Community, Stability, Identity – the motto for the inhabitants of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World. I feel like I am challenging the stability and comfort of teaching this text because I have introduced it as a project to my year 12 English class.
Last year I taught it for the first time in the traditional ‘old school’ way and my class found it difficult to engage with, although their end of year exam results were pleasing. This year will be different, my priority is to engage my class through Project Based Learning.
Yesterday we learnt about the author and I showed them a YouTube clip which gave them an idea about the way that Huxley thought.
Next I introduced the Driving Question: Is ignorance bliss? We discussed what ignorance means and also what bliss means. We studied Slumdog Millionaire earlier this year and looked at the themes of poverty, exploitation and loss which really opened their eyes to some of the less pleasant aspects of life, some of them had commented that they did not know about the reality of these themes before studying them. I felt like I had ruined their innocence!
However, learning about these things has linked well to our driving question. I asked them to consider whether they were happier before knowing about poverty, exploitation and loss and most of them replied ‘yes’ Then we discussed whether they wished they still did not know and most said that they were pleased that their eyes had been opened.
I have taught a few projects now and have not explained explicitly what PBL is to my classes. I wanted them to know exactly what would be expected from them and also to reassure them that they would be prepared for their end of year exam. The class seemed quite interested, especially when explained that they would be working in groups and also have voice and choice in what they were doing.
The project is to create a study guide that will be published on our LMS to be used for exam revision. It’s quite a low key project but if it is successful I’ll introduce a more challenging project next time.
The risk is whether PBL will be as effective as traditional teaching in preparing them for NCEA.