Last week, I submitted three professional goals to my supervisor.

In my first goal, I indicated I wish to learn more about project-based learning (PBL), so I can help our campuses incorporate PBL practices into their curricula.

Next, I want to take the student tech crew we’ve started at The Academy at Nola Dunn to a higher level – a campuswide training model. In addition, I want to mass-market the student-tech crew training model to secondary campuses.

Lastly, I want to revamp our department’s Tech and T-TESS website to make it more useful for teachers and administrators.

Within the past several days, I’ve started work on the PBL goal. I purchased the book Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning by John Larmer, John Mergendoller, and Suzie Boss. After reading the first two chapters, I’ve decided to stop and reflect on what I’ve learned from the book so far. Otherwise, I believe I’ll be so overwhelmed by my new-found knowledge that I will neglect a reflection – as I will be too fearful to do so.

My biggest take away from the text at this point is the careful thought and planning that goes into integrating PBL properly. In a sense, investigating PBL is my own PBL project. So, in keeping with good PBL practices, I’m starting with questions. Here are just a few of the many:

Teacher Preparation

  • Are the assignments we give allowing students to choose – or do we give them a set of directions and expect them to follow them (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 41)? Students must have the ability to self-assess their own needs, find an appropriate course of action, and/or seek guidance when an appropriate course of action does not present itself.
  • Harder/more complex projects do not make more successful projects (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 37). Therefore, I need to discover what is being done now to scaffold students and teachers into PBL. What training are we now providing to ensure teachers are prepared for this level of involvement – helping students tailor their projects to manageable levels?
  • In PBL, the teacher is facilitator, guide on the side, and/or coach (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 45). How are we preparing teachers for this role?
  • I also have to wrap my brain around helping students and teachers develop authentic problems to be solved on a mass scale. The last thing I want is several dozen people looking at me and asking, “What do I do?”

Student Preparation

  • Inquiry is the heart of PBL (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 38). So, what are we doing now to teach students how to question, probe, work problems systematically, and solve them?
  • Are we preparing students to answer two fundamental questions before their research begins: “What do we what to know?” and “What do we need to know to solve this problem?” (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 37).
  • Inquiry doesn’t mean simply researching in a book or on a website; students may have to interview experts and build simulations (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 39). What are we doing to prep students for formal interviews? I think the issue can be addressed in the instruction itself. If project planning with the teacher supports student inquiry, then conference time with the teacher must be built into the project schedule (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 39). In conference time, teachers can guide students on how to structure interviews. However, I’m not ruling out a more targeted approach to teaching the finer points of interviewing.
  • Students and teachers need time during the project to reflect on the effectiveness of their inquiry, the quality of their work, any obstacles confronted, and solutions that have been devised (Larmer, Mergendollar, & Boss, 2015, p. 42). I suppose I’m doing that now, but I need to stress and model its importance for those I train.

I’m still trying to determine what all this means and how I can rectify it into a coherent plan of action. Feel free to post any questions, comments, or suggestions. Until then, the work continues.

References

Larmer, J., Mergendoller, J. R., & Boss, S. (2015). Setting the standard for project based learning: A proven approach to rigorous classroom instruction. ASCD.

Matthew Kitchens
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Matthew Kitchens

Learning Technologies Coach at Burleson ISD
Matthew Kitchens
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Reflection: My Initial Inquiries into PBL
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