PRAXIS: Rebuilding the World
Over the last two weeks year 7 students have been delivering their end of Praxis project presentations to a panel of teachers, including History, Maths and Praxis teachers. These presentations were the culmination of a complex, challenging and enriching open-ended project based on the concepts of ‘revolutions’ and ‘knowledge’. Working in teams of five, and through a series of research and design tasks, students were required to formulate an answer to the following driving question: How do revolutions progress human knowledge? Below is the project brief that the students were given at the start of the project:
‘The senior executive at Manly Selective Campus has decided to brighten up the school environment by commissioning year 7 students to design art pieces to be installed outside of each faculty’s staff room. Each piece of installation art must represent how revolutionary people or movements have contributed to the development of each discipline. Working in small teams of 5, students will use historical inquiry skills to research the revolutions in knowledge relevant to their allocated discipline and, using mathematical principles, they will visually represent their findings in a 2D design and a 3D prototype of their installation art piece. Students will present their process and product to a panel, explaining how their piece demonstrates the practical application of mathematical principles and skills, and knowledge of historical content and inquiry skills. Selected designs and prototypes will be developed into complete art pieces for permanent display in the school.’
This project was very demanding – both intellectually and in terms of time-management and collaboration within their teams – and our students reflected thoughtfully on these challenges during their presentations. Whilst we were incredibly impressed with the final products that students produced (the art installation prototypes AND their websites), we were floored by the incredible maturity with which students reflected on the project’s process and how it had taught them valuable skills and life-lessons. Each Praxis project is designed by the three Praxis teachers around our Praxis Principles and Targets and grounded in contemporary Gifted and Talented research in line with the Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented Policy. Below you can see a table that identifies a range of possible strategies to be integrated into the three core stages of Project Based Learning. The highlighted strategies are those that underpin the recent Rebuilding the World project. It was affirming to hear students talk confidently about their learning in relation to these three stages, and the Praxis Principles and Targets.
Above table intellectual property of Bianca Hewes, Kate Munro, James Blanch (2016)
Below are some student comments about the project:
‘When we first got given our faculty, we were all excited to get started and ideas were already flooding into our minds.’
‘I made new friends and interacted with people I wouldn’t normally interact with.’
‘This project made me realise how important teamwork is. From the very start, teamwork was needed to finish the preparation and planning. Planning is one of the most important steps when doing a project…’
‘We researched answers using the Cornell note taking method. We found three sources (not just websites) that provided reliable information then made a table for each of them, showing our notes, comments, summaries and answers to our questions. Using many reliable sources helped make sure that our information was correct.’
‘As a group, we enjoyed brainstorming ideas. To begin with, we were a bit unprepared. We were frustrated that we hadn’t collected our resources in time but we learned from this that we need to manage our time a bit better in future. We did manage to finish our machine and digital portfolio but agree that we could probably do better next time.’
‘You need a team member who is as willing as you to put in extra hours outside of Praxis sessions, to work lunch times, class times and even out of school.’
Below are some of the art installation prototypes (these are currently on display in the English corridor):
Check out students’ digital portfolios which captures their learning process – each team made a website to document this process:
This was our first Praxis project that was explicitly integrated with core curriculum subjects (Maths and History), and as such we have learnt a lot about how we can improve the connection between the three classes, especially regarding explicit discussion of the project in core classes. One of our goals as a school is to develop students’ ability to make connections between subjects, and Praxis is one way that we can do this is a concrete way. We teachers are learning to collaborate between faculties too – a reminder to students that being a lifelong learner is essential in our dynamic world! We very much appreciate the willingness and enthusiasm of our students to support this new way of approaching teaching and learning, to develop the necessary skills and mindsets for successful and thriving 21st century citizens. There may be some bumps, but this is a road very much worth travelling!
As we move into our final Praxis project for the year – TEAM Praxis – a strong focus for students will be on creative thinking, time-management and organisation, curiosity, collaboration and presentation skills. Integrated into the five Praxis sessions that make up this project will be specific lessons on strategies that can develop the above skills, as well as providing students with the opportunity to self and peer assess these skills using co-constructed rubrics.