Project based learning (PBL) and Inquiry
Inquiry driven, activity based learning with the student learning at the center.
Some of you are brand new to project based learning (PBL). Don't let that worry you. Let's first tackle the role of inquiry in PBL. That the nature of "essential questions" and "driving questions." To some they are identical. To others an "essential question" is the most general learning goal phrased as a question, whereas a "driving question" might be viewed more as a "unit question," somewhat subordinate to the essential question. Driving questions are able to stand on its own in guiding a PBL unit.
How to do PBL
The short version.
- Engage your learners.
- Allow sufficient time.
- Think about assessment upfront.
- Don't overtax yourself or your students.
The three action steps of “project based learning”
construct a driving question. Realize that you do not know the answer.
read, research, broaden. This may or may not involve collaboration.
part of this may be written, an oral presentation, or part may go online
Buck Institute for Education
The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is a fabulous resource for implementing PBL.
Inquiry is determined by the questions one asks.
How do you know what you want to know?
- First, read the linked one-page PDF, "Criteria for a good driving question" (source: Buck Institute). It couldn't be simpler. A good driving question is engaging for students, open-ended, and it is aligned with learning goals.
- Second, when you have the time, watch the Driving Question webinar. Published Sept. 2013 (see video on right).
- Third, if you are browser type, check out Buck Institute's PBL YouTube channel. You may be interested in watching "PBL Service Learning" or any of the others that may catch your interest. As with all YouTube channels, you can choose to "subscribe" or not.
- Finally, when you getting closer to committing your ideas to some fixed form, use BIE's Project Planner tool. It is online. Yes, you have to create an account, but it is easy and free. Learn how to use the 2-page Project Planner by watching this short video.
Just don't rely on one source. PBL has been around as a concept since the days of John Dewey and Jean Piaget.
- Edutopia is a magazine published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. It is an essential professional development resource, and it is one that has lead the way on innovation. Check out Edutopia's perspectives on Project based learning.
- You should really watch the 3 minute video, Introduction to Project-Based Learning. Project learning increases academic achievement because it in creases retention and application of information. It is "Bloom's Taxonomy" as it was meant to be in the classroom with emphasis on critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
- Check out these videos:
An Introduction to Project-Based Learning (3 min.)
Project-Based Learning: An Overview (9 min.)
Other PBL Resources
As one moves up the ladder of "Bloom's Taxonomy," the questions and learning activities become more open ended, a natural consequence of higher order thinking. Developing a rubric is essential as is the necessity of sharing that rubric with students.
- Start with this recent blog: How Can We Make Assessments Meaningful? Heather Wolpert-Gawron is a middle school teacher who addresses the 4Cs of the common core: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. It contains live links to some practical rubrics: 4C rubric, also this writing rubric)
- Read Katherine Piper's blog: The Ongoing Challenges of Assessment. She is a social studies teacher from Washington state.
- Read Andrew Miller's piece on authentic assessment.
- Review this Step by Step Guide to Best Projects. This one focused on the very popular Hunger Games.
- Rubistar allows teachers to create rubrics for PBL activities. Lots of templates to help with easy to use drop down menus. You can store your rubrics. Note that Rubistar does have Ads.
- PBL Rubrics from BIE. Buck Institute for Education provides a number of already created rubrics for projects. These are download-able as ready-to-use PDF files. Rubrics are typically 4-point rubrics: Below Standard, Approaching Standard, At Standard, Above Standard. Check out this Collaboration rubric. It allows one to evaluate along three different dimensions: Responsibility for Oneself; Helping the Team; Respect for Others.
Unbridled Inquiry: Should you ask Questions to which that No One Knows the answer?
Lawyers are taught never to ask questions of a witness to which they do not already know the answer. Are teachers different?
If the heart of project based learning is the open-ended question, then it might lead us to ask, "Are there questions we can ask to which there are no answers?" Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, and as part of TED-ED, He has produced a fascinating video titled: Questions no one knows the answers to. He narrates it. Animation by Andrew Park of cognitivemedia.co.uk.
View the full lesson here.
For more lessons, see TedEd, Lessons Worth Sharing. I really do like the whole Find & Flip concept.
ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education. It maintains the national standards learning, leading and teaching in the digital age.
- Of greatest interest are the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students: These NETS-S standards are divided into the following domains:
- Creativity and Innovation
- Communication and Collaboration
- Research and Information Fluency
- Critical thinking, Problem solving and Decision making
- Digital Citizenship
- Technology Operations and Concepts
21st Century Skills
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization dedicated to enabling students - future workers in this global economy - to be successful.
- P21 focuses on integrating the traditional three Rs with the four Cs of the new literacy:
- Critical thinking
- These form a close match to ISTE's NETS-S standards.
- Check out the framework for 21st century learning. It covers both student outcomes and necessary support systems.
Common Core State Standards
Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each grade level. The California Department of Education has defined both the standards and an implementation plan for common core.
- The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)is a group of (at last count) 45 states to develop a 21st century assessment system for students. This system should be able to be aligned to the assessment of higher order thinking skills, problem solving and cross-curricular themes and objectives.
Modern Information Dilemmas
How do we evaluate information we find on the web? Teacher are increasingly concerned about online research skills of students. Check out this great article addressing the issue, and providing some solutions.
November and Mull (2012) state that there are “three pillars” of information literacy:
Effective organization and collaboration
Sharing and making sense of information
Suzie Boss puts it all together in The Challenge of Assessing Project-Based Learning (Oct. 2012)
PBL is expanding beyond these early adopters as districts consider strategies to help students meet the Common Core State Standards. PBL emphasizes student choice and open-ended questions, and therefore assessment - and student evidence of learning - is more complex.
Eli Pariser discusses the dilemma of the "filter bubble." Check out this YouTube video:
Discussion questions for Teachers:
- Should inquiry be driven by the teacher or by the students, and just what is the role of "engagement?"
- Explore some of the Research on PBL. What are the postive effects on student content knowledge?
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