Over the last few weeks, I have been working with a middle school physical science teacher, Morgan, to develop a PBL experience for her students as they learn the basics of the atom, periodic trends, and bonding types. She is a first year teacher and has been so fun to work with. It has been really eye opening to work with her - in a good way. As I work with another teacher, I have realized that I have forgotten how big of a task it is to create ALL OF THE PIECES of these experiences for students (and let’s be real, we are a bit crazy to create this during the school year). My goal is always to be real with my writing and experiences, and here is something a bit more real for you all. In this post, I am sharing what it is like to develop a project from both my perspective and, most importantly, from Morgan’s. Think of it as a view from the trenches.
project based learning
My first big project my students engaged in during the 2013-14 school year was, at best, a mediocre experience and, at worst, a giant waste of valuable instructional time we'd never get back. I was at a new school and had a lot of goals I wanted to explore - further investing time into developing classroom culture, engaging students into taking more ownership in their learning instead of being passive recipients, pushing students deeper while meeting them where they were at - in short, developing my teaching identity in a context with a lot of autonomy. I had total teaching freedom.
Have you ever worked with someone on a project and you couldn’t get a hold of them? Or you realized, a bit too late, that they need extra reminders to get stuff done? Oh, and by the way, how did that guy get to be in charge? As adults, we can probably remember more than one situation where this has happened. Maybe it was in school, maybe it’s in your job.
Recently, I saw this really funny meme on facebook about the creative process. I think it also sums up designing and sustaining students in long term inquiry:
These tenets set PBL (the big once-per-semester projects) apart from day to day activities and inquiry:
PBL poses an authentic problem with multiple solutions.
PBL requires core subject knowledge to propose solutions to a problem to an authentic audience.