Thursday, March 8, 2018

Teach 180: Project Based Learning (Day 120)

At my current school, we meet about five times a year (approximately an hour each time) in cross-divisional groups to discuss something we ranked as being of interest to us.  Unfortunately, I was one of several people who did not have one of his or her top 3 choices in the list of options.  This meant that I had to choose among the following options: project-based learning, social emotional learning, intrinsic motivation, well-being or integrating play in learning.  I was really interested in focusing on assessment as a tool for learning and the closest group that was related to assessment was Project-Based Learning. 

My group consisted of a middle school math teacher, a middle school history teacher, a middle school English teacher, an upper school Spanish teacher and myself.  We read the book "Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning".  The practical advice offered was mainly to not rush, make sure all stakeholders buy-in and to allow for plenty of time for collaboration.  Little was offered in the way of assessing projects or assessing group skills.  The one project that was specifically given as an example for math would have required about two weeks to complete and it covered a topic that we typically spend two days on in class.  Although the book said that PBL is better for students, especially for learning collaboration skills and for at-risk students, at no point did it offer any empirical evidence.  All the evidence that was presented was anecdotal.  At no point did it offer suggestions for what content should be removed from the high school mathematics curriculum to make time for PBL.

Today was the last day our group met and we put our "book report" in google slides to share with our colleagues.  Here was the slide I created.

Overall, our group was not impressed with this book and felt like it was a sales pitch for the Buck Institute for Education, one of the two main publishers of the book.  Would PBL work in a large scale at my current school?  With so many different initiatives happening and faculty being drained of time and energy, I would say it would be unwise to attempt a PBL initiative at this time.

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