Product-Oriented Learning

Reading Chapter 8 of World Class Learners brought back lots of memories of things I did with students over the years that would fit nicely with Dr. Zhao’s model of product-oriented learning.  First is Junior Achievement.  Good grief, that was when I was in high school!  It was an extracurricular activity.  A couple volunteers from a local business (Virco, which is still in business) worked with a small group of us students.  We set up a business (Jot-It!) raised capital, manufactured and marketed a product (small chalkboards for writing reminder notes), kept books, and at the end of the program, liquidated the business and distributed the proceeds to our shareholders.  I learned a great deal from that experience.

As an elementary schoolteacher, I did “Minisociety” with my students every year.  There are a number of models out there, but the one I used was developed by Marilyn Kourilsky, a UCLA professor.  You started by highlighting a problem of scarcity in the classroom (e.g. only one person can be in the rocking chair at a time) and then asking the students what to do about it—i.e. how to solve the basic problem of scarcity.  They come up with various ways and you try them out if you can.  One way that eventually comes up is, “pay for the right to sit in the rocker.”  OK, how do we get money?  The initial conversations and experience leads to setting up a classroom economy.  The kids come up with goods and services and sell them to one another using a classroom currency.  A critical feature of the Kourilsky version are debriefing moments.  The teacher needs to know his/her economic basics and then, when you see a great example, you take a few minutes to draw attention to it (“Hey, do you know what?  This is a great example of what economists call elasticity of demand.”)  Kids eat it up.

Here is a great video showing Dr. Chase Young’s students immersed in their Minisociety.

My final example was something I did when I was a principal.  I worked with one of the sixth grade classes to set up the Baywood Storyline.  As Yong Zhao suggests, we started by identifying a need: we had lots of preschoolers in the community whose parents worked long hours and they didn’t have as much opportunity to read to their kids as they’d have liked.  The sixth graders rehearsed and then read stories aloud and recorded themselves.  We got a dedicated phone line, 528-BOOK, and little kids (or anyone, for that matter) could call the line and hear the 6th graders read them a story.  We did a different story each week (“re-runs” in the summer).  It was quite a hit and became an annual 6th grade project that continued for years after I left the school.

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2 Comments

Filed under Education

2 responses to “Product-Oriented Learning

  1. Technology Education in NJ and the nation has been doing this type of PBL since the 80’s. Take a look at ITEEA and NJTEEA.

  2. Michael

    Great resources, Mark. Thanks!

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