What did I know from Project Based Learning?

Ever since I started my formal teaching to the young kids of one of the progressive schools of Lalitpur, the Project based learning has been really interesting and truly sometimes it has been painstaking.  I found the process very time consuming, efforted but at the end of process my kids were really strong on content as well as skills.

The main knowledge I got that we need to flip the bloom’s taxonomy from surficial learning to deeper learning. Nearly after a decade every year I find different challenges and dimensions in PBL. Here in this article I have I tried to highlight the learning from a decade experience in PBL.

1. Start with the student.

Occasionally I was driven by content and I was lost on the half way. The learning of kids was merely below par. My effort was 80% and students’ learning was just 20%. So , ever since I change my pedagogy the result was just opposite. We need to focus on individual students rather than group accountability. As we’re doing this, it’s essential to design projects that engage students in questions that are important to them, not just important to us as teachers.

2. Clarify audience and purpose.

We need to be clear in  product, purpose, and audience. It’s not only important for teachers to be clear in their design process, it’s vital for students. What will they make or create? Why are they making it and for whom? In my PBL observation we need to look  ideally for them to articulate that connection between their work and the authentic purpose and audience.

It’s that kind of grounding that allows teachers to leverage thinking and learning toward craftsmanship by returning to the question of how well the work is meeting the needs of the audience and the purpose of the project.

3. Create a driving question.

Driving questions are important part of PBL , they provide initial get to go in the PBL journey. It is just like open ended question that drives the thinking and learning. There is no any strict format of the open minded or open -ended question but they should create a role of starter for the process to get going. Sometimes they help to articulate the process and skills that teacher is planning for their kids.

4. Determine what students will need to know.

When I started PBL, I was not clear about PBL? I even did not have trust that will this really work? After conducting so many PBL classes I was able evaluate myself, my students’ learning. Basically I learnt that I need to walk through process as a learner;asking myself what content or skills would be necessary for me to compete the challenge and obstacle? Can my students do the project? In short self evaluation and feedback from seniors will do a great job. Rubrics play a vital role in this process.

5. Determine teacher actions.

 After implementing PBL, I started to search the relationship between pedagogical relationship between driving questions and needs to know list. I found they are heart of PBL. This is the best way to enrich our learners. We need to enrich deeper knowledge of inquiry. Slowly we need to impose the tougher level of challenge. Sometimes we’ll need to be a bit more leading with your facilitation of this process but it’s vital to get those pieces identified as you’re moving along. Doing so helps contextualize your teaching and shifts the paradigm from ‘I’m the teacher, here’s what you need to know and learn’ to ‘I’m the student, help me learn what I need to know.’

6. Help them learn what they need to know.

In the earliest phages of teaching through PBL, I was often complained that I do not teach students. I just tried to emphasize on what to learn and how to learn? Many colleagues believed that I was just tried out to show off , spend time and even was blamed that I was just trying to be over smart. But at the end of the process , I was overwhelmed to see my kids happy, smart and always ready to learn. I tried to explain the students that what was the objective of the activities.

Flexibility is, of course, important but heading into a project without planning for when and how you’ll teach the things your students will need is a recipe for disaster. What will you do to help students think and learn about the content and skills you’re after? What questions will help guide their work each day? How will you help them make the connection between what you’re doing as a teacher and the Need to Knows they’ve identified? Part of the science of teaching is in lesson planning and design but I think it’s also what helps us showcase the art of teaching where you’re responsive and able to meet students at the point of productive struggle without them shutting down.

7. Assess.

In the beginning phages of PBL , I was often confused how to asses that what students’ learned? Now it is  worth formatively assessing and it’s absolutely necessary if you want to avoid getting to the end and having a train wreck..

There is no any exact rule or rubrics to evaluate the learning but it can be peer evaluation, post PBL reflection, report writing . The evaluation should be in all the steps. Assessing at the end does not sound logical. Process assessment is must. Rubrics play a great part.

 One of my favorite ways to formatively assess learning was to ask students to answer a few questions but also complete the top part of the “confidence meter” to the left with a check mark. This allowed me to collect more information about their thinking and since it wasn’t worth points it focused the process on their learning.

8. Publish with the intended audience.

At the end of the PBL, my students used to do presentation in front of audience, assembly, in front of class and used to have mini exhibition. The report they prepared would be published in monthly magazine. Publishing through social media can be another important part. This I felt has built the ownership and love of the work. Positive feedback are important in this case.

In the end, As students make their work public how will you (and others?) assess? Keep in mind that despite education’s focus for many years on summative assessments not all content and/or skills need to be evaluated at this specific point. Much of the project content is often best assessed in the process and outside of presentations but each project is different. As I noted before you’ll want to consider how you’ll weight and assess groups/teams vs. individuals as well as the content and skills.Also, don’t neglect the post-project reflection opportunity for you and your students. This is a great time for everyone to consider things like what they learned, what they could have done better, what they liked and struggled with and what they thought were real strengths. This metacognitive process can help deepen learning but also help teachers and students improve upon their practice.