This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


1365645422_record1
My project-based learning colleague John Larmer wrote a great blog on whether or not to start the year with a PBL project. He astutely articulates the benefits and challenges of doing it, as well as other considerations for implementation. Regardless, PBL teachers want to start the year off on the right foot to make sure that PBL is part of the classroom culture. Here are some steps that you can take at the start of the year to get into the PBL groove

Set the Tone for Collaboration
It is crucial that, from the start, students know that collaboration is a norm in the classroom. While teachers often do team-building activities at the beginning of the year, they could also be doing more authentic collaboration on challenges and problems. These activities might be around content such as math, or even speaking and listening skills in a debate on a controversial topic. Teachers need to present students or co-construct with them a collaboration rubric that is utilized and refined throughout the year. From this rubric, teachers can design or select lessons that target specific aspects of collaboration, such as coming to consensus or group time management. Students should reflect and set goals for collaboration, and these should be goals that they’ll revisit. All of these strategies help to build the culture of collaboration necessary for successful PBL.

Critique and Revision Practice
We all know the challenges of having students give and receive a constructive critique. While you can teach these skills in the context of the project, you can also start building them with students from day one so that they’ll see critique and revision as normal parts of classroom practice, as well as essential parts of PBL. From protocols and gallery walks to anonymous peer reviews like the one you’ll find in Austin’s Butterfly, teachers can intentionally scaffold critique and revision to support it in a PBL project.

Educate About or Review PBL
You will have students that come into your classroom that either have no experience with PBL or need to be reminded about what it looks, sounds, and feels like. You can review essential components and steps of PBL through video examples, project examples, or reflecting on past projects. Students can compare and contrast PBL with other teaching methods to help build a common expectation and understanding for what project-based learning is all about.

Build Questioning Strategies
PBL requires the inquiry process. While the project’s driving question can help facilitate inquiry, students need skills to design and ask their own questions. Eventually they can design their own driving questions for a project, but earlier in their journey as PBL learners, you can start by teaching levels of questions (PDF, 99KB), crafting these questions for research, and how to search for relevant information. By intentionally scaffolding these questioning skills, it sends the message that we are all curious students in a curious classroom, life-long learners who continually question and investigate.

These are just some of the steps that you can take to build your classroom’s PBL culture, to create an environment where students not only know what PBL is, but are ready to jump in. Even if you choose not to do all of these, you can collaborate with colleagues to share the load, and create common expectations that we all support PBL across grade levels and content areas. Building PBL culture is intentional and must start as soon as students walk in the door on the first day of school


read more

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


ngss_logo-980x517
Although the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have not yet been fully implemented, more and more states are signing up as early adopters. The NGSS call for a conceptual shift in teaching and learning. Along with traditional subject matter, science and engineering are now integrated into the standards, and students will learn about the principles of engineering and engage in the engineering design processes.

In addition, many concepts are cutting across content. For example, the concept of “systems and system models” is used in the exploration of nuclear energies as well as ecosystems. Also, scientific and engineering practices are aligned multiple times with the disciplinary content. The NGSS calls for a deeper understanding and application of content. The focus is on core ideas and practices of science, not just the facts associated with them. This is a great opportunity for project-based learning, because not only can PBL align to the shift in pedagogy, it can also enhance what the NGSS demand.

The Alignment
Just as the draft NGSS calls for deeper understanding and application of knowledge, PBL demands the same — in-depth inquiry into the content. When teachers design PBL projects, they choose to focus on power standards, or standards that usually take significant time to teach and focus on depth, not breadth. The NGSS will be a similar kind of standards, and thus easily used when designing PBL. In fact, a teacher designing a PBL project might target one of the crosscutting concepts, something that permeates the entire year of content. This is no more evident than the NGSS App available on iTunes. Take a look at the Grade Four Earth Systems Standard:

Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support explanation for changes in a landscape over time.

This standard focuses on explanation of changes — not just identifying them, but using them to think critically about the content. In fact, the NGSS app provides an “Assessment Boundary” that says: “Assessment does not include specific knowledge of the mechanism of rock formation or the memorization of specific rock formations and layers.” This is about depth, not rote memorization, which is ripe for a PBL project. In fact, the clarification statement of this standard highlights possibilities for a PBL project:

Examples of evidence from patterns could include rock layers with marine shell fossils above rock layers with plant fossils and no shells, indicating a change from land to water over time; and a canyon with different rock layers in the walls and a river in the bottom, indicating that over time a river cut through the rock.

Being a Scientist
Most state science standards were linked to the scientific inquiry process. The NGSS continue to honor this as a key component to science education. Dimension 1 of the NGSS focuses on practices which “describe behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world and the key set of engineering practices that engineers use as they design and build models and systems.” Embedded throughout standards is language where students must “use evidence,” “make observations,” “ask questions,” “combine information,” and “apply scientific ideas,” to name just a few. All of this language focuses on the art of being a scientist to learn the content. PBL calls for students not only to be scientists, but also citizen scientists investigating real-world scientific problems and challenges to make an impact. Like the NGSS, PBL focuses not only on the content of science, but also on the content of being a scientist.

STEAM PBL
I wrote about this in a recent blog. As we notice the new engineering focus of NGSS, we might consider design challenges, a key component of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) education. However, design challenges are not necessarily PBL by default. One can take a design challenge, add some PBL-essential elements to it, and make it into a PBL project, yet there are some components that must be added to make it a true PBL project. In the example from my previous blog, students made recommendations for retrofitting a local bridge and presented this information to city officials and engineers. Yes, the product might be a bridge design, and yes, students might engage in a toothpick contest along the way. The difference is that the work goes outside the four walls of the classroom and is actually an authentic situation where students are engaged in real-world work. As the design process and other components of engineering are leveraged in the NGSS, PBL projects can be designed to teach and assess these standards.

The NGSS will be successful only if we give students the learning models that call for the rigor and depth they demand. Not only is PBL ready for the challenge, but it can create deeper engagement with the content, where students’ deeper learning in the classroom makes them real scientists and engineers of the real world.


read more

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


Students work in Columbus College of Art & Desig's College PreView program
Both project-based learning and STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art and math) are growing rapidly in our schools. Some schools are doing STEAM, some are doing PBL, and some are leveraging the strengths of both to do STEAM PBL. With a push for deeper learning, teaching and assessment of 21st-century skills, both PBL and STEAM help schools target rigorous learning and problem solving. They are not exactly the same, but teachers can easily connect to them to teach not only STEAM content and design challenges, but also authentic learning and public, high-quality work. In fact, many know that STEAM education isn’t just the content, but the process of being scientists, mathematicians, engineers, artists and technological entrepreneurs. Here are some ways that PBL and STEAM can complement each other as you deliver instruction.

From Design Challenges to Authentic Problems
Many of us have experienced, either as a teacher or student, the bridge design challenge. It often unfolds in this way. Students are given the challenge to make a bridge out of materials that will hold the most weight. These materials might be marshmallows, glue, toothpicks and the like. Students are given multiple opportunities to try out ideas and refine their work. It might culminate in a public content or presentation day when the bridges are tested for the last time. This is a fun and engaging design challenge that encourages the freedom to fail as well as opportunities for revision, reflection and using critical thinking skills.

PBL can take this design challenge up a notch. Instead of just designing a “fake” bridge, students might actually make recommendations to real architects and engineers for local bridges that need repairs. Some further math or physics content might be intentionally included and scaffolded so that students end up writing a rigorous design briefing and make a public presentation to the architects. Here the work can be more authentic and perhaps make a real difference as students truly become designers of real-world STEAM work.

21st Century Skills
One of the essential elements of PBL is the 21st century skillset. These skills are often defined as the 4Cs — creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication — although there are many more, including technology literacy and health literacy. In a PBL project, teachers teach and assess one or more of these skills. This might mean using an effective rubric for formative and summative assessment aligned to collaboration, collecting evidence, facilitating reflection, and scaffolding many quality indicators and collaboration skills within the PBL project. Although STEAM design challenges foster this naturally as an organic process, PBL can add the intentionality needed to teach and assess the 21st century skills embedded in STEAM.

For example, a teacher might choose to target technology literacy for a PBL STEAM project, build a rubric in collaboration with students, and assess both formatively and summatively. In addition, the design process, a key component of STEAM education, can be utilized. Perhaps a teacher has a design process rubric used in the PBL project, or even an empathy rubric that leverages and targets one key component of the design process. When “marrying” PBL and STEAM in projects, the 21st century skills not only fit well, but fit intentionally into the assessment process.

Integrated Disciplines
Project-based learning can target one or more content areas. Many PBL teachers start small in their first implementations and only pick a couple of content areas to target. However, as teachers and students become more PBL-savvy, STEAM can be great opportunity to create a project that hits science, math, technology and even art content. The key is to start with the content. When teachers design projects, they need to leverage the backwards design framework and begin with the end in mind. The questions should be:

What STEAM content will be assessed?
What products will students create to demonstrate mastery of these many content standards?

As STEAM focuses on integration of content, pairing STEAM with PBL can hit not only STEAM content, but also content outside of the core STEAM subjects. English can be integrated, as well as foreign languages and social studies. It’s all about designing effective PBL that targets these content areas.

As STEAM and PBL continue to grow in implementation, teachers can fit them together in curriculum and instructional practice. Additionally, these two approaches can capitalize on each other’s strengths and fill each other’s potential gaps. The key is an intentionality in design that recognizes what might be missing from each approach. Engage in your own design challenge to create STEAM PBL projects, and share your work with like-minded practitioners.


read more