I recently posted about my attempt to initiate a pilot PBL experience with my Year 10 class. I had hoped to use this student-centred approach to School Certificate preparation. I know that seems oxymornic – student-centred learning as preparation for formalised summative assessment in the form of state-wide external examination. My kids thought I was a Class 1 moron too. Bummer.
Yes, they loved circle-time. They enjoyed discussing their perception of education – its failings and its successes. They liked the ‘idea’ of the project and its products. But they didn’t like the idea that it might adversely impact their School Certificate results. They didn’t like the idea that they would need to be active in their learning. They wanted the large ‘exam survival’ packets given to them in other subjects. They wanted to rub their fingers along the warm photocopied black and white paper and imagine themselves studying for hours in preparation for the exam. They wanted to indulge in the dream of exam preparedness that had been sold to them by teachers, school executive, parents and complete strangers with breathless voices and powerpoint slideshows.
They didn’t want to play my game.
The passivity of my students upset me – and I told them so. But I also showed them that I appreciated why they thought the way they did, and told them I was sympathetic to the pressures they felt and to their (seemingly genuine) desire to do well in their exams. Any teacher would be stoked to have students asking for study packs – right?
Trawling through youtube finding inspiring and provocative videos for my English Extension II students, I came across a clip I had seen my Head Teacher watching a week ago. It really does encapsulate my students’ attitude towards their exams and my proposed PBL-style preparation lessons. These kids are products of a system that encourages conformity and discourages independent thought. They are trained to be passive.
Note: I amended the title as per the suggestion of my learning journey guide, Darcy Moore. His comment below resonated with me and reminded me that the word ‘failure’ connotes ‘not doing it again’ or ‘be wary, don’t try this’ to teachers. I am already running PBL experiences with two other classes because I have faith in inquiry-based, problem-based and student-based learning. See my next post on Project Based Learning here.