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The Path of the Learner

Learners in my AP class have decided on their driving question for their passion project. Now, they need to start designing the path they will follow. The goal of the passion project is not simply for students to delve into something that they find a connection to.  It is also to provide a framework for that learning.  

Based on the focus of their project students will be choosing one of four possible paths. I'm asking learners to plan out their journey before they begin. We understand the path may change, but I want to emphasize the importance of knowing where you are going so you can adequately monitor, reflect upon, and communicate progress.

Possible Project Paths
  1. Experimentation:
    1. Do background research on your problem
    2. Take research notes
    3. Design procedure
    4. Complete procedure
    5. Collect data
    6. Analyze data
    7. Conclude with an answer to your driving question based on your data
    8. Clear and creative presentation of data

  1. Making something:
    1. Research the design and construction of your product.
    2. Have a clear design created for your product.  
    3. Collect required materials
    4. Construct your product while journaling the process.
    5. Present your product and journal the process of construction.

  1. Learn a new skill:
    1. Research the instructional guides for the skill.
    2. Determine the most reliable and feasible guide to follow.
    3. Work on acquiring that skill while providing a deep journaling the process.
    4. Present your product and journal the process and demonstrate your new skill.

  1. Deep study of others’ research:
    1. Find different articles/videos specifically related to your topic from professionals. One should be an interview with a human.
    2. Record detailed notes and summaries from each and see what new questions arise.
    3. Do more research to delve deeper into these new questions.
    4. Craft a final answer to your question based on the research you did.
    5. Decide on an innovative presentation format that would best fit your product.
    6. Learn how to create the product using this innovative tool.
    7. Create your product to communicate your answer to your question based on the research you did.

As we continue we will discuss what is adequate for each step but this is meant to give students a sense of the process. As I've said, the process will not always be linear. That's the point. New information or challenges may force the learner to look back and make changes before making more progress.

Next week, I will conference with learners during class. They will be expected to present to me about their plan focusing on the following questions.

Path 1: Testing

  • What data will you need to collect to answer your question?
  • What materials will you need to collect this data?
  • Do you own these materials?  If not, who do you need to contact to get these materials?
  • What will be the procedure required to conduct the experiment?
  • Can this testing be done at school? 
    • If so, finalize when and where this testing will take place. And reach out to any teachers.
    • If not, finalize a date(s) when this testing will occur. 

Path 2: Making Something

  • What are you building?
  • Where are your building plans from?
  • What materials do you need for this construction?
  • Do you own these materials?  If not, who do you need to contact to get these materials?
  • Can this building be done at school? 
    • If so, finalize when and where this construction will take place.
    • If not, detail when and where this construction will occur.

Path 3: Learning a New Skill

  • What skill are you hoping to learn?
  • What made you decide on this? Is is something for personal life or possible career?
  • Where will you be getting your instruction from?  
  • How will you know it is a reputable source of instruction?
  • How will you determine your current level of expertise?
  • How will you monitor your progress of growing expertise?

Path 4: In-depth Research

  • How will you determine if a source is reliable?
  • Have you ever used a database for research before? 
  • Do you have a human in mind to talk to?  If not, start trying to find local/national experts or associations you can contact with inquiries.
  • What types of questions you would ask an expert?

In all of my research into passion projects, I've learned the most valuable tool is conferencing with learners about their progress. Last go around, this proved to be true. Digital or paper check-ins are great and most efficient, but conferences help motivate learners and provide an opportunity to problem solve for those less likely to ask for help when needed. As a teacher, conferences make me excited because when learners have found the right project, their very excited to talk about it.

Look forward to sharing more as we go.

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