PBL and STEAM Education: A Natural Fit

 

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.

Common Core in Action: How One Art Teacher is Implementing Common Core

 

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 >

 


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Last month, I wrote about two science teachers who are implementing the Common Core Standards to teach their course content in conjunction with the literacy skills called for in the Common Core. These teachers gave a great context for the implementation, plus some great tips for those of us who are just getting started on that journey. We know that the literacy standards are content neutral. In fact, the content can be vehicle for learning critical reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. What if that content was art?

Art and Literacy
Cheri Jorgensen is an art teacher who is part of the Battelle STEM Innovation Network, and who also learned how to use the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) approach to implement literacy in her art instruction. She decided to refine a lesson she had done in the past when she wrote the module for content in her Visual Art 1 and Advanced Art courses. The writing task she created for students was:

After researching the Analysis stage of Feldman’s Steps of Art Criticism on the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design, write a 14-point bulleted list that analyzes how each of the Elements and Principles are used in an artwork from your Keynote presentation, providing evidence to clarify your analysis. What conclusion or implications can you draw? A bibliography is not required. In your discussion, address the credibility and origin of sources in view of your research topic. Identify any gaps or unanswered questions.

In addition to addressing the Visual Arts standard for elements of art and principles of design, she developed an art criticism module to work on these specific Common Core standards:

Common Core Anchor Standards: Reading
R.CCR.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

R.CCR.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

R.CCR.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

R.CCR.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

R.CCR.10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Common Core Anchor Standards: Writing
W.CCR.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

W.CCR.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W.CCR.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

W.CCR.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

W.CCR.10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Finding the Right Fit
Cheri reflected that building this intentional literacy module into her instruction was not a huge stretch:

“I think art teachers by nature include literacy as well as other academic subjects into their lessons because they are a natural fit . . . Reading and writing within your own subject area is the easiest way to incorporate literacy.”

Here Cheri was very intentional with her choices of literacy standards and scaffolding, and she found the right fit.

“I have always included both reading and writing in my art class. Students write artist’s statements with each major assignment and research and study art history and art criticism. The difference in using LDC is that there is a more specific focus on literacy already built in to the lesson.”

Cheri implemented this art criticism unit near the end of the school year after students had learned the elements of art and principles design, including color, color harmonies and balance. However, she built in specific scaffolding activities that helped revisit the art content and build the specific reading and writing skills. She had students journal on the seven elements of art and seven principles of design, analyze Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and participate in presentations and discussions on the content. She also scaffolded the writing process for students, recognizing the reality of implementing literacy standards in the content area — it needs to fit and be purposeful.

Although literacy is important to every subject, teachers are still responsible for covering their own subject matter, and that has to remain the focus of the lessons.”

Do you or your colleagues incorporate ELA into art curriculum? Which Common Core standards do you bring to the process?

Project-Based Learning as a Context for Arts Integration

 

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 >

 

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Project-based learning can provide an intentional and effective opportunity to integrate the arts across disciplines and curriculum. While valuable as a stand-alone discipline, arts education can be given further power and value when used in a PBL project as part of the core curriculum.

When teachers begin designing PBL projects, they often start small, maybe with a recommended idea to internalize the design process and a reflection on how to improve. As teachers become more familiar with PBL, integration is a great next step for taking it up a notch. This is where the arts come in! If you are thinking about your next PBL project, consider using one or more of these intentional moments to integrate art.

The Arts as the Entry Event
When launching a PBL project, it is crucial to have an entry event that engages students and creates excitement for the project. From movies and music to activities and simulations, teachers can launch a project with one or more entry events that relate to the arts. Start the project with an art anchor text, not only to build inquiry, but also to keep the momentum going along the way by revisiting that anchor.

The Arts in Culminating Products or Performances
PBL demands voice and choice in how students spend their time and how they show their learning. Each project culminates in a presentation or product that is presented to a public audience. The best products meet the needs of the audience, which means that creating the project must focus not only on relevance, but also on engagement. Teachers can use this design element to further leverage the arts by providing an arts product as one or more of the choices. We know students can show their learning in a variety of ways and through multiple intelligences. In addition to a persuasive letter, consider a collage or songbook of lyrics.

The Arts as Scaffolding
Students need scaffolding through a variety of instructional activities that will arm them with the skills and content they’ll need to be successful on the project. As you consider this scaffolding, include arts-related activities. Use these activities to help students process their content and represent their thinking. For example, have students do a “tableau” activity where they represent the structure of the cell. From this, the teacher helps students metacognitively and transparently connect this individual activity to the larger project. Students learn from this arts-based activity during the project and will apply it to their product. Role-plays, simulations, music comprehension strategies, visual processing, dramatic acting — all these activities and more can help support and scaffold the many learning targets within a PBL project.

The Arts As Formative Assessment
Similar to assessing their students’ culminating products or performances, teachers must formatively assess learning objectives and skills throughout the PBL project. As students participate in scaffolding and activities, use the arts as the method to formatively assess content and 21st century skills. If you are assessing collaboration, use a visual representation as evidence.

While arts integration in the core discipline alone is valuable, doing it within the context of a PBL project can make the integration seamless as well as valuable. PBL projects provide a space to meet multiple learning targets, whether those are core discipline standards or arts standards. Whether or not you are intending to assess arts standards on your PBL project, you can still find intentional instructional moments for using the arts, not only to value them, but also to create engagement for everyone. Your students can learn the arts as well as learning through the arts.

Visual Art as Critical Thinking

 

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 >

 

We’ve heard this story before. The first thing to go in budget cuts is the visual art program or another related art. Proponents of arts education counter with the usual rhetoric on the importance of self-expression and creativity. I, myself, am a product of arts education.

From the early age of kindergarten I was in musical theater. I eventually transitioned in music as a focus, and was a choir nerd in middle school and into college. In fact, my participation in Jazz Choir kept me in school, as I struggled with depression as a young adult. I kept singing into college, where I led the jazz and a cappella ensemble, and participated in a semiprofessional jazz ensemble the Seattle Jazz Singers. Although my schedule no longer allows me to sing on a regular basis, karaoke continually calls my name. I’m sure many of you had have had a similar experience, where art remains a crucial part of your being. These stories alone say “Yes!” to arts education.

Well, I have another argument to advocate for arts education. Visual arts (as well as other arts) are an excellent discipline to build and utilize critical thinking skills. I don’t think we often give credit to the deep conceptual and interpretational thinking that goes into the creation of a piece of art, and this is often because art is treated as something separate from the core content areas. School does not need to be this way. In fact, I have recently seen two excellent ways that art can be used to wrestle with rigorous content from the core while allowing for creativity and expression.

I had the privilege of visiting High Tech High and Middle in San Diego, California. The first thing I noticed that art was vital to the culture of the school. Whether using physics content to create kinetic art with pulleys or to create 21st century resumes (see photo above), teachers embraced art as part of the culture of study.

Chris Uyeda was nice enough to sit down with me to talk about a recent chemistry project by his students. They were told that the common image of the atom was WRONG, and that they needed to create a pitch for a better representation of it. Chemistry and the study of the atom require deep conceptual thinking, some of which is hard to grasp. Chris saw art as an opportunity to have students critically think around the content to create a beautiful art piece. The student example below shows just one student’s take on a more appropriate representation of the atom through the motif of bees and beehive. Art was a great way to familiarize students with critical content they would need later in the course.

A colleague of mine, Dayna Laur, a social studies teacher at Central High School in York, Pennsylvania, worked with her art teacher colleague Katlyn Wolfgang to ingrate the study of art and politics. Edutopia featured their story and advice, and you can use some of their resources. The driving question for the project was, “How can art reflect and inform the public about policy-making agendas?” In it, the students had to collaborate across classrooms to create an art piece that had a message.

More than just making connections, the art students had to use their critical thinking skills not only to understand all the information and nuances of their public policy issue, but also to synthesize it into an art piece that conveyed a message. Students researched legislation, background information and other pertinent content. Instead of simply creating artwork with a message (which is a natural function of art), they had to wrestle first with critical content of politics and social studies before creating the art piece. Student examples are pictured above and below.

Teachers, your mission is finding ways to integrate art into the core subjects. Use your students’ creative impulses to bring a new purpose to interpreting, conceptualizing and critically thinking around content. This type of integration can work for ANY discipline. It will help to value art as not just a separate entity, but rather integral to the school culture. Art is important as a single subject, but also should be valued as core through rigorous integration. In addition to being a fulfilling part of your students’ lives, it can engage them in the core content.

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