Learning from the world around us is a powerful way to engage students. In phenomenon-based learning, students use authentic questions about current events or real-world problems to learn and explore content topics in their classrooms.
Learn from the world around you.
- Look for opportunities to learn from the world around you. Find opportunities to learn from other people. Look for opportunities to learn from books, videos, the web, or your own experience.
- Use the phenomenon as an excuse to get out of your comfort zone and explore new things with a fresh perspective. It's better than sitting in front of a TV or computer screen all day!
Start by identifying the phenomenon.
The first step in the learning process of any new subject is identifying the phenomenon you are trying to learn about. This definition should be as precise as possible and will vary depending on what you're trying to learn.
For example, if you're studying biology, your definition might look like "the study of life." On the other hand, if you're learning about business management, your definition might look more like "the study of organizational behavior and its effects on company performance."
In either case, before moving forward with your education plan or research project, it's vital. You define the phenomenon as clearly as possible so that everyone involved knows what they are discussing from the beginning.
What is the core of the topic that interests students?
The first step in working towards your goals is clearly defining the problem. Next, the learning approach is what you're trying to solve or what questions you're trying to answer to make progress.
Once this is done, it's time for some goal-setting!
Research and identify one tangible fitness goal that could be achieved within three months of hard work and discipline. Something like "running 5 miles without stopping" or "eating more bananas." Having a clear goal in mind will help keep you motivated during tough times when things are getting harder than they used to be, which frequently happens when starting with exercise and diet plans.
Don't worry about whether other people think your goals are too ambitious. Just set them high enough so that they challenge you but aren't impossible.
Avoiding false dilemmas
False dilemmas can be a huge problem in science education. They are the equivalent of asking students to choose between two options, often implying that only one is correct. Of course, it's not always this apparent—sometimes false dilemmas come in more subtle forms, such as "This is either X or Y, but not both" or "You must believe either A or B, but not C/D/E/F." These statements present an oversimplified view of reality and discourage students from thinking critically about complex issues.
Avoiding false dilemmas means teaching multiple perspectives on topics and encouraging students to explore them from various viewpoints. This problem-based learning allows them to consider different sides of an issue and find their own opinions on what makes sense for them (not just what makes sense, according to some textbooks).
Build a question web
The question web is a way of building a diagram that shows how different ideas are related. You do this by asking questions and drawing lines to show how each idea relates to the other ideas. The best way to learn how to build a question web is by example, so let's use one here:
If we have related six main topics (or "nodes"). How do we know which ones are connected? If you read through each one carefully and try to remember what they're about, you might notice that all six topics deal with either humans or animals (or both). So now we know there must be some connection between them!
We'll draw a line from one topic node (like "humans") down into another topic node ("animals") so that it connects them on our diagram. Now when students look at your diagram later on in class or during class discussion time, they'll see at once where all these different information pieces fit together as part of one big picture - even though none of those individual pieces would mean much alone!
Research and plan what you know about the topic.
- Plan your research on a single sheet of paper (or in a document). Making notes, lists, charts, and graphs are okay on this page.
- Read through the entire plan before beginning any work to ensure it makes sense and is consistent with your understanding of the subject area. This can be done by yourself or with someone else – either way is fine!
Have learner research what they need to learn about the topic.
Your students likely have a few things about your topic that they need clarification on. If so, ask them to research these areas independently, using various sources (including online and offline). Then ask them to explain in their own words what they learned. You can also ask them to share their findings with the class.
Use technology to learn from others outside your classroom.
You can expand your learning by reading and watching online. You can find tons of information on the internet, so research what interests you. The following are some platforms that you should keep an eye on:
- Online forums - Find out what other students have been learning from their teachers. You can use this as a guide for furthering your education. For example, if one student is having trouble with a specific topic in class, try searching for others who have had the same problem and see how they solved it!
- Social media - Do you know other people taking classes in school? Use social media to connect with them! This will help make studying more manageable because it provides another perspective on the subject matter taught at school or university (if applicable).
Produce content as a result of this learning.
The next step is to produce content as a result of this learning. For example, you can create a blog post, a website, a video, an audio podcast, or a presentation. The key is that your content must be in some way related to the phenomena you're experiencing.
If you want to share your experience with others and help them learn from it, then sharing those insights online makes sense because anyone could benefit from it.
Students can connect their learning and its effect on the real world.
An essential part of a phenomenon-based learning environment is that students can connect their learning and its effect on the real world—Phenomena bridges what you're learning in class and how it impacts your everyday life.
Students have several opportunities to learn outside of the classroom:
- peers: Students can learn from each other through collaboration or conversations about their work.
- experts: Expert speakers at events like TED Talks share their knowledge with the world and inspire others to explore topics further.
- internet: Websites such as Wikipedia offer abundant information on almost any topic imaginable—and it's always free! You can also watch videos or read articles on specific subjects directly related to your studies in school (and maybe even get some extra credit for looking into something new).
In addition to these resources being readily available online, many books are available if you prefer reading over watching videos or reading articles.
Conclusion of phenomenon-based learning
The idea of building learning from the ground up may seem daunting, but anyone can do it. All you need is curiosity about the world around us and an open mind when considering alternative viewpoints—and that's something we all have in common. The best part is that this content doesn't need to stay in your classroom or even on your computer; once students have produced it, they can share it with others through social media or email!