Complex Learning Project

Learning Scenario: Raising Chickens

For this Complex Learning Project, I’m going to expand on the learning scenario I discussed in my andragogy infographic. This learning scenario is a course that gives learners practical knowledge about raising and keeping chickens, with different modules that learners can choose depending on their immediate needs. I didn’t address this in my own learning experiences page, but it is something that I learned on my own. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have a realistic training scenario to make information from the books I read more concrete and immediate.

A 5-module course would contain the following units:

  1. From Chick to Chicken: different ways to start your flock, with a particular focus on raising chickens from day-old hatchlings to healthy, mature chickens.
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  2. Coops, Pens, & Free Ranging: an overview on different types of chicken housing that also discusses the issue of confined versus ranging chickens.
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  3. Health & Safety: information on identifying and treating common chicken health issues, and on protecting chickens from predators.
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  4. Focus: Layers: a unit that focuses specifically on what to expect when raising chickens for eggs, how to keep hens laying, and how to address problems specific to a layer flock.
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  5. Focus: Broilers: a unit that focuses specifically on raising chickens for meat, including information on processing chickens.
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Complex Learning Project: Chicken!

The complex learning project would be a game called “Chicken!” in which learners raise little digital chickens. The game would have different “chapters” corresponding to the 5 parts of the course outlined in the learning scenario. The main parts of the game would be “From Chick to Chicken,” “Coops, Pens, & Free Ranging,” and “Health & Safety,” while “Focus: Layers” and “Focus: Broilers” would be expansions/add-ons (though the main parts would all have egg-gathering as a small component). This body of knowledge and skills would work particularly well for a game because it’s easy to automate feedback for a range of player choices; while different combinations of choices will work to “win” the different levels, each choice does have predictable results, and the desired outcome would remain the same no matter the path chosen.

Assessment

Assessment will be both formative and summative. Formative assessment will come in the form of small bits of feedback during each unit of the game. For instance, in the “From Chick to Chicken” section, one of the first tasks will be figuring out how to keep the chicks warm. Learners will have a couple of different option, each with a different “cost,” and use of those different options will generate different kinds of feedback from the game NPCs (the computer-run chicks). Chicks that are appropriately heated will be spread evenly around the enclosure eating, sleeping, or running around. Chicks that are too cold will huddle together as close to the heat source as possible, while chicks that are too hot will spread around the edges of the enclosure away from the heat source. Adjustments of the heat source will create responses in the chicks, including a “growth” function which helps to progress the game.

Summative assessment will come at the end of each stage of growth (when chicks start to feather out, when they’re fully feathered, when they’re big enough to move to a large pen, etc.). Players will get a sum-up of how many chickens survived that level of the game (a certain number must survive; bonus points are awarded above that level), how much they spent on their set-up, etc.

Chickens!_scoreboard

The whole game could be considered authentic assessment because it would be built around real-world chicken-raising concerns and would give students a range of choices similar to those encountered when raising actual chickens. Each stage of the game would pose a problem—how do you ensure that the most chicks survive to adulthood; what combination of housing works best for different environments; how do you prevent specific predators from eating your chickens or eggs?—and let students work through different possible methods of solving those problems. Each part of the game would also provide a sort of “rubric” for what constitutes success based on how many chickens survive, how little money the player spent in protecting the chickens, how many eggs were produced, etc.

Learning Theories

The game would make use of all the learning theories we have studied.

Behaviorism would be used to help learners figure out things with right and wrong answers, like not overheating chicks with a heat lamp (or setting their bedding on fire), feeding on a schedule, creating housing that is secure against predators, etc.

Constructivism is present in with the use of ZPD and MKOs for each new task; there would be a couple of NPCs in the game—Aunt Gail and Uncle Harvey (for Gail Damerow and Harvey Ussery, two well-known chicken authorities)—who would provide tutorials at the player’s request, gradually ramping down help as learners become more knowledgeable, but always available for reminders.

Cognitivism is present in the “chunking” of the information into different stages of the game; learners will only be expected to master a few concepts at a time, and will have to master those before a new section of the game starts.

Connectivism will make an appearance by giving students links for more information and introducing them to resources that will help them in real-life chicken husbandry.

Last but not least, Andragogy is present in the practical focus of the game, and in the way that it allows learners to make their own choices and even bring in their own prior knowledge; tutorials will be optional, so players could decide what “course” materials to make use of, and which ones to skip.

The whole thing is a little silly, perhaps, but could also be a very effective method for learning the basics of successful chicken husbandry without having to risk money or emotional investment. Effectiveness could also be tracked by asking players to stay in contact and complete surveys on how the game helped them when they did start to raise chickens, and the basic model of the game could be transferred to games focused on other types of livestock.

Image Credits

In order of use, starting with the header image.

OpenClipart-Vectors. (2013) [Poultry Chicken Animal]. Pixabay. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/poultry-chicken-animal-bird-farm-152370/

Sil_verblue. (2017) [Birds Lady Animal Kingdom]. Pixabay. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/birds-lady-animal-kingdom-poultry-3187657/

Giallopudding. (2011) [Chicken Coop Farm Chickens]. Pixabay. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/chicken-coop-farm-chickens-coop-343942/

Monstreh. (2015) [Bird Cock Vector]. Pixabay. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/bird-cock-vector-chicken-cute-733867/

Pixel2013. (2017) [Egg Straw Food]. Pixabay. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/egg-straw-food-eat-healthy-edible-2048476/

Lebensmittelfotos. (2010) [Chicken Broiler]. Pixabay. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/chicken-broiler-meat-1140/