LEAPS: A new perspective on project–based learning
LEAPS is an acronym for Learning and Engagement through Authentic Projects with a focus on Science.
LEAPS is a Danish in-depth learning initiative led by the Kata Foundation. The initiative is built on project–based learning where students immerse themselves in engaging problems that relate to an authentic problem in society on either a local, national or global scale.
The main purpose for LEAPS is to improve students’ learning and engagement in primary and secondary school level by an increased focus on science learning methods.
The 6 components and 3 elements
A LEAPS project has a duration of at least 6 weeks. The projects are interdisciplinary, contain clear learning goals and are thoroughly planned and prepared by teachers, both individually and in teams. The Kata Foundation has developed LEAPS planning tools to ensure a high academic standard in the projects.
The core of a LEAPS project is based on these 6 components:
Engaging question: relates to a real problem or phenomena.
Kickoff: every LEAPS course starts with a kickoff that is engaging and motivating for the students.
High-quality products: during the LEAPS project, all students create one or several products of high quality that relate to the engaging question.
Authentic collaborations: LEAPS projects involve the surrounding community such as experts and other relevant collaborators to increase the authenticity of student’s work.
Multiple drafts and feedback: In every LEAPS project the students reflect upon their own learning by receiving feedback on drafts of their work. The feedback can be from teachers, peers or external experts.
Exhibition: All LEAPS projects end with an exhibition where students present their products for an authentic audience. The main purpose of the exhibition is for the students to demonstrate their learning process and present their knowledge and results for either the local community, parents, fellow students, teachers, experts etc.
Moreover, the following 3 elements ensure a well-structured LEAPS project. First, it is crucial that LEAPS projects have clear and articulate learning goals which is a legal requirement in Danish schools. Second, LEAPS projects must be interdisciplinary. And finally, LEAPS projects must focus on Deeper Learning skills.
The Deeper Learning skills are based on Hewlett Foundations definition and concentrate on the following subject areas:
Master core academic content: students develop a fundamental understanding of central academic disciplines and can transfer this knowledge to other situations.
Think critically and solve complex problems: students apply tools and techniques derived from core academic subjects to define and solve problems.
Work collaboratively: students collaborate to identify problems and create solutions on academic, practical and social challenges.
Communicate effectively: students learn central communication skills e.g. active listening skills, how to construct clear and coherent arguments and deliver outstanding presentations.
Learn how to learn: students reflect upon and adjust their own learning to expand their existing knowledge.
Develop academic mindsets: students develop an academic self–belief and perseverance which motivate them to fully engage in their work.
Enabling LEAPS through school transformation
LEAPS is a unique school initiative in Denmark.
It takes both time and effort to become a LEAPS school. The transformation is a five-year process where the school leadership is preparing for the profound changes and teachers are trained to teach after the LEAPS principles. The transformation is, however, an ongoing process where teachers and students are gradually introduced to LEAPS.
The Kata Foundation supports the transformation by providing LEAPS schools with a project leader who is present on schools approx. two days per week. The project leader facilitates the teachers’ training program, collaborates with the school leadership and support LEAPS teachers during all phases of a LEAPS project.
There are currently four LEAPS schools in Denmark. The first LEAPS school began the transformation in 2016, the second in 2017 and the last two in 2018. All LEAPS schools will go through a five–year intensive transformation process followed by a five–year follow-up process. The first LEAPS school is Sønderskov-Skolen in Sønderborg (Southern Denmark), which has been practicing LEAPS at all grade levels from August 2019.
To document that LEAPS has a positive effect on students’ learning and engagement, The Kata Foundation together with a research team from Aalborg University are measuring on three different parameters on a yearly basis:
Student engagement in school
Student engagement in science
Students’ Deeper Learning skills
The parameters are measured and monitored by qualitative data collected from the LEAPS schools. The research results are published every year. In 2022 when LEAPS is fully integrated on all four schools, a full report of the research results will be available.
A comprehensive resource site
All LEAPS resources are available for free on this website. The Kata Foundation provides a wide range of LEAPS planning tools, protocols, examples of LEAPS projects and further inspiration for all teachers with an interest in LEAPS and project–based learning. You can find the resources here (in Danish).
Are you interested in learning more about LEAPS and The Kata Foundation?
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