Research Revamped

By Rika Kroon

As a History teacher, I do not want my students to learn about history, I want them to experience history. I am a passionate storyteller and live for the moments when history comes alive in class. But there is nothing exciting about teaching when I have to read the same research assignment over and over to give marks. When I heard Lindsay from PurpleZA’s quote Bob Lehman: “If you assign a project and you get 30 of the exact same thing, that’s not a project, it is a recipe.”, I was hooked! I had to try project-based learning the PurpleZA way.

The vision

The vision

The driving question for this project-based task was: 

 

Your team has been recruited to put an advocacy plan together to save a heritage site in South Africa. You will have to present your plan to a panel and the Minister of Tourism in a bid to keep your site from being demolished. How will you convince the panel? 

 

With this Project-based learning task, I wanted the learners not only to gain knowledge of what is understood by heritage but also to develop research skills, digital literacy, work collaboratively and engage in critical thinking and problem-solving. 

 

To achieve these goals, the project consisted of three phases: 

 

PHASE 1

The aim of the first phase was to synthesize knowledge developed in the previous term and, making use of technology, the students had to showcase in groups the heritage of the Ming, Shonghai, and  Aztec cultures. I wanted the students to have fun and focus on being creative. 

PHASE 2

In the next phase, the aim was to focus on problem-solving, and again in groups, the students had to research a specific South African heritage site and develop an advocacy plan to save the site from being demolished. There were no limitations as to how they presented their campaign to an authentic real-life panel.  

PHASE 3

In the final phase, each student had to submit a substantiated argumentative essay of the value of a particular heritage site and why (or why not) it is important to preserve this site for future generations. The aim was to develop critical thinking and research skills including an understanding of plagiarism. 

 

The tasks given at each of these three phases are outlined in more detail below.

Curriculum standards

The vision
Curriculum standards

CAPS CURRICULUM CRITERIA MET:

  • What is heritage?
  • Heritage sites, museums, through the construction of monuments and memorials and in families and communities (oral history). 
  • The importance of the conservation of heritage sites, monuments and memorials.
  • Debates about heritage issues and the ways in which the past is represented. 
  • The assignment should include a research component in order to teach research skills in Grade 10

Learning journey

The vision
DURATION: The project was launched at the beginning of the term and students worked on it for almost the whole of the term, approximately 8 weeks. Phases 1 and 2 ran over six weeks and in total 6 periods were set aside to work on the project in class.

Teacher Feature

The vision

Teacher planning

The vision

The driving question for this project-based task was

 

Your team has been recruited to put an advocacy plan together to save a heritage site in South Africa. You will have to present your plan to a panel and the Minister of Tourism in a bid to keep your site from being demolished. How will you convince the panel? 

 

I planned the project using a Slides notebook to map out each component of the project.

 

PHASE 1

 

Phase 1 of the project was designed to help the students “tune into” the topic - heritage. The students had to draw on the ancient civilizations of the Ming, Shonghai, and Aztecs they explored previously and present what these ancient civilizations left for the modern world. Working in small groups, the learners showcased their work using Book Creator. Clear instructions guided this phase and the final product was peer-assessed.

PHASE 2

 

Phase 2 launched the driving question and, taking on particular responsibilities, group members had carte blanche to their design and present their research. The final product was assessed by an authentic panel.

PHASE 3

 

In the final phase, students submitted a 600 word substantiated argumentative essay discussing the heritage site their group investigated arguing its value (or lack thereof) and why (or why not) it is important to preserve this site for future generations.

This CAPS rubric was used for the assessment of the final essay.

Student activities

The vision

Student Activities - Phase 1

Here are some of the artefacts produced by the students as they engaged in Phase 1

Student Activities - Phase 2

Here are some of the artifacts produced by the students as they engaged in Phase 2

Student Activities - Phase 3

Here are some of the essays produced by the students in the final phase.

Student reflections

The vision

We asked the students the following question to prompt their reflections: 

 

Looking back, do you prefer this type of project-based learning to conventional research tasks? 

 

Here’s what a few of them said: 

Teacher reflections

The vision

Both my students and I went through a learning curve.  At times I felt nervous about the amount of time it took to plan and execute. It is critical to scaffold each step for the learners help them understand the roles they need to play and how to see and interpret different perspectives. I did, at times, find a negative response to the project because our students are so used to doing one aspect for a mark rather than a project over an extended time.  However, I realised through a project with multi-media and modal aspects I reached students that are usually “bored” and those students produced creative work.

 

My biggest takeaways or lessons are: 

One of the “a-ha” moments was how this generation uses Instagram as a presentation method, however, they still need to learn how to truly use it as an advocacy tool.

If I were to give any teacher advice, it would be not to feel pressured into feeling you have to design learning that will impress others or improve on the stories published here. At times I felt that I bit off too much for my first attempt at this. I would suggest that you start by doing one thing differently and build on that.

 

Most importantly, it must also bring you joy!

Technology used

The vision

Google Slides

Google Sites

Book Creator

Google Docs

Instagram

Zotero

Technology used

Closing thoughts

The vision

"Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher”

- Japanese proverb

 

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