By: Christina Agvent, PhD, ABD
Executive Director, International Association of Colearning Communities
Project-based learning (PBL) is a comprehensive approach to teaching and learning that integrates concepts across a number of disciplines or fields of study. PBL is one of the most promising and scalable strategies for enabling deeper learning and provides an opportunity for students to engage in relevant, meaningful experiences that enable skill development and higher levels of achievement. Competency-based PBL provides a pathway for individualized learning and supports the model of self-directed learning (SDL) for students of all ages and abilities. Workspace Education in Bethel, CT is the non-profit flagship colearning community center of the International Association of Colearning Communities (IACLC). Workspace Education, founded by Cath Fraise in 2016, provides an excellent example of competency-based PBL in their science pathway programming.
Dr. Maura Bozeman, the resident scientist at Workspace Education, created the Scientist Pathway in response to student interest in higher level, modern science concepts and research such as, gene editing, CRISPR technology, forensics, and biohacking. Dr. Bozeman describes the pathway program as being “designed for learners of any age who want to work toward becoming a scientist.” In addition, Dr. Bozeman developed a competency-based badge criteria for the Scientist Pathway that documents the concepts learned and skills achieved. With guidance from Dr. Bozeman students create a personalized science goal including details as to what success looks like, and a plan to succeed.
The science pathway is divided into five sections (see image above) and utilizes an open badging platform called Badgr. The pathway begins with basic skills such as lab safety and making observations, and progresses through a series of student-selected skills and objectives resulting in an independent study developed and executed by the student. The final badging step requires the students to share their work with others, through a variety of opportunities such as poster presentations, participation in a STEM competition, or high-level science fair. Because the students are able to choose their own pathways, they are more motivated to be in the lab, excited about what they are learning, and have a strong desire to meet their self-selected science goals.
Workspace Education enables parents, students, community members and even local businesses to create and deliver high quality educational experiences to its members. With 32,000 square feet of experiential learning labs and a co-creation space, PBL is occurring throughout the building and its grounds, and across disciplines. The space is designed for SDL, self-expression and creativity, and the Four Cs : communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.
Through competency-based PBL, Workspace Education is preparing students to compete in a global society, transforming students into proficient communicators, creators, critical thinkers, and collaborators. As Workspace Education continues to generate more attention and growth, Cath Fraise and the Workspace Education team, continue to remain committed to a project-based environment where progress pathways are built through demonstrated competencies, and all members of the community contribute in meaningful ways. It is Workspace Education’s mission to build the best educational opportunities for students so that they may build their Best.Life.Ever.
Homeschooling Pathways and Badging
STEM badging and science pathways are not exclusive to organized colearning communities, microschools or other educational models, and can be utilized in the homeschool learning environment. There are numerous existing programs, both digital and face-to-face through which homeschool families can engage in PBL STEM pathways. Families can find STEM badging opportunities at community programs such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America; both of which have partnerships with innovative STEM corporations across the country. Through a partnership with Microsoft, Boys and Girls Club of America provides free STEM curriculum and resources online, as well as an online badging program, Myfuture, for its members. DIY.org offers badging opportunities that increase skills, require challenge activities, and include full courses with multiple PBL experiences.
At Workspace Education, families are working to create additional badging pathways outside of the science program, such as math, theatre arts, leadership and volunteerism, and the list is continuing to grow. Homeschool families can also develop their own badging pathway to document their children’s learning. Those who are new to badging need not fear- there are free resources readily available online. You can find tools for getting started including: developing
criteria, identifying activities to demonstrate mastery, and even guides to building complete pathways in any area. GettingSmart provides an excellent overview of badging and includes the history and reasons for using badging to demonstrate competency. CareerinSTEM provides a simple guide for getting started and has resources for both educators and students. The MacArthur Foundation has an excellent video “What is a Badge?” that not only discusses the benefit of badging for students, but for adult lifelong learners, as well.
When you are ready to create your badges, Badgr allows users to create badges and stackable, easy-to-understand visual maps (pathways) that help learners understand where they are and what to do next. In addition, Badgr provides a platform, BadgeRank, which enables learners to search for Open Badges from the major badging platforms of the world. These Open Badges can easily be added to a learner’s existing pathway or can be used to create an entirely new pathway.
If you are interested in learning more about colearning communities, microschools and PBL please visit International Association of Colearning Communities (IACLC). The IACLC is a research organization whose mission is to incubate colearning communities and microschools, and provides digital resources as well as offers workshops and training. This November 4th and 5th, join us for Creating Colearning Communities and Microschools at Workspace Education
and receive a free membership to IACLC and get started building your colearning community or microschool or learn how to strengthen the educational experiences of your existing colearning community.