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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Conditions that support project learning

Conditions that support project learning

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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Some essential conditions need to be in place for pbl practices to really take hold and so kids can accomplish marvelous things. I've been doing some pbl program planning recently and I need your advice. We all know PBL works best when certain conditions are in place. What would you say those essential conditions are? I know teacher characteristics, intentions and methods are key, but outside the teachers and students, what else? I'm starting a list and I wonder if you might add to it. Additionally, sometimes the removal of barriers is important, too. Essential Conditions for PBL strong implementation * A school culture that tolerates, even encourages, the sometimes messy chaos of student-directed learning. * Access to any technologies that support the teaching and learning enterprise * A system of accountability that causes a teacher to demonstrate --and parents and administrators to understand-- that rigorous learning aims are met though the PBL. * ? Remove barriers * Reconsider when and where learning takes place. Structure some flexibility (oxymoron!) into the school program so spaces and time are less of a limiting factor. * ? I appreciate your help!

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Patty Langston's picture

Remember you are the actual facilitator in PBL. You are guiding their thinking skills by posing questions and helping not giving answers. Time will be essential and can take longer than a "standard" lesson. However, the experience and learning that takes place out weighs the time difference. If you plan carefully, based on your Pedagogy or Standard Course of Study you can meet all your required goals and still have plenty of time left over.

I know this from experience having been out 3 weeks this year as well as losing 3 weeks for End of Grade Testing/Remediation all goals were met.

My students remembered their PBL experiences and content better than the "standard" lessons I presented to them. That was one of the most important things I learned from them at the end of the year when I asked them what they would have changed about the year. Their response was to have done more PBL and less "standard" as it was easier to remember and understand.

They also said they enjoyed the opportunities to evaluate each other by following rubrics based on guidelines they helped develop.

Tom Miller's picture
Tom Miller
Community Technology Executive for OneCommunity in Cleveland Ohio.

I'm not directly involved with PBL, but through conversations with PBL teachers one aspect that seems to come up over and over is the accountability for core competencies while students are engaged in PBL projects. There need to be mechanisms/assessments that ensure that students have mastered basic competencies through the PBL learning. Some are evident, for example, if a student has to write a formal business letter as part of their project, the teacher has an artifact for verifying the student has demonstrated those skills.
Facilitating PBL to ensure all of the students have mastered their core competencies and completed the project goals is going to require a learning management system that has strong personalization and assessment capabilities, if this type of learning experiences is going to scale.

adonna pennington's picture

An interim principle who was not familiar with these kinds of learning projects, group activities, only heard that we were pretty noisey and stated that no learning could possibly be going in my classroom. My previous principal knew what I was doing and said my teaching was exemplary and I raised my students scores, receiving a large cash bonus. After she was gone, he did not support this.

That same week, I graded an average of 7 assignments per student. No work done, huh?

(High School Freshman, Social Studies, average class size 29. How could that be quiet?)

adonna pennington's picture

Patty

I am glad that you mentioned rubrics since these are so helpful for the teacher grading and for the students to understand what "success" if supposed to look like.

Until about 4 years ago, most of my fellow staff members did not know how to create one effectively. Many had not even heard of them.

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

[quote]Lack of understanding of formative assesment tools... Training in utilizing these tools by both student and teacher will enhance the PBL experience and allow even greater challenges to be issued.
Lack of accountability...[/quote]
These go hand in hand don't they? A great rubric serves as a road map so everyone understands where the project is headed. With clear understanding accountability and stick-to-itiveness are more likley. Thx.

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

[quote] There need to be mechanisms/assessments that ensure that students have mastered basic competencies through the PBL learning.[/quote] I agree and I think the curriculum mapping process helps assure the teacher and everyone they are accountable to (kids, parents, administrator) that they are on the right track. Lots of good advice for curriculum mapping on the Web and I recommend the process.
[quote]Facilitating PBL to ensure all of the students have mastered their core competencies and completed the project goals is going to require a learning management system that has strong personalization and assessment capabilities, if this type of learning experiences is going to scale.[/quote] LMS's can guide the curriculum mapping process as well as track achievement. In the middle is the use of rubrics. Thanks for your ideas, they are right on.

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

[quote] My previous principal knew what I was doing and said my teaching was exemplary and I raised my students scores, receiving a large cash bonus. After she was gone, [the new principal] did not support this.[/quote]
MAN! Cash bonus for good and messy PBL? Where did your parting principal go? SHE deserves a cash bonus too! Thanks for your story.

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

[quote]Time and Patience. [/quote]
Nice. I am looking at the difference between school and work environments/conditions and time is certainly a challenge. In work the task defines the timeline. In school it's often the other way around!

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate
Blogger

Jane and I had a chance to talk about this question with a roomful of PBL advocates yesterday at ISTE, where we hosted a PBL Birds of a Feather session. Turnout was great, suggesting strong interest in project-based learning.
Among the suggestions:
--Grow your network of PBL colleagues by inviting other teachers from your school (or beyond) to join a project
--Build buzz for projects by making sure others know about the results you're seeing (and be specific about describing those results)
--Let the students' enthusiasm carry you forward (and help you over the inevitable speed bumps along the way)
Thanks to all who joined us at ISTE--great to see the momentum for PBL!

Ana Marques's picture
Ana Marques
Lion-Oak Services Ltd. (school-age students), VEC (Adult Education)

Ireland is still a long way away from innovative teaching/learning approaches not only because there is less budget for education, but mostly because of some principals/teachers pigheadedness too set in their old ways.

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