Working this past year with the FabLearn Fellows has been an incredible experience. These 18 educators from around the globe are leading the way to understanding the benefits of “making” in formal and informal learning spaces.
This post from Christa Flores, called, The “Unstructured Classroom” and other misconceptions about Constructivist Learning tackles some of the misunderstandings that people have about making in the classroom. There is fear that “letting go” of the reins as a teacher means that students will just wander aimlessly or worse, the anarchy will ensue. On the flip side, people have ungrounded hopes that simply giving students choice and agency over their own learning will magically create perfect learning conditions.
“In the three years that I have been teaching science through the lens of making or inventing and problem solving, I have often heard the iLab, referred to as “unstructured,” by some well meaning adults. This harkens back to the discord between what we know progressive education can be versus what we envision when we think of a “progressive classroom.” When I worked at Calhoun in New York City, we were considered a progressive school and we often had the debate about what we mean by the term “unstructured.” The debate would invariably follow a conversation with a nervous parent that would go something like this, “Its good for some kids maybe, but my son doesn’t do well in an “unstructured” classroom.”
Christa tackles the claim that unstructured classrooms are unplanned classrooms by offering examples of student-centered work in her classrooms. Teacher planning and preparation do not mean that the teacher is planning everything that happens in the classroom, but instead is shaping a learning environment with care AND pedagogical and content knowledge.