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Guide to Contextual Learning Projects

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What instructional techniques will you use to support your students in learning?

How can you make sure that students are really building skills and competencies while exploring the contextual learning topic? Consider integrating a variety of effective instructional strategies and techniques into your project design. For example:

  • Pre-writing activities
  • Journals
  • Reflective writing
  • Graphic organizers
  • Systems diagrams
  • Mapping
  • Vocabulary bank
  • Reading
  • Web search
  • Storyboarding (for a video or other media project)
  • Writing (for websites, handbooks, brochures or other materials)
  • Use of graphing software
  • Guided or structured note-taking during lectures, guest speakers and workshops

Contextual Learning projects typically combine formal and informal learning, with hands-on components complemented by writing, research, background study, analysis and presentation. A thoughtfully-developed mix of instructional techniques is important for supporting all types of learners. Some students thrive in an informal learning setting; enjoying picking up concepts from exposure through informal learning. Other students thrive in a more structured setting, enjoying focused instruction, reading and review. Most students will do well when projects provide a balanced approach, appealing to all styles of learning. Most students will benefit from approaches that nurture creative and critical thinking and build opportunities for reading, writing, research and analysis of information.

One of the common elements in Contextual Learning projects is the use of reflective writing. As described in the box on the following page, reflection serves the goals of helping students to consolidate their knowledge and to expand on their ideas and insights. Both goals are important. Students need to have a chance to review what they have learned so that they can “solidify” that knowledge and use it again, whether for tests, quizzes or papers; for future study; for resumes, job interviews or college applications; or for future classroom, community or workplace projects. Students build creative and critical thinking skills, leadership skills and analytical skills by engaging in questions that allow them to explore ideas and generate new insights.