Below is a copy of an article that I wrote for our school newsletter, introducing year 7 parents to our new course for 2017 – Praxis. You might remember that in 2016 I was running enrichment projects with a select group of year 7 students, and I called this program Praxis. This year it becomes a mandatory course for all year 7 students – it was a huge job designing the course from scratch, but it was incredibly rewarding. I am very lucky to get to work with two very talented young teachers who challenge me to work better and harder – they make collaborating a dream.
Introducing Praxis 2017
Praxis (Ancient Greek: πρᾶξις) is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realised.
What is Praxis?
Praxis is a series of Project Based Learning (PBL) experiences which allow for the facilitation of authentic learning experiences for all year 7 students. The projects will complement the content and skills developed in core classes, and provide students with the opportunity to apply their learning from these subjects in real-world contexts.
In term 4 of 2017, the three Praxis teachers – Ms Hewes, Mr Blanch, and Ms Munro – worked together to engage with current research into gifted education, and best practice with emerging pedagogies for successful learners in the 21st century. As a result of this planning, we have developed four enriching, challenging, and most of all fun projects for year 7, 2017. Our goal with Praxis is to put theory into practice as a means to developing successful learners who are confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens – reflecting the overarching goal of the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians (2008).
Each of these projects has been designed to helps students master and demonstrate what we have deemed ‘Praxis Targets’ – a range of skills and mindsets essential for the success of young people in today’s rapidly changing global community. Furthermore, each individual project has been planned based on the widely regarded and evidenced-based Project Based Learning model, whereby students progress through a three-phase project – discover, create, share. The image below provides insight into the learning experiences and quality teaching strategies that underpin and guide each project.
How will Praxis run?
Students do Praxis for 3 hours on a Friday morning, once per fortnight. Each Praxis session there are three classes being run concurrently, providing opportunities for team-teaching and collaboration between classes. Each Praxis class has 20 students, and during projects this class will be divided into 5 project teams. Every term sees students engaging in a new Praxis project – a simulation project, a building and making project, a student-directed project, and an outdoors project. More information about each project can be found on our website: http://www.praxispbl.weebly.com Two of the four projects will be formally aligned to units of work and assessment from core classes – the final product and presentation for these two projects will be assessed by their Praxis teacher, and their core class teacher, with outcomes being reflected on that specific subject’s report.
In Weeks 2 and 3 we launched the Praxis program with our year 7 classes – and it was awesome. Students spent the first 20 minutes together as a large group of 60 and were introduced to Praxis, followed by a ‘hook’ into our first project where we played the game ‘Would I Lie To You?’. Next, students moved to their class groups, and completed a learning style preference survey using the 4MAT model – the data from this will be used to help teachers identify students’ specific learning capacities, and then implement strategies to improve under-developed capacities. Students were then given a copy of the project outline for their first project, and encouraged to identify what they need to know – skills and content knowledge – in order to be successful with the project. Finally, students worked together in their new project teams on a collaboration activity, which entailed a lot of noise, movement, critical thinking, and creativity. Praxis Week A had to design and build a strong and attractive 1m bridge with minimal resources, and Praxis Week B completed the famous Marshmallow Challenge where they had to build a tall but strong spaghetti tower that could hold up a marshmallow at the top. Students really enjoyed their first Praxis session, and so too did the teachers!
We firmly believe that gifted learners require learning experiences that are differentiated to meet their individual needs. As such, the 2017 Praxis program has been carefully designed to harness, support and nurture the specific intellectual and personality traits of gifted learners, as outlined by Silverman in the table above. We are very much looking forward to an exciting year of Praxis!