Jamie Cho, Assistant Teaching Professor, College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle campus
The instructional challenge is to shift student learning to an active construction of knowledge rather than passive transfer. The challenge is also to activate students’ ownership of learning and power in advocacy for the transformations they would like to see.
I used project-based learning for ECFS 200, Introduction to Early Childhood Family Studies. This is an elective course for non-majors. This is an in-person course with 88 students in the Fall quarter. This course surveys a variety of topics related to early childhood and families including child development, early childhood education, resilience, historical and global perspectives, policy and advocacy through a lens of social justice.
Project based learning is a research-based method that supports students’ active learning and connection to their lived experiences. I developed an advocacy project to (a) to create meaningful opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to real-world application, and (b) to sustain engagement over the quarter by addressing students’ interests. By focusing the project on addressing inequities, the students were encouraged to reflect on the inequities that exist and take specific actions.
This project was scaffolded through several checkpoints throughout the quarter where students shared their thinking and steps to addressing their chosen topic. At the end of the quarter, students were asked to reflect on their experiences and learning.
Documentation of their projects also demonstrates that students were motivated to share their message and raise awareness in their communities. I see their excitement and passion through their work and feel that this reflects the theme of sustainability, in students continued engagement in this project until the “end” and the perception that advocacy needs to continue in other communities and in other ways because of the importance of the issue.
A similar project could be used in other disciplines and in similar introductory courses. I think the far-reaching impact is not limited to just the project itself but intricately tied to the course structures and philosophies that center student wellness, offer flexibility and grace, centers relationship with students, and shifts power to students in co-constructing their learning experience. My vision is for education to be a transformative experience and this project was just one small example.
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