Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

Blog > Classroom > Utilising Extended Projects to release the power of deeper learning

Utilising Extended Projects to release the power of deeper learning

In his second blog post, Dr John Taylor discusses the power of Extended Projects in forming deeper thinkers with the skills they need to take on the real-world challenges of the modern workplace.

14 Nov 2019
Classroom
In my previous blog post, I explored the challenge of starting students on a journey that leads to deeper, more independent learning by means of open-ended questions. The point is a simple one: if we are going to equip students to be confident, independent thinkers, we are going to have to acclimatise them to the realm of open, challenging, controversial and ambiguous questions – the very questions that tend not to be asked in written examinations, which, as a rule, tend to favour responses that can be learned and matched to a mark scheme.
 
Once the journey towards deeper learning has begun, how can we continue it? How can we create learning environments in our classrooms, workshops, laboratories and studios that promote and reward character traits such as project management skills, curiosity and creative and persistent development of ideas and meta-cognitive reflection?
 
I suggest that when it comes to the challenge of forming deeper thinkers, students equipped with the skills to face the real-world challenges of finding a personal role in the modern workplace and adapting to the challenge of citizenship in a complex global world, it is project work, rather than examinations alone, that has the most to offer.
 
By ‘project’ I mean a personal response to an open question. The central question that guides the project process is crucial, and if the project is to be a rewarding, meaningful learning experience, it is going to have be a question that the student herself has helped to shape.
 
Project work is a personal thing. The enormous value of project work stems in large part from the fact that it genuinely puts the learner in the driving seat: the learner’s own interests, skills and experience play a crucial role in shaping both what they produce and the medium which they choose for the expression of their ideas. I have lost count of the number of extended projects that I have supervised that have turned out to be of really breath-takingly high quality. Yet really, I shouldn’t be surprised. Provide learners with the freedom to choose, put in place some scaffolding to provide structural support, and give them time to explore, experiment, investigate, create, go down a few blind alleys, think again, improve on a good idea until it becomes a great idea – unsurprisingly, when this is the way in which learning is allowed to happen, the results really do turn out to be of a very high quality indeed.
 
The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), launched ten years ago and, now available both in the UK and internationally, has established itself as a valuable additional element alongside both A Levels and vocational qualifications.
 
Much of the value of the EPQ derives from the fact that it is underpinned by a rigorous yet flexible model for learning, a model which recognizes that genuine independent learning is the outcome of a carefully managed process in which students work with a mentor, initially being guided, but gradually over time, learning to take control of the process. Without a shadow of doubt, the most rewarding moment is when the student stands up to deliver their final presentation, and everyone in the room realises that they have become, within their chosen area, an expert, often with knowledge that their supervisor did not realise they had acquired.
 
Small wonder then that the EPQ is being increasingly welcomed by higher education institutions, who recognize it for what it is: a carefully crafted model for developing exactly the skillset that students will need if they are to go on to thrive in higher education, where the capacity for independent learning, critical reflection, self-management and the ability to persist at a major project over a sustained period will be vital to success.
 
EPQ has grown quietly to become a significant qualification in its own right. The way in which it has embedded itself and now can be seen to deliver on the independent learning agenda raises important questions. Should we push further in this direction? What would it mean, for example, to take the pedagogical model that underpins EPQ and apply it within the ‘mainstream’ curriculum? Should we be looking at what we do in our ‘ordinary’ lessons to see if we can help to strengthen and utilise the skills of deeper thinking and independent learning at all points in the learning journey?
 
If the value of EPQ lies as much in the model of learning which it embodies as in the quality of the outcomes that it leads to, then perhaps it is time for us to consider how we can transform all teaching and learning so that the formation of the qualities of rich, open, deeper learning are seen not just as a valuable addition but as the heart of all we do in our work with students.

_____________________________
About the author

Dr John Taylor, BA, PGCE, DPhil, BPhil, is Director of Learning, Teaching and Innovation at Cranleigh School, with responsibility for the development of independent learning. He is an experienced teacher, trainer and consultant with experience of working with international schools to develop project programmes. 
 
Dr Taylor works closely with staff, providing professional development opportunities and organising and leading CPD in areas connected to independent learning and he is one of the principal architects of the Extended Project Qualification and other project-based qualifications in the UK. In recent years his work has focused on the development of thinking within all areas of the curriculum, as well as the use of project work to facilitate deeper learning.
 

Similar stories

Should smartphones be banned in schools? The big debate

Are mobile phones in schools a distraction or can they be beneficial to students? More...

Preview: Our International School Leaders Conference 2019

This year’s Pearson International School Leaders Conference in Windsor, UK is fully booked but there are plenty of way… More...

The rise of blended learning in international schools

Pioneers GEMS Wellington Academy in Dubai have adopted blended learning throughout classrooms in their school. Seb Murra… More...

Interview with Marta Ripolles: Multilingual success in your school competition runner up!

The first in the series of blog posts from winners of the “Multilingual success in your school” competition! 2nd pla… More...

Winners Announcement: Multilingual success in your school competition!

Here it is, the announcement of the winners of the Multilingual success in your school global competition! Read more to … More...

Most read

Should smartphones be banned in schools? The big debate

Are mobile phones in schools a distraction or can they be beneficial to students? More...

iPrimary and iLower Secondary in action around the globe!

Take a look at these videos and case studies to see how we’re working with schools worldwide and the positive impact i… More...

Utilising Extended Projects to release the power of deeper learning

In his second blog post, Dr John Taylor discusses the power of Extended Projects in forming deeper thinkers with the ski… More...

The importance of English language skills in international teaching

English language skills are important for all subjects in international teaching. More...

This website is powered by
ToucanTech