Nine Tenets of Passion-Based LearningJuly 13, 2011 | 12:19 PM | By Tina Barseghian
REACH OUT TO THE DISENFRANCHISED. Wesay that we want creative, passion-drivenstudents, yet we reward the opposite.Standards-based education stifles engagementand passion in students. While drop-outs areconsidered to be lazy and unmotivated, manyare simply not interested because they don’tunderstand the relevance of what they’rebeing taught. We’re rewarding students whoare best at obedience, memorization,regurgitation, and compliance. And those whodo succeed in school often don’t know what todo when they get out. We need to prepare kidsto be successful in the real world, not justwhile in school.
SHOW RELEVANCE TO LIFE OUTSIDESCHOOL. Passion is the narrative of mattering.It’s that simple and that difficult. Everyone hasa deep rooted drive to know that they matterto others and that what they’re doing matters.When you’re doing work that matters, withpeople who matter, you’re willing to suffer andstudy more. Passion-based learning is notabout matching students with topics thatinterest them, it’s about presenting subjects tostudents in a way that’s relevant. People gainempowerment when they’re doing work thatmatters and is respected. Angela Maierssuggests that a class essay rubric may seemirrelevant for some, and that having studentssurf the web to identify writing standards thatare “worthy of the world” may engage them totake ownership of their writing.
INDOCTRINATE PASSION INTO THE SYSTEM. We must switchfrom a control narrative in the classroom to a passion narrative.While our education system allows continuity between gradelevels, provides a streamlined performance metric, and“teacher-proofs” schools, assessment-based education canquell the creative process in teachers. Lisa Nielsen writes inher Innovative Educator blog: “Are we going to lose anotherexcellent, passion-driven teacher to a compulsory system ofeducation that as Seth Godin so aptly expresses, ‘only valuescompliance not initiative, because, of course, that’s what’seasiest to measure.’” School mandates paralyze educators fromtaking a close look at their passion for learning. Schooladministrators should support teachers and empower them tobe creative. Teachers and leadership, as exemplified by thosefrom Aurora High School in Ohio, can read books likePassion-Driven Classrooms (written by panelists Angela Maiers andAmy Sandvold) to discover ways to use more passion in theirclassrooms.The Island School is an example of a public-financed school in New York City that’s implemented aschoolwide enrichment model focusing on talent developmentand nurturing multiple intelligences.
RY USING THE SCHOOLWIDE ENRICHMENTMODEL. Passion-based learning is aboutfinding a “hero,” learning what makes him/hersuccessful, and acquiring the practices and thenorms of established practitioners in thatfield. The Schoolwide Enrichment Modelidentifies student strengths, nurtures skills,and creates authentic opportunities forstudents to utilize these skills not just asstudents, but as practicing professionalsproviding experiences and opportunities towork and learn with others in the fields inwhich they are interested. If a student takesinterest in the culinary arts, watching the 60Minutes interview of Jose Andres, following upon studies of molecular gastronomy,volunteering at a local soup kitchen andexchanging recipes with a network of cooks isfar more enriching than simply taking acooking class. Jackie Gerstein said: “I realizedthat it becomes much more than learningabout the culinary arts. It becomes a way ofbeing in the world, the dispositions thatcontributes to success as a culinary artist.”
DIGITAL MEDIA IS KEY. Students can read and view media about theirheroes and possibly even connect directly with them. John SeelyBrown, a notable passion-based proponent and keynote at the NewMedia Consortium this past summer, says that passion involves anextreme performance with a deep questioning disposition. Withoutdigital media, this quest is not possible in formal education.TAP INTO THE WISDOM OF YOUR TRUSTED PEERS. Social media andPersonal Learning Networks (PLNs) are necessary. Teachers need topublish their innovative work and share it with their personal learningnetworks. It’s also important for teachers to help students getconnected to PLNs via social media.BECOME A DIGITAL CITIZENS. If for no other reason, then to be able toguide students. Students need to be shown what’s appropriate andinstructive with social media in and out of the classroom.Schools’ banning of social media sites impedes this process. Havingteachers and students learn side-by-side can provide greatopportunities for building respect and openness.
PASSION IS INFECTIOUS. Being aroundpassionate people is the best way to becomepassionate. A passion-driven teacher is amodel for her students. Teachers must be ableto lead in the areas that they’re passionateabout (whether this be in the classroom orafter school). They must demonstrate that theyhave lives outside of school and that they arewell-balanced people. Being transparent withstudents and building relationships with thembeyond the classroom can help drive learning –students work harder with people who matterto them. The Science Leadership Academy, forexample, uses Facebook as a means ofconnecting students and teachers to eachothers’ interests. Students and teachers evendo things together outside of the classroom.
CONNECT WITH PARENTS. Buildingrelationships between parents and schools iscrucial. George Couros says that having a pre-conference at the beginning of the school yearwith parents allows teachers andadministrators to listen to parents talk abouttheir kids and gives parents a chance to tell theschool what their competencies are and wheretheir expertise lies. Teachers can then create“resident expert” walls. By identifyingstrengths and talents of parents, parents gain asense of recognition and human value – theyfeel engaged. This leads to opportunities forparents to teach topics that they love withinthe school.