As part of my Professional Growth Plan this year I want to focus on Project Based Learning in Social Studies and in a combination Health/Religion 7/8 split class. Also, because I am really interested in this area and see lots of potential for engaging students in my classes (reasearch is OVERWHELMINGLY in favor of Project Based Learning). I will also blog about the experience to try and gain a better understanding of the in's and out's of PBL and to work out the kinks. Below are links to the two projects that I have tried thus far.
What I have learned so far has been plentiful and painful. I have had so many "I should have thought of that!" moments.
RHere are my reflections from the first week of PBL:
1. I introduced the Social studies 7 PBL as an 'option' for the students. I think that next time, the first PBL project will be done by everyone and then after that they will have a choice. I found that my students were drawn to the project initially, but then they were more swayed by what their peers were doing. Also, if they were all doing the PBL option, I could instruct that way instead of 1/2 and 1/2 which I am doing right now. I think an 'all or nothing' approach at first would be good to get students used to that type of learning. But the question still remains in my head about what to do with those students who enjoy a more traditional approach to learning? Those "A" typers who like lists and highlighters? Is there a way to do a more structured version of PBL? Hmm....research is needed.
2. For the Health-Religion 7/8 PBL project #1, I wish that I would have been more DIRECT about what the end-product SHOULD/COULD contain instead of just hoping they would come to that conclusion. I am going to add on a checklist for their e-portfolios - what they SHOULD contain or COULD contain. I think this would help to guide them for their end products. However, I will not give it out until the second week of the project. I think that SOME students are starting to develop a certain instinct for where the questions are leading them. How to do have success for all students in PBL? Hmmmm....tiered PBL? Maybe.
Where I Will Go Next:
I think the next step is to consider how can all students feel success through PBL. What about those students who are getting 'stuck' on a question or section of the answer to the big problem? Is there a "skill set" for PBL that all students need to have prior to commencing a PBL project? Also, I think I will have smaller home-groups for project #2. This will help eliminate some peer swaying for project choices and expression of answers for project questions. The next Social Studies PBL will be a hybrid or PBL and more traditional approach to Social Studies - maybe an 'easing' in of the students to PBL will help.
Here's to more adventures and growth with PBL!
Mrs. Katherine (Kate) Weber