Working in Groups is a behavioural treatment program offered by Toronto Autism Services to adolescences with Higher Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. The primary focus of the group is to teach collaboration skills, perspective taking, understanding one's strength and overall developing the necessary skills with working in a group. The structure of the program is often delivered by therapists in a lecture style format and based in group activities. However over the last few years, due to a lack of interest, it has become increasingly harder to get these adolescences to attend Toronto Autism programs.
Learning about the role of constructivism in education, specifically that students are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction as opposed to passively receiving information (BADA & Olusegun, n.d). As coordinator of the program, I decided to pilot a more constructivist approach to the program. I wanted to evaluate whether students engagement could be increased if students were actively involved in their learning and were to be more hands on. Thus, I purchased some new technology and other activities including: LEGO Boost, Nintendo Labo, Kn'ex and Robotis.
The group consisted of 15 students and the group format was structured in several key ways:
- Therapists conducted a l5-20 minute lesson on material in a group format
- Students were then split into groups 4-5 and placed at an activity station
- 4 activity stations had different items: LEGO, Nintendo, chart paper, Ipad
- Therapists were placed at each station to assist and scaffold learning as needed for the different materials
- Students were able to choose and design different models while they were at each station, at every rotation student would build upon what the previous group had started
- Students were required to demonstrate and practice strategies taught during the group lesson (i.e., active listening, perspective taking) at least 1-2 of the activity stations
Therapists observed that the overall attendance of the students was consistent. Additionally, many of the students participated in not only building at each activity station, but collaborated and engaged during group activities with therapist. A survey was conducted with students on the last day of the group to evaluate their experience with attending this pilot program. Over 55% of the students rated the program 4 to 5 for the quality of the program they received. Over 80% of the students rated 4 to 5 on the enjoyment with using robotics and other technology in the program.
From this experience, I learned that through my pilot project, I created a makerspace style setup with the group. Based on the definition, a collaborative workspace was created where students were able to make, learn, share, express their interests on activities they were engaged in. More importantly through this group design, students were able able to engage in hands on learning and build on core working in group skills.
BADA, D., & Olusegun, S. (n.d.). Constructivism Learning Theory: A Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. Journal of Research & Method in Education, 5(6), 66–70. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1c75/083a05630a663371136310a30060a2afe4b1.pdf