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Week 8 - Final Reflections

What do you know understand best about Project Based Learning? What do you understand least well?
I understand that PBL is focused on students. This constructivist approach gives students’ choices on topics that they research and create.  I understand that the projects are based on open-ended questions to allow this choice.  I understand that there needs (at least for 3rd grade) to be quite a bit of scaffolding for this to be successful. I believe this empowers our students and gives them more confidence as they work through the challenges of the project. I think I also have a better concept of scaffolded lessons- to use those mini-lessons at the appropriate time. I understand that regular feedback is necessary for students to get the most learning our of the PBL.  Finally, the balance between classroom management and student collaboration is necessary to keep the PBL lesson on track.
Until this is implemented and I can observe it myself I least understand how to facilitate coherent collaboration between students.  My vision of education, for years, has been of individual students having “a-ha moments” as they grasp the concepts being taught. I have not considered or trusted the students to assist each other in understanding skills and concepts, so this approach is relatively new to me and will take some practice.  Having tried small collaborative discussion groups in the past, I know this will take practice and scaffolding (which I did not do in the past) to facilitate an atmosphere of collaboration in the classroom.
What did you expect to learn in this course? What did you actually learn? More, less, and why?
I was expecting to learn how to make a PBL unit.  I was hoping to learn more on creating collaboration in the classroom.  I did learn how to put together a PBL Unit.  I found that the more details are worked out during the creation are going to make for a smoother unit.  I understand through this course that there will be unexpected challenges during the class in timing or scaffolding and so padding the unit with extra time will be less stressful for the teacher.  I did not learn as much on how to create effective collaboration groups.  I believe I will need more research and actual practice to make that transition in the classroom.
What will you do with what you have learned?
I plan on requesting my school district to try this PBL in third grade because I am beginning my 2nd year of leave of absence to pursue my master’s degree.  I have asked a teacher friend to implement this, she has agreed.  I was just waiting for my grade from this class before I request permission from the Asst. Superintendent.  I believe it will be approved and this unit will have the opportunity to be used, then reviewed, then revised.  If this unit works relatively well then I would be interested in created more PBL’s for the elementary classrooms. I believe I would be interested in creating a mainly math PBL for 3rd grade next. 
I also feel that what I have learned in this course, can be transferred to Instructional Design with other learning theories in the classroom.  The scaffolding of skills is so important in technology education.  I know that creating lessons, using any learning theory, will benefit from creating scaffolded technology mini-lessons to be used when needed.  Scaffolding and collaboration are two keys ingredients in creating a 21st century learning classroom.    

Week 7 - Reflecting and Perfecting the PBL 

The ending of a PBL is really a time for reflecting and revising.  As any good Instructional Designer will say reflection is an important part of the design.  So once Insect Haven has been implemented, it will be time to review how it went.  Here are some questions that need to be answered when the PBL is being designed.  Preparing for the reflection is necessary to make it authentic and successful.  

1. Who will you involve in the process? What will the process look-like.

 First I would debrief the students.  Shortly after the presentations (no more than a day if possible), the students would take part in a collaboration peer review.  Then as a class we would discuss the PBL - what worked, what didn't , suggestions for making it better, and letting students talk about their process.  

Next, I would contact parents with a short survey about their impressions of the PBL with room for comments.  Parents were part of the audience in this PBL and I would like their help in completing other PBL's later in the year.  

Then, I would do a casual discussion with any teachers that may have been involved and the administration to find out their overall impressions and get suggestions from an outside educational source.  I would probably go over it with a teacher friend I trust at dinner to review the good, the challenging, and get ideas from them on how to revise.

Finally, once I graded the presentations I would bring each group together to go over their grade and discuss their progress through the PBL.  Reflection really helps set the process in our mind.

2.Is it just a one-time assessment?

As you can see this is not a one-time assessment.  There is discussions, surveys, feedback sessions, all in different settings and context from different groups of involved parties.  I believe this will offer a better perspective and more authentic idea of how the PBL really went and will produce some good ideas for revision.  This process should occur everytime a PBL is complete.

Week 6 - Managing the Project 

Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?

Of course my role in the teaching learning process changes with a constructivist approach.  I already know the hardest part for me will be.  It will be NOT blurting out the right answer to the students.  Allowing them to find the answer,  allowing them to get slightly frustrated (not overwhelmed) will be difficult for me but so rewarding for the students.  So becoming a facilitator in learning is a shift and it will be a process for both students who are conditioned to getting the "right" answer from the teacher and for me in allowing the student to find their answers.  

Since this will be the 3rd graders first PBL, there will be a lot of scaffolding going on.  This means that as a class we will integrate from direct teaching to student centered learning in a series of lessons during this project.

What are the skills of effective facilitation?

One of the most important skills that I feel shows an effective facilitation is balancing the student centered learning with scaffolding. This means scaffolding the skills with the class, group or individual so that the class, group or individual can delve into the subject deeply and create a quality product or presentation.  As the facilitator, I will give explicit rubrics and checklist to students so they know what is expected, I will teach skills in a way that will assist students in researching and creating those presentations,  give feedback, and assist with technical difficulties.  I will also help students stay focused and on track with daily reports, reminders, and calendars with due dates clearly shown in the classroom.  I will also not give the students "easy answers", I will guide them to find the answers or research information on their own.  For this grade level that means having a list of appropriate websites for them to use during their research and possibly helping them find the appropriate page if needed. These are skills of effective facilitation.  

Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful?

I believe that with the proper scaffolding and doing a couple of projects during the school year, every students will be successful with developing the competencies and skills needed to be successful.  I have to be very thorough during the planning stages, understand that changes will occur during this PBL, and be open to making the changes needed in the lessons/ project to make it successful.  

What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?

There are quite a few changes that will occur to be an effective facilitator.  Managing time, balancing the need for scaffolding and the time needed for students to research and create their products/presentation.  Another change - being more patient- allowing students to be frustrated and guide them without telling them how to do something or give them a fact.  Also, allowing more movement and voices happening in the room- the room will be more 'chaotic' in that there will be discussions as a whole class, small groups and such.  Behavior management techniques will be needed to keep the students engaged but not overly distracitng (too loud for nearby classrooms).  Also, allowing time for learning to happen. So many times teachers are bound by curriculum pacing and this style of learning embraces time to build the schemas.  Also, grading will change it will not be based on weekly quizzes (although I have plans for 1-2 to keep a balance between old teaching style and new). So these are just a few of the changes the will occur to become an effective facilitator with my PBL unit.


Week 5 - Designing Integrated Curriculum & Scaffolding

My career as a teacher has solely been in a 3-5 elementary school.  Traditionally, elementary school teachers have taught most of the curriculum - ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  This is true at the school where I taught for 10 years.  This makes designing integrated curriculum much easier to manage.  The Insect Haven PBL will be using both the ELA time and the Science time for 4 weeks.  This should be an adequate amount of time to be able to scaffold lessons in Google Drive, Google Slide, research skills, note taking skills, how to choose information for a presentation, etc... As I was working on my timeline I grew concerned about grading for ELA.  I then realized that there will be spelling and vocabulary each week that the students will actually be using on a regular basis, the books that we read about insects during ELA  will offer quiz and other formative assessment opportunities.  The science grade will be easier with the poster, slide show, quiz, and journal writing.  There will be enough opportunities for grading during this time.

Scaffolding will be a major part of this PBL as it will be the first PBL many of the third graders have every attempted.  This will be an opportunity to learn many new skills with the Internet and Web 2.0, as well as, researching skills, collaboration, and presentation skills.  I expect that the timetable will need to be adjusted to allow for such mini-lessons and to assist students to transition to this new type of learning.

Week 4- PBL Assessment Map

Below is my assessment map for the PBL I am working on.  I believe that these assessments are in line with the key principles of assessment. These assessments will have relevance to students, they can take ownership of their work. There use of research notes and learning journals (not here but in my PBL template will be reviewed with the instructor at least twice before the summative assessment is complete. There will be ongoing class and group discussion about what the students' are learning throughout. Since this is the first PBL the 3rd graders will complete there will not be as much student input into the assessment however students will decide what insect they are learning about and which part of the presentation that will be their responsibility. The rubrics and checklists will be given to students and referenced throughout the project. The final presentation will be viewed by community members. Students will participate in peer assessment of collaboration and each student will do a self assessment on how well they worked and completed this project. 

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Week 3 - PBL Concept Map & Driving Question

 Is it still PBL without an authentic audience?

To answer the above question, I would have to define authentic.  The American Heritage Dictionary (1976. p.88) defines authentic as "worthy of trust, reliance, or belief; genuine".  To have a genuine audience that is appropriate for the project is important no matter what grade.  It helps the students stay focused on creating presentable artifacts for the project.  Projects that they can be proud to show. One of my classmates is creating a PBL with posters.  The audience will be the whole school who will view the posters once they are complete.  The students will get feedback, have a sense of accomplishment, will be able to decipher what they did well and what they need to work on from schoolmates comments.  They may also have to deal with derision which will be another great topic for class, but my guess is that most of the feedback will be positive since the PBL is a 2nd grade focus.  

I have experience students who did not put their best effort into a project because they did not think it mattered.  I believe that most students, with a authentic audience, choose to create something they are proud of.  So, if there is not an authentic audience the PBL will not have the same depth nor validity in my mind.   It is still project based but it may not reach the content rich deep inquiry mode without an authentic audience looming/promising at the completion of said project.  Also, the feedback from an authentic audience is invaluable to help create positive real-life learning skills in the students - such as reflection, editing, not taking feedback personally.

Morris, W. (1976). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (p.88). Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston.

Week 2 Reading and PBL project search

  Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

― Vince Lombardi 

Ideas for PBL
Like this project as students will get a chance to impact their environment as they learn about habitats and what a entity needs for survival as well as to thrive.

 Two ingredients are critical for successful collaborative learning (Slavin, 1991):
  • Team goals and/or rewards based on individual learning growth. When the team goal is tied to the learning of each individual, team members care about others' learning and actively help each other. Assigning interdependent roles to students has been shown to increase students’ learning and engagement through teamwork (Slavin 1996; Johnson & Johnson, 2009).
  • Individual accountability. To increase group-work success, team rewards or goals should depend upon growth in each individual student’s skills and knowledge. Individual learning growth must be measured in relation to each student's past performance in order to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of success. For example, teams might be awarded points based on each member's meeting or exceeding past performance, based on individual assessments.

For final (summative) assessment criteria, Hung (2008) recommends these six items:
  1. necessary knowledge acquisition (for example, "need to knows," or content objectives)
  2. depth of study
  3. effectiveness and efficiency of research methods
  4. logical and effective reasoning
  5. conceptual integration of knowledge
  6. effective problem-solving strategies
Barron and Darling-Hammond (2008) recommend assessing these six items:
  1. use of evidence
  2. accuracy of information
  3. evaluation of competing views
  4. development of a clear argument
  5. attention to writing conventions
  6. collaboration

Week 1 Reading and Discussions

Notes from Scaffolding Teachers Effforts to Implement PBL article  read 6/15

Challenges to Teacher Change
Krajcik et al. (1994) and others (Grant & Hill, in press; Murray & Savin-Baden,
2000) have described unique challenges teachers face when implementing projector
problem-based learning in the classroom. For example, Krajcik et al. described
challenges at three levels: 1) teacher (beliefs, previous experiences, pedagogical
and content knowledge, commitment to the innovation), 2) classroom (resources,
support, class size, class schedule), and 3) school/community (curricular and
testing policies, community support and involvement).

Grant and Hill expanded
on specific challenges at the teacher level to identify four factors that influence
Scaffolding Teachers’ Efforts to Implement Problem-Based Learning
teachers’ adoption and use of project-based learning including: 1) recognition and
acceptance of new roles and responsibilities, 2) comfort in the new (physical)
environment, 3) tolerance for ambiguity and flexibility in managing the new
learning environment, and 4) confidence in integrating appropriate tools and
resources, including technology. Grant and Hill’s fifth factor (integration of new
pedagogies with realities beyond the classroom) acknowledges that teacher
change efforts are challenged at many levels--by individual learner needs, by
collegial relationships, and by administrative policies, to name a few.

Hogan (1997) defined an instructional scaffold as “a tool for enculturating
students into the thinking patterns of experts” (p. 2).
we define scaffolds as
tools for enculturating novice PBL teachers into the thinking patterns of more
experienced, and thus, more expert, PBL facilitators.

A good driving question is
defined as one that is meaningful to students, includes relevant content, involves
authentic problem solving, lends itself to collaboration, and is broad enough to
permit students to develop their own questions and investigations (Lehman,
Ertmer, Keck, & Steele, 2001).
To structure or simply the problem-selection task, a checklist could be used to
help teachers remember the various characteristics of a good problem. In
addition, templates, or a series of prompts, could be used to guide teachers during
the development or selection process. For example, Stepien (1997) recommended
that teachers ask themselves four questions to determine the suitability of a
potential problem:
• Would my students run across significant content working on this situation?
• Would the content fit my curricular responsibilities?
• Would the content be appropriate for my students?
• Can a PBL unit be built around this situation? (p. 67)
In addition to the characteristics noted above, a good question must be feasible.
That is, it must be developed with an awareness of both available resources and
students’ current skills.
Offload some of these initial planning tasks. Depending on the age of their students, teachers may need to provide a “selfcontained” list of appropriate Internet resources. For young students, a WebQuest or a web-resource page can be used to limit students’ searching needs. Although this requires additional planning time upfront, it can help avoid problems during implementation. In addition, templates are available that make the task of creating a WebQuest amazingly simple (for more information, see
http://webquest.sdsu.edu/LessonTemplate.html). Offload some of these initial planning tasks.
Depending on the age of their students, teachers may need to provide a “selfcontained”
list of appropriate Internet resources. For young students, a WebQuest
or a web-resource page can be used to limit students’ searching needs. Although
this requires additional planning time upfront, it can help avoid problems during
implementation. In addition, templates are available that make the task of creating
a WebQuest amazingly simple (for more information, see
Postholes are typically short problems used to introduce students to the problem-based method, including how to work productively in small groups. As “practice” or “mini” PBL units, postholes provide both teachers and students with time and opportunity to adjust to the PBL approach (Stepien & Gallager, 1993).

One of the basic tenets of a collaborative classroom culture is the expectation that the teacher will assume a facilitative, rather than directive, role. Success, according to Kolodner et al., depends on the willingness and ability of teachers to change the way they control the class. Obviously, this is not an easy transition to make; Grant and Hill (in press) noted that, in order to be successful, teachers have to change both “how,” as well as “what,” they teach.

Collaboration is a key component of PBL learning environments. Yet, specific
structures must be in place (e.g., positive interdependence, individual
accountability) for students to work together productively (Brush & Saye, 2001).
Teachers must scaffold students’ efforts so they learn how to establish group
goals, divide up project responsibilities, manage deadlines, and address problems
related to group dynamics. Posthole units can provide early opportunities for
students to practice their collaboration skills. Furthermore, if small group work is
followed by whole-class debriefings in which students reflect on the group
process itself, students can develop their own strategies for managing problems
that occurred within their small groups. By taking advantage of these activities,
teachers can ease students into assuming responsibility for their own learning. (PAGE 9)
According to Hmelo & Guzdial (1997), it is important to provide ongoing
opportunities for students to articulate what they are learning in their groups.
Teachers accomplish this by asking probing questions, challenging a particular
perspective or argument, or offering an alternative hypothesis, thus forcing
students to interpret the information they have gathered. By alternating
investigative / design work with interpretive or reflective work (Kolodner et al.,
2003), students can share what they have learned and benefit from the perspectives of others. Finally, the use of frequent checkpoints and recordkeeping
devices (e.g., group folders, design diaries, goal charts, etc.) can keep
students focused and provide opportunities for reinforcement or redirection. These
techniques also serve motivational purposes as they allow students to observe
their ongoing progress.(Page 9 and 10)
Thus, in addition to monitoring project progress (noted earlier),
additional assessment challenges relate to 1) designing appropriate assessment
methods and instruments that address both individual and group accountability
and 2) helping students develop the ability to self-assess.(pg.10)
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