mindset is one that looks at challenges and hard work as learning experiences and opportunities for growth instead of a high risk for failure. Individuals with a growth mindset focus on the process of learning and understand the effort that it takes to be successful.
If we can successfully implement each one of these elements, starting with development of the growth mindset, then understanding and evaluating our personal learning philosophies, and lastly developing relative courses where learning activities and assessments closely align with course outcomes and goals, I honestly believe we can all create significant learning environments where each of our students can grow, succeed, and surpass any expectations we could ever imagine.
Mims, C. (2003). Authentic learning: A practical introduction & guide for implementation.Meridian, 6(1). Retrieved fromhttps://www.ced.ncsu.edu/meridian/index.php/meridian
Tan, S. C., & Hung, D. (2003). Beyond information pumping: Creating a constructivist e-learning environment. Educational Technology, 42(5), 48-54.