In education we like to name things and put them in nice packages. Vendors like this because they can market and sell products, publishers like this for the same reasons, and educators tend to feel safe because they believe that it has been vetted by someone else and therefore must be good. As many shift away from textbooks and teacher-directed classrooms, educators are gravitating towards learning frameworks and approaches. This is a better shift in my opinion, but it’s missing the mark. We talk too much about the type of learning rather than focussing on what students are learning.
I have seen too many classes that believe they “Do project based learning” or are “implementing blended learning” and others that recoil at the very thought of such terms. This typically tells me nothing about the actual learning opportunities for students and the stories I hear don’t always match what is actually happening in the classroom. The truth is that naming it doesn’t mean that learning changes for kids. It doesn’t matter which instructional program you follow, effective teaching at its core always has and always will focus on learning. And for learning to happen there has to be an investment in the learners, relationships, challenge, collaboration, personalization, and opportunities for authentic application in the real world.
I have come to realize that it’s not project based learning or inquiry based learning, or problem based learning, or blended learning or any other “type of learning” that is changing classrooms, it’s teachers who are building relationships with their students and designing authentic learning experiences that matter. When we allow learners to explore, question, and collaborate in authentic ways that changes learning no matter what approach or program you use.