I am Mohamed Badr from Cairo, Egypt. I am an elementary character education supervisor teaching grade four and five in an International school. I also work with SeGa Group as an assistant educational researcher on FIRST for K-12 settings. I got introduced to SeGa Group in 2016 through their community learning program, *Sawaed G#271. I write this short case study to document the impact of FIRST Framework, after applying its 15 principles during project-based learning on “bullying” done with my 60 students in the fifth grade in the academic year (2016-2017).
I chose this case study specifically as it is personally inspiring. It reflects the significant impact that FIRST had on my students’ learner experience, as well as the development which took place in my teaching practices. Although this learning experience was last year, the impact of the Learner eXperience designed and facilitated with FIRST remains still, even though I’m no longer their teacher. For example, Arwa, a student who attended the learning experience journey last year, came to me at the beginning of this academic year (2017-2018), directly after the summer vacation, with a plan to raise awareness and stand against the bullying phenomenon in her school. She showed me what she thought are the reasons behind such a phenomenon and the suggested solutions for it as well. This incident is actually an obvious indicator that the Active Deep Learner eXperience (ADLX) that this student had affected her profoundly to the extent that she spent a lot of her summertime, where most children usually forget all that they learned, thinking, analyzing and creating solutions.
Another evidence on the great impact of FIRST is that last year, after the journey, some students came to me with a raising awareness activity session, that wasn’t required, designed by them to be delivered to younger grades. In my point of view, applying FIRST Framework with those students fulfilled the real purpose of learning, which is to be able to sustain and apply what they learned in their real lives with their own taste of application, thus, contributing to developing their communities.
The 5 domains of FIRST framework were effectively applied during this learning journey. However, the Interacting within positive group dynamics Domain and Transforming Learning into Performance Domain appeared most in this active deep learner experience. The Social event principle has set the road to most of the project tasks and missions, as they required a safe social network among individuals either in the same group or among other groups. This eventually resulted in promoting the quality of collaboration and enriching the learning experience. It actually strengthened my students’ relations, collaboration, and communication as they weren’t used to such kind of cooperative techniques before. Honestly, I faced challenges in dealing with them at the beginning of the project, but through proper motivation and constant hammering on the benefits of cooperation and learning from each other, the students showed a remarkable behavioral change noticed by me and other teachers. They had the feeling that they are a family working as a unit to serve a higher purpose. They even developed a strong social network among them that still exists until this moment.
It is worth noting that, the bullying issue is very critical as some students have a very negative experience and feeling towards it. So, if students’ feelings and interactions where ridiculed or not properly respected this could have led to severe repercussions. However, with a safe environment, we managed to make the students express themselves and share their feelings freely and fearlessly.
One of the strategies I used in creating a safe environment is a pledge, we all stand and say it together at the beginning of every session “we come to school to be happy and if there is someone who is unhappy, we are all unhappy. Problems will happen but we will fix them together as a family”.
This Learner eXperience was basically a practical project based on the Transforming Learning into Performance Domain, where Practicing and Experiencing principle is heavily used. The students used what they learned and experienced, along with the constructive feedback they received from their teachers and peers throughout the learning journey, to generate solutions and apply them in their school. This was done through creating a simulated experience of how they can contribute in developing and serving their communities. One of the interesting insights of some of the students this year on last year learning experience “the learning experience of the bullying issue taught us how to be responsible and contribute to raising awareness in our community. It opened our eyes on other challenges that we can handle by ourselves or with the help of our character building teachers”.
I used a lot of simulation activities, counting energizers, the ice-cream grouping technique, the linking and summarizing word storm, the interactive stories and jigsaw to help students learn from each other and search for solutions.
I received a lot of students’ feedback during the learning trip, after the learning journey, and even during this year. I can see how students managed to transfer what they learned in a lot of areas in their lives adding their own perspectives. Some of the students’ feedback about the experience was “it was fun but we learned a lot as well”, “(bullying must stop) helped me dealing with my sister at home and made me realize that I should stop bothering her”, “we don’t usually get to learn that way”.
*Sawaed is a community learning program Launched in 2015 by SeGa Group, Sawaed’s learner centered approach aims at empowering community educators (learning facilitators, learning designers, and learning program managers), leveraging their skills and providing them with the necessary tools and methods, while introducing the notion of learner-centered education through experiential learning