There has been a call for a shift in assessment practices in secondary schools across the country—from a focus on rote content to a focus on student performance. The considerable success of Impact-Based Learning (IBL) on the academic achievement of students in medical education has prompted NEXT High School to create, develop, and implement this non-traditional, student-centered, and inquiry-driven teaching approach in its classrooms.
NEXT High School’s Model: IBL and the i3 Framework
Impact-Based Learning draws on established tools and best practices of Project-Based Learning, but is relentlessly focused on the immediate, tangible, real-world impact that students can create now.
Students work collaboratively on projects that help spark and discover INTERESTS, pursue rigorous INQUIRY, and finally launch something that makes an IMPACT—what NHS calls the i3 Framework (Interest > Inquiry > Impact). The i3 Framework is the lens through which students see themselves and their world, and all parts of NEXT High School’s model are designed to keep this cycle repeating as it increases in depth and intensity.
NEXT High School’s Aviation Program is a clear example of the i3 Framework in action. Based on student and teacher interest, this program is built around Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as ‘Drones.’ It is well known that drones are already benefiting a variety of different fields, including aviation, a growing industry cluster that contributes $24.8 billion to South Carolina’s economy (Von Nessen, 2018).
NEXT High School’s current Aviation Program—a work still in progress, development, and ongoing growth—is a two-semester UAV immersion program that students opt into.
The first semester is a series of exploratory sessions - flight safety, piloting, laws and operations, ethical operation and drones of the future. In the second semester students are introduced to the Engineering Design Process (EDP). They utilize the EDP, guided research, and advice from community experts to present solutions to several given challenges. This combination of EDP, Research, and Experts is a success framework internally called the ERE. Students are encouraged to properly document each step, and they present their solutions to an audience. In the final challenge, students build, program, and successfully fly mini-quadcopter drones. In this process, they utilize ERE, in coordination with exposure to important technological tools such as principles of coding and a minimum requirement of time in the flight simulators.
There are no better voices than our own students to share their perspective of the Aviation i3 and how it has impacted them. The following are excerpts from a student reflection assignment:
P. Van Deren (Sophomore - Age 16): “This semester in the Aviation Engineering i3 has been productive and extremely beneficial to me as an individual. It’s taught me more about my strengths and weaknesses as I worked in a group. One of my biggest challenges that I took on was becoming a team leader. I pride myself in taking this opportunity, and I appreciate my team members for being receptive to my leadership and open to new ideas. Building and programming drones is something I wouldn’t have pictured myself doing, however it’s shown me how taking risks is the first step towards success. Being so involved in this i3, I believe, has given me a chance to prove my abilities to myself and others, to learn from my mistakes, and to understand my peers and their prowess while working on this unique i3 project.
If I were to convey any message to someone reading this and relating to my struggles with self-confidence and trying something new, I would encourage them to take chances and be courageous with your ideas. Nothing good will come from sitting in doubt and wondering about the “What Ifs”, and it’s up to the individual to believe in his own self-worth. I think if everyone had a mindset in which they were completely capable and self-worthy, the entirety of any group would go beyond any expected limit”.
J. Pinkney (Sophomore - Age 16): “This semester in the engineering and aviation i3, we got a lot done. At first we were introduced to the engineering design process, we watched some videos, we did a few assignments for that to get familiar with the subject, and we did presentations about challenges using the engineering design process to explain in front of the class. We did a lot of research in groups and presentations about different things for each group.
My group and another group designed the drone race track that we will show at market day on the lower level of the school and we tested the track successfully. We made sure that the track wasn’t too complicated and easy enough to set up and tack down quickly, but easy enough to be understood by people who don’t know much about drones or things like that.
Other groups did things like researching and presenting about if solar panels will be able to efficiently work for drones. Another group even built a working plastic engine model, but unfortunately, they had a lot of setbacks along the way and they couldn’t get it to properly work in the end. Then, we got into different groups for doing research and for building, programming, and flying the drones.
We will hopefully get to the flying part of the process soon. I am very excited about this part and that is why I and some other engineers are practicing with the drone flight simulators to better our skills with flying drones”.
These students consistently demonstrate that they are gaining deep content knowledge in aerodynamics, coding, electronics, principles of engineering, and advanced mathematics. Further, their leadership, collaboration, and communication skills are developed as they apply their understanding in innovative ways. So, how is their learning assessed? In the Aviation UAV Program, assessment is embedded and ongoing as students persevere to create products and processes to impact their world.
Acknowledgement to our Sponsors
Computer Source - Kevin L. Van Deusen
South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics & Science – Dr. Thomas T. Peters
STEAM Tech Teams - Bob and Fay Choban