Development of the xLOBS Concept
The research and development Journey started by building sets of “very good” lessons that achieve at least the same objectives of the official curriculum and at the same time integrate life skills, citizenship education, human rights, gender responsiveness, technology etc. The lessons would emphasize knowledge production, and the creation of designs that would be based on real life contexts.
So in effect, the University developed a platform for achieving the high level goals specified by the National Educational Strategy, at practically no additional costs or resources - while staying completely in line with the curriculum. The Palestinian Ministry of education adopted the model and partnered with the University in the implementation. The university called this model the Experiential Learning Objects (xLOBs).
xLOBs are designed using the following process: For every unit in the textbook, a design team consisting of instructional designers, teachers, and subject matter experts (in knowledge areas and skills), deconstruct the unit. They then identify the subject areas required by the textbook, and then design stimulating learning activities and resources that cover both the knowledge areas and a wide range of skills and attitudes that can be acquired while learning the subject. xLOBs then provide a detailed implementation learning journey for teachers to use. xLOBs have been designed so that the time required to implement an xLOB is almost the same as the time required to cover a unit in the text book the traditional way. This way, teachers using xLOBs will not require additional teaching loads (or costs) inside or outside the classroom.
One of the most important features of the model is that xLOBs are “packaged” in a way so they only demand limited training /orientation from teachers to implement effectively. Most importantly, xLOBs work very well in the classroom. The University has been conducting on-going research throughout the development and implementation life cycle, and the research results clearly verify the effectiveness of the model.
Palestinian school children live in a hostile, violent and deprived environment, with few opportunities to play, grow and develop. While almost all children, both boys and girls attend schools, less than half successfully complete their schooling (Ministry of Education M&E Reports, 2011-2015). Even those who succeed usually have serious limitations in knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to find employment in the public or private sectors, compete locally or globally (McKinsey 2011), and advocate for justice and their rights in an effective manner. They lack essential life-skills like problem solving, critical thinking, general knowledge, creativity, tolerance and openness (UNICEF 2017). The great majority will become low or semi-skilled workers, unemployed or earning low wages, living the rest of their lives on the fringes of poverty. The situation is even worse for girls as they suffer from both access to resources and society bias (Birzeit University 2014).
Most countries today in the MENA region suffer from similar conditions. The numbers of low-educated/ unemployable children and youth are being compounded annually leading to the economic, political and social breakdown that is being witnessed in MENA today. Failing to address this educational challenge immediately will have even more devastating implications – not only on MENA, but at a global level.
Even with the public and full recognition of the problem and plans and calls for reform (as is the case in national strategies that identify the core problems and suggest solutions), the existing educational system will not be able to reform or fix itself from within. Teachers and educators trained in legacy and conventional systems are unable to innovate due to their entrenched training in traditional teaching and learning methodologies. Unconsciously, many propagate gender biases that they themselves have and are hence ill-prepared to address gender related discrimination and social norms11. There is no coherent technical capacity to rethink and restructure curriculum to add missing cognitive learning methods, life skills and citizenship education and to make sure all modern pillars of learning and girls empowerment are included and implemented in the right way (including effective gender related issues). Add to this serious limitation on budgets allocated to education, restrictions on movement (ex. those behind the Wall or in Area C), over-crowded classes and inferior infrastructure. Rather than reforming from within (calling on a weak system to fix itself), the educational system requires a transformation that puts the learner at the center of the process.
It is clear that within this context only an innovative, out of the box approach will stop the regression and steer the educational process towards the transformation required to leap-frog and catch-up with contemporary educational practices.
xLOBs have been developed by Birzeit University to provide an engine that can be used to support the transformation of existing educational systems in a creative and effective manner.
How are xLOBS different?
- They have immediate national impact reaching out to 10s of thousands of students at a time
- xLOBs are driven by on-going research and development
- They have a transformative impact while working through the existing educational systems