- Something happened in class today that surprised me.
- Students chose to work together.
- They had an out I probably would have availed myself of, but they didn’t take it.
The Whole Story:
By all accounts, they shouldn’t have done it.
Just the same, 8 students sat in a group in my first period class today and worked on a seemingly insolvable problem.
For the last six weeks or so of class, my students have been researching problems or issues in the world that they thought deserved attention. Nothing was off the board. In fact, the whole thing started by putting every problem they could think of on the board in my classroom with no filter for ideas that might otherwise have gotten at least a jeer or two.
For six weeks they’ve been working largely independently to understand these problems. They’ve been asking questions, mining information and putting it here and here on their class blogs.
The whole thing’s led to some difficult conversations about what happens when you begin to lose interest in something you care about, what to do when you feel like you’ve been scratching at the surface so long you’re out of fingernails and other such problems.
It’s been an interesting stretch of learning how to write in a new medium and research in mediums old and new.
Last week, we moved to Phase II. Each student was required to prepare a fact sheet on his or her individual problem. I almost told them what a fact sheet was and how it could be formatted, then I remembered the Interwebs exists and let them figure it out on their own.
Following the fact sheets, they were given a solution organizer asking them to track causes, effects, solutions, main players, etc.
Their research fed the fact sheets which fed the solution organizers.
Today, things got a little more interesting, they got their solution groups.
After polling everyone on their topics, I went through and assigned groups based on perceived commonalities. In today’s class, this meant:
- Inhumane Acts
- Social Issues
After they’d seen their groups, I told the students I realized my impression may not be the correct one and I was open to rearrangements. In particular, I sat waiting for the Social Issues group. With eight members, it’s the largest group in the class and contains the topics:
- animal abuse
- stem cells
- natural disaster response
As the name implies, the Solution Groups are charged with looking at the commonalities of their problems and identifying where strategic additional pressure would lead to a shared improvement in the identified area of need. Solve many problems with one action, rather than asking people to do many things to solve many problems.
Ten minutes in, Social Issues was still talking things out. I went over to check in, “You know, if you think this group needs to divide into smaller groups with more commonalities, I’m cool with that.”
“No,” said they, “We’re working on it.”
And they were. It was weird.
Look back up at that list, I certainly have. I cannot conceive an application of pressure that would catalyze solutions to all of those issues.
Still, I’ve a group of students who will be coming back tomorrow to give it another go.
Tonight, they’re looking at this article and each member is drafting three possible group goals that match the criteria.
It’s as though no one told them they couldn’t do it.
You won’t hear it from me.