Reflecting on ACTFL12
I had the great privilege of attending the ACTFL 2012 conference in Philadelphia recently. Were you there as well? If so, I hope we had a chance to say hello! There were over 7000 WL teachers in attendance from several countries. I encourage you to consider attending next year's conference in Orlando - it will be well worthwhile!
There were some terrific sessions. I am thankful for so many WL teachers who are willing to collaborate and share their ideas and resources one with another. No one teacher can possibly create and develop all that is needed to meet the needs of so many students. How many do you have in your classes? My classes have as many as 36 per period, and it feels like way too many to be able to offer the individual support I want to give. This is one more reason I like PBL - students can help and support each other as they work on their common projects, and I can circulate from group to group, offer tips and ask questions to guide their inquiry. Even so, I am indebted to many colleagues around the world with whom I collaborate personally, and virtually through Twitter, wikis, and of course, this forum here at Edutopia!
At the ACTFL conference, there were a few sessions on PBL in WL. I appreciated Lauren Scheller's session and Lisa Lilly's presentation in particular. Lauren works at BIE, and shares with me a passion for French. Lisa is a Spanish teacher from Missouri, now overseeing the IB program in her district, and who was ACTFL's TOY (teacher of the year) in 2010. Both of them are wonderful resources to us, and good friends whom I am privileged to know personally. In their sessions, they reminded us of the 8 elements of the Buck Institute's model for excellent PBL, including deep inquiry, driving questions, relevant and authentic materials, and more. They both had excellent examples of good PBL for WL units. I hope to share some of these ideas, and others, with you in the future.
In another session on "PBL" which I attended, the presenter, though she had some good ideas for projects, did not embed the 8 elements, nor did she address the four C's of 21st Century skills (communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity) as explicitly as I would have expected. Naturally, there were elements in the projects which connected to the 4 C's, but there were no rubrics to assess and guide students into deeper inquiry in these areas. I mean no particular criticism of this colleague who obviously works very hard and helps her students learn. However, I do mean to push us (me too!) toward ensuring that we are not content only to create projects, but to be sure that they are truly Project-Based Learning opportunities.
Therein lies the challenge! Over the next many weeks, I hope to write about each of the eight elements, share some ideas and ask for your thoughts in response. Please join in the discussion - I look forward to our collaboration!