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a quick elevator talk
about Building Bridges
(for Transfers-of-Learning
and Transitions-in-Attitudes)

 
a brief elevator talk:   The simplicity of Design Process will help a teacher show students how they use design thinking for almost everything they do in life.  This wide scope lets the teacher build educational bridges from life into school, and back into life.  These bridges will improve transfers of learning (between life & school, and between subject areas) and transitions of attitudes (to change the self-perceptions & personal goals of students).  By building bridges to promote beneficial learning-transfers and attitude-transitions, we can help a wider diversity of students — for better educational equity — improve their confidence & motivations, and their problem-solving skills in all areas of life.     {a longer elevator talk}
 
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Whole-Life Contexts for Education

Every student has a story.  When we compare the life-stories of our students, we see similarities and differences.*  Each personal history is unique due to variations in many personal factors, in gender and race, socioeconomics, living location, quality of schools, previous teachers, abilities (inherited & developed) of many kinds, environment-and-attitudes (in family, social groups, community), feelings of love & security, and more.   {details about factors}

* One similarity is that every student uses a similar process to solve problems in all areas of life.  This broad-scope similarity lets us help them build bridges, as explained in "Two Bridges" below.

 

Julie and Michael:  You can remember, and imagine, students with stories.  I'm imagining Julie (white, suburban) and Michael (black, inner city).  Both are intelligent, and willing to work hard when they're motivated.  Each could have a successful career and life.  But this may not happen for them, unless their life-in-school changes.  To succeed in school and life, they will need more motivation & confidence;  this is more likely to happen if their school provides activities that stimulate their interests, and people who support their efforts.

As educators, here is our basic challenge:  How can we design school-experiences that will help each student more fully develop their potential as a whole person?  How can we “open up the options” for Julie & Michael so they will say “Yes, I can do this career-and-life option, if I want.  Or another option.  So... what options, in school and life, do I really want to explore & pursue?”

 

School-Life happens within Whole-Life:   Because a student's life-in-school is one part of life as a whole, their school-life experiences occur in the context of their whole-life experiences.  We can make education more effective for more students when we carefully think about the interactive relationships between life-inside-school and life-outside-school, and how they combine to form life-as-a-whole,

        school-life  +  nonschool-life  →  whole-life .

and how learning throughout life forms whole-life education for the whole person,

        school-life education  +  nonschool-life education  →  whole-life education .

 

Below — inside the yellow box — you'll see educational bridges that promote transfers of learning in two directions, from Whole-Life into School-Life, and from School-Life into Whole-Life.  Or, with simplified terms, from Life into School and from School into Life.

Here is a longer elevator talk:
  Simplicity - in Diagram 1

Two Bridges — for Learning and Attitudes

The simplicity of my model for basic Design Process` lets us SHOW students how they use a similar problem-solving process of design thinking for almost everything they do in life.  This wide scope of design allows a wide range of design activities (including design-inquiry & science-inquiry with argumentation, and thinking strategies) and lets us build two kinds of closely related Educational Transfer-Bridges...

• from Life into School, building on their past, to improve Confidence:  If we help students recognize how they have been using a problem-solving process of design thinking in a wide range of problem-solving situations,... then during a classroom design activity they can think “I have done this before (during design-in-life) so I can do it again (for design-in-school)” to increase their CONFIDENCE about Learning.

• from School into Life, learning for their future, to improve Motivation:  We can show each student how they will be using design thinking for "almost everything they do" in their future life (in their future whole-life, inside & outside school) so the design-thinking skills they are improving in school will transfer into life and will help them achieve their personal goals for life.*  When students want to learn in school because they are learning for life, this will increase their MOTIVATIONS to Learn.

    * To supplement these long-term "goals for life" motivations, we can develop school activities that are intrinsically fun and immediately life-relevant.   {short-term fun plus long-term satisfactions with better performing (now) and learning (for later)}
 

Improving Diversity-and-Equity

These two bridges (past-to-present from Life into School, and present-to-future from School into Life) will improve transfers of learning in time (past-to-present & present-to-future) and between areas (in school-life & whole-life) for whole-person education — and transitions in attitudes.  This will promote diversity and equity in education by increasing confidence & motivation for a wider range of students, and providing a wider variety of opportunities for learning in school, and success in school.  We want to “open up the options” for all students with stories (like Michael & Julie) so they will say “yes, I can do this” for a wider variety of career-and-life options, in areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)* and non-STEM.   /   The wide variety of career options in STEM include engineer, scientist, computing designer, technical writer, and teacher.  Many options are also available in non-STEM.     Inequities in STEM Education

 

Improving Diversity-and-Equity in STEM:  The simplicity* of Design Process lets us build transfer-bridges that will help more students become more comfortable with STEM by using a 5-step progression to improve their confidence & motivations for STEM, and their problem-solving skills in STEM.*  This progression begins with familiar non-STEM activities, and then builds bridges (for Learning-Transfers & Attitude-Transitions) to STEM activities for Engineering and Science.     {non-STEM skills – plus confidence & motivations – also are improved during this process of learning }

* Simplicity + Symmetry:  Design Process has SIMPLICITY (Define a Problem, then Solve the Problem by creatively Generating Ideas & critically Evaluating Ideas) so we can build Edu-Bridges for Transfers & Transitions, and — to help students develop a deeper understanding of their problem-solving process — also SYMMETRY (of the Mental Experiments & Physical Experiments that they Design, Do, and Use).

 

Learning-Transfers and Attitude-Transitions:

The bridges we build are useful for promoting Transfers of Learning from one situation (in life or school) to another situation (in life or school).

Our edu-bridges are also beneficial in other ways, for Transitions of Attitudes, due to interactions of CONFIDENCE & MOTIVATIONS with Success and Self-Perceptions.  Some students — who are they? this depends on their abilities-and-experiences (in multiple intelligences) and their current motivations — will achieve success more often in design activities than in traditional school activities.  When this happens the satisfactions of success usually will improve their self-perception (so it's more accurate & optimistic with a growth mindset and “not yet” responses to failure), and they will want to “feel the satisfaction again” so they will be motivated to invest more effort in school activities.  When we make it more likely that more students will “say yes” and pursue new problem-solving challenges, we are building transition-bridges to better attitudes, decisions, and actions.  We are helping students change their attitude-and-response from “no I can't” (in their past) to “yes I can” (in their present & future).

These benefits — with expanding (of opportunities for success) and improving (of self-image) and motivating (due to satisfactions in school) — are among the many reasons for using eclectic instruction that includes design activities and other activities.

 

Whole-Person Education

Whole-Life Personal Capabilities:  We want to help students improve a wide range of personal capabilities that are COGNITIVE (for ideas-and-skills in many areas of school and life, using multiple intelligences*) and AFFECTIVE (for motivation & attitudes with social-and-emotional learning) and PHYSICAL (for specific physical skills plus general health-and-fitness by using nutrition, exercise, and rest), plus other worthy goals (for compassion, ethics, character,...).  Therefore we must ask, “How much of our educational resources (time, people, money,...) should be invested in each goal?”  The discussion below recognizes this wider context but will focus on cognitive goals for ideas-and-skills.     {Multiple Intelligences (Spatial, Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalistic) are inherited and developed.}

Whole-Life Personal Contexts:  A student's whole-life is their life-inside-school plus life-outside-school (with interactive relationships between inside and outside)* that together form life-as-a-whole,

    school-life  +  nonschool-life  →  whole-life .

* Although there is no clear separation, it's useful to think about life "inside" and "outside" school, with interactions, because this simplification lets educators focus on what we can do by improving curriculum & instruction and school-ecology environment.

 

Building Bridges  —  Can we?  Should we?

When we're deciding whether to build educational bridges by using Design Activities and Design Process, here are two claims to consider:

    Can we?  Yes, the wide scope of design thinking (that we use to solve problems and "make it better" in all areas of life so teachers can choose from a wide variety of Design Activities) lets us build transfer-bridges between life and school.
    Should we?  Yes, because we have reasons to expect that building bridges will promote transfers-of-learning and transitions-in-attitudes.  And we can expect that, compared with experience by itself, a combination of experience plus principles will be more educationally effective, by helping students learn more from their experiences-with-inquiry when they use a process-of-inquiry to discover principles-of-inquiry from Design Process and other models-for-process.  Although these claims are not yet “proved” they seem like “good ways to bet,” based on evidence-and-logic.

 

 

 

 
 

APPENDIX

THE MAIN PART OF THIS PAGE is above.  In this appendix, you'll find “extra ideas” about Transfers of Learning (in Time & between Areas) and A 5-Step Process for Improving Equity in STEM Education and Personal Factors in Student Stories.

 
 

Transfers of Learning —  in Time and between Areas

We can build bridges — from life into school, and from school back into life — that promote transfers of learning.  All of the transfers occur in time, and some occur between areas.

 

Transfers in Time

All transfers-of-learning are from past to present, when something you have learned in your past helps you perform better now, in your present.  But you can hope for transfers from present to future, if something you are learning now will help you perform better later, in your future, in your "present" (the only time when a transfer can occur) sometime in the future.

You can develop-and-use cognitive/metacognitive Thinking Strategies to improve each kind of time-transfer, past-to-present or present-to-future by intentionally recalling for transfer (asking “what have I learned in the past that might help me now?”) or intentionally learning for transfer (asking “what can I learn now that might help me later?”).These two kinds of time-transfer — trying to recall from your past, or to learn for your future — require different Thinking Strategies in the present.  Your choice of a Strategy depends on whether your main goal is to improve your present-performing and/or (by learning now) your future-performing.     {* Or you may want to reduce your metacognition by doing neither, if you think this will improve your present-performing now or (less likely) your future-performing later. }

 

Transfers between Areas

You use a similar problem-solving process of design thinking for almost everything you do in all areas of life.  Due to these similarities, what you learn in one area can help you perform-and-learn better in other areas.

For a student, transfers of performing/learning can occur in all of their whole-life:  within school,  within nonschool,  between school & nonschool.

There is a close relationship between remembering and transfering.  We call it remembering when the past-situation and present-situation are very similar.  As this similarity decreases, the amount of transfering increases.  Transfers can occur between different situations (within the same area) and, when the situations-difference is large enough, between different areas.  For example,

    In school, a student can transfer learning within the same subject-area.  If the area is Writing, transfer can occur from one Writing-situation to another Writing-situation.
    And they can transfer learning between areas.  This would occur in a transfer of similar problem-solving skills from a Writing-situation to an Engineering-situation.
    And a student can transfer skills, and/or ideas, from a Writing-situation in school-life to a Writing-situation (or Engineering-situation) in nonschool-life;
        and in the reverse direction, they can transfer skills & ideas from nonschool-life to school-life.

 

Designing Instruction to Increase Transfers

Specifically in school-life, in STEM-areas a teacher can increase educational diversity & equity by using a 5-step progression of instruction that builds 3 bridges:  from whole-life to non-STEM (in school-life);  from non-STEM to engineering;  from engineering to science.   We can build transfer-bridges (from non-STEM to STEM, and between science & engineering) to help all students improve their NGSS Science & Engineering Practices.

Generally in school-life, students use a similar problem-solving process of Design Thinking in all subject areas.  These similarities let us build transfer-bridges between all aspects of school-life experience by including a wide variety of Design Activities in a coordinated wide-spiral curriculum that promotes both kinds of transfer — between areas and in time — because it's wide (for transfers between areas, to "increase educational diversity & equity" in STEM and also non-STEM) and it spirals (for transfers in time, from past-to-present and present-to-future).

* re: educational standards in the United States, we can design goal-directed Curriculum & Instruction to make our teaching of Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (or similar local standards) more mutually supportive, so each set of goals will be more effective in helping improve the other.

 

== When students want to learn for life, they will want to learn in school, IF they believe that ideas-and-skills from school will transfer into life and will help them achieve their personal goals for life.

{short-term fun + long-term satisfactions}  {when students learn now so they can improve their performance later it's one kind of transfer bridge with time-connections between past/present/future}

 

Skills and Process:  Across a wide range, both specifically (in any area of STEM or non-STEM) and generally, we can help students improve their thinking skills and thinking process.  Useful thinking skills include thinking with empathy and combining ideas-knowledge with creative-and-critical thinking.  Useful thinking process includes coordinating thinking-and-actions to produce a more effective overall process, based on a deeper understanding of process (gained through experiences + reflections + principles) for my model of Design Process (re: its simplicity & symmetry) and other models-for-process.

 

Transfers throughout Whole-Life

With creatively designed curriculum & instruction, we can increase transfers of learning (and transitions of attitudes) throughout all of a student's whole-life, with education in school-life and non-school-life.

When we use simplified terms, two valuable transfer-bridgespast-to-present from life to school, and present-to-future from school back into life — occur between "school" and "life".  These terms emphasize the value of transfers between a student's everyday life (nonschool-life) and their school-life.  But with terms that are more accurate, the transfers are actually between a student's present school-life and a whole-life (= school-life + nonschool-life) that includes school-life (with transfers from past & into future) and also nonschool-life (with transfers from past & into future) because...

A well-designed wide-spiral curriculum will promote transfers in whole-life, both within school-life and within nonschool-life, and between them.  Transfers will occur from past whole-life, and — because in school we are teaching skills & ideas that are useful for nonschool-life — into future whole-life.  When whole-life usefulness is designed into a curriculum, and we show students the whole-life relevancy of what they are doing in school, students will be more motivated to pursue their own personal education because they think this will "help them achieve their personal goals for life," because they are expecting valuable transfers of learning into their future whole-life, both inside school and outside school.

 


 

A 5-Step Process for Improving Equity in Education

This section adds details to an introductory overview that should be read first.

 

Part of a Solution:  Educators can build bridges — between life & school, and within school — to promote transfers of learning in time (from past to present, and present to future) and between differing situations/areas.  These transfer-bridges are not The Solution (for All Problems of Educational Inequities), but bridges can help, as one part of an overall “big picture” effort to improve educational equity.*

The Wide Scope of Design Thinking:  Transfer-bridges are possible because students use a similar process of problem-solving Design Thinking for almost everything they do in life.  This broad scope lets us build bridges between all areas of life, in everyday life outside & inside school, in non-STEM areas and in STEM areas that include Engineering & Science & more.

Personal Educational Benefits:  These transfer-bridges can improve students' confidence & motivations, and help us provide opportunities for a wider diversity of students to experience success-and-satisfaction in a wider variety of subject areas.  For example, we can open the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to more students, especially those who (due to socio-economics, culture, race, or gender) traditionally have been under-represented in STEM.

 

A Process of Building Bridges

How can we build bridges that will improve equity for education in both non-STEM and STEM?  One strategy is to use a 5-step progression of doing ACTIVITIES {in Steps 1,3,5} and building BRIDGES from life to school {in Step 2} and then {in Steps 2,4} to Engineering and to Science:

    1. ACTIVITIES – Students do familiar non-STEM activities for design-inquiry.  These comfortable experiences, using familiar skills, will help them improve their confidence and motivation.   {comfortable-and-familiar doesn't necessarily mean easy}
    2. BRIDGES – We build transfer-bridges from life to school and back into life by showing students (with reflections-on-experience, discussions, and explanations) how the skills-and-process they are using in these school activities are similar to the skills-and-process they have been using in their past everyday life,* and they will be using in their future everyday life.  This bridge-building can be extended by helping students recognize similarities between the skills-and-process they are using in school (and have been using in life) and the skills-and-process that are used by engineers in their professional work, to help students build transfer-bridges from non-STEM to STEM-Engineering.     {* Basically, the "bridge" is helping students recognize that instead of learning new skills, they are improving familiar skills they already "have been using in life." }
    3. ACTIVITIES – Students “do engineering” with STEM design-inquiry activities that gradually become more challenging, and in a process of reflection & discovery they improve their abilities to perform and understand the NGSS Engineering Practices.
    4. BRIDGES – During these engineering activities, a teacher can build transfer-bridges between engineering and science — by asking science-questions (to help students recognize when they are doing science mini-activities that are essential parts of their engineering activity) and showing connections & relationships between engineering (General Design) and science (Science-Design) — to help students improve their performing and understanding of NGSS Science Practices.
    5. ACTIVITIES – Students “do science” with STEM science-inquiry activities, to continue improving their Science Practices.
 

Adventures with non-STEM:  Step 1 is not limited to "familiar... comfortable experiences" that are easy.  Students can begin with easy problems, and then move onward into a wide variety of non-STEM activities that are less familiar and more challenging.  A student's experiences with non-STEM activities may stimulate them to explore a non-STEM area more deeply, and perhaps choose it as a career field.  If this happens, a teacher can encourage the student's efforts.  Our goal is to help all students increase their interest & comfort & skill in many areas of life, in a wide range of design-fields that include both non-STEM and STEM, no matter what "career" they choose.

The Benefits of Bridges:  We can think of BRIDGES (in 2,4) as bridges between activities (from non-STEM to Engineering to Science) and also bridges between attitudes (in a student's past & present & future) to help them change their attitude-and-response from “no I can't” (in their past) to “yes I can” (in their present & future).  The bridges we build can make it more likely that a student will say “yes” to problem-solving opportunities in STEM, first at a low level of being involved & challenged & committed, and later — after their experiencing of success & confidence — at higher levels.

Flexibility of Timing:  Although doing engineering-before-science (3-before-5) offers distinctive educational benefits, this order can be reversed.  We can begin with activities in either engineering or science, and useful transfers occur in both directions.

Flexibility of Timing:  The "steps" of 12345 are not a rigid one-time sequence.  They are just one strategy for introducing more students to the skills-and-process of Design Thinking.  Eventually we want more students to be deeply involved in a richer variety of educational experiences, by offering them an effectively coordinated eclectic blend that includes experience-activities (1,3,5) and reflection-activities (2,4) to help them learn ideas-and-skills that will be useful for life.     {also, students can use their experience & reflection to develop-and-improve their Strategies for Thinking}

 

* In our efforts to increase equity, "can help" is all Educational Transfer-Bridges can do.  Edu-Bridges can be one useful part of a broader strategy for decreasing inequity (due to gender, race, socioeconomics,...) by designing a widely effective curriculum (using old & new instruction activities and combining Design Process with other models-for-process and in other ways) and by working to improve attitudes of students, and of all other stakeholders in our educational system, at the levels of individuals, groups, and institutions.   Both aspects of an overall strategy — "designing a widely effective curriculum" and "working to improve attitudes" — are important and are mutually supportive.

 

comments:

Of course, we need to improve attitudes and also actions.

We can use ACTIVITIES (for Steps 1,3,5) from already-existing programs, for non-STEM and engineering (EiE, PLTW, NGSS, EPICS,...) and science (POE, POGIL,...) and argumentation (with CER or other approaches).

 

MORE about Educational Bridges, including
transfers between science and engineering.

 


Personal Factors in Student Stories  (some details)

Here is my original "long version" (before it was condensed into a shorter version) that describes personal factors in more detail.

 

Every student has a story.  Their life-history becomes unique by a complex combining of many personal factors:

    Is the student a she or he?  Are they white, black, latino, asian,...?
    Do they live in a suburb, inner city, or on a farm near a small town?  In what part of the country? (and what country?)  Is their local school a vibrant community of learning, with effective planning, adequate resources, skillful teachers, and supportive atmosphere?
    Is their home environment stable and loving?  Was there always food in the refrigerator, and enough money to pay bills?  Did they feel safe walking around in their neighborhood?
    In the first few years of life, did their parents (and sisters, brothers, others) talk with them, and get them to do mind-stimulating activities?  Does their family, and the peer & adult leaders in their community, appreciate the value of education and encourage their pursuit of personal education?  In their group(s) of friends, is intelligent thinking-and-learning socially rewarded?
    What characteristics (physical, and mental in multiple intelligences) did they inherit, and how have they been developing their inherent abilities?
    And other factors.
 

A student's life-history forms a context for their current education.  This page examines interactive connections  —  between a student's experiences in life and in school;  between their whole-person educations in the past, present, and future;  between the person they are now, and could become  —  and asks, “How can we design curriculum & instruction that will help more students to more fully develop their whole-person potential?”

 

 


 

If you have questions, or want to discuss these ideas,
please contact me: Craig Rusbult <crusbult@wisc.edu>

 

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