The project-based learning experience culminates in a finished product. Students should be ready to report on the solution to the problem. But wait, there’s more! What will students produce and how will it be reported? Just as with any long standing research project, the amount of effort students put into the PBL activity should generate a high level of competence, confidence, and excitement! Your students should feel ready and able to talk openly about what they learned. With this excitement, students should prepare a professional multimedia presentation and be able to present their information to school officials, community leaders, industry professionals, and peers.
My daughter enjoys art. Her favorite activity is drawing! She is not a writer. Although I enjoy writing, I am no scholar. Still, writing gives me freedom of expression. Thanks to some great coaching, I have allowed myself to stretch the limits of my writing. Am I getting better? Maybe . . . but I still enjoy the freedom it gives me.
My daughter is not a writer. She can write, but the process does not come easily. Generating ideas and putting thoughts on paper is a scary and difficult process. In fact, the process can be intimidating. It can be so intimidating that she will start to cry. I want to be the superhero (dad) and save her from this humiliating experience. I will try. This article reflects on that process.
In tabletop role playing games, a one-shot is a short adventure that can be played in a few hours or one game session. The one-shot adventure has a specific plot point, may be combat-intensive, and often requires the use of pre-generated characters due to the high fatality rate of the characters (not the players!). It’s like watching a movie with no prequel or follow-up sequel. The movie stands alone in its point in time.
In project-based learning, you add time for reflection. Students go from knowing little about something to subject-matter experts in several weeks. Although that may seem like an exaggeration, it should not be. Your students crafted questions, engaged in reading, researched a topic in depth, spoke to experts in the field, and produced a deliverable product. They are almost ready to present before you, the community, and industry professionals. Before you have them step into that role, allow them to think back and reflect on what they learned and how that learning changed them. To do this, I will focus on four specific areas. But first, I will once again visit with three students. Each one of them, along with their peers, is a changed human being. They have been empowered with knowledge. They are ready to change the world!
It does not matter if you are the rogue teacher trying to implement a PBL philosophy in your classroom or the school principal adopting a PBL model for the campus. Truthfully, it does not matter. You are doing it because you believe you will have better student performance outcomes. I am writing a series on project-based learning to help you understand how this all works. The stories about Timmy, Jessica, and Tammy are part of each article. Let us share in their journey.
Hidden under piles of research and various speaker keynotes is the philosophy of engagement – meeting students where they are. Day after day, your motivation for teaching wains because you feel restricted by standards, your students do not see the value of learning, or both. We need to change the way we teach. We need to reach our students where they are. If you were to ask them – ‘What do you want to learn about today?’ – how would they respond? The answer to this question may not be exactly what you want to hear. However, you reached them where they were. And now you have an idea as to what is on their mind.
Timmy and his father make weekly trips to the local hardware store. From his house to the store, Timmy often notices that certain people stand on the street corners holding signs. The signs read ‘homeless’, and any money given to them would be put to good use. Timmy noticed that from time to time, drivers offered these people money. And from time to time, so did his father.
Timmy’s curiosity got the best of him one Monday in class. As a result, he told his teacher about what he saw. Briefly, the teacher engaged the class in a conversation about the people they saw standing on the street corners.
A week later, Timmy’s teacher posed the question as part of a project-based learning activity.
Do questions help you learn?
In Part 1 of my series, Project-Based Learning (PBL), I talked about the probing question. The probing question kick starts the project, providing motivation, inspiration, and direction for the activity. But this is only the beginning. The next step is to engage students with more questions. This time, the teacher does not ask the questions. The students do.
In Part 2, students learn how to ask questions, which questions to ask, and what to do with those questions after they have been asked. That seems like; and it is.
Why so many questions?
We have been asking this question since the beginning of time. Of course, I have no way to verify this. But it is the age-old question of inquisitiveness.
Why is the sky blue? represents the inquisitive nature of our youth. Maybe more than that, the question represents the inspiration for learning in all of us! Regardless of color, creed, nationality, or background, we all want to know: Why is the sky blue?
The question has remained a metaphor for curious minds. At a young age, our children begin to ask questions. Why . . . why . . . why? As adults, we admire this natural curiosity. Our youth are born with a need to know. Why? They need to understand the world around them. We want them to be curious, inquisitive, and inspired to learn. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, that curiosity wains. And they stop asking questions. But why?