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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Re-constructing a PBL classroom - when it doesn't start quite right

Re-constructing a PBL classroom - when it doesn't start quite right

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I could probably talk fluffy and nice about all good things, but I respect these boards as a place of reality. We've done some cool things in our first month (yes, we're finishing our first month today, we start early), but we've had some things that didn't work. One of our biggest mistakes: giving too much freedom too soon. I have not worked with 9th graders in a while, and my assumptions were too high for their ability to plan, and their ability to ask for clarification. They simply did not know how. We have quite a range in our class, but these were universal. Another mistake: not planning even more. We did not do well on planning as specifically as possible how they would be assessed, and when. Part of this was caused by the different paces kids were at, different ideas, and the concept of evaluating based on an agreed-upon plan (which we had depended on the kids for) began to fall apart. So now we go back to the basics. NOT away from PBL, but back to giving them a topic, having them make a plan. They will still have choice in various aspects, it will be creative. More mini lectures since they requested them. Some kids are thriving in the independence, so the class will be split into those who have demonstrated success with freedoms and will keep it, and those who have to demonstrate the ability to plan. Not a punishment, but an incentive. No need to bring all back if it's working for some. Just wanted to share the realities but continued optimism! Anyone want to join my support group? PBL Anonymous?

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Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

Hey Mike,
Great to hear your optimism, even when the going gets tough. Sounds like you're doing a good job of (a) listening to your students, and (b) making adjustments to help them succeed. PBL is a huge change for many kids, and they'll likely need help getting used to more active learning. But just imagine how much they'll have gained by the end of the school year. Hang in there!

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