Published or Presented Product: I saw so much pride and purpose in students when they recognized that their learning had a culmination of each unit a finished and polished product. I recently wrote about this at some length in my discussion of Ron Berger’s excellent book The Ethic of Excellence, but I will reiterate it here: although good contemporary learning is about process as much as product, it still ought to greatly prize rich, authentic product published or presented to a general public.
Ted Sizer rightly places great emphasis on student presentations to audiences, calling them “exhibitions,” but sometimes Sizer seems to suggest they occur primarily at graduation, and I am suggesting that this approach be used widely. Our students will benefit greatly if they, to appropriate Covey, “begin with the end in mind.” We should clarify to students at the outset of their learning what we will expect of them at its conclusion, give them models, and then demand of them that they produce something fine and finished, and something presented or published to a wider audience.
Now, I have had the experience of hearing proudly progressive teachers tell me they resist this obligation to bring student work to a polished product; they tell me their emphasis is exclusively on the process of student learning. But I beg to differ; I have seen students be so proud of, their finished work, and I don’t think we are preparing them for the real world if we expect anything less of them.
There isn’t anything really new about this: Foxfire represented an earlier wave of student publishing as a vehicle for fine student learning. But what is so exciting about 21st century learning is that, more easily than ever before, we have amazing tools for student publication online. For no marginal cost whatsoever, our students can publish to the world their finished, polished product, and can make real (sometimes small, but still real) contributions to the world’s knowledge. At New Technology H.S., students told me with enormous pride of the revised version of the Grapes of Wrath they wrote and published for the children of migrant workers in Salinas Valley; at Envision School students exulted in the campaign commercials they had produced and “published” online just prior to the November elections and presented to a large public audience of parents and community members.
Examples: Below are opening sentences, and in most cases, links to the full narratives, of my live-blog observations of classrooms effectively using published product to enhance student learning. Please note: these narratives are written “on-the-fly” in the moment as I sit in classrooms observing and writing; they have a raw and unedited quality to them.
CPS Environmental Science: The room has wonderful posters displayed of student research projects, oversize, printings that must be 3′x3′. More…
New Technology HS History: The teacher has told me this is a very project-based class (the whole school’s philosophy is Project Based), and now a group of four, following Carol’s lead, is working on a project organizing sheet– dedicated not to the content of the project, but to the process, things like “action items, persons responsible, next steps, due dates”. More….
New Technology High School English: I ask Carl about the hardest project he has had– and he starts laughing, with great energy as he begins telling me about his Grapes of Wrath junior year project. More…
Metro High School, An Envision School, Social Studies: The pbl approach culminates, as it should, in exhibitions, and the school here recently presented an exhibition on election eve. Local TV covered the event here. The exhibitions were produced in a social studies class which Liz is very passionate about, Government and Politics, in which students created and produced their own TV ads about various issues. For “Liz’s” ad, see it here. Nice use of technology, nice culminating exhibit, nice key-in to current events with relevancy to these students.