Photos: Ronald DeRosa/Fairfield Prep
The human mind retrieves information much more effectively in contexts that resemble the original learning environment. Conversely, we believe in teaching students in the context that they will apply the subject knowledge and skills. All Milestone C curricula are built upon activities and projects that emulate real-world experiences. These include technical staff meetings, design reviews, job interviews, formal presentations to a customer, and much more.
Professional organizations from all industries operate on context-based retrieval principles. Corporations employ internship programs that groom future employees by immersing students into the real-world business environment. The U.S. Military adopts the “train like we fight” mentality, understanding the necessity of training environments that emulate real-world contingencies. In Milestone C, we developed a “Non-Linear Learning” technique based on the following philosophies:
Controlled chaos is a highly-effective learning environment. 21st Century STEM professionals work in cross-functional teams and progress takes effort. Educational environments that eliminate the potential for miscommunication, competing objectives, confusion, and even reasonable frustration also inadvertently eliminate the most valuable teamwork lessons.
Hands off teaching is the single best facilitator of hands-on learning. In the professional environment, it takes research to get to information. Even then, data may be unclear, untimely, out of order, and conflicting. Allowing students to obtain and process information without frequent interjections is critical to broadening their horizons.
Encouraging innovative approaches without fear of failure will groom critical thinkers. Shaping future STEM professionals begins with enabling and empowering students to learn from their failures. The primary objective of any project-based program should be to get students comfortable with problem-solving without a single “correct” answer.