The Roberto Rocca Technical School is perhaps one of the most innovative educational institutions in Argentina, and even South America, in terms of infrastructure. But his modernism is just beginning. With an eye on the post-pandemic, the managers of the establishment, owned by the Techint Group , plan to make a radical change in the modality of learning and teaching, following a model of international renown that avoids the classic classroom format.
“It is evident, even before the pandemic, that young people need a different way of learning than the passive one, the transfer of information from the teacher to the student. We must rethink education, because if children are not motivated, they do not learn well ”, sums up Erika Bienek, global director of Community Relations of the Techint Group. The new methodology that they will begin to apply as of next year is known as project-based learning . The idea behind this change, explains Bienek to PNC , is that each student becomes the protagonist of their own education.
“Project-based learning emphasizes the process and not the result,” adds Juan María Segura , an expert in educational innovation. For this reason, this educational theory is also called open-ended methodology. “The teacher starts with a triggering question and from there a range of different possible routes opens up. The important thing is not the place where the student arrives, but the process of inquiry to which he is subjected to answer the initial question ”, explains the specialist.
During a visit to a school in the United States that has followed this model for years, a history teacher at the institution explained to Segura how this form of learning is put into practice: instead of teaching his students the entire syllabus of the subject, for example, world history of the twentieth century, he asked them a triggering question about a time to be discussed, and the students had to investigate on their own to be able to answer it. Then, instead of taking an exam, they had to make a presentation in front of the class.
To implement this new modality, which, according to Segura, has not yet been applied in any school in the country, the Rocca School will turn the classrooms into “learning spaces”, where there will no longer be any more desks located in the direction of the teacher and a single blackboard at the front, but group tables, armchairs, and blackboards on every wall.
In terms of infrastructure, the change is about breaking down some internal walls. “The spaces have to be consistent with the type of pedagogy. There will be moments of individual concentration, moments of presentation, moments of project preparation. All categories have to be covered ”, anticipates Bienek.
Project-based learning is already applied in cutting-edge schools in the United States, Mexico and Spain , among other countries, where, according to Bienek, it is showing excellent results. The Rocca school uses some of these institutions as role models. One of its greatest references is the High Tech High school network in the United States, which for years has used project-based learning in its 16 institutions .
The directors of the Campana school also follow as a reference the Monterrey Technological Instinct and the Barcelona schools led by Montserrat del Pozo , a nun and pedagogue specialized in educational innovation. To try to measure up to the latter, the school authorities hired the same architecture studio, Rosan Bosch, which is dedicated to the design of establishments and school furniture.
“They hit the key with everything: they hired the number one in all the dimensions that an avant-garde school design has to address,” Segura says about the project. Project-based learning at High Tech High is fascinating; 98% of its students enter Ivy League colleges . Almost half of the student body comes from families with a low socioeconomic status and they turn them into students who can apply to the best universities ”.
This last aspect is one of the priorities that the Rocca school has maintained since its inception. “The key for us is to create pedagogical models that generate equity in children who come from different backgrounds,” says Bienek. Currently, 430 students attend this school , who receive different percentages of scholarships depending on the financial need of their families. These grants are financed by Tenaris and the Hermanos Rocca Foundation . The income is selective. Of the total number of young people who take the entrance course each year, only those who pass the final exam are accepted.
The new project-based learning system will begin to be implemented gradually from the beginning of the next school year. Until now, focus group meetings have already been held with teachers and students to participate in the design of the project. In the coming months, they will provide training for teachers to adapt to the new teaching modality. These, they clarify from school, are going to have to work “as full time as possible”, because they will be the mentors of the students during their projects.
Taking advantage of the knowledge acquired in the pandemic, the school administrators also plan to apply an education system known as blended , a hybrid between face-to-face and virtuality.
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“The educational virtuality during the pandemic made it clear that each child has a different learning process. The idea is that part of the content is learned through an interactive platform, from home or from school, synchronously or asynchronously, and that another part of the teaching is active face-to-face, with workshops, professional practices and projects, most of them in groups ”, explains Bienek. This system has already been applied for years in several schools in Germany and the United States.
Today, the World Economic Forum says that 65% of primary school children go to work in types of jobs that do not exist today . The ability to prepare them for the jobs of the future is increasingly important. We are in a time of accelerated change. For this reason, we are looking for continuous improvement, constant change ”, concludes Bienek.