Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsGERARD LISTON: Inviting an employer to do a one-off talk to a group of students is very different to creating a collaborative project that allows students to encounter an employer in the context of a purposeful challenge. In terms of planning, the former can be slotted in between scheduled lessons. But the latter needs to be knitted into schemes of work and planned into learning outcomes. Creating a collaborative project should essentially achieve three things. It should tackle real problems and issues that have importance to people beyond the classroom-- in this case, the partner employer. It should give students a chance to apply their learning using real information and making choices during the project.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 secondsAnd it should have a tangible outcome-- typically, showcasing students' work. And it's often knowing an employer will see their work that motivates them. The process requires creativity, a bit of lateral thinking, and probably preparation of some classroom resources. The employer may provide information and resources, either in person or remotely. Let me give you some examples. A window manufacturer helped fifteen year old students to learn about polymers by creating a collaborative project that asked students for fresh ideas about uses for their extruded uPVC. Working with enterprise Rent-A-Car, students were challenged to use their math skills and work out the best use of space for a new depot they purchased.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 secondsAnd finally, a dental practice worked with a local school to develop teaching materials for science lessons, helping to teach a tricky part of the curriculum by giving the teacher videos and presentations that showed people working the dental practice using X-ray technology safely in their jobs.

Deeper engagement with project-based learning

Inviting an employer to do a one-off talk to a group of students is very different to creating a collaborative project that allows students to encounter an employer in the context of a purposeful challenge. In terms of planning, the former can be slotted in between scheduled lessons, whilst the latter needs to be knitted into schemes of work and planned into learning outcomes.

Shaping a challenge that feels real to students requires discussion with the employer to identify a relevant and current issue as the foundation for the task. The process also requires some creativity, a bit of lateral thinking and probably preparation of some classroom resources.

The employer may provide information and resources either in person or remotely. For example, a video to set the challenge, a promise to come back and give feedback at the end of the project, with opportunity for the students to present, and perhaps a ‘VIP’ site visit for students who rise to the challenge.

Discuss

What might we mean by ‘purposeful challenge’? How might this type of involvement engage students?

Share your initial thoughts below. We’ll look at two case studies in the next step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Linking Curriculum Learning to STEM Careers

National STEM Learning Centre