Skip to main content

TIES 2009: Project Based Learning-What Does it Look Like, and How Can I Do it With My Students?

In the afternoon session, I attended a session on Project Based Learning (PBL) by John Mergendoller, Executive Director of The Buck Institute for Education . I have used some of the Institute's materials when conducting PBL workshops, so I was interested in what they had to say.
Dr. Mergendoller presented the example of "The Monkey Project", a simulation where a school board has to decide whether to teach Evolution, Intelligent Design, or both in their curriculum. Students research both sides of the issue, and overcome their personal opinions to develop their project. Teachers in the example facilitated and managed the process, where students were placed into teams and created a script of a "Mock School Board Hearing."

After watching a video similar to the one above, Mergendoller had participants "Think/Pair/Share and discuss whether we thought this was a good project.
The project was approximately 6 weeks, and was a rather large undertaking. For some in the audience, they felt that it was a larger project than they were comfortable with. Mergendoller said that the technology on this project was only for research, and wasn't essential to the project. TIME however, was essential to a project like this. Both to create, and for students to complete.
Planning, planning, planning is very necessary for something like this!
He also noted that the students portrayed had very high skills, though there were "average" students in the groups.
What are the Project Essentials?
  1. A Need to Know-A reason to complete, Interest, and Value
  2. 21st Century Skills-Collaboration, Presentation, Feedback, Critical/Creative Thinking (Wide agreement about this as a needed goal in our schools today. If we want them to have these skills, we need to allow them the opportunity to do it!)
  3. Inquiry and Innovation-Aim for projects that allow students to conduct research and develop a new solution to the problem. (It needs to be new to them.)
  4. Driving Question or Challenge-Key. (Showed an exerpt from Why Don't Students Like School? -Illustrates why making the question clear is so important.) Mergendoller said that questions can be provocative: Is our water safe to drink?, Should Truman have dropped the bomb? Open ended: Which city is more prepared for a pandemic, Minneapolis or Coon Rapids?
  5. Student Voice and Choice-Used the example of the Edvisions schools, where students are fully in control of their learning. Let students do as much as they can. Where is the sweet-spot on student input?
  6. Public Presentation-Communication is not stressed enough in today's schools. This provides community support for what you are doing in your classroom as well.
The projects should contain significant, authentic content and have built in critique revision.

Working Inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Classroom, shows that teachers who use formative assessment show increases of 16-25%. He said this is a structural problem in our schools today.
He closed with a quote from Ron Berger, author of "An Ethic of Excellence" on critique and revision. We need to allow time for students to experiment, time to critique unfinished work. When managed well, this fosters a sense of classroom expectation and pride. Group ownership of standards is seen in sporting, theater and dance. "If you do well, I do well." Why not in the classroom?


Aaron Grimm said…
caught your blog on google alerts. I work for EdVisions Schools and if you are interested in PBL, you should come visit a school in person. A teacher in your district attended our Summer Institute last year and is bringing her professional learning community back again. I think the "sweet spot" is different for every kid, but it is about giving up control. I live in Bloomington, drop me a line if you like.

Aaron Grimm

Popular posts from this blog

Educon 2.1: Panel Discussion on Educational Change and Reform

The Sunday panel moderated by Andy Carvin, National Public Radio , focussed on Education Change. The panel included: David Bromley -- Regional Director, Big Picture Schools Chris Lehmann -- Principal, Science Leadership Academy Marc Mannella -- Principal, KIPP Philadelphia Bette Manchester -- Former State Educational Technology Director, Maine Gary Stager-- Executive Director of the Constructivist Consortium Mike Wang -- Executive Director of Teach For America Greater Philadelphia January 29-31, 2009 Educon 2.2 announced Save the Date!! Here is a clip from the session . Carvin asked each on the panel give an "Opening Statement". What does School Reform Look Like now that we have a new President in the White House. Lehmann -"I am hopeful", That data driven decision making recognizes that the best data we have on our students is the work that they do in the classroom every day. Mannella -Explained that KIPP schools fundamental belief that "All of us WILL Learn

Notes on EduCon 2.1 Opening Panel Discussion: What is the Purpose of School?

The "Official" opening to Educon 2.1 featured a panel discussion on "the purpose of school" at the Franklin Institute. Panel Members included: Joel Arquillos -Executive Director of 826LA (Writing workshops) -his boss has now started “ Once upon a School ”, a program paring classroom teachers with adult community members. Dr. Molefi Asante -Professor, African American Studies, Temple University (1st African American Studies program in U.S.) Kendall Crolius -Founding Partner, The Sulevia Group, also affiliated w/Heifer International Jeff Han -Founder, Perceptive Pixel and inventor of the Multi-Touch Screen (iPhone users were genuflecting in his presence!) Prakash Nair -Co-Founder, Fielding Nair International- Archetects and Change Agents for Education Dr. Steven Squyres -Principal Investigator, Mars Exploration Rover Mission Diane Castelbuono Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education PA Department of Education Moderator-Frederic Bertley -Vice Pr

Nos Chemins vers la paix: Award Winning Video!

Valley View Middle School French Imersion teacher, Heather Palmer created this award winning video, Nos Chemins vers la paix , for the Tel.A.Vision " Vision For America " Contest. Photo and video editing at Powered by One True Media , allows students to create videos that share their vision for the future. Heather wanted to use this video to promote the Wiki she and her students created for "6 Billion Paths to Peace." On the wiki, Palmer states: Our project was inspired by the program " Six Billion Paths to Peace ", an initiative of the Shinnyo-en foundation. We like the challenge the program offers us: commit to making a difference in this moment, in this day, in this lifetime! Palmer received her award last week at the National Service Learning Conference, in Nashville, TN. Way to go, Heather! NOTE: A few weeks ago while looking at the copyright free music available on the site, I notice a cover of the "Spin