Recently, Bechtel has been experimenting with Self-Organized Learning Environments, or SOLEs, in her elementary school classes. SOLEs are short forays into the kind of self-organized learning that Sugata Mitra found to be so powerful. In a classroom SOLE, Bechtel asks her students a “messy question,” something that doesn’t have just one right answer, then sets them loose to research the question in small groups. Students choose who they work with, find their own information, draw their own conclusions and present their findings to the whole class. It can be a bit chaotic, but Bechtel says that’s often good. “There’s chaos and then there’s learning and you can tell the difference,” Bechtel said. She’s excited about SOLE because the method has students asking questions and taking ownership in a whole new way. The IB program already emphasizes inquiry and finding information for oneself, but Bechtel says the total freedom of the SOLE has actually pushed students to go deeper, come up with more varied results and to help one another collaboratively.
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