Common Core calls upon teachers to shift away from writing daily lesson plans and toward carefully mapping out long-range units.
In PBL, the project is the unit. It requires careful planning from start to finish, as BIE emphasizes in its project planning framework.
pose questions, gather and interpret data, ask further questions, and develop and evaluate solutions or build evidence for answers.
Students need ongoing access to inquiry experiences that build their understanding of the world through text, and that explicitly teach them how to support arguments with evidence
Through balanced assessment in PBL, teachers can assess the critical thinking process as well as products, enabling students to self-assess their critical thinking skills.
Revision and reflection, one of BIE's 8 Essential Elements, requires PBL teachers to provide students with regular, structured opportunities to give and receive feedback about the quality of their work-in-progress, demonstrate perseverance, and polish their products until they successfully meet the established criteria for success.
Well-crafted Driving Questions are both understandable and inspiring to students, and provide a meaningful, authentic context for learning. Projects motivate students to learn because they genuinely find the project's topic, Driving Question and tasks to be relevant and meaningful.
A Maker is an individual who communicates, collaborates, tinkers, fixes, breaks, rebuilds, and constructs projects for the world around him or her. A Maker, re-cast into a classroom, has a name that we all love: a learner.
A Maker, just like a true learner, values the process of making as much as the product.
In the classroom, the act of Making is an avenue for a teacher to unlock the learning potential of her or his students in a way that represents many of the best practices of educational pedagogy. A Makerspace classroom has the potential to create life-long learners through exciting, real-world projects.
Collaborate with your students by having them list their queries and send them off to find answers from a myriad of sources. Keep the ones they can't answer yet. In a strong inquiry process, the students reveal their previous knowledge and their needs, allowing the teacher to craft respectful, differentiated learning goals that match.
Making is a process, and strong essential questions allow the educator to frame the journey while allowing the learner to make inquiry-driven discoveries.
The teacher can break down large units into smaller essential questions ("How does the arm length effect the distance of a catapult shot?"), and use these smaller questions to build to a monster prompt ("Can I make a catapult which shoots a marshmallow over 30 feet using these materials?").
Good projects require failure. Great projects can teach a student grit, but you have to model it yourself first. Processing failure with your students turns a moment of fear into an opportunity for learning in a safe place.
Teachers new to PBL and Making often make similar mistakes:
Choosing projects too large for their comfort level and resources
Focusing on the outcome, not the process of Making
Thinking the educator must have the answer
If you're looking for more about Making, check out these resources:
it's not truly PBL if students are simply making a collage about a story, constructing a model of the Egyptian pyramids, or analyzing water samples from a lake.
These artifacts and activities could be part of a rigorous project if they help students meet a complex challenge and address a Driving Question.
In well-designed projects students gain content knowledge and academic skills as well as learn how to solve problems, work in teams, think creatively, and communicate their ideas.
students need something to think critically about -- it cannot be taught independent of content.
A project is not meant to "cover" a long list of standards, but to teach selected important standards in greater depth.
a teacher does not have to go all-PBL, all the time
You can also save planning time by collaborating with other teachers, sharing projects, adapting projects from other sources, and running the same project again in later years.
Projects can increase student motivation to read, write, and learn mathematics because they are engaged by the topic and have an immediate, meaningful reason to apply these skills.
For students with disabilities, teachers can use the same support strategies during a project as they would use in other situations, such as differentiation, modeling, and providing more time and scaffolding.
For teachers only used to direct instruction, it may be challenging at first to manage students working in teams and handle the open-endedness of PBL, but with more experience it gets easier.
At BIE, we see project-based learning as a broad category which, as long as there is an extended "project" at the heart of it, could take several forms or be a combination of:
Designing and/or creating a tangible product, performance or event
Solving a real-world problem (may be simulated or fully authentic)
Investigating a topic or issue to develop an answer to an open-ended question
So according to our "big tent" model of PBL, some of the newer "X-BLs" -- problem-, challenge- and design-based -- are basically modern versions of the same concept.
We decided to call problem-based learning a subset of project-based learning -- that is, one of the ways a teacher could frame a project is "to solve a problem."
problem-BL is still more often seen in the post-secondary world than in K-12, where project-BL is more common.
Problem-based learning typically follow prescribed steps:
Presentation of an "ill-structured" (open-ended, "messy") problem
Problem definition or formulation (the problem statement)
Generation of a "knowledge inventory" (a list of "what we know about the problem" and "what we need to know")
Generation of possible solutions
Formulation of learning issues for self-directed and coached learning
Sharing of findings and solutions
By using problem-BL, these teachers feel they can design single-subject math projects -- aka "problems" -- that effectively teach more math content by being more limited in scope than many typical project-BL units.
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