Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning

Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning

November 23, 2019 21 By Stanley Isaacs


>>Narrator, old footage: How
will today’s children function in a dangerous world? What means will they
use to carve the future? Will they be equipped to find the
answers to tomorrow’s problems?>>Teacher: When you think about
traditional learning you think of a student sitting in a
classroom and being talked at.>>Teacher, old footage: Now I imagine
a lot of you are still thinking…>>Teacher: They are
supposed to be a sponge. The teacher tells them
information and they suck it up. That’s not the real world. Having them actively engaged learning
about things in their community and doing projects that they care
about is giving them that ownership of their learning, it’s making
them life-long learners, it’s giving them the critical
thinking and problem-solving skills that they need as soon as they walk out of your classroom
into the real world.>>Peggy Ertmer: So there are a lot
of different ways to approach PBL, a lot of different ways to
implement it, but really it all boils down to five essential
keys: real-world connection, core to learning, structured
collaboration, student driven, and multifaceted assessment. The first key component of
PBL is real-world connections, and really what this entails
is having an authentic problem that drives the curriculum. So students are given this question,
for example, “What’s in our water and how did it get there?” And then the students
choose different paths to explore that question.>>Student: One of the problems in the
ocean is that with the higher amount of CO2 calcifying organisms are
decreasing and we’re testing to see how well life in the ocean
lives without calcifying organisms.>>Tom Duenwald: When the students
know that what they’re doing in the classroom has an audience
outside the classroom it really helps them deepen their thinking on it
and I think that is pretty authentic in terms of what the
future work world holds.>>Student: — four by eight feet.>>Peggy Ertmer: So the second
commonality is the PBL unit provides academic rigor. This is not something that teachers
would add at the end of a unit because they learned all the content
they’re supposed to learn already and so this, you know, the fluff
that they can do at the end. This is the unit, this is the
way that they learn the content.>>Teacher: So what’s your
standards you’re gonna be covering?>>Teacher: We’re gonna do 5a,
which is analyzing scenes, and this is huge in this book.>>Steven Zipkes: When you can show that you’re incorporating the
standards built in these projects that aren’t fluff a lot
of eyes and ears open, because people are hungry for that.>>Peggy Ertmer: Structured
collaboration refers to allowing the students
to work together, but giving them a structure
within which to work.>>David: Our project was to
create a aquaponics system and we had several
people working on it. In my case I was kind
of the team leader. Two members of my group, who were
kind of just like the thinkers that would think, “What
if we could include this?” And once those two
came up with the ideas, it would go through another person
who was kind of like the designer to figure out, “Oh,
how would we make it?” And then it would kind
of go up to me and say– and I would kinda be
like the final decider–>>Sheela Webster: We would
never put four kids together at a table and say, “Here’s a task. Get it done during this time period.” It’s very carefully scaffolded.>>Peggy Ertmer: There’s an
interesting shift in roles that happens in a PBL unit. The teacher becomes
more of a facilitator and the students take more control.>>Teacher: You guys are
the Red Cross responders. You already looked
at news broadcasts.>>Yes.>>Teacher: And you
took down some notices. You need to take all of this and
you need to bring it together.>>Student: So I have to write down
the aspects of the news broadcast?>>Teacher: You got it. Exactly. So Kassim’s got it. Kassim can give you some
ideas on how to start.>>Peggy Ertmer: But as the
facilitator the teacher needs to be able to ask good questions. She needs to re-direct if necessary,
you know, give hints but not answers. And that’s really an interesting
role for teachers to learn how to do. Multifaceted assessment refers to assessment being integrated
throughout the entire PBL unit.>>Lisa Zeller: I do a lot
of formative assessments. It’s not a test at the end of
the week or the end of the unit. You’re doing a lot of small
check-ins with the students to see where they’re at and to see
that they’re growing along. I think it’s really
important to also make sure that the students are
assessing themselves.>>Sheela Webster: It’s a
process that we are really trying to bring back again to the
student so that kids are part of the assessment process and that
assessment is just not being done to them.>>Peggy Ertmer: — are students who
would blossom under this approach. They learn that they have voice and
choice and teachers would probably in the end find it
easier and more fulfilling and we would probably have
a whole lot less burnout. I mean this is really an
exciting way of teaching.>>Steven Zipkes: What we’ve done for the last hundred years direct
teaching for some students it works, but for most students it doesn’t. So for us project-based
instruction is a way that we can reach all
students and get them engaged.>>Student: Right now my
favorite project is called “Create Your Own Project”.>>My favorite project this year
was in chemistry and what it was about we were using chemistry
and reactions to create a soda.>>It’s a video production class
and we’re making a kids’ show. We’re calling it “The Dojo Show”.>>We’re learning about
spatial diffusion, Black Death, the Columbian exchange–>>Reactions like double replacement,
combustion, things like that.>>We’re basically the teachers in
this so we’re gonna create a rubric, our group contracts, and we’re gonna
launch this project to our class.>>We’re learning how to collaborate and also work towards
a creative goal. It helps us get into
that creative mindset that really is something that’s hard
to find in any other high school.