Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Results Are In!

My past few posts have documented my struggles with my first attempts at PBL in my classroom. We've been working on a project focused on the Iditarod. Our purpose was to answer the students' questions they created as we previewed the race and did a WQML chart (that's my own little take on Tony Stead's RAN strategy) at the beginning of the story. After we finished the story we found that many of our questions were left unanswered so I gave the students the opportunity to do some learning in a test-free, interest-based environment.

I won't lie. This was a LOT harder than I thought it would be.

I started with 6 questions that I hoped would get the kids in the right frame of mind for taking over as self-directed learners. My students answered the questions like this:

As we started working on the projects I took two separate approaches with my kids. One group was very guided, and the other group basically took control of their own learning. While each group went through the project differently and completed different tasks, both groups achieved the purpose of the project: to answer their own questions in a test-free environment. If you'd like to see some of our final projects you can visit our class blog.

After all the struggles I had, I am really pleased with how our first PBL experience went. We still have a long way to go, but I think that we are on the right track.


misscashen said...

Hi Becky,

I think you just caused me to do a bit of inquiring! With my Australian ignorance I had no idea what Iditarod was so had to rely on a quick Google search to help me work out your post!

I love that you chose to work with the two groups differently. It can be tricky working out how much support to give students when they are leading their own learning. I often use differentiation in my classroom but have struggled in the past with how to do this with project based learning.

I have tried setting groups to work together so I could offer those who need more support, the time to do this. I have also had students choose their own groups and then supported them on a needs basis.

I found that the latter was much more effective. When the students chose groups based on their own reasons they were a lot more accepting of their learning and like you, the objective was still met even thought they may have reached it a different way. Instead of it being me who had to give the support the other team members tended to do this without thinking.

After this PBL, what do you think you would do next time? I would be interested to hear what your thoughts were on how you will set up your next PBL.


Becky Bair said...

Hi Mel!
I'm so glad you got to learn a little about the Iditarod, and don't consider it Australian ignorance. Many people know of the race in the US, but many others do not.

I was really happy that I didn't push through and try to do both groups the same way. It really did work out for the best. I really think that's the key with PBL - even though we might have a vision in our minds, the fact that the kids meet their objective is all that matters.

My tendency is to let the kids self-select their groups based on interest, too. I always ask the kids to give me their top three choices, and while they may not always get their number 1 choice they often get one of their top 2.

As of right now, I'm not sure how we'll approach our next PBL experience. I know the topic will be the Titanic, and I would like to incorporate technology. But that's about as far as I've gotten with my thoughts on it. Perhaps I can learn something for your group and try animations or games! :)

Thanks again for taking the time to comment!