Contextualised Learning, Employer Engagement, Project-Based Learning

My experience of Contextualised Learning

Having been worked in IT industry for over 10 years, when I started teaching, the first thing I wanted to do was, to connect the academic knowledge I was delivering with the real-life experiences. The urge to support students make meaningful connections between what they are learning in class to real-life was so much that I started making connections with local employers and asked them to support my curriculum by co-creating and co-planning the curriculum with me.

When I started delivering the projects, I was getting positive feedback from students. They would tell me they enjoy my lessons. I could feel the increased positivity, engagement and motivation in the classroom. I could see the results in final assessments. But as a new teacher, I still felt unsure at times.

While raising awareness for T levels, Martyn Price MBE, Chairman of Cross-Industry Construction Apprenticeship Task Force (CCATF) commented that :

                                                     Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 20.02.37   (Click here to read more)

 This cemented my belief in what I was doing.

Then I came across the research that was the basis of T levels, the eight Gatsby career benchmarks. I became more confident in the model that I was following.

The contextualised projects I have done so far :

Key features of every project I have done are :

  • Co-create and co-plan the curriculum with employers/stakeholders
  • Gives students either work experience or experience of work
    • A real-life scenario / stakeholders to set the stage and keep them motivated.
    • Student Voice and Choice (Why are we doing this? How will it help me in my next steps? Will I ever need this in real-life? )

Planning a contextualised project

Step 1 : Know your curriculum – In general, the projects can be divided into five parts : Research, Design, Develop, Test and Reflect.

Step 2 : Establish the bigger picture – What is the knowledge you want your students to gain? What are the skills and attribute you would like them to develop? What can be various assessment points?

Step 3 : Links to real-life – Create a scenario on how the content delivered can be used in real-life.

Step 4 : Student Voice and Choice – Make sure the bigger picture answer all their questions.(Why are we doing this? How will it help me in my next steps? Will I ever need this in real-life? ) For example, I sometimes ask employers to give them certificate of participation or a certificate of appreciation to best presenter , best team effort etc.

Step 5 : Contact employers / stakeholders – Contact employers / stakeholders bye ending them your idea and how you would like them to support you. Remember employers agree to support us despite their busy schedules. Make sure you complete as much as work/planning for them as possible. Every employer/stakeholder I have worked with, have always been very supportive. After working with IBM and a number of local employers, I am now co-creating and co-planning the curriculum with Vodafone.

Step 6 : The final product – Create a final product, finalise all dates and share with everyone involved. Be flexible with dates as sometimes employers are not able to give dates in advance.

As a result of following this model, we found that the areas where we used this model, the  achievement, attendance and retention in general improved. However, this could be because we over resourced these projects, as we were making calls and sending texts before the guest lectures to ensure every student attend those and is benefitted.

The contextualised projects, co-created and co-planned with employers, are the closest simulation we can provide to students to what real jobs may look like and helps us support our students in developing the right skills and attributes needed for the work place. Thus, contextualised learning can act as a great tool in next step towards integrated curriculum, by bridging the gaps between academic knowledge and real-life.