Thursday, February 13, 2020

Revisiting Project Based Learning

When I taught the same students all day, I often engaged students in project based learning (PBL). Since teaching with a team model where students move from classroom to classroom for discrete subjects, I've done less project based learning. While I believe project based learning is meaningful, engaging, and powerful, I also believe that our shared teaching model is meaningful, engaging, and powerful. So how do we include project based learning well with the shared teaching model?

That's our challenge right now as we engage students in project based learning efforts related to our upcoming Climate Change Fair. Students are mostly working with teams of 3-5 students to plan a project which educates other students in the school about ways we can mitigate climate change. This teaching demands a lot from students and teachers alike--there's lots to learn about how to work together and how to create and present a great collaborative project.

We began this work with lots and lots of foundation learning, learning that is included on our project website.  Then we started the PBL with a review of what great teamwork looks like and includes as well as reviewing an outline of expected project parameters. Then we let students begin.

The beginning for groups ranged from successful teamwork to a range of challenges related to working together, choosing the project focus, and the details related to the project work. Teachers moved from group to group providing support.

Today we'll review the efforts we've engaged in since September with the project website. We'll also review the main facts and information at the foundation of this work as well as what it means to create a Climate Fair Booth. Then we'll give students considerable time to work on their projects.

As I work with students, I recognize areas of need too, and I am thinking about how we might teach to those areas better now and into the future. Those areas include the following:

Teamwork and Collaboration
We have increased our focus on this capacity, but there remains room for growth. This is both an important and challenging area of school life and life beyond school too.

Research Skills
This is an area we can revisit as a grade-level too. Where do we teach these skills and how.

How do we teach students to question effectively? How do we teach them the importance of questioning? Do we frame our teaching with questions?

When do we teach students presentation skills? How do we give students practice with these skills?

Time is always a challenge when it comes to big projects, but we'll do our best with the time we have. While PBL is tough teaching at times, it's worth it.