What is your approach to interdisciplinary project based learning? How do you forward projects like this in your teaching environment?
Successful project based learning evolves guided by essential questions, positive partnerships, and conditions for excellence in a rich learning/teaching environment with teamwork amongst all members of the learning community.
Good project based learning is much like gardening--it's a lifelong project continually evolves. Project based learning is not a static process, instead it is an ever changing approach to teaching that puts the students center stage in the learning process. Good projects develop and change over time and profits from rich professional learning, positive partnerships, reflection, assessment, and a primary focus on teaching children well. The best projects respond to expectations, interests, and needs in personal, engaging, and meaningful ways.
Our project based learning approach at fifth grade begins with these essential questions:
- Expectations: What are we expected to teach?
- Students: Who are our students? What do our students need, want, and desire?
- Depth and Breadth: How can we create the kind of learning environment, professional capacity, teamwork, integration of new research, and routines to foster successful project based learning that responds to who our students are and what they need and want?
These essential questions focus on expectations, students, and what's desired and possible.
We know that to forward successful project based learning, we need support. That's why forming good partnerships and broadening the learning community to include families, colleagues, and community members is essential. We regularly reach out to students, families, and colleagues for support and collaboration, and we also reach out to multiple community organizations to support our work with their expertise, learning tools, resources, and environments, and financial support.
Setting the Stage for Project Based Learning: Conditions for Excellence
- We identify the standards we will embed into the project.
- We think about what will engage and motivate our students at their age and within our context of time and place.
- We think about what has relevance, what problems do we want students to solve.
- We weave standards from multiple disciplines together.
- Use a website as the project's virtual home and resource center. The website is a live document that changes as the project changes.
- We seek professional learning that supports our project work.
- We set up the inside/outside learning environment to support the project work.
We have found that one essential building block of successful project based learning is teamwork--teamwork amongst the educators and experts, and teamwork amongst the students too. This takes a deliberate, explicit approach to foster.